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Grizzlies play hardball with Xavier Henry for no good reason

Jul 19, 2010, 12:26 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for grizzlies_logo.gifThe Memphis Grizzlies threw $84 million at Rudy Gay this summer because he has potential to be a team leader. Because we’re sure that outside shot will come around. Right?

But the team’s top draft pick Xavier Henry sat out summer league and remains unsigned in a battle over $336,700.

This is why, as much as we want to believe, it’s hard to take the Memphis Grizzlies seriously.

The Grizzlies drafted Henry No. 12 overall out of Kansas. One thing the NBA has put in is a slotted rookie salary scale, with the goal of avoiding the ugly lockouts the NFL sees every year over players who have yet to play a down.

Henry’s No. 12 slot is for $1,683,500 next season. However, the deal allows the team to pay between 80 percent and 120 percent of that number. It is standard operating procedure for teams to pay the 120 percent figure. Every first rounder gets that, has for years.

Except now with Henry. It was rumored in Vegas Grizzlies are offering the 100 percent salary with the other 20 percent based on incentives. Nobody knows for sure, but they are not offering the full 120 percent that is standard.

The Grizzlies are drawing a line in the sand to save $336,70. That is NBA chump change. And over a player that will already be a great value at his price.

Henry did not play in the Summer League for Memphis because he didn’t have a signed deal on the advice of his agent Arn Tellem. That was largely out of principal, guys play in Summer League all the time with deals not signed.

But this is simply ridiculous. Henry missed Summer League — a chance to learn the system and get some experience along side OJ Mayo and Hasheem Thabeet — so that the Grizzlies could save a few hundred thousand on a contract that is a formality. I’m not the only person who thinks this is crazy, Mike Prada summed up the feelings of a lot of fans.

There was not a lot of good news out of Vegas for Memphis fans: Mayo is not going to play point guard, he had no feel for the position even at the Summer League level of competition; Grizzlies coaches said they were happy with Thabeet’s improvement, however I spoke with talent evaluators from other teams in Vegas who remain unimpressed with Thabeet. And I watched small forwards get rebounds away from him. (Sam Young was a legitimate bright spot, if you’re looking for one.)

Henry could have been an upbeat bit of news, the guy can play.

But the Grizzlies have been penny wise and pound foolish all summer. That’s why they are the Grizzlies.

  1. jerry - Jul 19, 2010 at 1:20 PM

    There has to be more this story than what we are hearing. Yes the grizz are known to be cheap(although I have yet to figure out how a team very close to the salary cap is cheap) I just can not believe that they are doing all this over $300,000. Might be true since Heisley is known has a pretty stubborn guy. Would like to hear more about this.

  2. grizzed - Jul 19, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    Unfortunately, I think you are exactly right. I think the is just a case of Heisley being incredibly stubborn.
    People were starting to fell that management was serious about fielding a competitive team. The team had a good run last year and a pretty good draft. OJ was disappointing at the point, Thabeet only showed the slightest glimmer of improvement, and now the national stories about our relentlessly cheap owner. This does nothing but hurt ticket sales. The Summer League should have built on the momentum, not slammed on the breaks.
    I am trying to be a Grizzly fan, here in Memphis. However, the “one step forward – two steps back” approach to team management makes it incredibly difficult to get excited about this team.

  3. Zachariah Blott - Jul 20, 2010 at 5:23 AM

    The Grizzlies were the worst 3-point shooting team in the league last year, but only a GM like Chris Wallace is so stupid he can’t figure out how to sign the draft’s top 3-point shooter at the accepted rate.

  4. DoomHaynesJr - Jul 20, 2010 at 10:10 AM

    Maybe some of the Tiger backers in town called in a favor with the Grizz to give Henry the business since he was one of the 2009 recuiting defector. A longshot, but you never know…

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