How Robert Pera and New Memphis Grizzlies Ownership Affects Team's Future
The Memphis Grizzlies are headed on a new, exciting track with the Robert Pera-led ownership that should involve greater spending and visibility.
Michael Heisley, the previous owner, whose sale of the Grizzlies was approved by the NBA Board of Governors on Thursday, wasn't very interested in spending during most years.
What Heisley did was transform the Grizzlies, through two creative general managers, Jerry West and Chris Wallace, and hard-driving head coaches, such as Hubie Brown and Lionel Hollins.
Heisley hired West to turn the team from a laughingstock into a playoff team.
Heisley also brought the Grizzlies from an unfortunate home in Vancouver to Memphis, where people would better appreciate the team.
His legacy will be the construction of the roster around young players, turning the first group out before letting Wallace invest in Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley.
Pera will now take that core and the success it has gained in the last two years and try to turn it into the championship team Heisley wanted it to be.
One key to the future success of the Grizz is the financial stability and civic commitment that comes with the large group of minority owners that includes Memphis natives. Among the minority owners are Ashley Manning, Peyton Manning's wife, Penny Hardaway and Justin Timberlake.
Also in the new minority ownership group is J.R. Hyde, the AutoZone founder who was formerly a minority owner for Heisley. Hyde's presence provides some continuity as well as knowledge of the operations of the team.
Pera is the CEO of Ubiquiti Networks, a wireless networks' hardware company. Ubiquiti fell hard in the stock market this summer. That drilled Pera's net worth and seemed to threaten his ownership bid. The stabilization of Ubiquiti's stock price and his recruitment of minority owners helps ensure the health of his ownership.
Pera also brings an enthusiasm that most NBA owners can't demonstrate. He's a true basketball fan who, according to Forbes, plays pickup ball a couple times each week.
With his genuine enthusiasm for the game and promising stable of minority owners, Pera is expected to spend plenty of money on the Grizzlies. He leads a no-frills lifestyle, living in a one-bedroom apartment and leasing a car, as NBCSports.com notes.
However, as ESPN reports, he has learned not to use that approach in his professional environment. His willingness to make his San Jose office building inviting is said to reflect a "'spend the money to attract the best talent philosophy."
What this means is hard to tell.
Pera is considered to be a private person. Thus, he can be expected to remain silent on specific details. Grizzlies might like to hope that he'll direct Chris Wallace to trade for James Harden or another high-profile scorer.
Whether he'll pull that type of move or sign a big-time talent in the offseason, Pera should be expected to make the moves required to bring the team closer to a championship.
Speaking of Wallace, Pera is faced with the decision on whom he'll choose to help run the franchise. Geoff Calkins of The Commercial Appeal expressed concern about whether Wallace will be retained.
Calkins is correct that Wallace belongs in the general manager's chair.
The Grizzlies went from being a doormat to gaining the best winning percentage in franchise history. Wallace pulled off a risky move by trading for Randolph, a move that paid great dividends.
He adjusted for injuries to Randolph and Darrell Arthur quickly by signing Dante Cunningham and trading for Marreese Speights.
Another personnel decision Pera will have to make is whether to re-up Lionel Hollins. Hollins has made the Grizzlies successful during the last two years despite injuries to Gay and Randolph. In 2011, he brought them to their first playoff series victory.
After the disappointing series loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in the spring, Hollins' future with the Grizzlies will likely depend on the team's 2012-13 success. If they have a significant degree of playoff success, Hollins should receive a handsome contract, something Heisley was too stingy to offer.
Pera will also be expected to do more to bring fans to FedEx Forum. His recruitment of local minority owners and his stated intent to keep the team in Memphis provides hope for Memphians.
This, along with investment in the roster, will tend towards greater promotion of a team ripe for fan attraction, but one that was 20th in attendance last season.
Pera won't be afraid to make bold moves. A real basketball fan, Pera will keep the Grizzlies moving forward towards a championship. Whereas Heisley built mostly while acting stingily, Pera will do it while spending money.
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