Just a few weeks ago, Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley was adamant he was right and every other team in the NBA (save San Antonio) was wrong — the tradition of giving players 120 percent of their rookie scale deal was a mistake. Players could get 100 percent of rookie scale, but that extra 20 percent should be earned by reaching incentives for play.
Heisley insisted that was how it would be in the team’s newest contracts. So the Grizzlies neared the start of camp as the only team not to have signed their rookies to deals.
Heisley relented Wednesday, and Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez are signed.
Heisley told the Commercial Appeal he made a mistake.
Team owner Michael Heisley changed his stance after a recent meeting with league officials, who detailed the spirit of the collective bargaining agreement with regard to rookie contracts.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m happy the issue has been resolved,” Heisley said. “There’s no question I’m doing what I should have probably done earlier.”
“In the general spirit of the way (the CBA) was put together, I felt we should relent and not have a performance situation,” Heisley said. “I don’t think I was on the right side of the issue.”
Essentially, league officials came in and told Heisley what countless Memphis fans — echoed through members of the media — had been telling him for months. But this time he listened.
Henry — the Grizzlies lottery pick out of Kansas — did not play with the team in Summer League because he did not have a deal. Heisley had been demanding Henry make either the All Rookie team or be part of the Rookie Challenge All-Star weekend.
What Heisley requested was not unreasonable on the face of it, if other owners had joined in and had done so from the start. But the habit of giving players 120 percent of rookie scale — the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement — had been going on for more than a decade. It had become the standard operating procedure. To just decide to change it left Heisley on his own island. An island that other agents and future free agents would not want to visit.
But expect this to come up in the new CBA talks.