MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Grizzlies' new owner is defending the trade of his team's leading scorer and other moves to dump salary, saying he believes they can do some "serious damage" in the playoffs with the changes.
Robert Pera took part in a web chat Friday with Memphis' season ticket holders along with chief executive officer Jason Levien, and Pera's first question was about whether the new ownership group has the financial ability to run the team.
"This team was built for playoff basketball," Pera wrote. "In playoff basketball, getting defensive stops and creating high percentage scoring opportunities under pressure becomes much more important. ... And that is what this team can do best."
Pera hadn't spoken publicly since taking over the team Nov. 5.
His Grizzlies traded Marreese Speights and two players along with a future first-round draft pick to Cleveland last week for Jon Leuer and a trade exception. On Wednesday, the Grizzlies sent leading scorer Rudy Gay to Toronto in a three-team trade bringing Memphis Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Ed Davis.
The first trade helped Memphis avoid a $4 million luxury tax hit this season. Trading away Gay clears up $37 million in salary committed by previous owner Michael Heisley, while Memphis now has a trade exception of about $7.5 million that can be used by Memphis over the next year to add another player if needed.
"We made the second trade because we feel it allows us to put a more competitive product on the floor this season and in future seasons," Levien wrote. "We got better. We also picked up a valuable draft pick as well as trade exceptions that will allow us to be opportunistic in going on the offensive moving forward."
Pera wrote that NBA teams have won titles with superstars and without, and he believes the Grizzlies as they are now built potentially can become the next example.
"Between Tayshuan's winning pedigree, the league's best perimeter defense, and Mark/Zbo returning back to the focal point of the offense; I believe we are a far more dangerous playoff team today," Pera wrote of Marc Gasol and All-Star forward Zach Randolph.
The Grizzlies lost 106-89 in Oklahoma City on Thursday night as they spent the first half trying to figure out how to play without Gay and with the new additions not having joined the team. They still rank fourth in the Western Conference with a 29-16 record going into Friday night's game against Washington that still is the best in franchise history at this point in a season.