Owner defends Grizzlies' trades, commitment to win
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The Grizzlies' new owner is defending the trade of his team's leading scorer and other moves to dump salary, saying he believes they can do some "serious damage'' in the playoffs with the changes.
Robert Pera took part in a web chat Friday with Memphis' season ticket holders along with chief executive officer Jason Levien, and Pera's first question was about whether the new ownership group has the financial ability to run the team.
"This team was built for playoff basketball,'' Pera wrote. "In playoff basketball, getting defensive stops and creating high percentage scoring opportunities under pressure becomes much more important. ... And that is what this team can do best.''
Pera hadn't spoken publicly since taking over the team Nov. 5.
His Grizzlies traded Marreese Speights and two players along with a future first-round draft pick to Cleveland last week for Jon Leuer and a trade exception. On Wednesday, the Grizzlies sent leading scorer Rudy Gay to Toronto in a three-team trade bringing Memphis Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Ed Davis.
The first trade helped Memphis avoid a $4 million luxury tax hit this season. Trading away Gay clears up $37 million in salary committed by previous owner Michael Heisley, while Memphis now has a trade exception of about $7.5 million that can be used by Memphis over the next year to add another player if needed.
"We made the second trade because we feel it allows us to put a more competitive product on the floor this season and in future seasons,'' Levien wrote. "We got better. We also picked up a valuable draft pick as well as trade exceptions that will allow us to be opportunistic in going on the offensive moving forward.''
Pera wrote that NBA teams have won titles with superstars and without, and he believes the Grizzlies as they are now built potentially can become the next example.
"Between Tayshuan's winning pedigree, the league's best perimeter defense, and Mark/Zbo returning back to the focal point of the offense; I believe we are a far more dangerous playoff team today,'' Pera wrote of Marc Gasol and All-Star forward Zach Randolph.
The Grizzlies lost 106-89 in Oklahoma City on Thursday night as they spent the first half trying to figure out how to play without Gay and with the new additions not having joined the team. They still rank fourth in the Western Conference with a 29-16 record going into Friday night's game against Washington that still is the best in franchise history at this point in a season.
Pera called the deal bringing Davis an added bonus and said he believes Levien and the front office has done an outstanding job to position Memphis for playoff success this year. Memphis has reached the playoffs each of the last two seasons and made its deepest run in 2011 to the seventh game of the Western Conference semifinals against Oklahoma City with Gay injured.
"We can do some serious damage in these playoffs,'' Pera wrote.
A former Apple engineer, Pera founded Ubiquiti Networks, a California communications technology company that makes WiFi networking equipment. He shared the news that new equipment is being added to the FedExForum to improve WiFi during games for fans.
Asked what has surprised him the most about being an NBA owner, Pera called the power of the media an "eye-opener.''
"In today's world, social networking has enabled information to disseminate quickly, and in a vacuum, even inaccurate information and misunderstandings can spread fast,'' Pera wrote.
Pera said his business style is substance as an engineer and not a salesman or talker. Pera wrote he prefers to let results speak for themselves. But he did try to send a message to season ticket holders about his commitment to the Grizzlies.
"Although I am not one to speak out much or actively seek publicity, I want Memphians to know that what I want more than anything is to position this team to be wildly successful and do well by the city of Memphis both in the short and long term,'' Pera wrote.
Pera knows the Grizzlies have been heavily scrutinized for these moves with the new owner and changes in the front office.
"Although the way we get there might contradict traditional thought, we are both committed to building something great in Memphis that will hopefully set a new standard for how to run an NBA franchise successfully,'' Pera wrote.