This is pretty much all your fault. How on earth is such a shrewd and successful businessman so terrible at contract negotiations? The new Grizzlies ownership just had to blow up one of the best and most exciting group of core players in the NBA and it’s all because of you.
Rudy Gay is gone.
The new ownership group led by Robert Pera and Jason Levien had to ship the franchises all-time leader in games played to Toronto in a 3 team deal netting them Ed Davis, the corpse of Tayshaun Prince, WNBA backup Austin Daye, and a 2nd round pick.
I actually feel they got a pretty decent return, but that’s beside the point…
This never should have had to happen.
It’s been common knowledge for a while the Grizzlies were going to have to trade one of their four big contracts, most likely Rudy Gay or Zach Randolph, to get under the luxury tax threshold for some time now. For a team like Memphis, this is just smart business sense. Small market franchises just don’t need to tie up necessary funds paying the luxury tax, much less the repeat offender penalties the Grizzlies were on track to pay had all of these contracts played out. This move, along with the Speights-Ellington trade, have put the team in a much better position financially and given them the roster flexibility to make several moves going forward.
All of that is well and good (even though the new front office has now been labeled “cheap” in some circles) but once again, it never should have had to happen.
Allow me to explain…
Heisley totally botched Rudy’s extension from the start.
Dumbass Mistake Number 1: Failing To Get The Extension Done Early
The summer before his rookie contract was set to expire, the front office (led by owner Michael Heisley) entered into negotiations with Rudy’s representatives for an extension. Rudy wanted a 5 year, $65 million extension similar to what Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge had received. The highest Heisley was willing to go, in one of his famous(ly retarded) take-it-or-leave-it moves, is 5 years, $50 million. When Gay turned that down, Heisley made the extremely wise and forward thinking decision (/sarcasm) to play out the season and let Rudy become a restricted free agent all the while saying he would do “whatever it takes to keep this core together.”
Think about how colossally stupid this move was... Instead of negotiating when he had all the leverage, Heisley decided to put things off until Rudy was in control. Plus, this was the summer of The Decision. Half the league had cleared out a ton of cap room to make runs at Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and several other big name free agents. There was a ton of money to throw around and, once those big names were off the market, the second-tier guys like Rudy, Tyson Chandler, Joe Johnson and David Lee were going to cash-in big time.
Dumbass Mistake Number 2: “I’ll Do Whatever It Takes To Resign Rudy Gay”
During the entire season leading up to Rudy’s free agency, every time someone shoved a microphone in front of his fat face Heisley constantly went on and on about “keeping the core together” and “making sure Rudy Gay is in a Grizzlies uniform going forward.” I am not an expert negotiator but this seems counter-productive at best. Why on earth would you go around broadcasting that you’ll basically match any offer he gets? That strategy just seems to invite teams to throw out ridiculously high offers that they know you’ll match, fucking up your salary and get you in luxury tax troubles down the road. And why, if you’re so determined to keep the core together by matching pretty much any offer sheet, do you play hardball the summer before??? That drives me insane because it makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE AT ALL!!
Dumbass Mistake Number 3: Failing to Understand What Restricted Free Agent Means
For the casual fan, when a player comes off of his rookie contract, he becomes a restricted free agent. This means the player is free to negotiate with other teams for a new contract but, once an agreement is reached, his original team has 10 days to match that offer and keep him on the team. This is set up to make it easier for smaller teams to keep the players they’ve invested so much time and money in developing. So at this point, the smart thing for Mike Heisley to do (after getting in this incredibly dumb situation to begin with) would be to let Rudy negotiate with other teams, see what he can get on the market, and match that offer to keep him.
Of course, this is not how things go down at all.
On July 1, 2010, less than 12 hours after the free agency period started, the Grizzlies announced they had come to terms with Rudy Gay. Heisley didn’t give Rudy a chance to even meet with teams much less negotiate and sign an offer sheet. Contrary to popular belief, the contract was not a max deal. Memphis could have offered him more. It was however the maximum any other team in the league could offer. Heisley basically gave up any negotiating power he had to get the process over with quickly.
In the end, Rudy signed a deal for 5 years at $85 million.
Let that sink in.
Less than one year after refusing to give him $65 million, Michael Heisley gave Rudy Gay an extension worth Eighty-Five Million Dollars.
How much better off would this franchise had been if Heisley had just done the deal the previous summer? Rudy Gay would be making around $12.5 million a season instead of the $16.5 mil. he’s making this year and up to $17.5 mil. and $19.5 mil. the next two. There would have been no financial issues and this trade would never have had to happen. They would have been able to shell out a little more cash for some bench depth. Oh…and they probably resign OJ Mayo.
So, because Michael Heisley was a hard-head, incompetent douche, the Grizzlies got stuck in untenable financial situation that eventually came to a head, cost the team one (probably two) of its signature players, and arguably blew an outside shot at a title.
Only Heisley doesn’t care. At the time the deal was done, he was 75 years old and had been openly shopping the team for years. He knew he wasn’t going to be around the franchise very much longer. It was his full intention of being out of the way by the time the financial situation had to be addressed. His goal was to build a “winning” team, ride off into the sunset, and stick whoever came next with the tax burden.
And he succeeded.
Robert Pera and a large local ownership group took the team off his hands and got stuck with the unenviable position to fix the long term future of this franchise. Now they’re being labeled as the cheapskates blowing up a championship contender.
So I guess I should stop calling Heisley an idiot.
He’s just an asshole.