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.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.

Magic Johnson on drafting Lonzo Ball: “what I needed was a leader”

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Nobody, not even his critics with the Lakers, question that D'Angelo Russell had talent. What they questioned from the start was his work ethic and maturity. I was told by sources with the team he often was the last one to team meetings, often one of the first out of the gym, and the whole Nick Young thing spoke to the maturity question. Byron Scott took a lot of heat as Lakers’ coach for benching him, and Scott’s communication skills were lacking, but he had reasons. Russell also just 21 and maybe he finds his way, but the Lakers weren’t willing to wait anymore.

Which is why the Lakers were willing to move him to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez trade, and why the Lakers went after Lonzo Ball in the draft, Magic Johnson said, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Is Lonzo Ball a leader? Only time will tell, he has the potential.

Will players want to play with him? Yes, if the passing skills he showed in college transfer to the NBA. If guys know they will get the rock if they run/cut, then they will do just that. It’s some simple B. F. Skinner stuff here — if players are rewarded they will keep doing it. Get them the rock in transition and they will get out there every time.

Ball has flaws in his game, there are certainly questions about his defense, and how that awkward shot translates remains to be seen (it goes in but his time to get it off will decrease at the NBA level)? Will he be a scoring threat in the half-court? He’s got work to do. But answer those questions and the Lakers may have the key piece to help anchor a franchise he’s been looking for.

Sacramento Kings waive guard Arron Afflalo

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento Kings have waived guard Arron Afflalo one year after signing him as a free agent.

The Kings cut ties with Afflalo on Friday before his entire $12.5 million contract for 2017-18 would become guaranteed. Afflalo will get $1.5 million instead.

Afflalo averaged 8.4 points and 2 rebounds in 61 games this past season for Sacramento. He has averaged 11.3 points per game in his 10-year career.