As a guest, I was able to attend a season ticket holder Chalk Talk before the Bucks game. Assistant Coach Dave Joerger, still injured PG Micheal Conley and now infamous GM Chris Wallace were the guests to address a very, very brave and possibly stupid crowd (tornadoes were at the time ravaging the Memphis metro area, serioulsy).
I'll repeat, Chris Wallace addressed a group of season ticket holders only days after the epic, Pau Gasol-to-the-Lakers trade, which 9 out of 10 NBA analysts claim was grand theft and questioned Wallace's sanity. And moreover, these fans showed up despite possibly having a home in or drove through areas that were getting pounded by deadly tornadoes. You're excited about what is coming next, aren't you?
Wallace (referred to as CW for the rest of the post) spoke last. He spent the first part of the event behind a white board writing while others were talking and being asked questions. When it was CW's time to speak, he turned the board around and then gave a presentation on why he traded Pau Gasol. As a Griz fan, it was stunning to hear, to be truthful. His conviction and skills to persuade were impressive. His message was presented clearly and convincingly. Essentially he had two objectives. First, to explain the decision to trade Pau (this was done with absolute certainty, I doubt anyone left there not 100% in belief that trading Pau was essential for the franchise to have serious chances at future playoff success...to further reiterate and be completely clear, CW hit a home run presenting his argument for trading Pau). Second, CW talked about the benefits of the L.A. trade (this part was less convincing than the need to simply trade Pau).
CW started by turning the board around to show off 3 columns. Column 1 was the Western Conference standings. Certainly you can guess what this was intended to show (hint, it starts with the the #13 and implies we SUCK).
Column 2 was a list titled "Pau".
--48 million over 3 years
--0-12 in Playoffs
--Good 4's Available in Draft
--3-4 Without Pau; 5 More PPG
Column 3 was a list titled "Trade".
-- Cap Space: 12-14 Million Possible in '08
-- Cap Space: 17 Millions Possible in '09
-- 5-7 Players in Return
-- 4 "1st rounders"
-- Restructure Salary
I'm not going to detail exactly what CW said minute by minute, instead here is a long list of things I remember that were of interest. Take into account a lot of this is paraphrased and it is entirely possible that some of it is recited sightly differently than originally said by CW.
-- The Griz are not better than their record. CW says he agrees with Coach Parcells idea about being exactly what your record says you are. We are a 13 win team and something needed done. He compared it to making a halftime adjustment.
-- Top level talent wins in the NBA and playoff wins are what is most important. CW essentially said that players that make as much as Pau was scheduled to make (48 million in the next 3 years) are expected to win playoff games and that most do. CW's plan is get us into the thick of the best Western Conference teams. He figures if we kept Pau and built around him we would likely only slowly inch up the standings, which won't suffice.
-- CW was not comfortable with Pau playing for Spain. I was floored by the admission. I'll admit I'm a little nervous about posting this item (although CW did admit that the NBA is filled with information leaks, case-in-point). CW made an off-hand comment about no media being in the room because the NBA is friendly towards national summer play and he was getting ready to, in essence, bash it. If I wasn't so nervous, you can bet I'd lead with this item and mention it in the post title for a dramatic effect. But make no mistake about it. I was floored by CW's admission that Pau playing for Spain had an effect on the decision to trade Pau (don't underestimate how much Pau's injury while playing for Spain ruined his image in Memphis). The second thing CW mentioned when making the case against keeping Pau was that he has had durability issues and is scheduled to play for Spain again next summer. He was not comfortable worrying about what might happen to Pau. In fact, he was not comfortable with summer national play at all. For instance, he mentioned Darko being forced to run cross-country in the mountains during practice for the Serbia National Team only days after signing a contract with the Griz. He mentioned that unlike NBA training camp, national team practices aren't regulated by the NBA. This presents a big risk for NBA teams that have their players, particularly fragile franchise players, playing National Team summer ball.
-- CW doesn't want to end up on the wrong side of big, crippling contract. CW explained to the ticket holders that NBA contracts are guaranteed (unlike in football). A consequence of that is big, long contracts can cripple teams towards the end of the contract depending on how well that player is playing and how well that players body is holding up. He mentioned that NBA basketball is a physically demanding sport and bodies can suddenly deteriorate. It was clear that CW is looking to build around a core group of talented players that are in their lower 20's.
-- Need more talent. This was a common refrain mentioned many times. In general, the Griz need more talent to properly compete in the Western Conference. The Pau trade could net up to 5-7 new players, all of which could help fill the talent gap.
-- Emphasized cap room. Either this summer or next summer, the Griz can be major players in the free agent market. When asked about free agents not wanting to go to Memphis, CW replied with they follow the money. For example, this summer, with only a fraction of that cap space, many players were inquiring about Memphis.
-- Phone is ringing off the hook. CW says that after the Pau trade, this is as much contact from other GM's he's ever seen, with just about every team inquiring about our players (I'm sure most are assuming there is a firesale going on, while some might actually like our players).
-- Flexibility. The Laker trade, by acquiring picks and cap space, allows CW to be flexible going forward.
-- Collins is a student of the game. When asked about the Stro-Collins trade, the most interesting comment was that Collins is a great student. CW said that on the flight to Memphis, Collins was studying his Griz Scouting Report written by the NJ Nets so he can be as prepared as possible. Can any Griz fan see Stro doing this? Didn't think so.
-- Understands that winning is important. CW knows that winning is most important and also important for him to keep his job.
-- CW and Iavaroni gave it a chance to work. CW reiterates that him and the coaching staff gave it a chance to work, but they all agree that the Griz can't be serious contenders staying on the current course.
-- About Marc Gasol. CW said that Marc is likely to play in the NBA (even if not for the Griz) and that one way or another the Griz will benefit (i.e., "go thru us").
-- The team was just as good (er, bad) with or without Pau. Although he admitted the sample size wasn't statistically significant, this team was no better or worse with or without Pau. I heard on the radio this week that in the last 2 or so years, the team won 27% of with Pau and 28% without.
-- Despite not directly bashing Pau, there wasn't anything positive said about him. I don't really want to elaborate on this, but the whole thing wasn't exactly praising of Pau.
-- About questions. I expected there to be a lot of hard hitting questions about either trading Pau in the first place and then (on the surface) not getting that much back in return. CW's excellent sales pitch to why the Griz had to trade Pau convinced everyone (or at least almost everyone) in the room, I'm certain. Some people asked hard questions about why they should continue to buy season tickets and CW gave obvious response centered around his plan to build a winner, how exciting the Griz are to watch play, how having an NBA team is such a rare treat, how popular the NBA is all over the world, and how great NBA players will be in town playing on a regular basis.
I'm sure I am forgetting something about what CW said, sorry. I can't believe how much CW's philosophies presented sounded like our very own MemphisX. I am stunned at his admission of not being comfortable with Pau's summer activity with the Spain National Team. In all, CW gave a great presentation, was brutally honest and quite convincing. The stuff with Coach Joerger and Micheal Conley were really non-eventful. The most interesting comment to pass along was when Conley was asked about the Tigers and responded that he was the last one to beat them.