In case you missed the drama unfolding between Memphis and Minnesota recently, here’s a quick synopsis.
First-year head coach Dave Joerger was granted permission to talk to the Minnesota Timberwolves (Joerger is from Minnesota, by the way), and had, by all accounts, gotten the job. Then suddenly, when a little matter of compensation came up, the Grizzlies backed off, and Joerger returned to the team.
To put it a way we might better understand, this would be like Brad Stevens being given permission to interview for a vacant Pacers job this summer, being granted permission, then suddenly returning to the Celtics.
Anyway, this whole incident is shining a light on Robert Pera, the 34-year-old owner of the Grizz. Suddenly, a guy few people really knew much about is being cast as a bit of a delusional hot-head in a new Chris Mannix piece on SI.com.
The genesis of the Joerger-Pera problems, according to league sources, dates back to last September. Pera — who fancies himself a pretty good player — challenged Tony Allen to a game of one-on-one. Allen, on Twitter, accepted. Pera, a Silicon Valley billionaire who bought a small controlling interest in the Grizzlies in 2012, poured tens of thousands of dollars into producing the matchup. He invited the media and instructed the public relations staff to issue a press release promoting the event.
The problem? Allen had lost interest. Joerger, a first-year head coach, didn’t like the idea of the game — like many in the organization he found it goofy and unbecoming of a professional team, according to sources — but it was Allen’s indifference that caused it to be called off. Yet Pera directed his frustration at Joerger and, according to a source, directed upper management to fire him.
Said a source familiar with the situation, “He absolutely wanted Dave out.”
So this 34-year-old tech billionaire feels like he can ball with the big boys, so he set up a 1-on-1 with Tony Allen. Of course, it fizzled, the owner blamed the coach, and subsequently decided he wanted the coach fired for it.
It gets better:
It was the first of several early season clashes between Joerger and Pera. When the Grizzlies opened the season 2-3 — including double-digit defeats to Dallas and New Orleans — Pera flew to Memphis and held individual meetings with players, sources say. He began offering bizarre suggestions. He suggested Mike Miller, a longtime Grizzlies player who was re-signed in the offseason, could become a player-coach. He brought up the idea that Joerger could wear an NFL-style headset and take instructions on the sideline. When the Grizzlies faced Golden State in early November, Pera insisted that Joerger give significant minutes to fourth-year power forward Ed Davis. Davis played just one. Again, according to sources, Pera insisted that Joerger had to go. Only after it was explained how dysfunctional the franchise would look if it fired a first year head coach six games into the season did Pera back down.
Can you imagine a coach with an NFL-style headset taking orders from the owner? And then there’s the hysterical, uncanny parallel to this:
— Paul Flannery (@Pflanns) May 26, 2014
Suddenly, Spencer Hall’s hilarious suggestion that Mike Miller’s monkey ownership qualified him to be a leader seems less ridiculous than the reality of the situation.
Memphis has a hot-headed, hair-trigger owner who harbors delusions of exceptional basketball ability. His Twitter profile pic is of him shooting while wearing a shooting sleeve. When I see a guy walk into the gym wearing a shooting sleeve for a pick-up game, I roll my eyes and, if I’ve been playing long enough, I leave. Shooting-sleeve guy thinks he’s a God who could have gone big time but he didn’t get the right breaks. Shooting sleeve guy passes so infrequently and jacks such ridiculous shots that Russell Westbrook tells him to cool it.
Robert Pera is shooting-sleeve guy… and he happens to own an NBA franchise. I’m sorry, Memphis. You really have one hell of a mess on your hands right now.