August 24, 2010
Year after year, almost without fail, the Memphis Grizzlies and their owner Michael Heisley baffle the basketball-crazy world with some sort of cost-cutting maneuver that rankles the mind. Last year it was the releasing of all of their amateur scouts despite being committed to building through the draft, and this year it's been the endless contract negotiations with their two draft picks Xavier Henry(notes) and Greivis Vasquez(notes).
Hoping to explain why he is so adamant about incentive clauses for the two rookie contracts, Heisley took to the radio, discussing the ins and outs of rookie scale contracts with Fox Sports' Chris Vernon. The conversation didn't go so well, mainly because Heisley revealed himself to be painfully ignorant about how the NBA works. Here's the best tidbit, transcription courtesy of Chris Herrington at Beyond the arc:
Vernon: Did this way of conducting business regarding the rookie contracts just come to you after reading the collective bargaining agreement? It appears as if you had this epiphany after reading the collective bargaining agreement - 'Oh my god, why are we conducting our business this way. Here I am reading the collective bargaining agreement and we don't have to do it this way.'
Heisley: I've never seen the collective bargaining agreement.
Heisley: I've never seen it.
Vernon: How is that possible?
Heisley: It's very possible. Are there things you haven't seen in your life?
Vernon: Well, I don't own an NBA franchise.
Heisley: What would you do, study the collective bargaining agreement?
Yikes. Or rather, yiiiiiiiiiiiikes. It is simply unfathomable that Michael Heisley hasn't even seen the collective bargaining agreement. Heck, it's online for anyone to peruse, which thousands of people who do not own NBA franchises have done. Heisley being completely unfamiliar with the CBA is like a minister never having read the Bible or a ninja having never read the code of ninjaing. I am shocked that there's no a 5-inch thick binder labelled "Collective Bargaining Agreement" in Michael Heisley's office and that he hasn't just picked it up to skim a few pages. Craziness.
Now, Heisley certainly isn't the only owner to use the CBA's clause that allows for contract incentives to make up part of a rookie's contract — as Mark Deeks at ShamSports wonderfully explained, the Spurs have done this the past two years — but he's almost positively the first to do so without knowing anything about the clause until someone else told him about it. As Tom Ziller of FanHouse and Henry Abbott of TrueHoop both explain during their equally brilliant respective etherings of Heisley, there are a lot of people who have read the CBA just because they want to be informed. One would think that would be important to a franchise's owner.
Then again, all those suckers that have read the collective bargaining agreement haven't shown up on Forbes' list of the 400 richest Americans have they? It's tough to really know what's going o with your business investments when you're busy counting that many zeroes.