Friday, May 22, 2009

Heisley/Thabeet Follow-Up

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2009 at 10:24 PM

I've been on the road all day and am checking in on the latest draft intrigue from a hotel room in Rockford, Illinois.

The order of the day, as I play catch-up, is fallout from Chad Ford's report that Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley is pushing to take Hasheem Thabeet #2 over the dissent of his basketball staff.

Before I split town this morning, I heard Commercial Appeal Grizzlies beat writer Ron Tillery — who is certainly closer to Heisley than any other NBA media person — shoot this down on his radio show, saying that Heisley wasn't particularly enamored with Thabeet and also saying that Heisley told him directly that the Grizzlies are going to make a hard push to get up to #1 and take Blake Griffin.

Team insiders I've talked to have also denied the report, implying that Heisley isn't familiar enough with Thabeet to be sold on him. But no one will say the Grizzlies wouldn't Thabeet or some other player at #2 rather than Ricky Rubio. I get the sense from talking to multiple team sources over the past couple of days that complications surrounding Rubio — from his agent to his buyout to the threat of him pulling out of the draft — are a concern.

That said, the Griz brass is clearly high on Rubio and general manager Chris Wallace and head coach Lionel Hollins boarded a plane for Madrid today to watch Rubio play in an ACB league playoff game and then to meet with him and his representatives. This process will work itself out over the next few weeks and team officials are trying to calm down speculation regarding their draft options.

In the end, though, the general point of my previous post still applies: Michael Heisley, please don't screw this up. Heisley has made it clear that the ultimate responsibility for basketball decisions now lies with him, and this franchise absolutely cannot afford to mess this draft up. And I still contend there are only three satisfactory outcomes: Acquire Blake Griffin. Acquire Ricky Rubio. Deal the rights to Rubio for a major trade package.

This draft holds enormous promise for the Grizzlies, but also a lot of danger. If, somehow, the Clippers come out of this draft with Ricky Rubio and the Oklahoma City Thunder comes out of this with Blake Griffin with the Grizzlies sitting at #2, then local fans would have every right to revolt.

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