Robert Pera

Grizzlies Owner Talks 2018/19, Goals, Bickerstaff

The Grizzlies‘ 22-win season in 2017/18 was their worst showing since they posted an identical record in 2007/08, and snapped a streak of seven consecutive playoff appearances. However, controlling owner Robert Pera sounds confident that Memphis’ struggles last season can be primarily attributed to injuries and bad luck, as Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal details. Pera expects the club to be “competitive” once again in 2018/19, assuming it can stay healthier.

Pera asserted those expectations during an appearance on the Grind City Media podcast on the club’s official site, with Tillery passing along some of the highlights. As Tillery observes, the conversation didn’t touch on a number of issues that other local reporters might like to press Pera on, including David Fizdale‘s firing, Chandler Parsons‘ contract, and further details of the buy/sell process that allowed Pera to retain control of the franchise.

Still, Pera made a few interesting comments during the discussion. Here they are, via Tillery:

On his expectations for the 2018/19 season:

“Assuming Marc [Gasol] and Mike [Conley] come back healthy, I think we have a couple of surrounding pieces that are younger players that are going to make a positive impact. We’ll get another good player in this draft. I see no reason why we can’t return to being a 50-win plus team.”

On his goals now that he’s firmly entrenched as the Grizzlies’ controlling owner:

“I’d like to put my stamp on the team more now that the ownership situation is resolved. I’d like to apply some of the skills that made my company, Ubiquiti, successful. I also realize it’s a little bit different. With my company, I can make all the decisions on the long-term (vision). I can be kind of a dictator. With the team, there’s more elements than just the long-term picture. You have to have some transparency with the fans. … How you handle the media and the fans are almost as important as the long-term goals. It took me some time to find my bearings the last several years.”

On what it means to put his stamp on the franchise:

“The goal for the Grizzlies is that people know that if they take a player or find a player, this is [the] best organization in the league for realizing that player’s potential.”

On the promotion of J.B. Bickerstaff to the permanent head coaching position:

“We’ve had turnover in the head coaching spot and J.B. brings some continuity. The players have worked with him and the players all love him. He’s very transparent. He carries himself really well. He’ll compromise when he sees it’s best for the organization. I have confidence in him to be that centerpiece of the culture we want to build. He’s a great fit.”

Grizzlies To Retain J.B. Bickerstaff As Head Coach?

As our 2018 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker demonstrates, there has been little to no news regarding the Grizzlies’ search for a new head man. Moreover, Memphis hasn’t been linked to any new coaching candidates.

But as reported by Real GM, Marc Stein of The New York Times recently stated on the Dunc’d on Podcast that his sources believe interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff will remain as head coach of the Grizzlies next season.

“I can’t remember the last time somebody brought up the Grizzlies,” said Stein. “(Grizzlies owner) Robert Pera, maybe he has a surprise in store. I can just tell you, basically everyone I talk to is operating under the assumption J.B. Bickerstaff is going to be brought back. Ultimately, we’ll see until we get an announcement from the team that’s the case it’s official.”

There hasn’t been any official word on the Grizzlies being close to hiring Bickerstaff, but there appears to be sources within the NBA who strongly believe Bickerstaff will be coaching in Memphis next season.

Grizzlies Rumors: Wallace, Bickerstaff, Evans, Gasol

The Grizzlies were viewed as a borderline playoff contender coming into the 2017/18 season, but dealt with injuries to key players like Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons, and ultimately finished the year as the league’s second-worst team. Despite Memphis’ disappointing results – and some questionable draft decisions and roster moves in recent years – GM Chris Wallace says he’s not expecting ownership to make any major front office changes this offseason.

“I understand the frustration of this past year,” Wallace said, per Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “But, I’m not going to take sole credit for this, the front office teams I’ve presided over won the most ever games in the history of this franchise. We were seven straight years in the playoffs. We also brought in four of what I call the extended Mount Rushmore or six most important players in of the franchise. One year out of the playoffs doesn’t necessarily mean we’re out of touch and no longer capable of doing the job.”

As for Wallace’s expectations for the coming offseason and the 2018/19 campaign? He fully expects the Grizzlies to bounce back from a dismal 2017/18 showing.

“The plan on the short-term side of it is to get back in the swing of things,” Wallace said. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t be a very viable competitive team next year. … I’m excited about next year. I think we’ll be a pretty good team next year.”

The Grizzlies’ end-of-season sessions with the media resulted in a few more interesting tidbits, so let’s round them up…

  • As Tillery details, star players Conley and Marc Gasol both endorsed J.B. Bickerstaff, the Grizzlies’ interim head coach, who is considered a strong candidate for the permanent job. “He’s done a tremendous job with the tools he was given and with what he was allowed to do,” Gasol said. “Through all the mess and the situation, he€’s done a great job.” Conley simply told reporters that Bickerstaff “deserves this job.”
  • Wallace didn’t commit to sticking with Bickerstaff for 2018/19, but he offered praise of his own for David Fizdale‘s replacement, per Geoff Calkins of The Commercial Appeal. “I thought guys developed, they got better, and I give him credit,” Wallace said. “It’s not an easy assignment they were given in difficult circumstances. … The losses obviously piled up, you can’t point to any gaudy record, but you watch them day to day, step by step, practice by practice, there was improvement and everybody stayed on point and did not wallow in the fact that it was a difficult situation.”
  • According to Tillery, the Grizzlies remain hopeful that they’ll be able to re-sign Tyreke Evans using their mid-level exception this July. That was the plan reported back in February when Memphis opted to hang onto Evans through the trade deadline.
  • With Robert Pera poised to remain the controlling owner of the Grizzlies, Gasol plans on meeting with him this offseason to discuss the direction of the franchise, according to Calkins. “You want to hear what – now, knowing that Robert has full control again, and that he’s fully committed, not only to the team, but to the city — you want to know what direction we’re headed, what do you want out of this, what kind of team are you trying to put together?” Gasol said. “I want to know what he has to say and how he feels.”
  • While a trade is probably unlikely, Wallace acknowledged that the Grizzlies will keep all their options with their lottery pick, which will be a top-five selection (Twitter link via Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com).

Robert Pera Decides To Retain Control Of Grizzlies

10:42am: Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post clarifies (via Twitter) that Pera will purchase Kaplan’s share at the same valuation as Straus’ high bid (noted below), buying out both minority stakeholders.

APRIL 10, 9:38am: ESPN’s Zach Lowe provides a couple more details on the Grizzlies’ ownership situation, reporting that it was Straus’ bid – rather than Kaplan’s – that Pera needed to match. Straus’ higher bid valued the franchise between $1.3 billion and $1.4 billion, per Lowe.

With Pera set to buy out Straus, it’s unclear how Kaplan and his shares are impacted, Lowe adds.

APRIL 9, 7:12pm: Grizzlies majority owner Robert Pera has sent a formal notice to the NBA indicating that he will retain his controlling interest in the franchise, the team announced in a press release.

Pera shared his decision in an open letter from to Grizzlies MVP Season Ticket Members. Minority stakeholders Steve Kaplan and Daniel Straus had triggered a clause in the purchase agreement that forced Pera to either buy them out or sell at a valuation of their choosing.

That duo placed a valuation of just over $1 billion on the franchise. Pera then needed to decide between buying out their shares or selling his own shares at the price of their valuation.

Pera might still wind up selling the team in the long run after buying out their shares, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post tweets.

Pera’s decision to retain control could also improve the chances of J.B. Bickerstaff being retained as head coach.

Grizzlies Notes: Pera, Transactions, NBA Draft

The working assumption around the NBA is that Robert Pera will retain ownership of the Grizzlies franchise, Chris Herrington of The Memphis Commercial Appeal tweets. The scribe cites comments made by Marc Stein of The New York Times in a recent podcast.

As we covered last month, Pera is expected to have the opportunity to buy out minority stakeholders Steve Kaplan and Daniel Straus after they triggered a clause in the purchase agreement that forced him to either buy them out or sell at a valuation of their choosing.

Herrington also relays that if Pera remains in control of the franchise, J.B. Bickerstaff is a decent bet to retain the head coaching job.

There’s more out of Memphis tonight:

Grizzlies Notes: Ownership, Losing Streak, Evans

The unusual ownership situation in Memphis appears set to take a step forward, according to a report from Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal. As we’ve detailed in the past, the nature of the agreement between the Grizzlies’ various owners gives controlling owner Robert Pera the opportunity to buy out two of the club’s top minority stakeholders, or to sell his shares to one of them.

As Kaplan details, Steve Kaplan and Daniel Straus intend to place a valuation of just over $1 billion on the Grizzlies. Once the two minority owners make that price official, Pera would have to decide between buying out their shares or selling his own shares at the price of their valuation. According to Kaplan, most observers of the process expect Pera to keep the team, but if he sells, Kaplan and Straus would have to determine which of them will become the controlling owner.

While Pera may ultimately buy out Kaplan and Straus, that decision seems less obvious now than it has in the past. As Grizzly Bear Blues outlined last month, Pera’s company Ubiquiti Networks saw the value of its shares drop by 25% after the SEC issued subpeonas to look into the company’s finances and structure. However, Kaplan estimates that Pera’s shares in the telecommunications firm would still be worth nearly $4 billion today.

As we wait to see how the Grizzlies’ ownership situation plays out, let’s round up more notes out of Memphis…

  • The Grizzlies’ 18-game losing streak has done wonders for the club’s odds of landing a top pick in the 2018 draft, but all those losses are taking a toll on many of the team’s players, writes Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “I’m offended about losing. I’m just tired of losing,” JaMychal Green said. “I’d rather win so we won’t be talking about this. I’m trying to stay positive. … It’s tough for us to lose. I’m trying not to let the losing affect me and my game and my spirit. I want to just finish strong.”
  • According to Tillery, Tyreke Evans probably won’t return to the court for Memphis before the end of the regular season, in part because it’s simply not worth the risk as he prepares to enter free agency.
  • The Grizzlies signed Briante Weber to a 10-day contract on Wednesday to fill the roster spot vacated by Xavier Rathan-Mayes. We have that story right here.

Grizzlies’ Ownership Clause Activated

A critical clause in Memphis’ franchise ownership agreement has been activated this week, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes. As we’ve written in the past, the second-largest Grizzlies shareholders will now have an opportunity to possibly buy out majority owner Robert Pera.

In short, Steve Kaplan and Daniel Straus will be presented a chance to purchase Pera’s stake (25-26%) at a price point of their choosing, a caveat being that when they submit their offer, Pera will have the option to instead buy their shares (13.5% each) at the same rate.

All eyes will be on how Pera handles the forced decision. As Krawczynski writes, Pera has been a notoriously absent owner and the franchise appears to be trending in the wrong direction.

The clause, then, marks an opportunity for Pera to cash out on what could prove to be a very successful investment considering that Kaplan and Straus will naturally look to dissuade him from matching and, of course, the rise in franchise valuations across the entire NBA in general.

While the Grizzlies were purchased for $377MM back in 2012, the recent sales of the Clippers and Rockets for north of $2B has obliterated the former precedent.

Pera will have 60-90 days from the day that the clause was activated which means that, barring any complications, we could see a resolution here by the end of January or February at the latest. The exact date that the clause was triggered is not presently known.

If nothing else, the activation of the clause could bring an end to a chapter of uncertainty for the franchise. This year especially, with a lack of familiar faces on the roster, a plethora of injuries and now a coaching change, any semblance of stability could bode well.

Whether that means Pera assumes a larger ownership stake or Straus and Kaplan unseat him altogether, however, remains to be seen.

Grizzlies Notes: Gasol, Fizdale, Pera

Marc Gasol acknowledged this week that his relationship with former Grizzlies coach David Fizdale was rocky, and confirmed that he has spoken to Grizzlies owner Robert Pera since Sunday. However, Gasol says that conversation with Pera happened after team management had made its decision to fire Fizdale, as Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal details.

“They called me after the decision was made to let me know the direction they were going,” Gasol said. The veteran center also dismissed the idea that he’s a “coach killer,” indicating that he never asked the Grizzlies to let go of Fizdale.

“I never try to accomplish anything like that,” Gasol said. “I always have (the coach’s) back… It’s shocking but it’s the nature of this business. Next time, it might be me. Next time it might be somebody else. The franchise is bigger than any player or coach. We’ve all got to be ready (for change).”

Here’s more from out of Memphis:

  • Two people with knowledge of the situation tell Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today that there was “little to no communication” between Fizdale and Gasol for the better part of 10 months. While Sunday’s fourth-quarter benching of Gasol was a tipping point, the situation had been bad for quite some time, per the USA Today duo.
  • In an in-depth and interesting piece for The Commercial Appeal, Chris Herrington takes a closer look at what the Fizdale firing says about Fizdale, Gasol, Memphis’ front office, team ownership, and more.
  • Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders explores whether it makes more sense for the Grizzlies to fully rebuild their roster or to simply retool it.
  • After a couple off-days, the Grizzlies will return to action on Wednesday night in San Antonio, as the team looks to snap its eight-game losing streak. It will be J.B. Bickerstaff‘s first game as Memphis’ interim head coach.

Latest On Fizdale Firing: Notes, Reactions, More

Speaking to reporters today at a press conference, Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace acknowledged that there was tension between star center Marc Gasol and head coach David Fizdale, and confirmed that was a factor in the team’s decision to fire Fizdale. However, according to Wallace, it wasn’t the overriding factor, as Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal relays.

“We needed to have a change to try to save the season,” Wallace said. “Looking at where we were headed, there just weren’t a great deal of positive trends. We hope to get a positive reboot.”

Despite ongoing trade speculation, Gasol will be a major part of that “positive reboot,” according to the Grizzlies. New interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff indicated today that he plans to lean heavily on the club’s three-time All-Star center going forward.

“Marc is one of the leaders of this team,” Bickerstaff said. “We need Marc to play his best basketball. In order for us to be the team we want to be a ton of the that responsibility falls on Marc’s shoulders. We need him to be Marc Gasol.”

Here’s more on Fizdale and the Grizzlies, as the NBA world continues to react to Monday’s news:

  • In the wake of his dismissal, Fizdale issued a magnanimous statement to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN thanking the Grizzlies and the city of Memphis for the opportunity to represent them.
  • The Grizzlies need to come to grips with the fact that the Gasol Era in Memphis is over, argues Chris Mannix of The Vertical. Mannix also passes along a couple more tidbits about the Gasol/Fizdale relationship, along with quotes from Stan Van Gundy, who was “shocked” by the Grizzlies’ decision.
  • Firing Fizdale won’t solve the Grizzlies’ problems, says Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. Meanwhile, Sam Amick of USA Today writes that Fizdale’s firing reinforces the idea that the NBA is a star-driven league.
  • Fizdale’s ouster doesn’t come as a major surprise to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders, who tweets that Grizzlies owner Robert Pera tried to fire Dave Joerger three games into his head coaching career. Memphis opened the 2013/14 season – Joerger’s first year – with a 1-2 record.
  • Is a return to Miami the next move for Fizdale? Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said today that he’d embrace bringing back Fizdale as a consultant. However, having the former Heat assistant return in his previous role isn’t being discussed at the moment, since Fizdale plans to take the rest of the year off from coaching, per Spoelstra (Twitter links via Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel and Andre Fernandez of The Miami Herald).

Gasol, Fizdale Tensions Went Far Beyond Benching

Grizzlies center Marc Gasol and former coach David Fizdale had such a strained relationship that they rarely spoke to one another, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Geoff Calkins. Fizdale was fired on Monday, one day after he benched his leading scorer, rebounder and shotblocker in the fourth quarter against the Nets. The benching served as the breaking point and Gasol, who has a tight relationship with owner Robert Pera, had expressed major concerns about the team’s direction under Fizdale, Calkins continues.

Commercial Appeal beat writer Ronald Tillery confirms the longterm disconnect between coach and star player. A team source told Tillery that the tension between them and Sunday’s benching weren’t the only reasons that Fizdale was axed. That source said the team was “trending down in several categories.” However, Tillery tweets that as recently as Saturday, a source close to the owner said that Fizdale’s job was safe because of the team’s injury issues. That’s an indication that Sunday’s incident swiftly changed Pera’s thinking.

In other reactions to Fizdale’s dismissal:

  • Cavaliers stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both expressed their dismay on social media, demanding answers regarding the firing, as Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com relays. Both played under Fizdale when he was an assistant with the Heat.
  • Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff is one of the potential long-term replacements for Fizdale but Sean Deveney of the Sporting News lists several other intriguing names. Former head coaches Mark Jackson, David Blatt and Monty Williams, former player Shane Battier, and several current college coaches such as Tony Bennett, Patrick Ewing and John Calipari are some of the candidates Memphis could look at, according to Deveney.