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Gasol trade sparks war of words

Popovich pops off on Grizzlies' controversial swap

Posted: Friday February 8, 2008 9:20PM; Updated: Saturday February 9, 2008 12:00PM
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Some Western executives are upset that Memphis shipped Pau Gasol to L.A. without getting a prime Lakers player in return.
Some Western executives are upset that Memphis shipped Pau Gasol to L.A. without getting a prime Lakers player in return.
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By Chris Mannix, SI.com

NEW YORK -- Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace went on the offensive against his critics on Thursday, calling the unattributed criticism of the Pau Gasol trade from other general managers "pillow talk" and daring any league executives to go on the record against the deal.

Before Friday night's game against the Knicks, Spurs president and head coach Gregg Popovich did just that.

"What they did in Memphis is beyond comprehension," said Popovich. "There should be a trade committee that can scratch all trades that make no sense. I just wish I had been on a trade committee that oversees NBA trades. I'd like to elect myself to that committee. I would have voted no to the L.A. trade."

When told that Wallace had challenged executives to criticize the deal publicly, Popovich replied, "Well, there you go. I'm on the record."

To acquire Gasol, the Lakers parted with forward-center Kwame Brown, rookie point guard Javaris Crittenton, the rights to Pau's younger brother, Marc Gasol, and first-round picks in 2008 and 2010. The deal gives the Grizzlies salary-cap relief -- Brown is making $9.1 million in the last year of his deal while Pau Gasol is owed $49 million over the next three years -- but little in the way of established NBA talent.

Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley said the move was purely a basketball decision and not a way to cut costs to make the team more attractive to prospective buyers. The Grizzlies were 13-33 when they traded Gasol, the franchise leader in 12 statistical categories.

"The strategy sure as hell isn't to try to wreck the team," Heisley told the Memphis Commercial Appeal last week. "Quite honestly, if it was in my power to turn the Grizzlies into the San Antonio Spurs tomorrow, I'd do that. I don't think anyone appreciates how painful it is to be the owner of a team that's losing and have people criticize you."

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