In my post yesterday morning about potential endgames in Robert Pera's bid to purchase the Grizzlies, I wrote that a partnership between Pera and local investors, if paired with contract language that further strengthened the city's grip on the team, would be the best-case scenario for which fans should hope. I also wrote that if Pera were willing to add that kind of contract language that he would likely find locals willing to buy in. It's a scenario I proposed days after Pera's name first emerged, when he was being presented as a solo buyer who would acquire the small remaining percentage of the team still owned by locals in addition to Michael Heisley's majority stake. At the time, it was merely a personal daydream scenario — the way I thought things could play out in a perfect world, not necessarily the way things would play out. But now it's on the verge of being real.
Kyle Veazey and Geoff Calkins reported in the Commercial Appeal last night that Pera has reached agreement with a local group led by current minority owners Pitt Hyde and Staley Cates, and including new local investors, to join his purchase bid, with roughly a third of the franchise's ownership going to the local investors — approximately the same ownership stake that locals had with Heisley before their shares were diluted down to around two percent.
In order the make this happen, the deal includes multiple provisions — in place for the next 15 years — that strengthen the local grip on the team, including reinstating the right-of-first-refusal option that locals once had with Heisley.
This is great news for Memphis. As I outlined yesterday, such a deal has the potential to further stabilize the franchise, repair the frayed relationship between the franchise and the local business community, and do so without sucking up too much free money that can be put to arguably more important civic and philanthropic uses.
Things seem pretty quiet on the Grizzlies sale front. Last week, the Commercial Appeal reported that prospective owner Robert Pera was seeking local partners in his bid to purchase the Grizzlies.
The implication is that potential local partners would want something more than just a minority share in a team whose profits are likely to be small in even the best of times, and that Pera might be willing to offer other incentives, including possibly re-instating the right of first refusal language local minority partners once had with Michael Heisley, or perhaps even strengthening the team's lease with the city in return for local buy-in.
This is a subject I wrote about — as a matter of informed speculation — in June, shortly after Pera's bid went public:
Instead of buying the locals out, convince them to buy back in. In exchange for locals purchasing a more substantial minority share, re-institute the old contract language giving locals matching rights on a future sale or some other considerations in terms of blocking a potential relocation.
So I'm glad to see that notion flower into something potentially tangible.
Around the time of the CA's Pera story, George Lapides reported on his morning radio program that former sports agent and Sacramento Kings executive — and, apparently, current Philadelphia 76ers minority owner — Jason Levien was involved with the Pera bid, joining former Houston Rockets business executive David Carlock on the shortlist of people who have been identified in conjunction with the Pera bid.
With the bulk of the NBA off-season finished and with most rosters close to what they'll be when training camps open in a few weeks, it seems like a good time to take stock of where the Grizzlies' roster stands in relation to the rest of the league.
Here's my working list of how I think the league's 30 teams stack up, with one-liner reactions for each, all subject to change as the season's tipoff approaches:
1. Miami Heat: Even more shooting to surround James and Wade.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Durant primed for first MVP.
3. Los Angeles Lakers: Health and fit are questions; league's best inside-outside pure talent isn't.
4. Boston Celtics: Improved depth should help keep Garnett and Pierce fresh for a — final? — playoff run.
5. San Antonio Spurs: They will fall off eventually. I'm done trying to predict when.