Scratching and Clawing: Saving the Grizzlies 2001-02 Season

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Scratching and Clawing: Saving the Grizzlies 2001-02 Season

Postby seaboh13 on Wed May 30, 2018 11:54 pm

Scratching and Clawing: Saving the Grizzlies.


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Back in 1995, the NBA was looking to expand the league outside of America, and into Canada. The two cities they decided on were Toronto and Vancouver, two of the most populated cities in Canada. The former got the Raptors, with the latter receiving the Grizzlies.

While both franchises started off really bad, losing a lot of games, the Raptors were always a step ahead of the Grizzlies when it came to the basketball influence in their area.

Vince Carter catapulted the Raptors into fame and fortune, as he helped the team lead the NBA in attendance for three straight seasons in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, that has not been the case with the Grizzlies.

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John McCaw Jr. was the owner of the team from 1995-1999, as well as the Vancouver Canucks. However, the operating costs were way too high, and the Canadian dollar was pretty weak so it just wasn’t profitable for him to own a team in that area, so he was forced to sell both the Grizzlies and Canucks.

The fact that McCaw was based on Seattle, did not help his situation. A lot of local businesses in Vancouver did not want to support the Grizzlies because it wasn’t owned by someone local. McCaw ended up selling the team to Chicago businessman Michael Heisley for $160 million in January of 2000.

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The Grizzlies under Heisley’s ownership have not done any better so far. In 2000 and 2001, the Grizzlies saw their attendance drop significantly and continued to lose games. According to Dick Versace, the president of basketball operations for the Grizzlies, the team reportedly lost about $80 million in two years. That figure seemed ridiculous, but if you look at the bigger picture, it could be possible.

In the franchise’s first four seasons, the team actually had a decent attendance record. Not as good as Toronto’s obviously, but they were around the middle of the pack. But in the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 seasons, the last two seasons, they have been the third worst in attendance for both years, averaging about 13,000 fans every game.

Of course the low attendance rates translated to lower revenue, but I mean, that’s not a huge deal. There’s been a lot of teams over the years that saw their attendance plummet if their team is losing a lot. But the thing is, with the Vancouver Grizzlies, the revenue loss has extended beyond just the lower fan attendance.

The team has struggled to get corporate sponsors and when they did, they weren’t worth that much anyway because the team has been losing a lot and had no All-Stars either. The NBA didn’t really promote basketball in Vancouver as much as they should have, as well.

Granted, the team itself has some solid players, like Big Country Bryant Reeves and Mike Bibby, and I guess Shareef Abdur-Rahim is their best player, but he was obviously not a household name. They have not had a single member of their team make an All-Star game in the six seasons in Vancouver.

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Additionally, very few players have actually wanted to move to Vancouver in the first place. The most prominent example was Steve Francis. The Grizzlies drafted him with the 2nd overall pick in the 1999 NBA draft, but he did not want to play in Vancouver. Francis publicly stated that he did not like the city and did not want to move to Canada.

So now we are at a Crossroads in Vancouver. Heisley has applied to the NBA Board of Governors to move the franchise to Memphis for the 2001-02 Season. Many speculated that this was his goal from the moment he bought the Grizzlies from McCaw. We pick up the story here in April of 2001, right before the Board of Governors meeting to decide the fate of the Grizzlies..

Storyline:

NBA HQ April 2001
NBA Board of Governors Reject Grizzlies Relocation
Grizzlies staying put, Heisley to sell team.
Grizzlies sale to Aquilini and Johnson approved by NBA Owners
Grizzlies Front Office Handed Walking Papers
Grizzlies make Front Office moves.
Grizzlies Send Bibby to Kings for Williams
Wizards grab #1 Pick in NBA Draft
Kurt Rambis Hired as Grizzlies Assistant Coach
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New York Thursday April 18th

Postby seaboh13 on Thu May 31, 2018 12:15 am

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Thursday April 18th, 2001

He checked his phone and glanced up at the dark clouds, he had no idea how this meeting would go. They had been asked to travel to the NBA Headquarters in New York on this night, of all nights, when the weather was being less than kind. They had just landed and were now waiting upstairs. It was eerily dark and quiet so he kept his mouth shut; after all, he wasn't exactly sure what would take place. He'd heard rumors of how this man conducted business with Mike back in the 90s.

Both men were nervous, slowly waiting on the elevator to reach the ground floor. It was an almost empty building with only a few lights on.

He ran his hand through his hair, still a bit wet and matted from the all the rain at the airport, nodded. “It really was a nice flight, Francesco.”

Francesco Aquilini shot him a thousand-megawatt smile. “Damn straight it was Earvin. Well worth the investment in that plane.”

The moment lasted for mere seconds before the doors to the conference room burst open and the diminutive figure of a man greeted them both. The man looked uneasy and stared at Earvin before locking eyes with Aquilini “Earvin, didn't expect to see you here, Francesco mentioned he had an esteemed business partner, but I really didn't expect it to be you.”

Aquilini's face remained stretched into a smile, though there didn’t seem to be much warmth behind it. “David, so glad to see you too. I think you two have met before. This is Earvin 'Magic' Johnson.”

It was then that Magic realized what he'd gotten himself into, here he was staring at David Stern, Commissioner of the NBA. It was suddenly real. All the talk on cell phones, exchanging emails, all roads led to this moment.

Stern ignored Aquilini's smile and uttered. “I'm lost for words men, come on in and take a seat.”

Aquilini cast a glance back at Magic and then shrugged at Stern “I trust this man; I wouldn’t have brought him on board otherwise David. We’re here to negotiate now, and he can help us get it done.”

Stern's face scrunched up as he tried to contain his smile. He walked over to shut the door before letting out a sigh of relief. He turned back around and walked to the conference room table. The large, circular glass table took up a lot of space in the room and made everything seem smaller.

Well, everything but Magic Johnson, all 6 foot 9 of him. Stern took out a thick envelope from his top drawer-- which didn’t look that well hidden at all -- and placed it on the table. He tapped on it with his right hand “Those are the final papers, everything we agreed to men.”

Aquilini walked over, sat down, and opened the envelope. He started sifting through the papers, slowly at first and then picking up speed as he went, he passed a second copy of them to Magic who sifted quietly through them aswell. After Magic was finished with the last page, he jumped out of his chair and looked like a kid about to go to Disneyland. “It’s perfect Dave!.” He shot Stern a sly look. “But, I think we'll have to move fast on this after the fall out.”

Aquilini combed his hair to the side, looking more uncomfortable with every passing second. “I want this to be over with. This entire thing has been a headache …I've had my head buried in the paper work for months on end..” He stared at the papers and then shook his head. “David, are you sure this will work??"

Before he could finish the words, Stern had a pen in his hand and was signing the papers. It took him only a minute before he was done. He set the pen on the table and slid the document towards Francesco. “When this goes through, you don't back out on our agreement, right? I presume you are ok with all the details Earvin?”

Aquilini looked down at the papers and then at Magic, "Heisley is going to hate us for this.", before finally picking up the pen and signing. He took longer and he looked less than thrilled, but when it was done, it was done. He set the pen down and then took a deep breath. “It’s in the hands of the Board of Governors now.” Stern Said.

Aquilini nodded and Stern gathered up the papers, putting them back in the envelope. He extended his hand and Aquilini shook it excitedly. “We should go back to our hotel and wait on the news Magic” Aquilini suggested.

Magic shook Sterns hand too. “I know you're a man of your word David, let's get it done." "I’ll get these papers to the league office now… the meeting starts in the morning at 9am. He took a long glance at the window outside, where the storm was letting up, and nodded once. “I’ll see you around gentlemen.” With that, Aquilini and Johnson left the conference room.
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NBA Board of Governors Reject Grizzlies Relocation

Postby seaboh13 on Thu May 31, 2018 12:15 am

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NBA Board of Governors Reject Grizzlies Relocation.


April 19th, 2001

On Friday a committee of seven NBA team owners voted unanimously to recommend the league reject an application to move the Grizzlies from Vancouver to Memphis next season. The upshot is that if eight of the 29 owners agree on May 15, the Grizzlies will remain in Vancouver. One assumes at that point Michael Heisley, the man who currently owns the Grizzlies and intends to move them to Memphis, would look to rescind his purchase agreement and the team could then be sold to some possible Vancouver-based investors.

According to Matt Yglesias, an economics writer at Slate, this decision was made solely because NBA owners discovered some fine print in the NBA rules and regulations stating that a team could not be relocated within 3 years of purchase. These documents were reportedly found by some investment groups and forwarded to the NBA Board of Governors last week.

"A consortium of Vancouver businessmen has approached us with an offer to pay for a controlling 70 percent interest in the Vancouver Grizzlies. We will speak to Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley and work through the entire process of why we declined his application to relocate the franchise. If he indeed wants to remain as principal owner we support that. As his his want, he made an ultimatum that if he didn't get approval for relocation, he said he would move to rescind his purchase of the franchise, and sell to the highest bidder immediately."

More news on this to follow later...
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Grizzlies staying put, Heisley to sell team.

Postby seaboh13 on Thu May 31, 2018 7:52 am

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NBA Owners block relocation of Grizzlies, Heisley to sell team to Francesco Aquilini and Magic Johnson for $200 Million.


May 15th - Vancouver, BC -- NBA officials announced today the Grizzlies would be remaining in Vancouver. The NBA Board of Governors moved to reject the relocation in April. The NBA owners today voted against the relocation. With the proposal to reject the relocation expected, Michael Heisley will now move forward with the sale of the team.

Vancouver businessman Francesco Aquilini and his business partner Magic Johnson are at the front of the queue to buy the Grizzlies. AIG and Johnson have been purchasing shares in Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment group in recent months. AIG are also trying to regain the Canucks franchise into the Orca Bay Group.

In light of the NBA Owners vote, The Vancouver Grizzlies announced that controlling owner Michael Heisley has sent a formal notice to the NBA that he will be selling his controlling interest in the basketball team.

17 Months after Heisley bought the controlling interest in the team, he is in negotiation to sell the team for $200 million. A profit of $40 million, which allows Heisley to break even on his initial investment. It's amazing that Heisley didn't just wait it out another season and a half to relocate the team. The Board of Governors found documentation stating that a franchise could not be relocated until ownership had held the team for 3 years minimum. Thus putting Heisley in a predicament. Heisley lost $40 million dollars in the last year, and previous owner John McCaw Jr lost the same in the previous season.

There are a lot of questions to be asked and answered now if Aquilini and Johnson's proposed sale goes through. The Grizzlies finished in the bottom 4 in the standings with a 23-59 record. They are slated to probably pick between #2 and #6 in the NBA Draft in June. Bryant Reeves has been battling injuries, and with Sidney Lowe being fired, the franchise is in real turmoil. Its up to Aquilini and Johnson to steady the ship here, and quickly.
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Grizzlies sale to Aquilini and Johnson approved by NBA Owners

Postby seaboh13 on Thu May 31, 2018 8:09 am

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Grizzlies sold to Aquilini Investment Group and Magic Johnson.


May 22nd 2001

Vancouver, British Columbia - A group including former NBA player Magic Johnson has agreed to purchase Vancouver Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley's majority share in the team.

Heisley announced Monday that he will sell his 70 percent interest in Hoops, LP, the parent company of the Grizzlies and operator of the General Motors Place, to AIG Investment Group and Johnson.

A billionaire based in Chicago, Heisley bought the Vancouver Grizzlies for $160 million in 2000 and seventeen months later is selling the team after a failed relocation to Memphis Tennessee.

Magic Johnson famously played point guard for the Lakers for 13 seasons. After winning championships in high school and college, Johnson was selected first overall in the 1979 NBA draft by the Lakers. He won a championship and an NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in his rookie season, and won four more championships with the Lakers during the 1980s. Johnson retired abruptly in 1991 after announcing that he had contracted HIV, but returned to play in the 1992 All-Star Game, winning the All-Star MVP Award. After protests from his fellow players, he retired again for four years, but returned in 1996, at age 36, to play 32 games for the Lakers before retiring for the third and final time.

Johnson was a member of the 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team "The Dream Team", which won the Olympic gold medal in 1992. After leaving the NBA in 1992, Johnson formed the Magic Johnson All-Stars, a barnstorming team that travelled around the world playing exhibition games. Johnson was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996. Getting Johnson on board with this bid was vital, as the franchise needs some positive PR to get back on track.

The remaining 30 percent of the Grizzlies belongs to a local ownership group that includes a range of local businessmen. The group has 60 days to decide whether to match the terms of the agreement between Heisley, AIG and Johnson.

"You have to engage the community and the city of Vancouver to believe in what you're trying to achieve," Aquilini said. "What I'm trying to achieve is to have a fantastic team that wants to win championships. The second thing you have to do is sit down with local leaders and municipalities and make this our team."

Listed among Forbes magazine's 400 richest Americans, Heisley was looking to relocate the team because it was losing money. When the NBA rejected the relocation, he felt he had no choice but to sell. Aquilini and Johnson were waiting in the wings to swoop in and buy the team.

Magic Johnson is now also rumored to take the role as President of Basketball Operations in Vancouver.

"Owning an NBA team has been one of my goals in my professional life," Johnson said. "I will be forever grateful to the people of AIG and Francesco for allowing me to come on board with this project. I am especially excited to connect with our great Grizzlies fans. I am sure they will support us from the very beginning. I am proud that we managed to keep this team in Vancouver and we are both confident that our future ownership will start building some success. We want to bring a new exciting and winning brand of basketball to the people of Vancouver."
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Grizzlies Front Office Handed Walking Papers

Postby seaboh13 on Thu May 31, 2018 9:24 am

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Grizzlies Front Office and Coaches handed walking papers.


June 1st, 2001

In a move that surprised many within the NBA, Francesco Aquilini has informed the Grizzlies front office and entire coaching staff that their contracts have been bought out. General Manager Billy Knight and Head Coach Sidney Lowe, who are both highly regarded in the NBA, would also be among those released.

“It’s a bold if not a dangerous move,” said Bill Simmons of ESPN “When you buy a team you generally want to surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing, which usually means holdovers from the last ownership group. This seems to fly in the face of that, but when you're one of the worst teams in the league year after year, heads are gonna roll.”

The news has been met with mixed reactions from around the league, notably from current front office executives. “I think doing it now, so close to the NBA Draft, is short-sighted,” said one Western Conference GM. “It’s disrespectful to have this done so soon in his tenure as owner. It’s going to make hiring replacements harder I think; no one wants to work for someone who won’t even give you a chance.”

One Eastern Conference executive disagreed. “Oh, no doubt some will hate this but this is a business that encourages taking risk, jumping on opportunities … there are plenty of young talents out there for the Grizzlies to reap. They drastically need to reshape how that franchise is being run, the bleeding needs to stop. Look at the Raptors, what a contrast. There is no reason why the Grizzlies can't be profitable.”

The Grizzlies have let it be known to the entire team that there will be some roster reshaping, be prepared to be moved. “It’s a relief to a lot of guys that we are staying in Vancouver, well at least for the moment” said Shareef Abdur-Rahim "It'll be a long offseason.”
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Grizzlies make Front Office moves.

Postby seaboh13 on Thu May 31, 2018 9:35 am

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Grizzlies hire Byron Scott as Head Coach, Appoint Magic as President of Basketball Operations.


The dust has barely settled with the ownership changeover in Vancouver, but that hasn't stopped the new ownership group putting their stamp on the franchise. As expected part owner Magic Johnson has been appointed President of Basketball Operations. It is unknown if Johnson will appoint a General Manager to work under him to navigate the muddy salary cap waters. However that did not hold Johnson back in making his first hire. Byron Scott, former teammate of Johnson with the Lakers has been given a bounce-back opportunity to re-start his coaching career with the Grizzlies.

Byron Scott began his NBA coaching career in 1998, when he began the first of two seasons as an assistant with the Sacramento Kings. He specialized in teaching perimeter shooting during his tenure with the Kings and helped to lead the team to an excellent three-point shooting percentage during a pair of playoff seasons. Scott took-over the New Jersey Nets as Head Coach this past season, but after a poor showing and a 26-56 record, Scott was fired.

"Obviously I have known Byron for years as a teammate. This is not just me hiring a friend for a get together. I believe Byron can be an excellent coach, and I wanted to hire him before any other franchise could snap him up. He never got a fair shot with the Nets, so I was quick to right that. He has always been a High IQ player, and knows what it takes to be successful, how to make sacrifices and how to lead others. It is going to be a pleasure to work with Byron, and I know he will get the most out of our roster."
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Grizzlies Send Bibby to Kings for Williams

Postby seaboh13 on Thu May 31, 2018 9:51 am

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Grizzlies trade Mike Bibby to Kings for Jason Williams, Nick Anderson.


Vancouver, BC. June 24 2001.

The Sacramento Kings concluded three years with Jason Williams, trading the flashy point guard to the Vancouver Grizzlies for Mike Bibby on Wednesday in a four-man deal. Nick Anderson was traded along with Williams to the Grizzlies, who have just recently been bought by AIG and Magic Johnson. Brent Price, who played just six games for Vancouver last season, was sent to Sacramento.

Williams and Anderson "contributed to a lot of our success here the last couple of years, but we think we made a good move for our team in the future," said Geoff Petrie, the Kings' vice president of basketball operations. Unhappy as his playing time and importance to the Kings decreased last season, Williams questioned his role with the team and suggested he wanted to be traded. Petrie duly obliged.

"The deal evolved during the course of the week, as things like this will during the lead up to the draft," Petrie said. "They are very excited about getting Jason, and we're real happy to be getting Mike. Petrie outmaneuvered several teams in the hunt for Bibby, who averaged 15.9 points and 8.4 assists in playing all 82 games last season. "When you get a chance to get a player you really like, you get him," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. In Williams, the Grizzlies acquired one of the NBA's most visible players who will be sure to sell many tickets for new ownership.

With behind-the-back passes and long 3-pointers, Williams became a fixture on national television highlight shows. As a rookie in the strike-shortened 1999 season, Williams brought immediate excitement with his razzle-dazzle style. He averaged 12.8 points and six assists as a rookie, and he teamed with Chris Webber to lead the Kings to the first of three straight playoff appearances. But Williams' effectiveness and playing time gradually decreased the next two seasons while Sacramento became one of the NBA's elite teams, finishing last season with the league's fourth-best record. On the Williams acquisition, President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson added "We're bringing showtime to Vancouver Baby!"
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Wizards grab #1 Pick in NBA Draft

Postby seaboh13 on Thu May 31, 2018 9:14 pm

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Kurt Rambis Hired as Grizzlies Assistant Coach

Postby seaboh13 on Thu May 31, 2018 9:33 pm

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Kurt Rambis Hired as Assistant Coach by Grizzlies.


The Vancouver Grizzlies are fast becoming the LA Lakers alumni. In particular the Showtime Era Lakers. After Magic Johnson was appointed the President of Basketball Operations, he swiftly moved to hire two former teammates. Byron Scott last week was appointed Head Coach, merely days after the New Jersey Nets decided not to renew Scott's contract for next season. Scott had requested experienced assistant coach Rambis to head his coaching staff. That now makes it a trio of former Lakers on the Grizzlies payroll.

As a player, he won four NBA championships while playing power forward for the Lakers. Rambis was a key member of the Showtime era Lakers and was extremely popular for his hard-nosed blue collar play. With his trademark black horned rim glasses, Rambis complemented the flashy Hollywood style of the Showtime era Lakers.

Rambis played college basketball for the Santa Clara Broncos. As a senior in 1980, he was named the player of the year in the West Coast Conference (WCC). Rambis was selected by the New York Knicks in the third round of the 1980 NBA draft, but began his career in Greece with AEK Athens before joining the Lakers. He also played for the Charlotte Hornets, Phoenix Suns, and Sacramento Kings. Rambis became a coach in 1994, and served as Head Coach for the Lakers in the 1998-99 season after 5 years of being the Assistant Coach.

It really does seem like Magic Johnson want's to bring showtime to Vancouver.
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Re: Scratching and Clawing: Saving the Grizzlies

Postby Solaris Phase Two on Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:26 pm

Loving this!
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Re: Scratching and Clawing: Saving the Grizzlies 2001-02 Season

Postby seaboh13 on Thu Dec 13, 2018 12:42 am

Hi Guys,

Rather than starting a new thread, I've rewritten and revamped this entire story. Have updated all of my posts. Have a read through, another retro dynasty here for people to enjoy hopefully!!

Solaris Phase Two, hopefully you don't mind the reboot!
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