Xavier Henry Learns What Grizzlies Are All About
But when you consider the case of Xavier Henry, a guard out of Kansas the Grizzlies made the 12th pick in June draft, it's really difficult to come to any other conclusion.
Henry hasn't played for the Grizzlies at Vegas Summer League, and it looks unlikely he'll suit up before the league ends Sunday. Why? Henry's agent Arn Tellem and the team are reportedly at odds over the rookie's contract. Which is weird, considering that in the mid-1990s the NBA created the rookie salary scale to avoid hold-outs by players entering the league.
Teams can offer contracts between 80 and 120 percent of the salary scale to their first-round picks. Most teams offer the highest allowed -- 120 percent. Even with that, players on their rookie scale tend to be the most cost-effective players in the league. The rookie scale is locked in for four years, unless a team sours on a player, in which case the team can waive either the third or fourth season of the contract. In other words, the teams have all the power when it comes to the pay of young players.
The 120-percent level is a carrot, and teams almost never offer less than that to lottery picks. For Henry, the maximum salary this season would be $2 million. But the Grizzlies have either offered Henry the base salary scale ($1.68 million) or the 80-percent level ($1.344 million). And Henry, through Tellem, has declined to agree to such terms, and extending from that, has declined to play in Vegas.
Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace explained that the team wants the extra portion of Henry's contract (whether it's the $600,000 between the 80-percent and 120-percent levels or the $300,000 between the 100-percent and 120-percent levels -- this remains unclear) to be tied to performance, as a bonus. This is not standard operating procedure anywhere in the league, for rookies.
The sad thing about the episode is that it might actually be a good idea. So much uncertainty remains in the draft (even with the age minimum) that a performance scale could be useful to reward the best youngsters, who otherwise have to wait until the fifth year of their NBA careers to be rewarded.
But when the Grizzlies try to pull it off, it drudges up all those old beliefs about frugality Gay's contract seemed to erase. The period of time in which Heisley's critics had to hold off on calling the owner cheap lasted all of a week. Well done, Grizz.