Grizzlies in state of flux
Donovan as coach? Pau out? New owner? Stay tuned
Posted: Friday April 6, 2007 2:00PM; Updated: Friday April 6, 2007 2:10PM
MEMPHIS -- The Memphis Grizzlies are considering Florida's Billy Donovan in their search for a new head coach, according to a league source.
Here's my understanding of what's happened. The Grizzlies and Donovan's representative had discussions about Memphis' coaching job this week after Florida defended its NCAA title Monday. Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley is said to be intrigued by the buzz that Donovan would create with the disgruntled fans in Memphis.
But it's unlikely that Donovan will be coaching the Grizzlies next season, in no small part because they won't want to pay the necessary $5 million or more in starting salary that he would require over a long-term contract. I'm also told, however, that the possibility is not yet dead.
It's a funny thing about the NBA that the worst teams generate the most interesting gossip. No franchise is more intriguing or harder to forecast than the last-place Grizzlies, who will enter the draft lottery next month with the most Ping-Pong balls in their pursuit for a talent to pair with Pau Gasol (or the star for whom Gasol is traded this summer).
No one has told me this, but it stands to reason that one of the hinges is whether the Grizzlies become the fourth team in 18 years to turn the worst record into the No. 1 pick. If they land Greg Oden, won't team president Jerry West have more incentive to maintain leadership after his contract expires June 30? Likewise, won't Heisley have a better chance of selling the franchise, much as the Cleveland Cavaliers' purchase price shot up after winning the rights to LeBron James?
The Grizzlies' future is not nearly as hopeless as their 19-57 record indicates. Quite the opposite. Add Oden or Kevin Durant and a starting point guard to Gasol, Mike Miller, Hakim Warrick and Kyle Lowry, and -- provided they hire an experienced coach ready to win at the NBA level -- the Grizzlies could be back challenging for the playoffs next season with their new up-tempo style.
Gasol, however, remains skeptical. "It's not only getting a top draft pick for this franchise to be in the right direction,'' he said. "Obviously that would help, but there are a lot of other things that need to be covered.''
When the season ends in two weeks, Gasol plans to talk with Heisley and West about whether the team will be sold, who will be running it and will the Grizzlies be seeking to contend for a championship?
Heisley obviously wants to unload the team, but a sale isn't imminent. Former Duke player Brian Davis is still trying to pull together the resources but should be considered a longshot because in a small market like this, the NBA is going to want solid, reliable ownership.
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