HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Memphis Grizzlies’ six-year rise from bottom-of-the-barrel in the West to playing for the conference crown is a story of intuition, perseverance, patience and, some might rightfully say, vindication for general manager Chris Wallace.
“I never looked for vindication. That’s not something that motivates me,” Wallace said. “Winning takes care of all issues in this league. We felt we had to take chances.”
Hired by former Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley to remake a 22-win team that was of no competition, popularity-wise, for John Calipari‘s Memphis Tigers, Wallace put his vision in motion. When the team takes the court Sunday afternoon to begin the Western Conference finals against the old standby San Antonio Spurs, the Memphis roster will include not one player from the day Wallace took control.
Rudy Gay, the last survivor, was dealt to Toronto in late January.
The first move for Wallace back in 2007 was drafting Mike Conley, now considered one of the most underrated point guards in the league. Conley was the No. 4 overall draft pick after Portland selected Greg Oden and Kevin Durant fell into Seattle’s lap and Atlanta tapped Al Horford.
The next move came on Feb. 1, 2008 and will go down as the franchise’s moment of truth. At that moment, however, it was perceived more like the moment of ultimate doom.
Wallace agreed to a trade that unleashed shockwaves of ridicule from, yes, the media, but also shockingly from within the league. The backlash, Wallace said, was so fierce that it damaged the team’s ability to conduct business in its own city as it set out to sell critical sponsorships and arena suites for the following season.
“People [potential clients] would list off all the big-name people [in the NBA] that had ridiculed us,” Wallace said. “It was like running the 100-meter dash with a 20-pound leg weight.”
Everyone knows the deal: Pau Gasol to the Lakers for his chubby, unheralded younger brother Marc Gasol, bust Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and a couple first-round draft picks. Stunning criticism crushed Wallace for getting fleeced while being backhandedly credited for handing the post-Shaquille O’Neal Lakers the keys to certain championships.
“I expect the media to shoot from the hip and not study the deal. That’s to be expected,” Wallace said. “I just shook my head. I had never seen that kind of response from inside the league. I don’t deny that was the assist for two Lakers championships, but we had to shake things up. We had never won a playoff game. We had been in the 20s [wins] and there was complete apathy in our market. Calipari and the Tigers were roaring at the time.
“When we went around the league, we weren’t going to get a tit-for-tat deal. We wanted to bring our salary structure down, get assets and draft picks. And no one else had a Marc Gasol.”
Marc Gasol attended high school in Memphis as Pau was becoming the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. At 18, he returned to Spain to begin his professional career in the Spanish ACB league, largely considered the world’s second-most competitive league. In 2007-08 he was tearing it up.
“He was trending up so much at the time. He was on pace to be the ACB MVP,” Wallace said. “I said it at the time, I felt like the little boy crying wolf. There was no question Pau was going to flourish next to Kobe and could win several titles, but this deal couldn’t be judged for several years.”
Wallace said what puzzled him most about the barrage of criticism was the lack of knowledge among media and league insiders regarding the 7-foot-1 Marc Gasol, who went on to become the MVP.
“It’s not like he was playing in Mongolia,” Wallace said. “He was playing in the ACB.”
Gasol, about 20 pounds lighter these days at 260, blossomed into a 2012 All-Star and is the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year. He’s become an offensive force, honing a dangerous post game with an old-school mid-range set shot. He’s averaging 18.3 ppg and 7.9 rpg while averaging 40.3 mpg during the franchise’s most successful postseason run.
Gasol’s low-post partner Zach Randolph came next in a deal in 2009. Wallace was in the right place at the right time, nabbing Randolph for Quentin Richardson. Randolph, who had had his issues at previous stops,had become expendable after just 39 games with the Clippers because L.A. was set to draft Blake Griffin with the No. 1 pick and wanted to clear out the power forward position.
Tony Allen was picked up in the summer of 2010. Darrell Arthur has been a constant presence off the bench since being acquired on draft day in 2008. Greivous Vasquez, the 28th pick in 2010, was flipped for key reserve Quincy Pondexter. Sixth man Jerryd Bayless was signed as a free agent last summer.
“We were winning 20 games a year just four or five seasons ago,” Conley said. “Management did a great job getting guys in, guys that care. We’ve worked every day, kind of fell down the radar and now we’re here.”
So much has gone right leading to this historic moment for the Grizzlies franchise that it would seem clear-cut that Wallace has a long-term home with Memphis. But with new ownership having taken over at the start of the season, both Wallace and coach Lionel Hollins – a raging success story in his own right as he’s developed an initially young group of players into a hard-working defensive juggernaut emblematic of the city itself — are uncertain of their futures.
Hollins has coached all season on the final year of his deal. Wallace said he has years left, but has no guarantees.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: Carmelo Anthony‘s 50-point game last night against the Heat was one you have to see if you’ve missed it. But the one we’re going with this morning is the Bulls-Wizards game from D.C. The Wizards are definitely playing better defense overall and smarter down the stretch, too, as evidenced by a smart dump-off pass John Wall made to Nene in the closing minute of last night’s game that led to free throw attempts. Although Nene missed ‘em both, Trevor Ariza got the ball back, drained two free throws of his own and clinched the win for Washington. In these last eight games the Wizards have to go, they’ve become a must-see team on League Pass.
Seattle, Sacramento step into the ring — The official ruling on whether or not the Sacramento Kings will remain in California’s capital city or move to Seattle and become the rebranded Seattle SuperSonics won’t be known until the NBA’s Board of Governor’s meeting on April 18-19. But today, in New York, constituencies from both the Seattle and Sacramento groups will present all of their information to NBA officials as they attempt to gather data about the potential scenarios. Our own Scott Howard-Cooper has more on the battle for a team that begins today, as well as some key issues to watch:
This battle has been Sacramento against Seattle all along.
It’s not Sacramento against itself, because it was inevitable the city would build a new ownership conglomerate and a new arena plan. And it’s not Seattle against the NBA, because the league has been very clear in its interest in returning to Washington state.
If Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer headed the same group to buy the Kings to play in Sacramento, it breezes through the approval process. If any city other than Seattle is trying to poach the team – Anaheim, Las Vegas, Virginia Beach – Sacramento mounts a successful comeback victory and probably wins easy.
Sacramento against Seattle.
There are so many layers to this:
If the Seattle bid is voted down later this month – if – don’t be surprised if the current owners, the Maloof family, holds on to the Kings for a while. It could be a few months to step back and see who else wants to play Monopoly now that the team is on the open market, but that would be long enough to have control over trades, draft and free agency. They could still sell late in the summer and give the new owner enough time to draw more than 3,500 fans a game.The Maloofs have not ruled out the possibility of owning the Kings next season. That’s more of a longshot than the July/August scenario, but the family is considering all options at this point. Including staying on and gauging the mood with a new commissioner, Adam Silver.If Seattle is denied and the Maloofs sell? It will have to be to a group that will own the team in Sacramento. Again, the Board of Governors vote is about location. If California’s capital city wins, the team stays no matter who is at the top of the masthead.
Voting consideration No. 1: It makes sense that small-market owners would prefer competing against the local TV money of other small-market teams. Boost for Sacramento. Except that some owners, from markers of any size, could want the cut of the to-be-decided relocation fee. Boost for Seattle. (See, counters to every argument.)
Voting consideration No. 2: Ranadive’s late addition to the Sacramento group, after Stern backhanded the first offer of its attempted counter-strike, is a positive. How much of a positive is unclear. Owners have to at least be intrigued by the potential of increasing the revenue stream in India, and the relationships he may have already built as No. 3 man in Golden State ownership group can help. But the Warriors may already have been in the Sacramento camp. It is possible Ranadive will not swing a vote.
Voting consideration No. 3: Stern, who has worked for years to keep the Kings from moving, has lost one of his most compliant voters. The Maloofs historically followed the commissioner’s lead on most topics. They’re clearly looking out for their best interests on this one.
Babby, Suns reach 2-year deal — During his tenure as Suns president of basketball operations, Lon Babby has seen Phoenix go 96-126, has traded away franchise icon Steve Nash and embark on a rebuilding process that has left many NBA observers puzzled if not downright confused. But Suns managing partner Robert Sarver has liked what Babby is doing with the franchise, presumably, or he wouldn’t have given Babby the two-year extension that Babby signed on Saturday. Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic has more on Babby’s tenure and future in Phoenix:
With his contract set to expire at the end of June, Babby agreed to a two-year contract extension to remain at the helm of the Suns in what was an unconventional NBA front office format when he was hired in 2010. Babby, 62, tabbed Lance Blanks, who has one contract year remaining, to be his general manager and basketball expert while Babby was charged with remaining competitive for Steve Nash’s final two years and then transitioning to a new era this season.
“I’ve had a wonderful career and I view this was a wonderful opportunity,” Babby said. “I knew it was an extraordinary challenge. Not every day is simple. It can be painful and difficult. I didn’t want to leave it at this stage. I may be like Moses. I’m on a journey to get to the promised land of a championship. I didn’t want to leave at the start of the walk through the desert.
“… We’ve done a lot of heavy lifting. It doesn’t feel right to leave if Robert and the organization have faith in me when I feel like we’re about to start the climb up the mountain.”
The idea of tapping into Babby’s esteemed career as a lawyer, sports agent and pro franchise counsel was to take advantage of a new collective bargaining agreement, have trade and contract negotiating expertise and change the payroll to a younger team by adding draft picks and creating salary-cap flexibility for free agents.
The hits of Babby’s tenure have been trading for Marcin Gortat, extending Jared Dudley, winning an amnesty bid for Luis Scola, bringing back Goran Dragic at Sarver’s behest, signing P.J. Tucker at a minimum salary, accumulating 10 picks in the next three drafts and creating a possibility to sign a maximum-salary free agent in July.
The misses that drew overwhelming social media disapproval of the extension was whiffing on prioritizing Michael Beasley as a free-agent signing, trading Dragic and a first-round pick for Aaron Brooks, the portrayal of this season’s team as a playoff team, the dismissal of coach Alvin Gentry and the handling of the departures of Nash and Grant Hill.
Babby was offered the extension Saturday and accepted Tuesday. Sarver’s endorsement means Blanks likely will stay on board for his last contract year and there is a strong possibility that interim head coach Lindsey Hunter is named the permanent coach.
“Lon has led our front office during this important transition period for the organization and he has my full support as we continue to rebuild,” Sarver said in a prepared statement.
Report: Heisley nearly a part-owner of Bucks — Former Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley has been hospitalized since late February after suffering a stroke. He has reportedly been in a coma for more than a month and his health is obviously in a dire situation. But long before Heisley had these unfortunate medical issues, he was reportedly interested in becoming a part-owner (and eventual owner) of the Milwaukee Bucks with its current owner, Sen. Herb Kohl. Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times has the details:
After last season when Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl publicly acknowledged he was looking to take on business partners for his NBA franchise, rumors of potential candidates immediately began to swirl around the NBA.
By last fall, there were whispers Michael Heisley, who had decided to sell the Memphis Grizzlies, had more than a passing interest in joining forces with Kohl. Some NBA officials and insiders even contended Heisley would be part of the Bucks’ ownership group sooner rather than later, perhaps even this season.
The scenario painted by some individuals was that Heisley intended on first becoming a Bucks minority owner with Kohl still in charge. Then, after approximately three years, Heisley would have the option of becoming the majority owner.
According to some people close to Heisley and Kohl, though, the latter got cold feet and balked at the idea of relinquishing his franchise, just like he did in the summer of 2003 when it appeared he was on the brink of selling the Bucks to a consortium headed by Michael Jordan.
Kohl, who purchased the Bucks in 1985 from Jim Fitzgerald for approximately $19 million, is apparently still receptive to bringing on an additional business partner. The possibility of the 76-year-old Heisley re-entering the Bucks’ picture is highly unlikely.
Wizards finishing out season strong — A knee injury to John Wall coupled with a 4-28 start gave Washington all the makings for another woebegone season. But since Wall has returned, the Wizards have knocked off some pretty solid opponents — including Denver, Oklahoma City and their latest victim, Chicago — while showing improved defense and execution, particularly in the fourth quarter. Washington could have easily mailed in the last few weeks of games and not tried to build toward the future, but by doing the opposite, it is setting itself up for success come the 2013-14 season, writes Mike Wise of The Washington Post:
In pure basketball sense, Randy Wittman announcing that the Wizards have set a goal to finish ninth in the Eastern Conference — one spot out of a playoff berth — makes, well, no sense. Same as his Yogi-like proclamation that “it ain’t over yet,” moments after his Wizards beat the Bulls, 90-86, on Tuesday night at Verizon Center.
“A lot of teams that aren’t really fighting for anything do tend to roll over and take the rest of the season how it comes,” Martell Webster said after the game. “But not us. We’re fighting for each other and showing each other we deserve to be in the playoffs, that we can actually play playoff-caliber basketball.”
“My perception of the team has evolved since I got here,” he added. “Be honest, I didn’t know what the hell to expect when I first got here. So many teams you got a lot of talk and no action. We talk and we perform here. We play for each other. We play to win. It doesn’t matter what part of the season it is.”
On second glance, it makes all the sense in the world to finish ninth — the world of the Wizards, where measuring progress since John Wall returned is so important to the future. His teammates have been much better. He has been flammable of late, knocking down a big shot late against the Bulls and making the right decisions down the stretch. Bradley Beal is occasionally butter from beyond the arc. Webster is suddenly worth a mid-level exception and more.
Look, they were never going to be a playoff team this season. Those hopes died the moment Wall sustained a knee injury that cost him the first 33 games and Nene aggravated a left foot injury in the Olympics, limiting him for much of the season’s early going.
Their postseason was gone after they started 4-28, and after that there were only two important questions to be answered: Would Wall show that he was a bona-fide point guard capable of making his teammates better while also showing the same explosiveness he had before the injury? And were some of the key components around him good enough to warrant keeping him for the future?
Sure, 28-46 doesn’t make for a complete roster reassessment. But 24-18 after that start, the way the Wizards have turned into a tough out on many nights and into one of the top 10 defensive teams in the league since Wall’s return, has answered both questions in the affirmative.
The best teams often compromise the integrity of the product to rest and protect their players with the express reason of being fresh for the postseason — see San Antonio and Miami. The worst teams sometimes don’t play their stars simply because they don’t want to miss out on the possibility of moving one slot ahead of another team in the draft for a significantly better player.
Wittman and the Wizards could get away with sitting Nene or Wall the next two weeks. Lord knows the organization, headed for the lottery for the fifth straight time, has not always done what’s right for the game the past five seasons.
The last thing the Wizards needed was another 20-something, doe-eyed kid trying to figure his game and his new environment out at the same time. They need a piece or two to be a playoff team next season.
One of those pieces became showing purpose and passion this season, right up until Game No. 82. Going all out for ninth place doesn’t sound very noble, does it?
But from whence the Wizards came this season, it’s a building block for next year.
ICYMI of the night: What Kenyon Martinlikely did once or twice to Chris Andersen in practice when both were with Denver now available for mass consumption … :
If NBA teams were condiments, the Grizzlies have stood on the shelf like a freshly opened bottle of ketchup for the past several years. It’s taken a whole lot of shaking and banging on the bottle to get anything out of them.
But here are the Grizzlies, six weeks into the season, flowing right along. Watch the ball move from Mike Conley at the top of the key to Rudy Gay on the wing to Zach Randolph down low for a bucket. Watch Randolph find his path to the hoop blocked and he’ll slip a neat little pass to Marc Gasol. Or Z-Bo will kick it back out to Gay without hesitation.
“I think,” said Conley, “a lot of guys who’ve been in this locker room for a while now just got tired of wasting years.”
It’s happened before in Memphis, most notably in the 2011 playoffs when the Grizzlies shocked the basketball world as a No. 8 seed, eliminating the No. 1-seeded Spurs and pushing a second round series with the Thunder to Game 7.
It usually happens in Memphis sometime well into the thick of the schedule, after the Grizzlies have laid down the shovels when they’ve tired from digging a hole.
Two seasons ago, the Grizzlies were fortunate just to make the playoffs. They were stumbling along with a 19-23 record on Jan. 19 until closing with a 27-13 kick to grab that No. 8 spot.
Last season, after they’d been picked by many to be a legitimate contender. Again they staggered at the beginning, sitting at just 12-13 on Feb. 6 until finishing 29-12 to claim the No. 4 seed, but were upset by the Clippers in the first round.
“We’ve grown mentally,” Conley said. “We understand what it takes to beat good teams and we’re applying that now and not waiting until February to start rolling. We just got our minds ready for the first game, the first part of the season, as opposed to working ourselves up to that.”
It’s easy to say that the Grizzlies have been able to pull it together this season simply because they’re all healthy. Two seasons ago, Gay missed the final 1 1/2 months of the regular season and playoffs with a dislocated shoulder. Last season, they lost Randolph to torn ligaments in the first week of the abbreviated post-lockout season and he missed 38 games.
However, it’s been more than just the good fortune of good health that has these Grizzlies looking and playing different. There’s almost a barbershop quartet’s harmony that has replaced the usual Memphis blues.
“I tell everybody it’s been a different camaraderie, a different spirit among the team in the locker room that has helped us,” said coach Lionel Hollins.
“The communication is good. The help is good. I just think it’s a conscious decision by players to embrace each other and play for each other.”
Nobody talks about it openly, but the departure of guard O.J. Mayo has made the Grizzlies’ offense and locker room happier places. For four seasons, Mayo could never find a comfortable or effective place as a starter or reserve. He also made the locker room a cliquish place that often froze out Gay and made it tougher for Conley to be the unifying quarterback and leader.
When the Grizzlies finally just let Mayo walk as a free agent last summer, it was addition by subtraction, even if one of the weak links in their attack is still the lack of reliable outside shooter.
Randolph is showing few effects from his knee surgery and is once more a ferocious inside force, rebounding (13.3 per game) at a higher clip than ever. Gasol’s scoring (15.8 ppg) and assists (4.4 apg) are both career highs. Though his shooting percentage is down, Gay (18.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg) keeps buzzing around the numbers that have had him on the verge of an All-Star berth.
It is Conley who has taken the biggest step up, not just in stats but attitude. He is clearly running things on offense and the muscle he’s packed on is making him less apt to get pushed around on defense.
“Mike’s had this in him,” Hollins said. “That’s why he was the No. 4 pick in the draft (2007). He’s been working and building toward this for several years.”
Of course, the entire construction project has taken place under Hollins, who returned for his third stint as coach in January 2009 and has lifted the Grizzlies to unseen playoff heights, including that inaugural series win over San Antonio. The loss to L.A. notwithstanding, he has forced them into the elite level conversation in the Western Conference, which makes the fact that he has not been offered a contract extension both puzzling and foolish.
It is safe to say that Hollins is not happy with the situation and it’s odd coming at a time when there is so much comity around the team. Outgoing owner Michael Heisley said he didn’t want to burden the new buyer with more debt and Robert Pera, head of the new ownership group, has indicated he wants to see how things play out.
At their current pace, things could play out quite well for the Grizzlies. They’ve beaten the Thunder in OKC, whipped the defending NBA champion Heat, handed the previously unbeaten Knicks their first loss of the season and took the Spurs to overtime in San Antonio on the second game of a back-to-back.
At 13-3 heading into a back-to-back weekend set at New Orleans and home against Atlanta, this is the latest point in franchise history that Grizzlies have held the best record in the league.
“We’re another year older and we’re putting all the experience we have to good use,” Gay said. “It’s not about feeling our way along anymore and getting together later. We know what it takes. So our attitude has been, well, why wait?”
A star-studded group of investors — including NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and his wife Ashley, entertainer Justin Timberlake and former NBA players Penny Hardaway and Elliot Perry — could be approved to purchase the Memphis Grizzlies at the NBA’s Board of Governors two-day meeting today and Thursday in Manhattan.
And with the league’s other 29 owners, they could find themselves with a new revenue stream in the form of jersey-patch ads.
The Memphis sale and a report from the NBA’s planning committee on the pros and cons of placing ads on jerseys are two of the items believed to be on the BOG agenda. Though the actual list of topics isn’t made public, other items may include:
Reports on revenue sharing and collective bargaining.
Arena news, including the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn and improvements to Madison Square Garden in New York.
Discussion of rule changes via the competition committee, including flopping and other referee points-of-emphasis.
Updates on ticket sales, network contracts and sponsorships.
Review of the NBA China program and preseason games played internationally this fall.
The status of the Sacramento Kings’ arena deal and possible relocation is not believed to be among the scheduled topics, nor is any formal discussion of efforts in Seattle to gain an existing or expansion franchise.
A Los Angeles investor, Steve Kaplan, has joined the Grizzlies purchase group headed by Robert Pera, according to a story Tuesday in the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. Kaplan was involved with current Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley’s unsuccessful attempt to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers, the paper reported.
Any move to put ads on players’ jerseys -– common practice in international play and even in the WNBA -– would not come at NBA commissioner David Stern’s urging. Neither would it happen, though, over his objections.
Stern told reporters during the Boston Celtics’ stop in Milan earlier this month that he would rather not see the sponsors’ patches on uniforms. “As a personal matter, I am not in favor of it, but I’m not standing in the way of it,” Stern said. “If my board wants to do it, we’ll do it.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Our years of devotion to the (Hang Time) Memphis Grizzlies paid off handsomely last season in a magical run to the Western Conference semifinals.
While most of the so-called punditry were busy making fun of that unwavering allegiance to a team that had never won a playoff game, let alone a series before last spring, we were hard at work trying to convince anyone willing to see what we saw.
Now that the Grizzlies have taken a bite out of the league, their owner (the real one, Michael Heisley, we just serve as his proxy here at the hideout on a daily basis) is setting his aim a little higher than just making noise in the playoffs.
Q. You recently said for the first time publicly that you’re committed to winning a championship. How close are you to winning an NBA title?
A. The players are going to determine how close we are. I can honestly tell you that I think we have a real chance over the next two or three years to win the NBA championship if we get some breaks and a couple of our players develop into their potential. We’ve got a few years where Zach (Randolph) will be playing at a high level. Rudy (Gay) is young and just beginning to come into his own. (Mike) Conley is young. We’ve got a team that’s young and they like each other. The chemistry in the locker room is good. I’m not sure what is going to happen, but I feel like we have a good, deep team. It isn’t like we have five players and then we drop off a cliff. I’m not telling you we’ll win a championship but I’m saying I won’t be surprised if we make a big run for it. That’s honest. I haven’t gone around saying that my whole career in Memphis. I feel like we have something special.
You have to remember, when the Grizzlies knocked off the San Antonio Spurs and then took the Oklahoma City Thunder to the limit in a thrilling series, they did so without Gay in uniform. Randolph, Marc Gasol, Conley and Tony Allen led the charge then, with plenty of help from a solid supporting cast that included inspired effort from O.J. Mayo.
If Lionel Hollins can harness what this team did in the playoffs and unleash it during this abbreviated season, there could be more postseason fury in store for teams facing these Grizzlies.
And while the championship talk from Heisley is probably a little early, we admire his unbridled ambition. Not every owner is willing to speak so clearly about such things.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The doors are open. The players are back in gyms around the NBA. And so too are the rumors that make this time of year unlike any other on the calendar, even if it is a few months late.
Outside of the trade deadline, there is no better time to soak in the sort of drama we’re experiencing in these days leading up to the union being reformed, the new collective bargaining agreement being finalized and the start of training camp and free agency. All we need is a big top and a ringmaster to conduct the ceremony of this player or that player being sent here or there. This is the circus that is the NBA unleashed from its 149-day lockout.
Chris Broussard and Marc Stein of ESPN.com: In a surprise development on the first day that NBA teams and agents could start talking about new contracts, Tyson Chandler came away convinced that his time with the Dallas Mavericks is coming to an end. ”I really think I’m going to be on a new team come training camp,” Chandler told ESPN.com in a telephone interview Wednesday night. “I’m really taking a hard look at all of my options, trying to see what best suits me.” Chandler’s doubts about the Mavericks’ willingness to re-sign him to a lucrative long-term deal are bound to be welcome news for the teams already courting him in these early stages of free agency. Chandler and Denver center Nene rank as the two most coveted unrestricted free agents in the 2011 class, but the overwhelming sentiment in many front offices has been that Chandler’s return to Dallas was essentially a lock after the 7-footer’s role in helping the Mavericks win their first championship. Chandler, though, insisted Wednesday that such assumptions are a misnomer and admitted for the first time that he’s disappointed by the club’s decision not to offer him a contract extension after he was widely credited — most notably by Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki – for changing the team’s defensive culture after three first-round exits in the previous four years.
TEAMS IN HOT PURSUIT OF NENE
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The Nuggets, New Jersey Nets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers were among the teams that reached out to Nene’s representatives Wednesday, the first day teams were allowed to contact agents to discuss potential deals. Once the offers arrive, it could take more than $13 million annually to sign Nene. While the market is still developing for him and the rest of a thin free-agent class, he’s clearly the focus for every team with cap space and the need for an inside presence. The Nuggets are pressed to keep him, and would likely have to pay significantly more than would’ve been necessary if they had worked a deal with him prior to his opting out this summer. The Nets could be the major threat for Nene because of their combination of salary-cap space and desire to surround point guard Deron Williams with as much talent as possible to convince him to sign an extension. Privately, Williams has made it clear that he’s far less inclined to re-sign a long-term deal with the Nets if they don’t immediately improve their roster. New Jersey can also gather assets and still stay in position to make trade offers to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard.
METTA WORLD PEACE AN AMNESTY CANDIDATE?
Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: Achieving world peace comes with a hefty price tag. The Lakers might feel the same way about another form of World Peace, this one the goofy 6-foot-7 Lakers forward who flexes his biceps, makes the Staples Center crowd gasp every time he shoots and goes by the first name Metta. The Times’Mike Bresnahan has reported that the Lakers might waive the player formerly known as Ron Artest via the league’s amnesty clause. Such a move could move somewhat risky considering that Artest’s defense remains strong and waiving World Peace would make it necessary for the Lakers acquire a defensive stalwart to replace him. But the thought process makes sense for basketball and monetary reasons. World Peace averaged a career-low 8.5 points last season and appears, at 32, to be on the decline in maintaining the lateral movement and quickness that have made him a top defender. By shedding World Peace’s three-year, $21.5-million contract, Bresnahan estimated that the Lakers could save as much as $27 millon in salary and taxes in 2013-14 under the new rules, should the Lakers remain between $10 million and $15 million over the tax threshold. That would prove more beneficial than even cutting forward Luke Walton (two years, $11.46 million). That’s why it’s important World Peace understands and embraces the need to temper his antics, ranging from his Twitter rants to his on-court goofiness and his name himself.
Are they circling the wagons with this pow-wow and gearing up to take another stand against the owners? Or is this the beginning of the end of the “stand united” campaign and the union’s solidarity movement?
Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley said Thursday that he and his team did not pull out of a proposed deal that would have sent guard O.J. Mayo to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for power forward Josh McRoberts and a first-round pick.
“Indiana was not able to get it all together,” Heisley said in a telephone interview. “People are going to say I have reservations (about the proposed trade). I think from our point of view, we were interested in the trade going forward. It was a very, very difficult conversation for us. It took us a long time to decide. We were getting a lot of players at the two and three position and we were getting a little skinny at the four. We had three candidates we were looking at and when we decided on one, O.J. had to be part of that trade. It wasn’t that we were anxious to get rid of him.”
The Grizzlies also re-acquired forward Shane Battier, who spent his first five NBA seasons in Memphis, earlier Thursday from Houston in a trade for Hasheem Thabeet, the second pick of the 2008 Draft that had gotten next to no run in Memphis.
Mayo had been on the block for weeks, after receiving a 10-game suspension last month by the league for violating its substance abuse program — he tested positive for the steroid DHEA — and getting into a fight before the suspension on the Grizzlies’ team plane with teammate Tony Allen over a card game. Heisley, though, insisted that Memphis didn’t want to trade Mayo and wouldn’t have put him in the deal except for the Pacers’ insistence.
“We’ve already got Tony Allen, (Sam) Young, Battier, Rudy Gay, Xavier Henry,” Heisley said. “We’ve got a lot of guys in that (wing) area, and we’ve only got (Darrell) Arthur and Zach (Randolph) at the forward position.”
Heisley said he didn’t think the Grizzlies needed to mend any fences with Mayo, whom the Grizzlies acquired in a draft day trade in 2008 from Minnesota in exchange for Kevin Love.
“People call up for O.J. all the time,” Heisley said. “We received a number of calls on O.J. What I would say to O.J. is there are a lot of people — including us — who think you’re a good player. It’s not that we’re down on O.J., it’s just that we’ve got a lot of players who’ve blossomed in recent time. It’s not that they’ve beaten O.J. out, but we’ve just got a lot of players vying for limited minutes.”