Of course Michael Heisley is in talks with Larry Ellison, things were going too well

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Best season in franchise history from an overall success and excitement standpoint. First playoff game victory. First playoff series victory. Significant improvements in fan interest and long-term viability of on-court production. Things have been going really well in Memphis, Tennessee when it comes to the Grizzlies.

So, of course, this is happening. From the Memphis Commercial-Appeal:

Californian Larry Ellison, ranked as the third-richest person in the U.S., has inquired about buying the Memphis Grizzlies with apparent hopes of moving the team to San Jose.

But team owner Michael Heisley today downplayed the possibility of a sale — and of a relocation, citing a lease that ties the franchise to Memphis and FedExForum until 2021.

“I can’t downplay it enough. If it happens I’ll be surprised,” said Heisley, a Chicago-based billionaire who added that talks had not become serious. “It’s in the initial stages. We’ve handled this just like we’ve handled several other dozen requests. My situation in Memphis has not changed a lick. My preference will always be for somebody in Memphis to buy the team. There’s not any interest in Memphis. But we’ve always made it known that if somebody wants to buy the team, we’ll listen. If they’re real buyers we’ll probably be sellers. So far there hasn’t been anyone willing to buy the team under my terms and for my price.”

via Oracle Corp.’s Ellison inquires about buying Grizzlies; Heisley downplays possibility » The Commercial Appeal.

I’m not trying to be a negative nellie here, but that to me reads as “I can’t downplay it enough. I want to sell it to someone who doesn’t exist, and this person that does exist and will move the team and has been desperate to get a team for two years is interested, but seriously, no worries.”

Yeah, that’s not good for the Grizzlies sticking around.

If you want more proof — Matt Steinmetz of CSNBayArea.com reports the talks are in an “advanced stage.” Heisley and Ellison may already have a “handshake agreement” according to the report. This just does not look good at all.

Heisley has been consistent in saying he wants to sell. He has resisted investing in a losing team, which you can’t really blame him for. He’s finally put his money where his mouth is in the past year and a half though, handing out contracts to Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. He recently traded Sam Young for a player not playing in the NBA to avoid the luxury tax. Finances are on the guy’s mind and Memphis is a hard town to pull profit in.

Ellison on the other hand made a swing for the Hornets last year but was rebuffed. If you want some political intrigue, the California teams are wary of another team moving into their markets, especially the Warriors.

Heisley is on record as saying this isn’t a big deal. I can’t stress that enough. He said this isn’t the first pitch Ellison has made, and that there are other suitors, with one matching his $350 million price tag on the team. It’s just concerning because the more Memphis wins, the better value they are for a seller, and while many fans think Memphis is unworthy of having a team, they’ve responded to the Grizz being competitive and “tough” like the town is. Losing them to yet another California zipcode (making it five teams in one state) seems unfortunate for basketball coast to coast.

(HT: Inside Hoops)

Report: Clippers’ management remains committed to re-signing Blake Griffin

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Maybe Friday night in Utah, maybe not for a few weeks, but the Clippers season is going to end before they reach the conference finals, and with Blake Griffin sidelined by injury. It’s an all-too-familiar scene. It will be six seasons of the Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Griffin experience in Los Angeles, and they will not have gotten out of the second round (unless you think they can come back on the Jazz from down 3-2, then beat the Warriors).

That has come with a lot of talk about the Clippers breaking up the core. Jordan remains under contract, Paul would be too hard to replace, and that leads to a lot of speculation — inside and outside the league — that Griffin could be on the move this summer, when he becomes a free agent.

That’s not what the Clippers want, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in a video essay.

Management remains committed to signing him to a long-term deal this summer, league sources tell me.

Doc Rivers has said he wants to bring back this core. Multiple times. His argument is that this is a 50+ win team that is one of the better teams in the NBA, why would you take a big step back rather than look for the tweaks that get the team to a title?

Steve Ballmer has the checkbook deep enough to pay both Paul and Griffin max money (although keeping fellow free agent J.J. Redick as well would be difficult). The Clippers will have one of the highest payrolls in the NBA, and is this team worth that? Especially in a conference where the Mount Everest of Golden State is not going anywhere for a few years, not to mention the Spurs and Rockets will remain good, Utah is on the rise, and so are teams like the Wolves. The Clippers will be a good team that needs a lot of breaks to go their way to really contend — how much would Ballmer pay for that?

The Clippers need to do some soul searching this offseason.

Just don’t be shocked if the result of that is them running this team back again.

Playing through sore knee, Jimmy Butler says “I’m good,” will go in Game 6

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At this point in the season, everyone is banged up. It’s just a matter of degree.

But with Rajon Rondo listed as out for Game 6, the Bulls’ need a big game from Jimmy Butler if they are going to extend this series to a Game 7. And he is not near 100 percent.

In Game 4, Butler banged knees with a Celtic and it impacted him during Game 5, as Vincent Goodwill detailed at CSNChicago.com.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn’t even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn’t elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

“I’m good. Everyone’s a little nicked up; I’ll be all right,” Butler said in the locker room.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune added this detail.

Boston has done a good job of limiting the number of times Isaiah Thomas is exposed on defense, having to cover Wade or Butler. Essentially, the Celtics switch in sort of a matchup zone to keep IT covering a shooter on the wing, even if his man goes up and sets the pick. Zone’s can be exposed (there’s a reason they’re more a change-of-pace rather than a basic set defense in the NBA), but it involves getting into the middle, getting into the paint. Which comes back to driving the ball and pushing off, things that Butler is struggling to do at his usual level.

There are a lot of other factors favoring Boston in Game 6, but if Chicago is going to force a Game 7 Sunday they need Butler to be an All-NBA level player.

Knicks’ Joakim Noah has expected shoulder surgery to repair rotator cuff

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NEW YORK (AP) — Knicks center Joakim Noah has had right shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff, a procedure that could sideline him until training camp.

The Knicks say Noah had the surgery Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed by Dr. David Altchek.

The team didn’t give a timetable for Noah’s recovery, but coach Jeff Hornacek said late in the season that if Noah had the operation, the recovery time could be five months.

Noah had an injury-plagued season that ended early when he was suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. There are still 12 games remaining on the penalty that he will have to serve next season when healthy.

Noah had surgery on his other shoulder last season, limiting him to 29 games in his final season in Chicago before signing a four-year, $72 million deal with New York.

PBT Extra: Pacers offseason moves start with Paul George

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Larry Bird, when not delivering All-Star Game bids, should be spending his time lighting candles and praying in churches all over Indianapolis that Paul George makes an All-NBA team.

If PG13 makes the cut, Bird’s job this summer becomes more clear: Offer George the designated player max extension, get him to sign the deal, then get back to building a contender around him.

If George doesn’t make the cut, things get much tougher for Bird. I discuss all of it in this new PBT Extra.