Robert Pera, Jason Levien

Grizzlies’ CEO out in major front office shakeup

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UPDATE 3:48 pm: The shakeup is already confirmed by none other than Grizzlies majority owner Robert Pera — CEO Jason Levien and assistant general manager Stu Lash have been fired.

It is likely that the shakeup will continue down the chain of command.

“Our franchise has made tremendous strides over the last few seasons and we thank Jason for his hard work and dedication and wish him nothing but success in his future endeavors,” Pera said in a released statement. “Rest assured that we remain as committed as ever to bringing a championship to this great city and we are confident that when the new season begins our fans will be excited about both our roster and the direction of our organization.”

Chris Wallace, the GM who had been largely sidelined by management, is now back in charge of basketball operations. At least for now. He has told several outlets that coach Dave Joerger is safe in his position. However Joerger and the slow start of the Grizzlies (when Marc Gasol was injured) may have played a role in sowing the seeds of unrest, reports Marc Stein at ESPN.

Sources told ESPN.com on Monday that Pera expressed internal dismay with Joerger early in the season and contemplated firing him before the Grizzlies steadied themselves after the return from injury of Marc Gasollifted Memphis back to the level of success it was accustomed to under Hollins.

3:06 pm: What do the four teams in the NBA’s conference Finals have in common? Front office stability. They’ve had a plan, stuck with that plan.

Memphis aspires to be on that level, but they apparently are going to do it with a radically different front office, and maybe coaching staff.

Marc Stein of ESPN was first with the news that shocked the NBA world Monday:

Grizzlies’ guard Tony Allen summed up all of our reactions.

When tech billionaire Robert Pera purchased the Grizzlies he reshaped the front office in his own image – far more analytics driven. Jason Levien was at the forefront of that. It is why John Hollinger was hired away from ESPN. That is why the successful Lionel Hollins was let go as coach and Dave Joerger was brought in — he related better to the direction of the franchise.

Hollins took them to the conference finals, this year the Grizzlies were one-and-done (although they pushed the Thunder seven games, the deep West is unfair like that). The changes did not yield immediate results.

Now that direction seems to be in trouble.

Expect more drama in Memphis before this is over. That is not how you build a consistent winner.

Charles Barkley hung out with King Cake Baby to celebrate his birthday (VIDEO)

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One of the New Orleans Pelicans mascots is a Pelican. His name is Pierre, and after a makeover he’s looking pretty normal these days. But the Pelicans also have a second mascot of sorts. His name is King Cake Baby — named after the Mardi Gras pastry — and he’s horrifying.

So when you have an NBA All-Star Game in town, what do you do? Trot out a giant baby mascot to mix in with the league’s elite, of course.

Or at least have him bother Charles Barkley on his birthday:

Ok it’s actually weirder that Kenny Smith wanted to see what was under King Cake Baby’s bib. I can never unsee that.

Vlade Divac on DeMarcus Cousins trade: “I had a better deal two days ago”

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The DeMarcus Cousins trade to the New Orleans Pelicans just gets weirder and weirder.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Sacramento Kings GM Vlade Divac said that he had a more appetizing deal on the table for the All-Star center. Why didn’t they take it?

Divac would not say:

Perhaps even more confusing is that Divac said that owner Vivek Ranadive did not have input on the trade process. That seems highly unlikely, given how hands-on Ranadive has been in the past regarding keeping Cousins.

“[Ranadive] didn’t have any idea,” Divac said of the trade. “I just told him what I was going to do.”

Let’s cut right to the chase here: this makes no sense.

First, because ownership in the NBA always has some kind of contact on trades, if only as a heads up. When it comes to franchise players, I’m hard-pressed to believe Ranadive wasn’t involved.

Meanwhile, what explanation could possibly be given for not pulling the trigger on a deal Divac admits was better than the one he got from New Orleans? That would appear to imply outside pressure not to take the better of the two trades, which again would point to Ranadive.

The offer from the Pelicans was one that Ranadive has reportedly been a big fan of, particularly because he feels that Buddy Hield is has the potential to be in the range of Stephen Curry.

That’s a lot to unpack.

Then we have to get to the Kings and their press release, which takes an unsubtle potshot at Cousins with regard to his character:

“It was time for a change and I decided this was the best direction for the organization, said Divac. “Winning begins with culture and character matters. With the upcoming draft class set to be one of the strongest in a decade, this trade will allow us to build the depth needed for a talented and developing roster moving forward.”

Ah, ok. Couple that with Kings play-by-play announcer Grant Napear going nuclear on Cousins moments after he was traded and you’ve got an extremely confusing, bad looking coming out of Northern California.

The Kings are a mess.

Rumor: Kings owner sees Buddy Hield having Stephen Curry potential

World guard Buddy Hield (24) of the New Orleans Pelicans (24) goes to the basket against U.S. guard Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns during the Rising Stars Challenge, part of the NBA All-Star events in New Orleans, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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The Sacramento Kings made one of the more disastrous trades we’ve seen in recent years involving a superstar player. They traded DeMarcus Cousins — franchise center who sometimes torpedoes his own team with his temper — for a sharp-shooting rookie, a first round pick that sits outside the top 3, and a player they already traded away and are apparently unlikely to keep long term. Gross.

This is not going over well with Kings fans, but it is said to be sitting well with Sacramento owner Vivek Ranadive.

Via Twitter:

Ah, what?

Hield was an excellent scorer in college, and has the kind of range that makes him a prime candidate for the type of offenses being developed in the modern NBA. But that’s where the reasonable comparisons end for him and Curry. Come on.

For one, Hield is a true shooting guard. No part of his game is crafted to be the primary ball handler at an NBA level. He’s not the passer Stephen Curry is, nor was he even as good at that as Klay Thompson was in college.

It’s OK that the Kings like Hield in a vacuum. Within context it appears they’ve sold themselves on something patently ridiculous. We’ve never seen a player in Curry’s mold before. Hoping an incomparable player somehow matches up with his talent and skill set — and trading away Cousins because of it — is wild.

Sacramento is going to be bad. Call a Kings fan today, tell them you love them. They need you now more than ever.

Stephen Curry tries to pass off backboard to himself (VIDEO)

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NEW ORLEANS — LeBron James can do it.

Stephen Curry? Not so much.

The Golden State Warriors PG tried to pull the Trady McGrady in Sunday’s All-Star Game but found himself coming up just a little short.