Tuesday, April 17, 2007

May Day

Some people are confused as to why Michael Heisley has decided to set a May 1st deadline for the sale of the team. First off, let me clarify one thing. When Michael Heisley says the team is off the market that doesn’t mean Heisley won’t try to sell the team again. That doesn’t even mean he won’t try and sell the team in the next year. It just means that going into the draft, free agency and the summer league season that the team won’t be actively marketed for sale.

Still, the Grizzlies need to hire Jerry West’s replacement and if the team is on the market then no self-respecting person should take the GM job knowing that new owners could be brought in any day and since he wouldn’t be their choice for that role they may want to replace him. Likewise no serious coach would want to be hired with the ownership situation in flux for the very same reasons. The Grizzlies and Michael Heisley want to hire people who are capable of doing a good job in these roles. I believe Heisley likes working with professionals that can run the business without his being involved day to day so ownership needs to be settled in the eyes of prospective candidates to allow Heisley to hire the best available people.

So why is May Day the deadline for selling the team?

To no one’s surprise I don’t believe that the deadline has anything to do with a maypole or the rights of summer or even the Haymarket Riot of 1886 in Chicago despite Heisley being a Chicago resident (Google it if you don’t know what this refers to).

I also don’t believe it is so the new GM would be present at the lottery although many people might make that association. That may be a small consideration but there is no reason not to assume that Jerry West or Michael Heisley won’t be in front of the cameras at that ceremony even if we do have a new GM in place. They are still the faces of the franchise and it doesn’t take a lot of brains to sit there with a smile on your face while you hear where you are going to draft in 6 weeks. The decision maker won’t need to be present for the show in New York City.

However May 1st is under a month from the beginning of the Orlando Pre-draft workout camps. The NBA has instituted a new rule that teams are not allowed to hold private workouts with potential draft picks until after the Orlando camp. Previously teams were allowed to begin the private workouts much earlier. With the new deadline it gives teams less time to develop opinions on players independently. That benefits teams in situations like the Grizzlies are presently in. Heisley will have 26 days to hire a replacement and to get him situated in his new surroundings. He would most likely have his first interaction with the fans at the draft lottery program being planned for the Forum on May 22nd while he runs the war room from the corporate offices.

Let’s not forget that Jerry West’s replacement isn’t the only position that needs to be filled this summer. The Grizzlies will also need to hire a new coach. By setting the May 1st deadline this allows Heisley to find the man who will be making the coaching decision as well. Assistant coaches will not be free to negotiate new deals until their team’s season is complete. The playoffs will only be 2 weeks old on May 1st. Most serious candidates will still be involved in their own team’s situations until well past that deadline. So this gives the Grizzlies, and therefore Heisley some time to find Jerry’s replacement prior to the Orlando camps and probably the opportunity to hire a new coach before the camps as well.

Both of these roles needs to be completed as soon as possible and the ideal situation would be to have both positions filled in time for the Orlando Camp. May 1st may be cutting it a little close but that is 2 weeks after the close of the regular season so any serious offer (or not so serious if Brian Davis puts up another bid) for the franchise will have time to be presented as well just in case someone is seriously considering making an offer. By putting the deadline ahead of the lottery Heisley also gets to keep the attraction of the top pick possibility in the offering price. After the lottery (where the Grizzlies have a greater than 50% possibility of getting the 3rd or 4th pick) the reality is what it is. Before the draft the 25% possibility still gets factored into the price.

Heisley isn’t dumb after all, greedy and self-serving possibly, but not dumb.

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