In his own words: Michael Heisley
Grizzlies owner talks Gasol, West's future and more
Posted: Tuesday February 20, 2007 2:05PM; Updated: Tuesday February 20, 2007 4:14PM
The trade season expires Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern, and the Memphis Grizzlies will be in the middle of the discussions, thanks to the request by All-Star forward Pau Gasol that he be moved to a winner. It has been a difficult year for the Grizzlies (14-40), who have been undermined by Gasol's injury as well as the collapse of the team's proposed sale to Brian Davis and Christian Laettner.
Memphis owner Michael Heisley continues to seek a buyer with local roots to take over the Grizzlies, but he strongly denies that he'll give away Gasol to clear his salary off the books in order to court potential buyers. In this frank interview, Heisley explains exactly what the Grizzlies are seeking in exchange for Gasol, the future of team president Jerry West, the difficulties of running a small-market team in the NBA and why Donald Sterling, of all people, has earned his respect.
On restructuring the payroll:
"At one point we were the fifth-highest-paid team in the NBA. That's not good business in the smallest market in the NBA, and we're still paying the NBA $6 million a year in relocation fees (dating back to the Grizzlies' 2001 move from Vancouver). We have to be more frugal in the way we add players and so on. We want to try to develop a team along the lines that Phoenix has done -- more crowd-pleasing and upbeat, and we have a better chance to do that with a reasonable salary structure.''
On what it will take to acquire Gasol:
"You should hear some of the things people have been offering, it has just been ridiculous. There is no way that kind of trade is going to get through the Grizzlies. If we decide to trade Pau, we would like to get one or two good players, and not all of them necessarily at the same time, by the way; we would look at getting another good position in this draft, because it's one of the best drafts of the last few years, and No. 3 we would like to have salary relief. If somebody offers us a good trade where we can have two of those three, then we may be interested in doing that. If somebody comes up with a great trade and we don't get salary relief, we may make that trade.''
On the idea of unloading Gasol's salary in order to make the team more attractive to a potential buyer:
"Somebody wrote in Los Angeles that Michael Heisley told Jerry West to get the best deal and trade Pau Gasol and get him off the payroll. It is an out-and-out lie.
"The whole discussion of trading Pau Gasol, was this a move to make it easier to sell the team? Nothing could be further from the truth. We're looking at it from the point of view that Pau put himself on the market to be traded, and we are looking to trade anybody from the Grizzlies if it is more likely to improve the team in two to three years. But if we wanted just to get the cap room, we would call Chicago right now, and they could get me $10-15 million under the cap. Why not make that trade if we're looking to clear salary?
"Other teams are doing the same thing right now, and there's no discussion about them trying to sell their team. And they're more blatant about it than than I'm doing. For example, Philadelphia getting rid of [Allen] Iverson and [Chris] Webber -- they're trying to restructure the team, but you never hear that they're doing it to try to sell the team.''
1 of 3