We’ve had almost a week to digest the odd and dramatic firing of former Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and the reassignment of former GM Chris Wallace. The dust has settled and now we present to you some thoughts from The BarnBurner brain trust.
Chris Wallace reassignment and J.B. Firing
To the public, the way this whole demotion and firing process went down seems undoubtedly strange. Many local Grizzlies pundits criticized and harped on how embarrassed the Grizzlies should be for the way they treated Chris Wallace and J.B. Bickerstaff; the way they let them conduct the postseason media availability and then proceeded to fire them hours later. It probably should have been done the night before after the final game of the season. Ideally it would have been done a week or so prior to the end of the season. If they had made the changes then, it would have given the Grizzlies new brass some time to prepare to take the podium with the media and also discuss with players. As it stands now, some irreparable damage has been done and there is nothing that can be done to rectify it. But, it’s in the past and hopefully, going forward, the Grizzlies learned something about PR and will make the right decisions to avoid being the punching bag of the NBA and players.
Front Office Promotions
Two gentlemen were promoted to fill the gap that Chris Wallace left. Jason Wexler, previously over the business side of things, was made President and now is responsible for both basketball ops and business for the Grizzlies. Much has been said about the Grizzlies’ new Executive VP of Basketball Operations, Zachary Kleiman, and his age (30) relative to the rest of the NBA front offices. He has a law background but extensive experience and exposure – as much as you can at that age – to the NBA, and has worked for multiple franchises already.
It has been rumored for a while that Kleiman was behind the Marc Gasol trade to Toronto that brought on board Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, and C.J. Miles. Grizzlies owner Robert Pera is zigging from traditional front office selection by going with a younger selection instead of an experience NBA individual.
Soon after being named to their new positions as President (Wexler) and Executive VP of Basketball operations (Kleiman) met with local media to answer a bevy of questions that the public was extremely interested in.
One thing I appreciate from their answers was that when asked about immediate goals, they pointed more to the long-term and the fact that is where they are focusing as opposed to the grandioso goal of 50 immediate wins set forth by Pera at the outset of this past season. The Grizzlies need to plan their rebuild (yes, we need to keep that word at the forefront of our minds) to peak in completeness at the right time. That “right time” should be centered around one person – Jaren Jackson Jr. If I’m thinking to myself, Memphis could/should probably plan to be back in playoff mix and fighting for a championship in 4-6 years. Jaren will be 23-25 years old at that point and will hopefully be several All-Star games in. For me, that is a realistic timeline to shoot for. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies shot themselves in the foot this season while Chris Wallace was working near-sightedly to save his job as GM. Trading away multiple second round picks for Justin Holiday among other moves really hurt. Of course that’s all easy to say in hindsight. I get that.
It sounds like this new regime is living more closely to reality in realizing the current state of the franchise, and is not going to fluff the situation or give short term hope at the expense of long-term success. Every NBA team has to go through valleys. I have to remind myself that Memphis experienced an incredible playoff streak during the GNG era. I personally took that time for granted and expected playoff basketball to be the continual norm without deviation. After a more detailed look, even the best franchises have to go through bad times in between eras. The test is really how long do you have to spend in that valley before you can get back up on your feet and run towards basketball in June.
How does the rest of the league perceive the turnover and turmoil that has taken place in Memphis within the past week? Will GM’s around the league hold back from building a relationship with the Grizzlies front office because of the “non-traditional” path that Kleiman took to get to the position that he now sits in? I could see the rest of the league reacting to the hire similar to how many NCAA coaches and reporters acted at the Penny Hardaway hire at the University of Memphis. From reports, the plan is to surround Wexler and Kleiman with a few “experienced executives”. Hopefully those individuals are well respected around the league and can grease the wheels on any potential trades. Oh, and don’t mix up any players during negotiations.
Honestly, I hope that Pera is spot on with this selections and that we have someone in Kleiman who can spend many years in Memphis and be the Jaren Jackson Jr. of the front office. I don’t think that his age should count against him. If he has the mind and capability to help run a franchise, then so be it. It’s possible that Pera – who was one of the youngest billionaires at 36, according to Forbes – sees a little bit of himself in Kleiman.
What should the first moves by the front office be?
- Hire an experienced front office person that doesn’t suck
- Find a good coach to come to an organization mired in dysfunction
- Decide who you want to keep around on the current roster and who you would be willing to part with — Item 1A: Mike Conley
- Pray that the lottery will come out in our favor
— BarnBurner Staff