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Zach Randolph doesn't like to think too much about last season.

"Too painful," the Grizzlies' power forward said.

Literally? Well, yeah. Last January, just a week into the lockout-shortened season, Randolph tore the MCL in his right knee. The injury sidelined him for two months and even after he returned, he never felt comfortable.

"He wasn't 100 percent by any stretch," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said.

Figuratively, too. In 2010-11, Randolph was the catalyst for a Grizzlies team that surged into the playoffs, knocked off top-seeded San Antonio in the first round and took Oklahoma City to seven games in the Western Conference semifinals. When Randolph returned from injury last season, his presence was disruptive. He started three games before Hollins moved him to the bench, and Randolph returned to the starting lineup just in time for the Clippers to bounce Memphis from the first round.

To Randolph, those memories hurt worse than any physical pain.

"It was the most difficult season of my career," Randolph said in a telephone interview. "I worked so hard in the summer and during the lockout. Then coming back, not being able to play how I can play was real tough. I didn't have my feel for the game. I didn't have that fast bounce. I was overweight. I wasn't in the best shape. I was worried about my knee and my knee wasn't 100 percent. I'm a warrior, though, so I wasn't going to complain."

What Randolph did was resolve to work. He took two months off to allow the knee to fully heal. Then, in August, Randolph reported to Frank Matrisciano, a strength and conditioning coach at the University of Memphis. Randolph's work with Matrisciano in the summer of 2011 left him "in the best shape of my life." Despite the injury, Randolph came back to Matrisciano more motivated than ever to work his way back.

Matrisciano's approach is unique; he calls it "chameleon training" because "it gets you in shape to do anything you want." For five days a week, several hours a day, Matrisciano put Randolph through hell. He dug a sand pit and forced Randolph to climb up, sometimes holding a 20-pound ball, sometimes carrying logs, sometimes pulling the 230-pound Matrisciano behind him.

"What the deep sand does is it takes away the stress on your joints," Matrisciano said. "Sand makes tendons and ligaments work and forces you to work. It's tough. Taking four steps on the sand is like taking 12 steps on a hard surface."
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