Monday, August 23, 2010
Michael Heisley talking turkey
By Henry Abbott
Thank you, Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley, for going on Chris Vernon's radio show in Memphis.
There were all kinds of interesting little tidbits here and there -- insight into why he has not signed Xavier Henry yet, what the team was thinking signing Allen Iverson a year ago, why they didn't bring Hakim Warrick back and the like.
But more than any one piece of information, he demonstrated something that is often hard to get across meaningfully, and that's that we ought not assume that the people running your local NBA team are all that thoughtful or wise.
This point comes up a lot. When teams do things that no one understands, a lot of us tend to assume there is some good, if obscure, reason for it.
Players don't get that same leeway. It's not all that uncommon for people to suggest players are idiots.
I'm wondering how fair that set-up is.
Consider that Shane Battier used to play for Memphis. If Battier ran for office against Heisley, I suspect he'd crush him in a debate. And yet people tend to assume, because one's an owner and the other's a player, that the opposite would be true.
It's undeniable that owners are, like players, capable of poor judgment. I don't mean to imply that every team is run by somebody like Heisley.
I also don't mean to pick on Heisley. He happens to be the owner who just stuck his basketball knowledge on the line.
Heisley said, for instance, that he just learned NBA teams can negotiate performance clauses with first-round draft picks. I'd wager that 90+% of NBA beat writers know this. Ditto bloggers in the TrueHoop Network, and even the kinds of NBA fans who read this here blog TrueHoop.
It's our passion and in some cases profession, so we know that. But it's his business. The 20 percent he could have been negotiating above or below the scale with every first-round pick since he bought the team are his dollars.
That's neither here nor there. Personally, I think he has the right to negotiate as hard as he wants with whatever player he wants.
But I would encourage you to take note that the Grizzlies have clearly been operating in a manner whereby Heisley -- the decision maker -- was in the dark about the kinds of things avid fans know.
A favorite exchange:
Heisley: "I've never seen the Collective Bargaining Agreement."
Vernon: "What? How is that possible?"
Then Heisley went after Vernon for not reading the CBA himself. Shortly afterward he shouted things like "you must be hard a hearin'!" which was in keeping with the spirit of the half-hour talk. There were various other moments in the interview when he made little mistakes, for instance saying that the trade deadline was in December.
Now, does any of this matter to Heisley? Is he questioning himself in any way? Doubtful. "I will tell you point blank, son," he said to Vernon, "the press doesn't influence me one iota."
So be it. But if I were you I'd let Heisley's appearance in the press influence you just a little. Nobody has a monopoly on NBA smarts, and certainly not the owners.