• Brendan Smart

Memphis Grizzlies Ownership Is Focused On Future Success


Sports Illustrated

After Tuesday night’s Woj-Bomb that at long last the Memphis Grizzlies would be listening to trade offers for their franchise centerpieces, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol faced the Memphis media. “Robert (Pera) called me before anything to let me know that it was happening,” Conley said regarding the ESPN report. This synced with what I’ve been told since the offseason: Pera is the one making the moves.

While the announcement concerning Conley and Gasol is new news, the ball began rolling last year in Charlotte, NC. After last season’s 61 point thrashing at the hands of the Hornets, there were reports of players “laughing and playing music” as if they had just pulled out a victory. Pera was so infuriated that he led the offseason house-cleaning; now that the work around the edges failed, a gut-renovation is in order.

“All I’ve ever known is Memphis; it's new ground for me,” said Conley when he spoke with reporters following Wednesday afternoon’s shoot-around. “When I signed back, I thought that I could retire here, end it here, but then you look at it as a lot can change in three or four years,” he added. There was a very real feeling that something untouchable had become very touchable indeed.

Both players, by nature, are very humble: part of their enduring appeal to the Memphis fan base has been their ability and willingness to lead the team to success without making headlines for the wrong sort of loud, flashy reasons. Being told that you’re on the trading block and letting the world very visibly know is a different -- and far worse -- type of humbling, indeed.

Where Conley was measured, Gasol took it hard, first trying to avoid the media after that same shoot-around, before letting his emotions pour out when a reporter incredibly asked about retiring a Grizzly: “You think that’s up to me right now? Does it feel like it’s up to me right now? So why even think about it?”

Whatever success Conley and Gasol found in Beale Street Blue in the past, Pera knows that for the future of basketball in Memphis to be viable, he needs to look to the future. This might be the first time in a decade that the Grizzlies organization handled a situation the right way, and with Pera in charge of the organization versus Chris Wallace, fans can at least be content knowing that Pera cares.

For years, Pera has been seen as an absentee owner, writing the checks but doing little else. With the franchise at an inflection point, Pera will not be content in letting someone else bring in the new generation of Grizzlies, but will oversee the process himself. Nailing their first top-5 pick in a decade in big man Jaren Jackson Jr. has been an important first step; the Grizzlies and Pera will need many more hits than misses to reverse the slide and send Memphis back towards the top of the West.

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