November 02, 2010
>It's hard to truly top what Matt Moore wrote about Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley's(notes) recent contract extension -- calling his five-year, $40 million extension "the single worst contract handed out in 2010."
Not only does he nail all the salient points -- coming through with both anecdotal and tangible evidence behind Conley's status as possibly the worst starting point guard in the NBA -- he still somehow manages to keep his ire within check as he rants against what just about every NBA observer has come to regard as a terrible, terrible contract extension.
Conley is a mediocre player on a bad team. He is averaging 11 points and 4.7 assists for his career, which makes the details of his contract all the more baffling.
[Related: NBA's most overpaid players]
I can barely keep my ire in check with teams I don't care about. I called Joe Johnson's(notes) deal with the Atlanta Hawks the worst contract in NBA history, and the only link I have with the Hawks is that Tyrone Corbin's kids once went to school with one of my cousins.
But with Moore, and those Grizzlies? He's a Memphis fan. And, as a Midwestern nomad, Matt is a Memphis fan by choice. He chose the team, rather than letting his parents' employers choose a neighborhood for him decades ago. He wants this team to do well, and somehow, he's remained tactful about their fulminations.
And while I don't know if I agree with him in calling the deal the "the single worst contract handed out in 2010" -- Conley might be tradeable in three years, but I don't know if Joe Johnson will be; that said, I don't know if I agree or disagree with him just a few hours after the news of the contract went down -- the rank behind this extension doesn't matter.
What matters is the stank.
As Matt Tweeted Monday night, a player like Mike Conley is the "perfect" restricted free agent. Had the Grizzlies just let him make it past Monday night without a contract extension, he would have hit the open market during one of the worst open markets in NBA history, stuck looking for a gig with another team with the knowledge that the Grizzlies (if they truly wanted to) could match any offer sheet he signed. Conley, a fringe starter at absolute best, would be forced into letting the market dictate his own terms.
[Photos: Mike Conley on the court]
And the market, in the NBA's case, probably won't even be open for business this summer because of a potential lockout.
So, as is the likeliest case, Conley was looking at having to shop his wares around the league next September after the labor standoff was resolved. And, at absolute best, he'd be looking for a gig and/or offer sheet throughout next summer under a slimmed-down NBA salary cap, with the Grizzlies in the catbird seat, allowed to match any offer they thought reasonable.
And the Grizz, for whatever reason, decided to chuck that seat into the mighty Mississippi.
Bidding against absolutely nobody, they signed Conley to a deal that will have him making eight figures over the last couple years of its existence. That alone should make your hair stand on end. And as Moore pointed out, there is absolutely nothing in Conley's game nor at-best potential that should allow for anyone to think that he should even approach an average salary, something that would pay him about half of what he's due to make in a few years.
Had Mike been an unrestricted free agent during the last offseason, with all that crazy money being tossed about, he still would have had a tough time making the sort of dough he's set to "earn" in Memphis. But that's Michael Heisley, perhaps the worst owner in NBA history, Non-Racist Division.
Also, in eight months? The NBA will put a hold on all transactions, they will stop paying the salaries they legally committed to paying their employees, and they will tell you that it is the players' fault they are losing money. That the system allows for players to be overpaid.
The system. Not the owners.
And it's up to you to remember that the system allows for a player like Mike Conley to go out next summer, and try to find a team to sign with that has cap space. And with so few teams with available cap space, it would be down to a team like Indiana (with two starter-level point guards in Darren Collison(notes) and T.J. Ford(notes)) and Minnesota (with Luke Ridnour(notes), Jonny Flynn(notes) and Ricky Rubio's(notes) rights already on board) to spend money on Conley.
As a result, Conley would have few suitors, even if he was an unrestricted free agent. As a restricted free agent, Conley would have zero suitors, because what's the point of signing him to a three-year, $14 million deal that you know the Grizzlies would match in an instant?
This likely result, mind you, is a result of the system. The system the NBA and its players were smart to put into place. A system that, when utilized properly, lends no leverage to the sorts of players that deserve no leverage. And Mike, though I'm sure he's a swell guy, deserves no leverage.
And he certainly doesn't deserve a five-year, $40 million contract.
If the NBA wants to restore fiscal sanity, I'm all for it. But it has to start with restoring sane owners. David Stern knew about Michael Heisley's spend-now-and-pay-never business dealings well before Heisley bought the Grizzlies. I'm hardly the most penetrating journalist out there, and I was able to learn off record (whoops) about Heisley's miserable business practices, and how mortgaged-out and in-debt he was. And I was 20, soon to turn 21, back then.
Stern is three times that age. And yet he's still defending these owners, on record, to no end, and demanding that his work force take pay cuts as a result of insipid and ill-informed decisions made by the owners he's hell bent on representing at all costs.
Don't fall for it.