NBA PM: Are the Grizzlies the new ‘Major League’?
Remember the plot to “Major League?”
A rich former showgirl inherits the Cleveland Indians and immediately plans to move the team away from the Mistake on the Lake. The only problem is she can’t move the Indians unless attendance falls below a certain figure because of some strange contractual clause with the city of Cleveland. To “accomplish” this mission she fills Cleveland’s roster with a hilarious ensemble of degenerate baseball players who are too inept to win, much less attract a large crowd.
Please keep that plot refresher in mind as we delve into the Memphis Grizzlies ownership situation.
First off, current Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley—who is also rumored to be interested in buying the Los Angeles Dodgers—might sell the team to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who plans to move it to San Jose, Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported. In fact, Matt Steinmetz of CSNBayArea.com writes that two sources said a “handshake agreement” may already be in place.
Ellison previously attempted to buy the Golden State Warriors and the New Orleans Hornets—although he was outbid in the later instance by the NBA itself—and is now one of three individuals attempting to purchase the Grizzlies.
Of course, moving the team to San Jose—or anywhere for that matter—is going to be extremely difficult, according to Tillery:
“Heisley, who is asking $350 million for the Griz, insisted that the team’s contractual obligations would require consent from the city and the league for a move before 2021.
The team’s agreement with the city and county, in an amendment forbidding relocation in the first 17 seasons at FedExForum, says that a breach will “absolutely, irreparably and continually harm (the city and county), for which money damages may not be adequate or determinable.”
A termination payment schedule, with a sliding scale that decreases each year, doesn’t fall below $100 million until Nov. 1, 2012.”
Steinmetz points out, however, that getting the team out of Memphis might not really be that difficult after all (and this coincides with information HOOPSWORLD has received as well).
“The FedEx Forum lease runs through 2021, but according to one source, there are attendance clauses that kick in during 2017 that would allow the team to move if certain thresholds are not met.”
Now, the Grizzlies have the 10th-best record in the NBA, but currently rank just 21st in home attendance because they’ve sold only 85.5% of their tickets this season. (Is Wild Thing warming up in the bullpen yet?)
But why wait until 2017? Ellison is worth $36 billion according to Forbes.com, so he’d gladly pay a prorated portion of the $100 million termination penalty if it gets him an NBA team in San Jose.
From the NBA’s perspective, moving the team to San Jose cuts down on travel costs (the Warriors could take a hang glider or an electric car to road games) and give a serious bump to revenue.
Situated in the southern-most corner of the Bay Area, San Jose has 1 million in-town residents (it’s the 10th-largest city in America) and it actually has the highest median income of any major city in the country ($86,822 per family). And why is San Jose doing so well?
Well it’s not dubbed the “Capital of Silicon Valley” for nothing. Cisco Systems, IBM, eBay, Hitachi and Adobe Systems employ many thousands of people in San Jose while Apple’s Cupertino campus is located directly west of the city.
In short, There will be no problem filling up high-priced luxury boxes with Silicon Valley executives like Ellison himself.
However, while all of these signs point to Ellison purchasing the team and transplanting it to the Bay Area, Heisley insists no deal is imminent.
“I can’t downplay it enough. If it happens I’ll be surprised,” Heisley told Tillery. “It’s in the initial stages. We’ve handled this just like we’ve handled several other dozen requests. My situation in Memphis has not changed a lick. My preference will always be for somebody in Memphis to buy the team. There’s not any interest in Memphis. But we’ve always made it known that if somebody wants to buy the team, we’ll listen. If they’re real buyers we’ll probably be sellers. So far there hasn’t been anyone willing to buy the team under my terms and for my price.”
Of course, Heisley isn’t really from Memphis (he’s based in Chicago) and if selling the team to Ellison gives him a chance at the Dodgers, well, you can only imagine what he’s going to do next.
The major way this differs from the plot of “Major League” is that this team is a winner at the beginning of the movie. Of course, that fact can’t make Memphis a bigger city or make the Memphis Tigers any less popular. (By the way, when those Tigers join the Big East in 2013-2014, it will be hard to find any Memphis resident that cares half as much about the Grizzlies as they do about their beloved college team.)
One last interesting tidbit about Ellison’s attempt to move the team to San Jose was given by Forbes.com’s Eric Savitz:
“By the way: if Ellison really did buy a basketball team and move it to San Jose, there’s really only one obvious place for them to play…the HP Pavillion. The current naming rights the arena, home to the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, ends in 2016. Could Larry stand to have a team he owns playing in an arena playing for his corporate arch-rival?”
Moving an NBA team is extremely difficult and expensive, but Ellison has the money to spare and when that’s the case—as it was when the SuperSonics left Seattle for Oklahoma City—the dominos can fall quickly.
Drew Gooden is your Eastern Conference Player of the Week
Lakers center Andrew Bynum has been named the Western Conference Player of the Week for averaging 27.5 PPG and 14.8 RPG while shooting 66.5% from the field during a 3-1 stretch for Los Angeles. That’s impressive, but not shocking.
However Milwaukee’s Drew Gooden taking him Player of the Week honors in the Eastern Conference—one week after another Bucks power forward, Ersan Ilyasova, did the same thing—is a little unexpected.
Gooden helped the Bucks to a 3-0 week by averaging 18 PPG, 9.7 RPG and—shockingly—8.0 APG. His 15-point, 13-assist, 10-point triple double against Cleveland helped Milwaukee keep pace with New York for the final playoff spot in the East.
Clipper Darrell is Back
A few weeks back, Darrell Bailey, a long-time Clippers fan who goes by “Clipper Darrell” was told to drop that name by the franchise, which felt that he was profiting off of the name.
However, as ESPNLosAngeles’ Arash Markazi tells us, the two sides have come “to an agreement” which includes him notifying the team of any and all appearances he’ll be making as “Clipper Darrell.”
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