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NBA PM: Major Changes in Memphis

Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien and assistant GM Stu Lash are out in Memphis. What’s next? … Who helped their stock at the NBA combine? … NBA initiates charge to terminate Donald Sterling’s ownership

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Alex Kennedy of BasketballInsiders.com joins Kevin Dexter of CineSport to chat about the big winners from the 2014 NBA Draft Combine.

Major Changes in Memphis

In a shocking move, the Memphis Grizzlies announced today that following discussions with management, the decision was made for CEO Jason Levien and assistant general manager Stu Lash to depart the organization.

ESPN first reported the news on Monday morning, and it remains to be seen what will happen to vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger, who was hired away from ESPN by Levien and signed to a multi-year deal.

“Our franchise has made tremendous strides over the last few seasons and we thank Jason for his hard work and dedication and wish him nothing but success in his future endeavors,” said Grizzlies controlling owner Robert Pera. “Rest assured that we remain as committed as ever to bringing a championship to this great city and we are confident that when the new season begins our fans will be excited about both our roster and the direction of our organization.”

Going forward, existing Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace will assume interim responsibility for the franchise’s basketball operations and chief operating officer Jason Wexler will remain responsible for the franchise’s business operations. Levien was reached by The Commercial Appeal, but refused to comment.

Initially, head coach Dave Joerger’s status was up in the air, but Wallace told The Commercial Appeal that he will remain the team’s coach. Bill Simmons of ESPN reported that the Grizzlies may try to trade for Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and offer him a team president/head coaching role similar to the one Stan Van Gundy has with the Detroit Pistons and Doc Rivers has with the L.A. Clippers. However, Wallace shot that rumor down, insisting that Joerger is and will remain the team’s coach.

Wallace’s role was greatly diminished under the Levien regime, so it’ll be interesting to see if he keeps Hollinger on the staff. Wallace didn’t have an office in Memphis and admitted that he hadn’t stepped foot in the Grizzlies’ facility since “last summer” in his interview with The Commercial Appeal. Grizzlies general counsel David Mincberg will reportedly take on an increased role moving forward.

According to the ESPN report, Pera dismissed Lash and an unhappy Levien decided to resign. This isn’t a huge surprise, considering Levien and Lash go way back. They are close friends who worked together when they were player agents, and when Levien took the job as Sacramento Kings general counsel and assistant general manager, Lash took over all of Levien’s clients. Levien hired Lash in Memphis with the assumption that they would be partners and build the team together. So if Pera wanted to dismiss Lash (for reasons that aren’t yet known), it makes sense that Levien would stand up for him and leave as well.

More details will likely emerge in the coming days, once others choose to comment. Players were very shocked by the news today, with Grizzlies guard Tony Allen tweeting, “Wow.” Wallace and his staff are in the process of calling the team’s players and their agents to let them know what happened and where the franchise is going from here.

NBA Initiates Charge to Terminate Donald Sterling’s Ownership

The NBA initiated a charge today seeking to terminate the ownership of Donald Sterling in the Los Angeles Clippers.  If the NBA Board of Governors sustains the charge by a 3/4 vote, all ownership interests in the Clippers will be terminated and the team will be sold to new owners.

The NBA Constitution provides Mr. Sterling with the opportunity to respond to the charge by May 27, as well as the right to appear and make a presentation at a special meeting of the Board of Governors.  This hearing, which is planned for June 3, will be presided over by NBA Board of Governors Chairman Glen Taylor, the controlling Governor of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The charge asserts that Mr. Sterling engaged in conduct that has damaged and continues to damage the NBA and its teams.  Among other things, Mr. Sterling disparaged African-Americans and “minorities”; directed a female acquaintance not to associate publicly with African-Americans or to bring African-Americans to Clippers games; and criticized African-Americans for not supporting their communities.

Mr. Sterling’s actions and positions significantly undermine the NBA’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusion; damage the NBA’s relationship with its fans; harm NBA owners, players and Clippers team personnel; and impair the NBA’s relationship with marketing and merchandising partners, as well as with government and community leaders.  Mr. Sterling engaged in other misconduct as well, including issuing a false and misleading press statement about this matter.

All of these acts provide grounds for termination under several provisions of the NBA Constitution and related agreements.

Magic, BayHawks Enter Single-Affiliation Partnership

The Orlando Magic, Erie BayHawks and the NBA Development League today announced that the Magic and BayHawks have entered into a three-year single affiliation partnership beginning with the 2014-15 NBA D-League season. Orlando becomes the record 16th NBA team to have a one-to-one affiliation with an NBA D-League team.

The partnership, also referred to as a “hybrid affiliation,” is the eighth of its kind in the NBA D-League and allows an NBA team to control the NBA D-League team’s basketball operations, while the existing local ownership maintains primary responsibility for the team’s off-the-court business operations and community initiatives.

“We are looking forward to a mutually beneficial partnership with the BayHawks,” said Orlando Magic Chief Executive Officer Alex Martins. “We feel this hybrid relationship will further assist our efforts in regards to developing NBA talent, while providing Erie with a team they can be proud of.  I would like to thank Steve Demetriou. His vision and values fit very well with ours and we are excited about this exclusive affiliation.”

The BayHawks, which just finished its sixth NBA D-League season in Erie, have previously been affiliated with the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors and have produced four NBA D-League All-Stars and developed 11 players who earned GATORADE Call-Ups to the NBA.   Additionally, the BayHawks have welcomed 15 NBA players on assignment, including Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets and Danny Green of the San Antonio Spurs.

“We’re thrilled to have the Orlando Magic as our new NBA affiliate,” said Erie BayHawks majority owner Steve Demetriou.  “I’ve enjoyed getting to know Alex Martins and other members of the Magic management team, and we are extremely excited to join forces with this first class organization.  The Magic are aligned with our goals of providing an outstanding product on and off the court that our fans, corporate partners and the Erie community can continue to be proud of.”

The NBA D-League, entering its 14th season for 2014-15, saw a record 36 players earn 49 call-ups during the 2013-14 campaign.  An all-time high 33 percent of all NBA players (149) on 2013-14 NBA end-of-season rosters now boast NBA D-League experience, including two members of the Magic.  A record 62 NBA players honed their skills on assignment in the NBA D-League last season, while the league reached record totals in attendance drawing over five percent more fans than the previous year. For the fifth consecutive year, the league reached the one million fan plateau.

“The Magic’s partnership with the BayHawks is yet another example of the increasing significance of the NBA D-League to NBA teams, as more than half of all NBA teams have now invested in an exclusive NBA D-League affiliate” said Dan Reed, NBA D-League President. “The BayHawks and Magic are two excellent organizations with outstanding leadership, and I know they will be great partners.”

The Magic become the eighth NBA team to enter into a hybrid affiliation with an NBA D-League team for the 2014-15 season, joining the Boston Celtics (Maine Red Claws), Detroit Pistons (Grand Rapids NBA D-League Team), Houston Rockets (Rio Grande Valley Vipers), Memphis Grizzlies (Iowa Energy), Miami Heat (Sioux Falls Skyforce), Phoenix Suns (Bakersfield Jam) and Sacramento Kings (Reno Bighorns).  Seven additional NBA teams will own and operate their NBA D-League affiliates for the 2014-15 season: Cleveland Cavaliers (Canton Charge), Golden State Warriors (Santa Cruz Warriors), Los Angeles Lakers (L.A. D-Fenders), New York Knicks (Westchester NBA D-League Team), Oklahoma City Thunder (Tulsa 66ers), Philadelphia 76ers (Delaware 87ers) and San Antonio Spurs (Austin Toros).  Additionally, the Dallas Mavericks have a single affiliation with the Texas Legends by way of Mavericks’ General Manager Donnie Nelson’s ownership of the Legends.

 

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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