04-29-2002, 04:09 PM
Not happy about this. The Midwest Division's going to get tougher.
04-29-2002, 10:14 PM
Holy crap what a huge peice of news.....not sure how to feel yet. I never thought he would leave California with his family ties and all....must have been a huge offer.
Why do the Grizzlies want West so bad?
By Sean Deveney - The Sporting News
An obvious set of questions arises when the topic of Jerry West packing up his surfboard and sunscreen to head back East, this time as head honcho of the Grizzlies, is broached. Mostly, these questions have the same plaintive word attached: Why?
Why would West join the Grizzlies, the league's worst franchise over the last seven years? Why would West want to be associated with any bottom-feeding team in the Western Conference, which is no place for the weak and bumbling? Why would West, a Laker for almost 40 years as a player, coach and executive before retiring after the team's championship in 2000, want to leave his current low-pressure gig as a Lakers consultant?
Frankly, these are not interesting questions. Whatever drives West to make career choices is his business. Maybe he enjoys the prospect of building a downtrodden franchise. Maybe it's the hefty salary. Maybe he was accidentally hit on the head with a mallet and lost his grip on common sense.
Whatever the reasons, West is expected to officially join the Grizzlies on Tuesday. Reports say he'll have complete control of the franchise and a paycheck totaling as much as $5 million annually.
That brings us to the truly interesting question: Why are the Grizzlies so desperate for West?
Granted, West is one of the league's great talent evaluators -- A.C. Green, Vlade Divac, Elden Campbell, Derek Fisher and Nick Van Exel are among his draft steals. He has been innovative in building teams, coming up with a creative deal to lure Shaquille O'Neal to L.A. The Lakers won five championships with West in the 1980s, and the O'Neal-Kobe Bryant combo that West put together already has taken in two more.
West has credibility. The Grizzlies lack credibility. A perfect fit, right? Well, no. Oddly, a lack of credibility is precisely the reason the team would be better off without West.
Understand that since the Grizzlies' inception, the team has been little more than a plaything. It is the accidental franchise, brought into existence in 1995 because there happened to be a new arena handy in Vancouver, and a team there might make for a nice pair of Canadian bookends with the incoming Raptors. It was an ill-advised addition. There was no great push for the NBA in Vancouver, and, predictably, the team soon foundered.
When the Grizzlies went up for sale by their second owner, John McCaw, in 1999, the team became an easily passed bauble. St. Louis Blues owner Bill Laurie tried to buy the Grizzlies and move them to St. Louis, which, considering St. Louis supports three professional franchises and Laurie owns the arena, would have made sense. But the league insisted Laurie give Vancouver at least five years to prevent the imminent failure of the western half of the Canadian experiment. Laurie pulled out of the deal. The best interests of the franchise were overlooked so the league could protect its reputation.
Instead, the team went to its current owner, Chicago billionaire Michael Heisley (that's three owners in a five-year period, by the way). Heisley said upon buying the team, "I never, never had any intention of relocating any team that I was interested in getting into." A little more than a year later, Heisley got league approval to find a new city. Again, the team became a bauble to be passed around, this time to Memphis. Is it any wonder the franchise lacks credibility?
Now, the franchise is making itself a plaything again, this time possibly as West's post-Lakers hobby, his own fantasy basketball team come to life. The organization would genuflect to West in every way. He would be well-paid and given complete control. One league source says the team wouldn't ask him to move to the area, which would mean you'd see West around Memphis as often as you'd see a real grizzly.
Even with West, it would be foolish to think he could work miracles in Memphis. His eye for talent will help in the draft, but to think free agents will flock to western Tennessee simply because West is part of the front office is ridiculous. Memphis is not Los Angeles, and getting sought-after NBA players to come to a town that is dinky by big-time sports standards is a tough chore. Does anyone really think O'Neal would join the Grizzlies simply because Jerry West runs the show?
Keep in mind, too, that the rules of team-building have changed. Even the most creative general managers have their hands tied by the collective bargaining agreement. The potential luxury tax has limited major transactions leaguewide, and with a payroll of nearly $53 million, the Grizzlies face that concern. By hiring West, the team might get a wealth of knowledge and wisdom about the intricacies of championship winners, but it won't have the flexibility to put that wisdom to use.
Pursuing West is a move that reveals the organization as desperate, and with an all-time record of 124-418, it can be argued that desperation is in order. But why not try to build credibility slowly, from within? The Grizzlies have been a team in flux since they came into existence, and hiring West as a credibility Band-Aid expected to cover up seven years of bungling is a mistake.
Another view, considerably more...well, intriguing, from the Mavs' perspective, IMO:
Call of the wild
Marty Burns, Sports Illustrated
So Jerry West is a Memphis Grizzly?
Forget Michael Jordan playing for the Wizards. This is more like the Pope taking over at Graceland. But as Bucks GM Ernie Grunfeld told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal: "Jerry West loves a challenge."
And, make no mistake, this is going to be quite a challenge. The Grizzlies have gone 23-59 in each of the past two seasons and have taken up seemingly permanent residence at the bottom of the tough Western Conference. Sure they have some fine young pieces in Rookie of the Year Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, Jason Williams, Michael Dickerson and Stromile Swift, but few believe they're anywhere close to being a serious contender.
The Grizzlies still need a proven superstar, a leader, a guy who can grab all these young kids and show them how to play like champions. In short, they need a guy like Kobe Bryant.
Did somebody say Jerry West?
As in, Jerry West, noted mentor and confidant of the young Lakers superstar? The same Jerry West whom Bryant reportedly calls when things are going bad and he needs advice?
We're not saying Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley is giving West that reported $5 million-per-year king's ransom to recruit Bryant, but the idea should at least make for some spirited speculation on Beale Street.
After all, Bryant could be a free agent in 2004. Might the young superstar, bored with winning titles and sharing the spotlight with Shaq in L.A., decide he needs a challenge of his own? If so, wouldn't he likely first dial up West, the man who took a chance on him as a high school phenom by trading veteran center Vlade Divac to the Hornets for his draft rights in 1996?
Don't think West hasn't thought of it. Among his biggest assets as a team architect is his vision. He patiently courted Shaq for years before the big center became a free agent in '96, while making a flurry of moves to clear the necessary cap space needed to sign him.
West, more than anybody, knows how great the 23-year-old Bryant can become. He knows about his competitiveness and desire to be the best in the game. He also knows Bryant is a lone wolf who wouldn't think twice about abandoning L.A. if necessary to reach his goals.
Whether West ever succeeds in pulling off such a coup, it's a good move for the Grizzlies. West is, by all accounts, a revered figure in the NBA. He has a proven eye for talent and the prestige to attract free agents. He also should aid greatly in the development of volatile point guard Jason Williams, a fellow West Virginia native with whom he is said to share a good relationship.
Suddenly there's hope for one of the league's sorriest teams. And if West could someday add Kobe to the menu, the Grizz would really be sizzling.
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