The Memphis Grizzlies have a new owner, and Robert Pera’s goal is quite clear: Dump salaries, make more money. Winning? Seems to be secondary at this point. In the last two weeks, the Grizzlies – who hired ESPN’s John Hollinger to be their stat guy, recently – have made a couple cost-cutting trades:
1) Trading Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby, plus a future first-round draft pick (will be one year between 2015-2019) to the Cavs for forward Jon Leuer. Speights and Ellington were valuable bench players for the Grizzlies; Selby less so.
2) Trading leading scorer Rudy Gay and reserve Hamed Haddadi to Toronto for Ed Davis and Jose Calderon and a 2013 2nd round draft pick
3) Traded Calderon to Detroit for Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince.
Yikes. Talk about taking a blowtorch to the 4th seed in the West.
Presumably Prince will start for Gay (who is shooting 40 percent), the offense will go through Randolph and Gasol, and Daye (whom I loved at Gonzaga, but hasn’t done much in Detroit) will hopefully provide pop off the bench along with Ed Davis, the former UNC shot-blocker who started slow in Toronto but has played much better this year.
Did Memphis need to do something to shed salary, given what they were paying Conley, Gay and the two bigs? Yes. Did they need to do it now? That’s up for debate. If you read about the trade on ESPN.com, keep in mind Hollinger worked there and was very well-liked, so perhaps everyone analyzing the deals really did like them. One guy who questioned the deal and how the Grizzlies handled it? Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Grizzlies issued a statement on the trade late Wednesday, and embarrassingly had “general manager Chris Wallace” throw out the obligatory organizational quotes on the deal. Only, Wallace had nothing to do with the trade. Nothing. He isn’t making calls to teams. He isn’t consulted by the new regime. He’s waiting until they agree on the terms of his inevitable parting. So, Pera and new CEO Jason Levien take an unpopular trade and assign it to Wallace in the news release.
Levien is making these deals based largely on the recommendations of John Hollinger, a statistician who worked for a cable sports company. The San Antonio Spurs once used him as a consultant and regretfully took his advice to sign a free agent named Jackie Butler. It was such a disaster, the Spurs had to attach Luis Scola to a trade to get Butler out of town.
Come on, you know you laughed at “cable sports company.” Reminder: ESPN tried to hire Wojnarowski in late 2012.
We wrote about the Butler/Hollinger moment a few years ago (he didn’t comment when the News-Express asked him about it in 2007). If you’re a Grizzlies fan, you can find out what Hollinger once thought of Daye (liked him), Davis (hated him based on stats), and Prince’s last contract (liked it) with a quick google.
Interesting thing to monitor here: The Grizzlies had a memorable playoff run in 2011, then lost Shane Battier. They were a fashionable pick to make another run in 2012, but lost in the first round in seven games to the Clippers, then OJ Mayo skipped town. The Spurs/Thunder/Clippers are clearly the class of the West this year, and the Grizzlies are going to be hard-pressed to hold off the Warriors/Nuggets for the 4th spot and home court advantage in the first round.
So yes, you’re looking at three straight seasons of regression. With teams like the Jazz and Rockets and Blazers and Timberwolves on the rise with young players, will we see another slide in 2013-2014?