Grizzlies owner Robert Pera and CEO Jason Levien today held their first press conference with local media since November, and after a pair of trades within the last month, there was plenty to catch up on. Marlon W. Morgan of the Memphis Commercial Appeal rounded up comments from the presser, and fellow Commercial Appeal scribe Kyle Veazey followed up with an exclusive interview with the two men in charge of the team. Both pieces are worth a read, but we'll round up the highlights of what Pera and Levien had to say from both stories here:
Pera on Rudy Gay:
"I was actually a big Rudy Gay fan. He was 6'9", over a 7-foot wing span with a 40-inch vertical, really smooth and athletic and on the highlights all the time. He was awesome. But like I said, going back to basketball and how it’s a team sport and all the pieces fit together, the offense we run is really traditional. It’s inside-outside, a grinding type of offense. Rudy’s talent, his potential really couldn’t be maximized in our system. I think it was good for him and I think it was good for the team. I think the pieces we got back were much stronger. I wouldn’t say the players we got back were necessarily better than Rudy. Rudy’s a special talent. But for our team and for our fit, I think the personnel and the team we have constructed now is probably the best Grizzlies team when you’re looking at the total team and chemistry and how it fits our style of play.”
Pera on the team's reliance on advanced metrics:
"Well, we like the movie "Moneyball." They use a lot of advanced statistics for the Oakland A's teams. But the difference between baseball and basketball, is (in) baseball, you have individual players, they each have an on-base percentage and a batting average, defensive capabilities. All these parts added together equals the strength of the team, right? But in basketball it's completely different. A player can be immensely valuable in one system and maybe not as valuable in another system. I think it's the combination of pieces in basketball. Analytics are a great tool but you also have to look at the individual player analytics in the context of the system you're running."
Pera on whether coach Lionel Hollins, in the last year of his deal, will receive a new contract:
“I think all that for now is confidential. The final decision will come down to Jason and I’ll approve whichever direction he wants to go."
Levien on Hollins:
"I don’t think it behooves us to speak publicly about any kind of contract situation. We had a great meeting with Lionel and I’ve certainly enjoyed the interaction he and I have had over the past several months. He has a proven track record that’s very impressive as a coach. We see him as a big asset to the team."
Levien on Zach Randolph:
"There was never a serious discussion or dialogue around trading Zach Randolph. I can say that categorically. We’re really proud of him for going back to the All-Star Game."
Levien on the team's luxury tax strategy:
"We don't have a hard and fast rule about being in the tax or not being in the tax, being up to the line or not. We want to field the most competitive team. Part of it is — yeah, you don't want to throw money away — but part of it is, when you're in the tax, it restricts in the kind of trades you can make, the kind of free agents you can sign, the kinds of decisions you can make to get better. That's what the rules do now. It's not just about the money. So, we've talked about not having a hard and fast line, or where we're going to be, but thinking through what's our end game? Our end game is to be consistently very competitive and try to win a championship. I think some years you're going to see us in the tax, some years you're going to see us well below it, some years you're going to see us just up against it. The money is one of the factors, but the biggest factor is how do we field the best team going forward?"
MONDAY, 12:44pm: In addition to officially introducing Levien as the team's CEO, the Grizzlies have unveiled their list of limited partners involved in Pera's ownership group. The complete list, which can be found here, includes Penny Hardaway, Justin Timberlake, and Peyton Manning's wife Ashley.
SUNDAY, 7:09pm: According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Grizzlies will announce tomorrow that Jason Levien, until recently a minor 76ers shareholder, will join the Memphis franchise as CEO and managing partner. Levien, a player agent turned front-office executive, will head up the team's basketball operations, working with general manager Chris Wallace, but having final say on personnel.
Levien was reportedly crucial in assembling the high-powered ownership group led by billionaire Robert Pera and also including Justin Timberlake, Peyton Manning and Penny Hardaway. Levien, who also helped set up the Sixers deal before last season, worked previously in the Kings front office and is a general partner of the MLS team DC United.
Via the team's press release:
“Jason and I share a vision for building a world-class team on and
off-the-court,” Pera said. “He has my complete
trust, confidence and support in how best to lead our organization's
“I’m honored to be part of such a dynamic and potential-filled opportunity here in Memphis,” Levien said. “I appreciate what a special role the Grizzlies and FedExForum play in the Memphis community and I know that we will build successfully on the foundation already in place.”