Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Wallace Explains Pau Trade to Ticket Holders in Stunning Presentation

From Zack


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
--Summer Activity
--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.

BallHype: hype it up!


Anonymous said...

Good work.

Gotta love this blog

catgrizzfan said...

I agree in most of the issues. But blaming on Gasol for the 0-12 playoffs record I think is not elegant and is terribly unfair.

Let's think on the rivals: San Antonio, Phoenix and Dallas, not bad. Lets think in Stoudamire injury in 2006. Take a look at the statistics and see how Gasol improves almost all his stats in playoffs, while other teammates do the opposite (i.e. Mike Miller or Shane Battier).

Pau is a great competitor, and grows in the important moments, but the team hasn't helped him much and he was absolutely demotivated so, at the end, I think the trade will be good for the team and for him.

ChipC3 said...

Why does the Collins is 'a student of the game' comment remind me of Jerry West saying Jake Tsakalidis is 'the most intelligent player on the team'?

SeanBS said...

I think most of us can agree on one thing: this Shaq trade is way stupider than what the Grizzlies did. Maybe Steve Kerr will take some of the heat off Wallace.

Anonymous said...

good write up zack. I dont blame CW for emphasizing pau's summer play. Obviously the one summer he didnt play he performed much better, yet he insists on continuing to play. CW is right, if he got hurt doing that we would be screwed, unless of course a super retard like steve kerr came along. WTF is he thinking? Will shaq just stay on the defensive end like old school womens basketball?

ChipC3 said...

If Pau's summer play is negatively affecting his play here should the Grizz also get rid of Navarro, Miller and Darko since all of them are slated for playing for their countries this summer too?

Why should the Grizz want players good enough to asked to play for their countries anyway?

I agree with the real reasons for trading Pau but this reason appears to be pandering to the season ticket holders who criticized Pau for getting hurt playing for Spain.

Anonymous said...

How totally and predictably chip.

zack said...

my impression about the comment about players (pau in particular) playing over the summer for the national team was about 3 things:

1) How durable is the player? In pau's case he has a history of injury issues and playing over the summer will only increase that. CW even talked about how long teams play when in the playoffs (b/c this is where he wants us to be) and then if you add summer play on top of that, the player is just playing too much.

2) CW doesn't isn't really comfortable with the fact that there is no regulation for these national teams. I.E., Darko running cross-country in the mountains, when our trainers would never suggest a 7'2 player do that.

3) When a team has a huge contract on the player playing during the summer, it puts the team at even more risk than if it was a player with a smaller salary.

Anonymous said...

Reposted a comment of mine on Celticsblog.com, which linked to this story:

It is good to know that for Wallace, this was not a spur-of-the moment decision, but something that he was obviously mulling over for months. There are still unanswered questions though:

- Is Memphis really going to be a desirable free agent destination in the seasons to come? They haven't had a culture of winning since Hubie Brown coached them, and that means they may have to overpay if they want to sign good talent--essentially eliminating any advantage in cap room they may have.

- Making the team you trade Pau to (the Lakers) that good means that the picks you get from them in return will consequently not be very good.

- Given how well Hubie Brown did with roughly the same roster / same amount of role players and stars, isn't it more likely that poor coaching has been at the heart of the Grizzlies' struggles?

- The real story is that the Grizzlies were simply eliminating any long-term salary obligations they still had in preparation for a move out of Memphis. (The Grizzlies still have until March to file the papers with Stern announcing the move). This tends to make any heartfelt "feelings" for the fans in Memphis seem more than a little disingenuous, no?

- Granted, Pau Gasol was never going to be a franchise player, but he was a quality all-star playing for the lowly Grizz. If the organization had shown the slightest bit of confidence in him as their go-to star, wouldn't Gasol have developed into something even better, and couldn't the team have thrived as a result? When you don't trust your own players to help you win, then you have foreclosed winning as an option in the first place.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a double standard about American and foreign players playing for their countries.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's really about there being a double standard about American and foreign players playing for their country more than it's about the United States Senior Men's National Basketball team (or whatever it's properly called) is run in such a fashion that tries to minimize and respond to the concerns of NBA teams' treatment of star players. Foreign national teams are more likely do things the way they want to do it.

No one on Team USA is going to be running through the mountains.

Ronan said...

An exceedingly poor trade for memphis. How they managed to avoid dealing with someone who will not be picking in the 20s is beyond me. I follow the NBA draft quite a bit and I'm at a loss as to where all these outstanding 4s are. Memphis cant control the lottery as we all saw last year and there is no guarantee we get Michael Beasley (who some project as a 3 in the pros), its hard to find good players in the draft. I wasnt in the room so I cant comment on Wallace's stats on winning with/without Gasol but Id like to point out that winning a basketball game hinges on any number of factors and Im unaware of Wallace's mastery of multivariate analysis. Marc Gasol is unlikely to be anything more than a decent back up. picking in the 20s will not replace Pau at the 4. The grizzlies will have more money and more inexperience. The only rationale I can see for this, Im sure its very impressive when Wallace turns the whiteboard over, is to make the team easier to sell. If it was done to help the team win then Wallace is bad at his job (you have checked out this guys history right?). Trading Gasol might have been right for the club at the time but what they got back makes a mockery of the team and their apparent ambitions. Wallace should be praised for his hands on approach to the fans but it sounds like this guy is more of a persausive second hand car salesman than a GM.

Ronan said...


Memphis is a backwater market that will struggle to attract free agents mo matter how much money is on the table.


Had heard of this blog but have only visited for the first time today. Nice work.

AussieGfan said...

Thanks for sharing all of this stuff.

Just from the summary, he made some good points and at least now you can understand it through his mind. When they interviewed Heisley during the Bucks game and it was a similar thing.

BUT.. All this means so far is that Wallace is good at selling his ideas. A good GM for Memphis, he is not.. at least until he has more time to prove himself.

He deserves probably 2 years to prove himself, and we can look back then whether or not this plan of his has worked out.

So far all we know is he is good with people, accessable, brave and good at selling ideas. We all fell for his pitch in October and look where the franchise is right now. The odds are against him but at least its good to understand the thinking behind the decisions.

Anonymous said...

Followed a link from Celticsblog. This is a great site and a great scoop; my compliments. That said, this is the same GM who tried to sell Vin Baker to us - worth remembering. And that too was a move about cutting salary prior to the sale of the team. Did anyone ask Wallace to name the '08 unrestricted F.A.'s who would represent a clear upgrade? Arenas (if he opts out)? Marion (if he opts out)? That's the end of that list. My empathy to Grizzlies fans; hang in there. Here's hoping that new ownership will bring with it a new front office.

zack said...

hey guys via celticblog...

i'll respond to your comments this weekend in our weekly Sunday Chronicle....