Xavier Henry Dispute Hinges on Uncommon Incentive
Henry's camp, led by powerful agent Arn Tellem, says Memphis was being unreasonable and Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace is telling reporters other teams had done what Memphis is attempting.
But through it all, we never knew just what incentive was at the center of the dispute. Until now. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that part of Memphis' performance-based incentive demands Henry would have to meet to earn $2 million as a rookie instead of $1.7 million is either a berth in the All-Star weekend's Rookie Challenge, or a spot on one of the two All-Rookie teams.
The All-Rookie teams are voted on by NBA coaches at the end of the season; there are 10-11 spots (the latter in case of ties) available. The NBA typically names 9-10 rookies to the Rookie Challenge. As a reminder, Henry was picked 12th in the draft, and there are at least two high-profile 2010-11 rookie from previous draft classes: Blake Griffin of the Clippers and Tiago Splitter of the Spurs. (Minnesota's Nikola Pekovic will also be a rookie, though his profile is not nearly as high as those of Griffin and Splitter.)
Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal reports there would be one more method to earning the extra money under the Grizzlies' proposal: Henry would qualify for the $2 million salary if he averaged 15 minutes a game in 70 games. How many rookies typically manage that? Twenty rookies, including Memphis' Sam Young but not the Grizzlies' No. 2 pick Hasheem Thabeet, met that threshold last season. Twenty rookies -- including Memphis' O.J. Mayo, Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur -- also met the threshold in 2008-09, and 13 rookies made it in 2007-08, including then-Memphis guard Juan Carlos Navarro. So clearly, this is not the most onerous threshold ever.
But as performance-based incentives for rookie first-round picks are fairly rare, and as Tellem is among the most fearsome agents in the league, and as Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley has a well-entrenched reputation (fair or not) as cheap, this stands out, and it really appears Memphis picked the wrong time to implement its new policy. Tillery reports the Grizzlies are receiving trade offers for Henry, and that might be the solution. The Grizzlies want to make the playoffs this season, and frontcourt depth might be a bigger priority than another perimeter scorer, especially one a year removed from high school.