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Any time that a change of ownership occurs, the expectation is that there will be several personnel changes as well. Sometimes, that means that players will be moved. Or maybe a coaching change. Or even that the business side will experience a shake-up. It also means moves within the front office.

Since the group led by Robert Pera bought the Memphis Grizzlies, virtually every single one of those things has happened. Rudy Gay, Hamed Haddadi, Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, and Josh Selby were all traded, and Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis, Jon Leuer, and Austin Daye were brought in. We’re in the midst of a coaching change, as it appears almost certain that Lionel Hollins is on his way out and that Dave Joerger will replace him. The business side also saw people moved, as Jason Wexler was introduced following the departures of Greg Campbell and Mike Humes.

(Photo: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports)

From the outset, the front office was already different, with Jason Levien taking over as CEO, and Stu Lash joining him. Then, Levien surprised many in the NBA community by convincing John Hollinger to leave ESPN and join the Grizzlies organization. In some respects, that left VP/GM Chris Wallace, the architect of most of this roster, on the outside looking in. So, it comes as little shock to us that, according to my sources with inside knowledge, Wallace will soon be named as the new general manager of the Sacramento Kings.

So, when (not if) Wallace leaves, and if Hollins is indeed gone, then that will represent the final portion of the changeover. The group that built this team that just came off of their third straight postseason appearance will no longer be in place. Instead, everyone involved will have been selected by Levien and Co.

There are quite a few people who have been upset about this prospect. They didn’t want Michael Heisley (glad to hear that he’s recovering, by the way) to sell to Robert Pera, the California-based 34-year old billionaire. Locals feared he would try to move the team to San Jose or Anaheim or Las Vegas. Instead, the team re-upped the lease with the city, assuring everyone that they would be in the (We Don’t) Bluff City for years to come.

Then, the player moves happened. Fans and media alike voiced their disapproval about the salary dump/trade with Cleveland that saw Memphis give up a first round draft pick. Coming on the heels of that, the Rudy Gay trade occurred, surprising many who had assumed that such a move was no longer necessary from a salary standpoint. They loudly proclaimed that the team would go belly-up, that they could not survive without Gay’s offensive abilities. Instead…the team posted the third-best record in the league after the trade, and went farther than they ever had before in the playoffs. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol matured and evolved into franchise-level players, and the team was more efficient on both sides of the ball.

Now, the big discussion is about changing coaches after the most successful season in team history. As I pointed out previously, there is precedence for an organization to make such a move — and for it to work out for them in the end. If Hollins and Wallace are both gone — as appears to be the case — then, nearly every position of importance will have been filled by someone approved by Pera/Levien. It’s their team, so it is their right to put the people in place that they believe are not only best suited for the job, but are on board with their vision on how to construct the team moving forward. And, if recent history is any indication, it will work out for the best in the end.

Whether you agree with them or not, it is hard to deny that Levien and Co. are very smart people who are taking calculated risks that have paid off so far. Much like Heisley’s much-derided “Three Year Plan”, no matter how many people said it wouldn’t work out, ultimately it proved to be successful. Hopefully, that’s what happens this time, as well.

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4 Responses to Changing of the Guard

  1. chriskf1No Gravatar says:

    IF ONLY Hollins exit marked the end of the turnover… you’ve still got a (very popular) PF and (very, very popular) to turnover as well.

    I don’t deny that Team Levien is smart. I do deny that they are as smart as they seem to think themselves to be. The Cleveland salary dump — and the really ham-handed press leaks — trying to extort Toronto into including Terrence Ross in the Gay trade was not smart. Agreeing to give up a first round draft pick at any point before 10 minutes before the trade deadline was not smart.

    But you’re right. They’re track record is great. So if the Grizzlies top 56 wins and/or win a game or 4 in the Western Conference Final, then Team Levien will have absolutely made the correct decision. Anything less and they become just like the teally smart men who ran Lehman Brothers (into the ground).

    • chriskf1No Gravatar says:

      (very, very popular) SG — the “SG” got left out in the original post.

      • btrautscNo Gravatar says:

        I have conflicted emotions on the subject coming off of our best year, with no picks, a few tradable-BUT-popular-assets, and potential coaching in flux.

        If you look at small market teams that are successful in sports (all sports), you look at the Spurs, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, previously the Utah Jazz… just to name a few from different walks of life.

        Front office continuity, building through the draft, not over paying for assets is typically Standard Operating Procedure for these teams.

        We may be violating all 3 of those standby’s in our current period of change… What is most unfortunate, from a general personel/ team standpoint – is we just got swept by the Spurs. Our most expensive player greatly underperformed, and our coach was severely out-coached.

        So, is all of the turmoil a little knee-jerk? Maybe. But, when you see what didn’t work (and work in competitive sports is winning championships), you try to make changes to make it work.

        Once again, Zach unfortunately is getting older and the lasting image of the season will be him being completely shut down by SA (even if he dominated the Clippers and was tough to handle for OKC).

        Ditto with Hollins. He adjusted too late to the Spurs and our team often looked like we weren’t showing up until the 3rd quarter. Then, we would be fighting to claw back, and exhausting ourselves.

        Very popular players – or coaches – may not always be the right players, or coaches, for the team… Brett Favre rings a bell with GB (as well as multiple high quality DEF and offensive weapons). The Saints have let a number of high profile players walk in FA. The Spurs have committed to putting salary *only* in Duncan, Parker, Ginobili… And next year they have only $41M on the books (with Manu as a FA).

  2. michaelNo Gravatar says:

    if these guys were so smart where was the scoring going to come from besides gasol, randolph and conley?

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