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VOL. 132 | NO. 190 | Monday, September 25, 2017
Don Wade

Don Wade

From Ownership to the Roster, Grizzlies Full of Questions

By Don Wade

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Chandler Parsons’ knees. There are two well-documented concerns.

Depth at point guard. This isn’t just an annual concern, it’s a Grizzlies tradition as much as Zach Randolph throwing his headband into the crowd … oh, yeah, bad example.

Quick aside: The Grizzlies are trying to spin this their way with a headband giveaway promotion when Randolph returns to Memphis as a Sacramento King. In a word: bittersweet.

The roster itself is overflowing, above the limit. There are a lot of young guys, human futures stocks. Maybe they help the Grizzlies. Maybe they help the G League’s Memphis Hustle.

And how about Marc Gasol’s state of mind? And his relationship with coach David Fizdale? They don’t have to go to the same parties, but a little more time on the same page would be nice.

The Grizzlies hold their annual Media Day on Monday, Sep. 25. And the aforementioned are sure to be main topics. It’s also only a partial list.

Training camp starts Tuesday and despite seven straight playoff appearances, this will be a different team.

Point guard Mike Conley, in an interview with the local ESPN radio affiliate, described the Grizzlies as being in a “time of transition,” and said it was kind of “somber” not having Randolph and Tony Allen around (note: The Grizzlies will hand out “Grit Grind Forever” towels opening night when Allen returns as a New Orleans Pelican).

As TA would say, milk that horse.

As this is being written, the Grizzlies and restricted free agent forward JaMychal Green’s agent are still playing their own version of Deal or No Deal. This could and should change at any moment, but at this stage it’s fair to wonder if Green will be ready to take the step forward the team needs him to take.

So, this is unchartered Grizzlies territory. The franchise seems to want to cling to the Grit & Grind mantra, but despite what the towels on opening night say the era has passed as we knew it would.

The NBA plays ever-faster and the Grizzlies are trying to, well, at least be like everybody else and stay out of the mud instead of trying to drag teams down into the mud with them.

But concerns entering this season also go beyond whatever happens on the court. According to an ESPN report, the Grizzlies were one of nine NBA teams that lost money last season even after accounting for their cut of revenue sharing. Before the revenue sharing was factored in, they lost almost $40 million; the $32 million in revenue sharing they received brought that figure way down, but obviously this is not a win in the financial standings.

Robert Pera

Ownership is also uncertain. As has been widely reported, majority owner Robert Pera and minority owners Steve Kaplan and Daniel Straus have a buy/sell clause that soon could be activated and result in Pera buying out Kaplan and Straus or Kaplan and Straus buying out Pera.

I’m not going to kill off your brain cells by digging into every dirty detail, but for a more in-depth examination you might want to read what The Ringer had to say on the topic: https://www.theringer.com/nba/2017/9/7/16269342/memphis-grizzlies-ownership.

Pera’s Ubiquiti Networks has come under fire recently, too, with Citron Research alleging fraud. Pera dismissed Citron on Twitter, calling them “clowns.”

If that’s not enough, there is also some ambiguity regarding the lease at FedExForum. But as best I understand it, no majority owner can pull the team out of Memphis in the next four years. After that and until 2027, doing so would come at a high, but not deal-breaking, price given that the Houston Rockets sold for $2.2 billion.

The lingering threat to Memphis losing its NBA team down the line is that Seattle still doesn’t have a franchise and is the obvious landing spot for a small-market owner looking to move up. This isn’t to suggest the Grizzlies have one foot out the door, but Pera, Kaplan and Straus are not Memphians. So however the buy/sell thing goes, there is some risk going forward.

If another small-market team, say New Orleans, went to Seattle, then the next tier of potential destinations is less appealing. Bigger small markets such as St. Louis, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Tampa would not necessarily work out any better than Memphis.

Kansas City, for example, supports the NFL and baseball, but failed at the NBA and NHL. St. Louis loves its Cardinals and Blues, but twice let NFL teams go and the NBA’s Hawks bolted for Atlanta in 1968.

So, suffice to say, this period of transition for the Grizzlies is bigger than not having Z-Bo in the low post and “The Grindfather” shouting “First-Team Defense!”

This isn’t to say the coming season is doomed or that the Grizzlies eventually will leave Memphis. It’s just to say that there are legitimate concerns from several quarters.

All of which would feel much less threatening if Chandler Parsons could simply change directions while running and hit an occasional 3-pointer.

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