Memphis holding out on rookies

Remember the rookie holdout? Remember when the likes of Jim Jackson, Billy Owens and Glenn Robinson refused to ink that first NBA contract until they squeezed every nickel possible out of their teams?

Robinson was essentially the last of that breed when the Big Dog attempted to highjack Milwaukee for $100 million in 1994. Those days went the way of the underhanded free throw the following year with the implementation of the rookie salary scale.

The scale has undergone modifications over the years, but the essence remains the same. Rookies know almost to the penny what they’re going to get based on Draft position. It pretty much eliminates the guesswork of negotiations, making sure those NBA neophytes are signed and sealed long before training camp.

That brings Hang Time to the curious cases of Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez, Memphis’ two unsigned first-round picks. The two guards, taken 12th and 28th, have yet to come to terms in an almost unprecedented display of hardball.

But instead of the players holding out for better deals, the Grizzlies are standing firm. The rookie salary scale allows each pick to sign for up to 120 percent of their slot figure. In the case of Henry, the slot is $1.68 million for this year. The starting amount for Vasquez is $863,000.

Most teams usually just go with the 120 percent figure and wrap up a contract. The Grizz aren’t opposed to going there, they just aren’t guaranteeing it. Memphis wants that last 20 percent to be tied to performance bonuses, such as playing 70 games and averaging 15 minutes for Henry.

The contract dispute has put the sharp-shooter out of Kansas behind in his early preparation for this summer, as Henry didn’t take part in Summer League. Still, about six weeks remain before training camp. Vasquez did play on the Grizzlies’ summer squad.

Henry’s agent Arn Tellem isn’t too thrilled with Memphis’ stance. Tellem told the Associated Press that only one player out of 450 drafted since the rookie scale began 15 years ago has agreed to performance bonuses. The Grizzlies apparently want to triple that figure.

“Basic fairness and equality are fundamental aspects of every positive organization-player relationship, and those concepts are totally absent from the Grizzlies’ current proposal to Xavier,” Tellem said.

Sounds like some good ole fashioned negotiating. We just don’t see it with rookies anymore. The Big Dog can relate.


  1. omeimaster0606 says:

    ppl who support the griz are crazy! We dont have to look at the numbers… 100%, 120%, the point is, it is common practice to give 120% to rookies… Come on, it’s pretty much accepted that rookie deals are bargains as long as you didnt blow the pick, so if you thought they’re your guy and worthy of your pick, why hardball them?

    It’s like this, say you’re entering a new job field… everyone who passed the same test, the same screening, possessing the same qualifications got 40% of the federal minimum wage to start, but for some reason, you get 20% to start… what would you say to that? the fact that he’s getting 100% doesnt matter… that’s just a figure, the market and his special treatment is the point of contention here…

    honestly, i dont even know why the griz is doing this… first of all, the amount in question is laughable(less than 1% of their total payroll), they’re not over the luxury tax meaning the amount wont double, and the amount is so insignificant that whatever “cap space” they get is basically negligible… they save under a million for hardballing their lottory pick, and then what happens? if any of them ever become productive nba players, you think they gonna want to stay? the management came out and said that’s their new policy… so in essence they just announced that they’ll be the only nba team that pays less money to their rookies… good luck getting workouts and happy future rookies… absolutely ridiculous and just shows how terrible a owner heisley is…

  2. Alex says:

    Xavier Henry is legit. He should just accept the lowball contract, play his butt off, and when they grizzles want to resign him he should give them the finger.

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  5. Cott says:

    No wonder the Grizzlies lose every year….

  6. Ragib says:

    It would seem at least semi reasonable if the performance requirements weren’t based on minutes played, which isn’t totally up to them anyway, and if Rudy Gay wasn’t getting 80 million. Grizzles need a total over haul, should have let Rudy go and start preparing for the future, not pay 80 million to guarantee you won’t even be in the playoffs.

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  8. Ken says:

    While I agree with performance-based contracts, this reeks of the Grizzlies being cheap, and that irritates me to no end. I am a Grizzlies fan and WAS excited about the additions of Xavier Henry and Grievious. Just give them the 20%…you are the Grizzlies, not the Lakers….you are in no position to play hardball.

  9. bigmike902 says:

    yeah its kind of sick that they can fork over 80 mill to gay, and are nickel and diming their rookies

    • 209ekimgib says:

      nickel and diming, yeah… to the team’s credit, they feel Gay has proven he’s worth that much…but these rookies haven’t.

  10. Leonard says:

    Congrats Memphis! It is time for someone to stand up to these ungrateful players. Sign your rookie contract and then show ownership that you are worth more $$. This is what creates a bad atmosphere in the NBA-rookies coming in make 3 times what established players make. As for these two nuts, where they were drafted pretty much determines what there salary is going to be. How does a 28th pick in the draft hold out for more money? As for Henry-if he thinks he is worth more then prove it. You can start your NBA career or you can sit out. Your agent does not want that because if you don’t sign you can not pay him!

  11. Jonathan says:

    We see this a lot this happens mmore in the NFL classic case in Jmarcus Russel of the Raiders held hold for 60 mil and isnt doing a thing for them. The problem is sometimes this has nothing to do with the players themselves the agents usually try to hold out for the guarnteed contracts without the player’s real consent because the more money thier cleints make the more money they make. Think about it, u have just been drafted and all your dreams came true the last thing you’re probably worried about is money you just want to play

  12. Dongz23 says:

    Maybe the Memphis are just trying to prevent the same situation happened to Clippers last season. Right?

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  14. Abdul says:

    This is just another sign of a franchise with a low profile trying to go cheap on their players. How embarrassing is it that they are the only team in the league whose 1st round picks are not under contract. Trying to attach some money to performance and games played is one thing, but we are not talking about max deals here. We are talking about over $2 million combined in salary for two players. This is a franchise that just gave away Pau Gasol and gift-wrapped 3 straight NBA Finals appearances for the Lakers. This is a franchise that just signed Rudy Gay to a $80-plus million deal, and they are trying to hold out on two draft picks for what is minimal money. No wonder they are an NBA outpost.

    • daez says:

      Agreed. Fair enough to say that rookies expected guraunteed money is a bit much seeing they haven’t played a game and haven’t proved their worth yet, but you do have a valid point. They can sign Rudy Gay, a star but not quite top calibre, to a $80 million deal, but they’re holding out on rookies for scraps. That’s cheap

      • Jesse says:

        Are you willing to let Rudy Gay go over a contract dispute? I would be more then willing to sign him to the 80 million i pretty sure there where other teams that would sign him for that much as well or more. When it comes to the rookies its a business, its like Miami dumping salary to sign James and Bosh. While renouncing rights Udonis Haslem to much less then hes worth to franchise. Memphis just trying to save so they can sign a big name free agent next year or least get a chance to make play for one if not trade for one mid season.

  15. vs says:

    Just like restaurants that include 18% gratuity in the bill automatically, the sense of entitlement players (their agents, more accurately) have is despicable. After playing precisely zero games, Tellem wants a 20% bonus just because it’s “standard practice”.

    Penny-wise and pound-foolish Memphis may be, but let’s hope they sticks to their guns and buck the loathsome trend. It’s not as if he’s not being offered at least 100% of his slotted salary already. The NBA wised up after Glenn Robinson’s $68 million rookie contract in 1994. Time for further change for the better in the next CBA.

  16. Zzanzabar says:

    Its about time someone started talking accountability, up to a point. Monies payed for performance rather than position is reasonable. The only thing I don’t agree with is average time played, because the club controls that not the player. I see sitting a player at the end of the season simply to keep them from their ‘minutes played’ bonus. Maybe that 20% of non-guaranteed money should be put in escrow for when a player is traded or cut if they fail to make the bonus. That way there would be no reason for the club to short change the player and it would serve as an added incentive for the player to perform.

    Management (and I daresay fans) are fed up with rookies who have not touched a ball in the NBA demanding large amounts of totally guaranteed money. I wonder if agents are payed only the money their clients actually MAKE during the year, rather than what the contract stipulates? If the former then I can see why the agent is upset.