Michael Heisley Defends Grizzlies' Stand on Xavier Henry
In a live interview with Chris Vernon on 730 Fox Sports in Memphis, Heisley abrasively made the case for his decision to hold off on signing Henry unless the Kansas product agrees to fairly unprecedented performance-based incentives. When Vernon asked why Heisley is taking a stand with Henry's contract despite giving maximum rookie-scale contracts to 2009 draft picks Hasheem Thabeet and DeMarre Carroll, Heisley answered that he just found out about the rule allowing negotiation in rookie contracts this summer when employees in the Grizzlies' front office made him aware of it.
"I've never seen the collective bargaining agreement," Heisley said. "Would you sit down and read it?" Vernon answered in the affirmative; I imagine many Grizzlies fans listening at home have indeed read the CBA. And they don't own $250-million NBA franchises.
Heisley had several inaccurate statements, perhaps most glaring (other than mispronouncing Henry's given name) a claim that Memphis' performance over the past 10 seasons (three playoff performances) is on par with those of other small-market teams. In fact, since Heisley bought the Grizzlies in 2000, only two teams -- the Bobcats (an expansion team in 2004) and the Clippers -- have fewer wins. So Heisley's reign is indeed comparable to that of Donald Sterling.
The brunt of Heisley's at-time screaming defense of his Henry position is that because teams are allowed to tie a 20-percent contract bonus to incentives, he should not be questioned for doing so. In fact, he repeatedly flipped the question as such that other team owners should be asked why they do tie the bonus to non-performance-based incentives, like attending conditioning programs in the offseason and taking part in community outreach.
Memphis' two first-rounders remain the only two domestic picks from the 2010 draft unsigned. The Spurs are the only other franchise to regularly use performance-based incentives, but the Spurs did manage to sign first-round pick James Anderson quickly this summer.
Heisley maintained that he hopes to bring Henry into the fold before training camp begins in five weeks.
"I've got plenty of time to sign the rookies," Heisley said. "We're negotiating." The owner also defended the trade of Pau Gasol, the pick of Thabeet and the attempt to bring Allen Iverson into the program. To this listener, he came off incredibly defensive and juvenile, calling Vernon "son," "kid" and "partner." I can only imagine one other NBA owner speaking publicly like this, and, well, there we go with the Sterling comparisons again.