SBD/Issue 121/Franchises

Heisley Thrilled About Grizzlies' Record, Wants More Fan Support

Heisley Says He Would Like To See
More Support From Fans In Memphis

The Grizzlies at 32-31 through Sunday are "above .500 this late in the season for the first time" since '06, and "no one is happier than the franchise's self-proclaimed biggest fan," Owner Michael Heisley, according to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. Heisley would be the "first to tell you that the Griz are far from a finished product." But he said, "This has been the most fun I've had since I've owned the Grizzlies." Heisley in a wide-ranging Q&A said that he wanted to talk about "people coming out and supporting this team." Heisley: "I'd like to see people paying $5 to see the games. I'd like to see people spend less than what they spend for a movie to come see one of the better up-and-coming teams in the NBA. I heard it for years that we aren't very good. Well, they can't say that now and there's no big rush through the turnstile. That's what I'm disappointed about." He added, "People say are you going to pay Rudy Gay? My answer to them is simply are you going to come to the games? If I can't get people to come to the games I can't pay anybody." The 73-year-old Heisley reiterated his family is "not going to take over" the Grizzlies. Heisley: "If the right person makes a reasonable offer for the team I will sell it. If the minority (local) owners want to come up with a reasonable offer, I would love to sell it to them. ... Quite frankly, I don't have to sell this team. I'm not in any financial difficulty." When asked if he would sell the club to a buyer intending to move it, Heisley said, "There is a contract that holds the Grizzlies into Memphis for 17 years. People should get off of this. I can't move it tomorrow. It's like talking about something that cannot be. All people have to do is read the contract. ... The NBA wouldn't let it happen" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 3/8).

NOT THE RIGHT FIT: In Memphis, Geoff Calkins writes Heisley is "charming, accessible and wonderfully blunt," but he "doesn't know how to build a successful NBA franchise in this town." The Grizzlies sold about 5,500 season-ticket equivalents this season at FedExForum, down from roughly 11,000 for the '04 campaign. Calkins: "In other words, Heisley and the Grizzlies drove away half of their season-ticket holders. They did it by losing too many games and by failing to connect with the greater community, especially the parts of the community that could do them the most good." The city needs an NBA owner who "understands how to make things work" locally, and Heisley, "for all his good intentions, is never going to be that guy" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 3/8).

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