Owner sets May 1 deadline to take team off market

Updated: April 17, 2007, 12:18 AM ET
Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley said Monday he will take the team off the market if he does not have an offer to buy it by May 1.

If the schedule holds, it will mean the end of Heisley's yearlong effort to sell the franchise, an uncertainty that has played into a dismal season for the NBA's worst team.

"I'm just basically tired, and I'm a little worn out," Heisley said of the decision. "I'm going to get re-involved, and we are basically going to run the team."

Heisley's announcement came during a news conference before the Grizzlies played the San Antonio Spurs.

The ownership question has been one of the issues hanging over the franchise this season. Coach Mike Fratello was fired in December, questions have lingered about the future of team president of basketball operations Jerry West, and leading scorer Pau Gasol requested a trade. And the team's poor play has contributed to declining attendance.

Former Duke players Brian Davis and Christian Laettner tried to buy the team, but they couldn't come up with the $252 million needed to purchase Heisley's controlling share or the $360 million necessary to purchase the team.

Heisley said he has talked to two or three groups about the sale, but nothing has been accomplished.

Heisley said he did not begrudge Gasol's request for a trade as the Grizzlies rebuild.

Heisley said the team will now concentrate on the draft, hoping to land one of the top picks. He did not mention any players specifically, but said the franchise is not far from returning to the level that took the Grizzlies to the playoffs in the previous three seasons.

Texas freshman star Kevin Durant has already made himself eligible for the draft and Ohio State center Greg Oden might do the same.

"We have a chance in this draft to get a tremendous player," the Grizzlies owner said. "This is probably the strongest draft since I've been in the NBA. Hopefully, God will shine on us and give us the pingpong ball.

"Obviously, we're very anxious and hopeful that we will get either one or two."

He said West will be with the team through the draft, but did not talk about the team president's future beyond that. He also said West will have input on the team's general manager and new coach, but the final decision will rest with Heisley.

Heisley said he still thinks the franchise would be better with a new owner.

"I truly believe Memphis deserves to have an owner who lives here, who's active, who's really involved," Heisley said. "Someone like [Dallas Mavericks owner] Mark Cuban, who would basically energize the situation. I think that would be better than having a guy like me, who's 70 years old."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press