So yesterday was really fun, right? That’s me practicing my Robert Pera impression but it’s also true. Yesterday was going to be big because a change in ownership is an important event in the life of any franchise. We knew this was coming. What we didn’t know was that yesterday would turn into 12 hours of basketball fueled frenzy in the Bluff City.
It all kicked off at 10 A.M. with the introductory press conference of Robert Pera and Jason Levien. Let me be person 2,095 to say that Pera is crazy young and looks even younger. The presser was interesting if not thrilling. Honestly, despite wild speculation there is no way to tell whether Pera and Levien will be successful. What is apparent is that there will be an organizational structure unlike anything the Grizzlies franchise has seen.
Also clear is that this is Levien’s show for better or worse. I like the idea of having a thoughtfully run, efficiency oriented franchise. Of course, in sports success and failure hinge on winning. A smartly run organization doesn’t guarantee winning, it only increases your odds. So we have a somewhat shy, young, (almost) billionaire and a slick talking ex-agent. They both came off as well suited for their roll.
As a quick aside, one of the big questions that arose was about the future of Grizzlies general manager, Chris Wallace. If he is kept on it would result in an ego blow and what would amount to a demotion. Even though he wasn’t authorized to make all the decisions under Heisley, he was hypothetically in charge. Levien will be the public face of basketball decisions.
Evaluating Wallace’s tenure is nearly impossible. It has been a mixed bag and many decisions weren’t actually his to make. Either way, I hope things work out for him to remain in Memphis. I can’t imagine there are many individuals more valuable to this community. He rarely says no to anyone that requests his help. He doesn’t have to be that way.
While it doesn’t hurt, a GM doesn’t need the positive exposure the way a head coach might. Aside from sharing an elevator with him at Pastner’s introductory press conference, I’ve never spent time with Wallace. I’ve never been more sure of a person’s genuineness that I’ve never actually met. The decisions on the front office will be about business and that is how it should be. That doesn’t mean I can’t root for good people. I don’t know what losing Wallace would mean for the Grizzlies but it would be a huge loss for the city of Memphis.
So there isn’t much abut the new ownership that can be said with any level of certainty. However, I can say that this is cool: Jon Roser of 92.9 ESPN Radio tweeted that Pera was decked out in Grizzlies gear, walking to the Forum to play basketball. Unless I missed the stories about Mike Heisley’s silky jumper, I think this is definitely new.
The item of news that propelled the day into hoops chaos was the commitment of Austin Nichols to the Memphis Tigers. I tweeted that Josh Pastner entered the building for the NBA franchise’s big day. Even he didn’t know what a big day it was about to be for him. As the story goes, people at the press conference began congratulating him on the Nichols commitment before he knew it had happened. John Martin of the Commercial Appeal broke the story on twitter before Nichols notified Pastner.
The significance of this commitment would take another post to explore but as you probably know, it’s big. So that set up a one of the great basketball days in recent Memphis history and oh by the way, there was still a game to play.