Oklahoma City Thunder v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Six

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


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: Rockets will try to sign Alessandro Gentile next summer

Alessandro Gentile, Paulius Jankunas
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The Rockets tried signing Sergio Llull this summer, but he opted for a long-term extension with Real Madrid.

So, they’ll just turn to another player in their large chest of stashed draft picks – Alessandro Gentile.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Gentile, who was selected No. 53 in the 2014, is a 22-year-old wing for Armani Milano. He’s a good scorer, but he primarily works from mid-range – an area the Rockets eschew. He can get to the rim in Europe, but his subpar athleticism might hinder him in the NBA.

If Gentile comes stateside, he’ll face a steep learning curve. But he’s young enough and talented enough that he could develop into a rotation player.

Report: Hawks co-owner made more money by exposing Danny Ferry’s Luol Deng comments

Michael Gearon, Bruce Levenson
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A terribly kept secret: Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. wanted to get rid of general manager Danny Ferry.

Many believe that’s why Gearon made such a big deal about Ferry’s pejorative “African” comment about Luol Deng – that Gearon was more concerned about ousting Ferry than showing real concern over racism.

Gearon had another, no less sinister, reason to raise concern over Ferry’s remarks.

Kevin Arnovitz and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

While Gearon felt that Ferry, as he wrote in the June 2014 email to Levenson, “put the entire franchise in jeopardy,” Gearon also figured to benefit financially from a Sterling-esque fallout.

In the spring of 2014, Gearon was in the process of selling more of his interest in the team to Levenson and the partners he had sold to in September. The agreed-upon price for roughly a third of Gearon’s remaining shares valued the Hawks at approximately $450 million, according to reports from sources.

“We accept your offer to buy the remaining 31 million,” Gearon wrote in an email to Levenson on April 17, 2014. “Let me know next steps so we can keep this simple as you suggested without a bunch of lawyers and bankers.”

Approximately five weeks later — just a little more than a week before the fateful conference call — Steve Ballmer agreed to pay $2 billion for the Clippers, a record-smashing price that completely changed the assessed value of NBA franchises. Gearon firmly maintains he was acting out of the sincerity of his convictions to safeguard the franchise from the Sterling stench, but such a spectacle also allowed him to wiggle out of selling his shares at far below market value.

Gearon and his legal team later challenged the notion that the sell-down was bound by any sort of contractual obligation and that any papers were signed. Once the organization became involved in the investigation, the sale of the shares was postponed.

Arnovitz and Windhorst did an incredible amount of reporting here. I suggest you read the full piece, which includes much more background on the Gearon-Ferry rift.

Considering the Hawks sold for $850 million, Gearon definitely made more money than if he’d sold his shares at a $450 million valuation.

Did that motivate him? Probably, though it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Most likely, his actions were derived from at least three desires – making more money, ousting Ferry and combating racism. Parsing how much each contributed is much more difficult.

What Ferry said was racist, whether or not he was looking at more racism on the sheet of paper in front of him. His comments deserved punishment.

But if Gearon didn’t have incentive to use them for his own benefit, would we even know about them? How many other teams, with more functional front offices, would have kept similar remarks under wraps or just ignored them?