Grizzlies hold key to 2009 draft

The Memphis Grizzlies are trying to talk tough, saying they're unafraid to draft Ricky Rubio with the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, but no one believes them.

Nevertheless, Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace finds himself in a tough spot. He has a volatile owner, Michael Heisley, puffing out his chest, and a player agent, Dan Fegan, threatening to embarrass the franchise should it try to take Rubio.

Apparently, Heisley has been as impatient as ever with Wallace. This ebbs and flows, but league sources say Pau Gasol's(notes) marvelous play in the Los Angeles Lakers' championship run has Heisley coming down on Wallace all over again for last year's trade. Of course, Heisley pushed for the lousy Lakers deal, but that's been lost in the revisionist history.

The Sacramento Kings had been the most likely team to cut a deal with Memphis to move into the second spot to take Rubio, but league sources say the Kings' motivation to do so has waned. The Kings don't want to give up Jason Thompson(notes) and their fourth pick to get to No. 2, especially considering there's a chance Rubio could drop to Sacramento anyway. Fegan has no issues with Rubio in Oklahoma City or Sacramento, but he'll be difficult if the point guard ends up in Memphis.

Minnesota's offer of a package that includes Kevin Love(notes) and a first-round pick intrigues Wallace too, sources say.

Wallace is enamored with University of Memphis freshman Tyreke Evans but thinks he could move down and still draft him. Nothing happens in this draft until the Grizzlies make a decision; then the dominos will start to fall.

The Chicago Bulls are trying to convince the New Jersey Nets to take their 16th and 26th picks to move to No. 11, and one Eastern Conference executive says Chicago's target is Wake Forest forward James Johnson.

Some say Johnson has been slipping and could be available at No. 16, but no one seems sure about anything in this draft.

The Nets are considering the proposal. They've been intrigued by Louisville shooting guard Terrence Williams at No. 11, but could be willing to drop down with the belief that North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough could be available at 16.

As for Johnson, if he somehow drops to No. 21, you can count on the New Orleans Hornets letting him pass. After playing pick-up ball with Johnson in Winston-Salem the past two summers, Hornets star Chris Paul(notes) has no use for him, several league sources said.

"He talked way too much trash to Chris," one source insisted. "Bad idea."

Mark Jackson is the top candidate for the Minnesota Timberwolves' coaching job, with Bill Laimbeer as a likely member of his staff.

League executives say new GM David Kahn will hire a coach whom he can hold a hammer over, and certainly Jackson would owe him. Jackson has wanted to become a head coach since his retirement five years ago, but no one has shown an inclination to hire him right out of the television booth. Kahn's ex-boss, New York Knicks GM Donnie Walsh, came the closest to taking that leap of faith until Mike D'Antoni became available.

Kahn was an executive in Indiana when Jackson played point guard for the Pacers.

Mike Fratello is eager for the job, too, but it's unlikely he'll be given the chance to coach a young team. Fratello pursued the Sacramento Kings' job hard, but was rebuffed. Fratello and Kahn worked together at NBC Sports in the 1990s.

For all the Portland Trail Blazers' usual misdirection plays about moving up in the draft, few say they're sincere in climbing into the lottery. Ultimately, it's thought that the Blazers are trying to clear cap space – perhaps as much as $10 million – and multiple league executives think Portland is determined to sign Orlando Magic free agent Hedo Turkoglu(notes).

For now, the Blazers are trying to find a taker for point guard Sergio Rodriguez(notes) and his $1.6 million salary. They're interested in Dallas Mavericks free agent Jason Kidd(notes), too. The Mavericks want to keep Kidd, who will probably ask for $8 million a season.

The Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers have discussed Vince Carter(notes) again, sources said. As financial losses mount for New Jersey's ownership, it appears more likely that the Nets will try to move Carter and the two years and $33.6 million left on his deal. The Nets would have to take Ben Wallace(notes) and Sasha Pavlovic(notes) in return. The Spurs haven't given up their long-standing pursuit of Carter, but a deal with San Antonio has never gained traction. … Houston Rockets guard Tracy McGrady(notes) would love a move to the Chicago Bulls, one league executive said, but Bulls GM Gar Forman has no interest. Still, the Rockets are determined to move his expiring $23 million contract. … League executives say Philadelphia 76ers forward Elton Brand(notes) and the four years and $65 million left on his contract are available. But as one Western Conference GM said: "Who's going to take that with him missing 130 games in the past two years?" … The Rockets, Cavaliers and Blazers are interested in buying first-round picks. … Celtics guard Ray Allen(notes) has expressed a desire for a contract extension, league executives say, but that isn't happening in Boston. … Stephon Marbury(notes) is telling friends he believes that the Celtics want to re-sign him. … The Knicks want Stephen Curry and Curry wants them, but it's unlikely Walsh will move up from No. 8 to be sure they get him. … The Bulls are trying to move useless Jerome James(notes) and his $6.6 million contract to create more cap space to re-sign Ben Gordon(notes). If they don't send the Nets their two first-round picks for No. 11, they'll have to ship one of those picks to get a team to take James from them. … As teams cut costs, the advanced scout for future opponents appears to be a casualty. The Spurs and Nets plan to go without full-time advance scouts next season. … Few second-round prospects have risen in the eyes of executives the way St. Joseph's forward Ahmad Nivins has in the offseason. Nivins, a strong, 6-foot-9 forward, was the Atlantic 10 and Big 5 Player of the Year. Nivins visits the Spurs over the weekend. … The NBA Players Association high school All-American camp in Charlottesville, Va., has been one of the best gatherings of prep talent in history, recruiting analysts say. It's thought that 24 of the best 25 prep stars in the class of 2010 were there this week. The Players Association camp does the best job of life-skill training for top prospects, including lectures on stress management and sex education.