Robert Pera, Jason Levien

Report: Robert Pera orchestrated one-on-one game with Tony Allen, wanted to fire Dave Joerger when it fell through

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UPDATE: Grizzlies owner Robert Pera took to twitter to defend himself.

https://twitter.com/RobertPera/statuses/470970363619606528

https://twitter.com/RobertPera/statuses/470970715261239296

To which the writer Chris Mannix (who does his research) had this retort:

Pera is hands on and passionate but clearly not an experienced manager. He’s learning some lessons the hard way.

11:00 am: Back in September, Grizzlies owner Robert Pera challenged Tony Allen to a game of one-on-one. Allen even accepted.

The game never happened, and Pera moved on to challenge Michael Jordan to a game of one-on-one (though that game didn’t happen either).

But behind the scenes in Memphis, Pera reportedly didn’t move on at all.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

The genesis of the Joerger-Pera problems, according to league sources, dates back to last September. Pera — who fancies himself a pretty good player — challenged Tony Allen to a game of one-on-one. Allen, on Twitter, accepted. Pera, a Silicon Valley billionaire who bought a small controlling interest in the Grizzlies in 2012, poured tens of thousands of dollars into producing the matchup. He invited the media and instructed the public relations staff to issue a press release promoting the event.

The problem? Allen had lost interest. Joerger, a first-year head coach, didn’t like the idea of the game — like many in the organization he found it goofy and unbecoming of a professional team, according to sources — but it was Allen’s indifference that caused it to be called off. Yet Pera directed his frustration at Joerger and, according to a source, directed upper management to fire him.

Wow. Just…. wow. That is an incredible story.

But wait. There’s more.

Mannix:

When the Grizzlies opened the season 2-3 — including double-digit defeats to Dallas and New Orleans — Pera flew to Memphis and held individual meetings with players, sources say. He began offering bizarre suggestions. He suggested Mike Miller, a longtime Grizzlies player who was re-signed in the offseason, could become a player-coach. He brought up the idea that Joerger could wear an NFL-style headset and take instructions on the sideline. When the Grizzlies faced Golden State in early November, Pera insisted that Joerger give significant minutes to fourth-year power forward Ed Davis. Davis played just one. Again, according to sources, Pera insisted that Joerger had to go. Only after it was explained how dysfunctional the franchise would look if it fired a first year head coach six games into the season did Pera back down.

Miller, under Collective Bargaining Agreement rules, couldn’t be a player-coach. He’d have to retire as a player first.

I suppose Joerger could wear a headset, but what’s the point? A basketball coach is feet from all his assistants, and there are only a few of them to track the 10 players on the court. In football, there are many more coaches and 22 players on the field. Everyone is more spread out, making headsets much more helpful. Who would Joerger have been talking to that he couldn’t to face-to-face? Pera?

The Grizzlies won that game against the Warriors by 18 points. Maybe Davis should have gotten more playing time, but the result makes it difficult to question Joerger. Besides, Davis settled into a more consistent role as the season progressed.

This is a long list of strange charges. If even half of them are true, it certainly adds a twist to the JoergertoMinnesota saga.

Joerger might be remaining in Memphis for now, but that’s a lot of distrust to overcome with ownership. I suspect this won’t be the last you hear of Pera and Joerger’s relationship.

Report: J.B. Bickerstaff withdraws himself from consideration for Rockets’ coaching job

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 24: Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff of the Houston Rockets encourages his team in the seconf half against the Golden State Warriors at Toyota Center on April 24, 2016 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by dowloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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The Houston Rockets are still searching for a head coach — with Jeff Van Gundy believed to be their top target — but it won’t be J.B. Bickerstaff, who has served as the team’s interim coach since they fired Kevin McHale in November. According to The Vertical‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, Bickerstaff has informed Rockets management that he’s no longer in consideration for the job:

After a meeting with ownership and the front office on Tuesday, Houston Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has informed team officials that he’s no longer a candidate for the head-coaching job, league sources told The Vertical.

Other NBA teams have started reaching out to Bickerstaff about lead assistant coaching positions, and that’s where he’s transitioned his focus, league sources said.

After the Rockets’ disappointing season and disastrous playoff performance — where they lost in five not-very-competitive games to a Stephen Curry-less Warriors —it makes sense that Bickerstaff would rather get a fresh start as an assistant somewhere else, where he could build up his credentials and be a more highly sought-after head coaching candidate in the future. He isn’t a big name, so he likely wouldn’t be able to command as much money as the Rockets’ head coach as a more established figure would be. Given the Rockets’ uncertain future with Dwight Howard almost certain to opt out and not a lot of long-term pieces around James Harden, it’s not the most stable job in the world.

Celtics’ president Ainge embracing expectation-filled summer

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 13:  Member of the Boston Celtics 1986 championship team Danny Ainge is honored at halftime of the game between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat at TD Garden on April 13, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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BOSTON (AP) — During his tenure as Celtics president, Danny Ainge has developed a reputation as deal maker that pounces on opportunities.

He will forever be tethered to the coup he pulled off in the summer of 2007 to assemble the Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen just three years into the tenure of then-coach Doc Rivers.

No one is expecting Ainge to recreate that moment this summer, but with a myriad of draft picks and salary cap space at his disposal, he isn’t shying away from the expectation that this offseason could be one of the most important in recent memory.

“We look forward to every offseason. This offseason is bigger,” Ainge said. “My expectations are high this offseason and yet I also know that it takes good fortune.”

Helping those fortunes along will be Boston’s eight draft picks this summer, including three in the first round. The eight picks are Boston’s most since 1987 when the draft had seven rounds.

It not only will provide the Celtics with bargaining chips for potential trades, but the ability to “draft and stash” young players If they want, Ainge said.

A lot will depend on what happens May 17 at the draft lottery. Boston owns the unprotected first-round pick of the Nets, which it picked up in the deal that sent Garnett and Pierce to Brooklyn in 2013.

The Nets finished with the third-worst record in the NBA, so they will hand the Celtics about a 16 percent chance of securing the No. 1 pick with it.

“We need the ping pong balls to bounce our way to give us the best opportunity, whether we use that pick or whether we trade that pick,” Ainge said. “And in free agency we have opportunities. That’s all we have. We have no guarantees of great things happening. We just have a lot of hope.”

Depending on where they land, Ainge could package some of their later picks to move up or trade for future picks.

It’s all in play, and it’s why he is anticipating a much busier lead up to draft night June – both in the number of players they bring in to evaluate and the conversations they have with teams around the league.

What happens in June will then directly affect what trades and free agents the team pursues.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had cap space. So this is a unique opportunity,” Ainge said. “We have to be patient, too. There’s a lot of money around the league. A lot of teams have cap space with the new TV contracts kicking in.”

Ainge said even with the rash of injuries late in the season and into the playoffs, his team is mostly healthy.

The bruised bone in Jae Crowder‘s right foot isn’t serious, nor is the sore left shooting wrist of All-Star Isaiah Thomas.

Avery Bradley wasn’t able to return after his right hamstring injury on the opening night of the playoffs, but Ainge said it was a grade-1 strain and that team simply was being careful not to aggravate it.

The only player that could have surgery is Kelly Olynyk, who played with pain throughout the postseason after aggravating an injury to his right shoulder. Olynyk is expected to make a decision in about a week on how he will proceed.

It’s been a lot to process, but Ainge said he plans to stay as level-headed as possible.

“It doesn’t really do any good to put a noose around our neck and say that there’s all this urgency,” he said. “We have plenty of urgency. Brad wants to win, Isaiah wants to win, Avery wants to win. We all want to win. … But we also have to be patient in doing good deals and not doing bad deals.”

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower

LeBron dodges “Space Jam 2” questions, says focus now only on playoffs

FILE - In this Wed., July 15, 2015 file photo, NBA player LeBron James, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, accepts the award for best championship performance at the ESPY Awards at the Microsoft Theater, in Los Angeles. The NBA star and his company, SpringHill Entertainment, have signed a content creation deal with Warner Bros. that includes potential projects in film, television and other digital properties. Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara announced the partnership Wednesday, July 22, 2015. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
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It Hollywood, much like politics and sports, a non-denial is usually a “Yes, but I don’t want to talk about it.”

When LeBron James was asked about reports he’s attached to “Space Jam 2” as a star, he gave Fox Sports Ohio the non-denial answer (hat tip Eye on Basketball):

“I have a great team that handles my affairs off the floor. Since I signed with Warner Bros. we’ve been looking to do some things and figure out some things that best fit both sides. But my team’s handling that and I’m not going to take my focus off what my job is right now, which is handling the postseason right now.”

That’s not a no.

Since he now has his own production company, you can bet LeBron is moving forward with this because he would get a healthy slice of the pie.

I’m sure this is just like a Pixar animated film, where they hire top writers to come up with an emotionally relatable animated script, then worry about the marketing angles secondarily. This is about the art… I can’t even keep writing this line of sarcasm. I expect this to have all the plot subtlety of an Adam Sandler film. It’s a marketing vehicle with a movie attached. I fear it will be another “Thunderstruck.”

But there’s money to be made, so it will happen.

Report: NBA restricts teams ads on jerseys; no alcohol, tobacco, politics, more

adidas-NBA All-Star West Jersey Front H
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The Los Angeles Lakers are not going to have a silhouette of a Patron bottle on their jerseys.

Despite the potential tie in with GM Vlade Divac, the Sacramento Kings are not going to be sponsored by Marlboro.

While NBA teams have been cleared to sell a small patch ad on jerseys for next season — to go on the left shoulder, where the KIA logo was on the All-Star uniforms this season (if you even noticed it) — there are limitations, reports Darren Rovell of ESPN.

In most cases this was not going to be an issue, but the league did not want to risk a local casino or whatever jumping in with a big bid.

Teams are expected to get several million dollars for the ad deals (larger markets will get more, smaller markets less). This is part of a three-year trial program approved by the owners, although once the money starts coming in it’s hard to imagine to owners deciding to scrap the idea.