NBA rumors: Grizzlies' Zach Kleiman named Executive of the Year

Memphis Grizzlies EVP of Basketball Operations and General Manager Zachary Z. Kleiman has been selected as the winner of the 2021-22 NBA Basketball Executive of the Year, the NBA announced today. “This is an organizational honor,” said Kleiman. “I wouldn’t be in this position without Robert (Pera)’s vision and support, and I’m grateful to be pursuing NBA championships in Memphis with such a driven and competitive group of players and staff. Thank you to my peers for this recognition.”

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Kleiman received 16 of the 29 first-place votes and 85 total points from a voting panel of team executives across the NBA. Executives were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote. Kleiman, 33, is the youngest recipient of the NBA Basketball Executive of the Year Award, which has been presented annually since the 1972-73 season. He also becomes the second person to earn the honor with the Grizzlies, joining Jerry West (2003-04).
The Memphis Grizzlies today announced the franchise has entered into a long-term extension with Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Zach Kleiman. Per team policy, terms of the extension are not disclosed publicly. “Zach has proven to be a strong cultural leader in this organization, consistently demonstrating high-integrity, hard-work, humility and a drive for continuous improvement,” said controlling owner Robert Pera. “We have confidence in our strategy and believe it will result in an elite organization over the long-term.”
Despite having 14 players under contract for next season, Memphis can put itself in position to be a player with cap room by declining the $13 million option on Justise Winslow and waiving the non-guaranteed deal of Jontay Porter. Memphis likely needs to do this anyway, just to have room to take in new players. Even after subtracting those two and adding a first-round pick, the Grizzlies will only have two open roster spots. Memphis needs another big wing — as we just saw in the playoffs — and took its shot at Winslow, but it didn’t work out. However, the market isn’t exactly littered with alternatives. The best big wing available in the free-agent market is … Kelly Oubre? Nic Batum?
While Houston’s future with the organization seems safe, the rest of the front office is mostly in flux. According to a source, the Knicks hoped to hire Grizzlies executive Rich Cho but that’s now off the table. Word is Cho is happy in Memphis, where he serves as the vice president of basketball strategy for a franchise on the rise that features Ja Morant.
Since we're still days - weeks? - away from Rose starting, it's too early to concretely state which coaches or executives will be joining Rose's Knicks. But one name that several opposing execs expect to get consideration is Rich Cho. Cho, currently an executive with the Memphis Grizzlies, is believed to have a solid relationship with Rose. That's one reason why those opposing execs see Cho as someone to keep an eye on when it comes to potential additions under Rose.
The Athletic: 📢 Welcome @John Hollinger to @The Athletic team! The former Grizzlies VP of Basketball Ops & creator of PER returns to media to provide NBA analysis with a front office perspective for subscribers. More from John on his journey coming full circle »…
Prince’s role and voice has been elevated in recent months, and he’s had a key part in identifying coaching candidates, conducting interviews and evaluating the performances of candidates based on strategy and philosophy. Kleiman confirmed Prince’s role has grown from his initial duties as a liaison between the players, coaching staff and front office. “I sat down with Zach and asked what he was looking for in attributes in our next coach,” said Prince, who has also been vital in pre-draft preparations and initial free-agency evaluations. “With Taylor, his Xs and Os, some things that showed up fit great with the players we have and the type of players we want to build around. This is not a situation where it’s is a short-term process. Going forward, our plan is to be patient in the process.”
After being fired by the Hornets in February of 2018, Cho had been taking some time to experience life in many forms. He started a food blog, became one of the better pickleball players in the world in his age group, and consulted for an NBA team. Interestingly, that NBA team was the Memphis Grizzlies. “I had done some part-time work for the Grizzlies during the season, just studying the league and best practices around different teams, starting last September, I started looking around the league, analyzing every team in a number of different categories.”
Cho’s role will encompass many areas of the front office. “I’ll be involved in a lot of different aspects of basketball operations,” Cho said. “I’ll be overseeing analytics, all the salary cap administration, and I’ll be advising on player personnel issues, any type of player acquisitions.”
One area in which Kleiman and Cho share a true passion is analytics. “The goal is to be one of the top analytics organizations in the league,” Cho told The Athletic. “There are a number of ways you can do that. I’ve learned a lot of things along the way and I hope to implement a lot of them in Memphis, to take us to a point where we can say we’re one of the leaders across the league in not just analytics but a lot of different sectors of basketball operations.”
Omari Sanfoka II: Can confirm @Adrian Wojnarowski's report. Grizzlies have hired Rich Cho as VP of Basketball Strategy and Glen Grunwald as Senior Advisor. Cho and Grizzlies VP of Basketball Operations Zach Kleiman have a long-standing relationship dating back to 2012.
“In order to put our team on the path to sustainable success, it was necessary to change our approach to basketball operations,” said Chairman and Controlling Owner Robert J. Pera. “I look forward to a reenergized front office and fresh approach to Memphis Grizzlies basketball under new leadership, while retaining the identity and values that have distinguished our team.”
Jeremy Woo: Chris Wallace literally told the media this morning that J.B. Bickerstaff was safe. Now the Grizzlies are completely restructuring everything in their front office. Dysfunction has a distinct scent, I think.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The Grizzlies dismissed coach J.B. Bickerstaff and reassigned GM Chris Wallace to a scouting capacity in the front office, league sources tell ESPN. VP John Hollinger will also move into a senior advisory role.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: The Grizzlies are promoting Jason Wexler to President, overseeing both business and basketball -- and Zach Kleiman to Executive VP of Basketball Operations as the day-to-day lead on basketball matters.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Grizzlies will start a search for a new head coach and pursue some more experienced personnel to join the front office, sources said. For now, though: Zleiman completes an ascent in front office to top basketball role, essentially replacing Wallace. Major changes for Memphis.
The Sydney Kings have named Chris Pongrass as Chief Executive Officer, effective 2 April, 2019. Originally from Sydney, Pongrass joins the Kings after spending the past six seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA, most recently in the role of Director of Basketball Operations.
“They’ve been in constant contact,” Conley said on Tuesday, referring to the Grizzlies’ front office. “At least have some idea of who’s calling, if things are real or not. I got to eat at the restaurants I want to eat at and spend time with family and do things that might be the last time I can do them if things were to go down by Thursday.”
David Cobb: Robert Pera made a quick trip to town early this week. He didn’t stick around for tonight’s Grizz vs. Bucks game. Also of note: J.B. Bickerstaff said just now that he’s been given no indication from the front office that the goals for this season have changed.
The organization has been reluctant to fully rebuild for a long time, largely because of fears about losing their fan base and facing plummeting attendance and interest levels. They’ve also been somewhat painted into a corner with the re-signings of Conley and Gasol; they were never not going to bring both back, but doing so requires the team to commit to trying to win, at least a little. Those guys don’t want to spend the last years of their careers toiling away for a rebuilding squad. To an extent, the Grizzlies’ hand was forced.
On the franchise’s offseason. JB Bickerstaff: “We’re going to be a completely different team than you guys saw at the end of last season. Our front office and ownership group have done a great job bringing in different players with different skill sets that kind of fit the theme and the direction that we’re heading in. We’re not as young as we used to be. We’ve brought in some proven, veteran guys like Kyle Anderson, Garrett Temple, Shelvin Mack, those type of guys, who can accentuate what Marc can do.”
There remains, however, a possibility that Grunwald’s involvement with basketball in his adopted homeland — the Illinois-born Grunwald became a Canadian citizen during his tenure with the Raptors — is not over. According to multiple sources, Grunwald has had at least preliminary discussions with Canada Basketball about its vacant executive-director position.
Michael Wallace: Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace basically told me Jaren Jackson Jr. could become the best shot-blocker and all-around defender the franchise has ever had. That's high praise considering Marc Gasol was a DPOY and Tony Allen was arguably best defensive guard of his era.
Michael Wallace: Grizz GM Chris Wallace, who attended Michael Porter Jr.'s workout in Chicago last Friday, said Porter "passed his first test." Wallace on Porter, as Grizzlies ponder options at No. 4 pick: "It's part one (and) he showed he was alive, well and moving. He passed that first test."
Michael Wallace: Wallace on Porter's med info: "That's going to loom large for him. Before the draft, teams will know where they stand with him. His info has been distributed. It's a little above my education level to weigh in on that. Appropriate personnel with teams can now render an opinion."
Michael Wallace: Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace says he will attend Michael Porter Jr.'s draft workout in Chicago this coming weekend. Grizz hold No. 4 pick in June 21 Draft. Wallace also said he's hopeful of being among teams that get results of Porter's latest physical.
At the moment, Memphis’ first-round pick in the 2019 draft is owed to Boston. So the Grizzlies have placed a first-round premium on this summer’s high second-round pick. “We’re looking at it like it’s our first-round pick for next year, because we won’t have our first next year,” Grizzlies executive vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger told Grind City Media. “So we really want to hit on that No. 32 pick, because that’s as close as we’re going to get to our first next year. When you look at it, this year’s draft is pretty good and next year’s (may not be as deep). The No. 32 this year might be equivalent to a No. 20 next year. So that’s definitely an important pick for us.”
Instead, there’s a holistic approach to this offseason reboot. Whether Memphis lands first or fifth on Tuesday, they’ll move on to the three-day NBA Draft Combine workouts in Chicago armed with two of the top 32 picks in what’s widely considered one of the deepest drafts in years. From there, the Grizzlies will assess trade scenarios throughout the league, with an option to flip draft picks or other assets for immediate veteran help to complement Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, and fast track a return to the playoffs. In addition to the draft and the trade route, Memphis will have the full midlevel exception in free agency, with several intriguing wing players set to be on the market.
“We have a lot of options,” Wallace said. “I would say the plan on the short-term side of it is to get back into the swing of things, and what we’ve been accustomed to in the last seven years is to be in the playoffs and make some noise. I don’t see why we can’t be a very competitive, viable team next year.”
But Wallace remains confident in his abilities and that the Grizzlies will return to form as a contender next season. “I understand the frustration of this past year,” Wallace said. “But, I’m not going to take sole credit for this, the front office teams I’ve presided over won the most ever games in the history of this franchise. We were seven straight years in the playoffs. We also brought in four of what I call the extended Mt. Rushmore or six most import players in of the franchise. One year out of the playoffs doesn’t necessarily mean we’re out of touch and no longer capable of doing the job.”
“It got to a point where I felt like I needed to be somewhere else to have a chance to win and be in a franchise that provided me with more consistency, and a shot at winning a championship,” said Pau Gasol, a two-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers. “That’s what I wanted at the time. I was 27 years old. Marc Gasol is at a different stage. Marc has enjoyed the best years of the franchise. They had very good teams. They’ve consistently been a competitive team. Right now, they’re going through a lot of changing with maybe some questionable decisions upstairs. … It’s been a hard year. No question. Marc is a great professional. He gets upset, but he knows he has to just go out and play.”
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are in the midst of their own major adjustment in anticipation of a trade being finalized in the coming days. Evans left the team at the request of general manager Chris Wallace moments before the start of Wednesday’s 105-101 loss in Indiana as trade discussions with multiple teams intensified. Tyreke Evans, who did not travel with the Grizzlies to Detroit for Thursday’s game, told Grind City Media he spoke with Wallace and was under the impression he would be heading to a team in playoff contention. “I really don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but I’ve heard there’s a lot of interest out there for me, and that’s a good thing,” Evans said as he exited Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indiana on Wednesday night. “The season hasn’t gone that great, the way we wanted, but I’ve been happy in Memphis and with what I was able to do to help this team.”
That level of production made Tyreke Evans arguably the best bargain signing of the free-agency period last summer when the Grizzlies snagged him on a one-year, $3.3 million deal. But Evans’ production on that contract also makes one of the top trade targets ahead of the deadline for teams in need of a perimeter playmaker and scorer to bolster depth and add punch for a playoff run. The Grizzlies are believed to be seeking a first-round pick in any potential deal for Evans, who will again enter free agency this summer. “This is part of the business,” Evans told Grind City Media. “You understand that as a player, and you just continue to do the best you can do and wait for everything else to play out. I talked to Chris (Wallace) and he told me what the situation was, and that he was happy with everything I was able to come here and try to do. All I know is that if I have to move on, I’m going to end up on a team that’s going to the playoffs and I’ll have a chance to contribute, hopefully the way I have here.”
They famously selected Jordan Adams one spot ahead of Rodney Hood in 2014 -- after vigorous debate -- and then fretted over Adams' lack of playing time. They purchased the rights to the 35th pick in that draft, and used it on Jarnell Stokes. He's gone from the NBA, too. They thought hard about selecting Nikola Jokic, sources say, but felt No. 35 was too high. Denver nabbed Jokic six picks later. They tried to trade up for T.J. Warren, but found no takers, sources say. Selecting Hasheem Thabeet No. 2 in 2009 has receded from memory, but it is the kind of what-if that ruins a franchise.
The Grizzlies will certainly trade Gasol. When he asks to be traded. I bring this up in the wake of an ESPN story in which Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace says, “We have no intention to trade Marc.” Wallace couldn’t have said anything else, of course, but the quote fits everything the Grizzlies have said for years. They aren’t trying to tank or rebuild or pick whatever verb you prefer. They want to win as much as they can for as long as they can. If they wind up missing the playoff this year, they’ll be able to add a lottery pick during the offseason and try to be back in the playoffs next year, when they owe a protected first-round pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the Jeff Green deal.
The Grizzlies announced that Tony Allen's No.9 will be retired in Memphis after his career ends. "Tony was a driving force behind the Grizzlies' seven straight playoff appearances and he remains a beloved member of the Memphis community," Grizzlies owner Robert Pera said in a statement. "Tony played with a level of passion that is unrivaled. He helped establish a Grizzlies culture focused on toughness and effort, and he challenged every player that put on Beale Street Blue to match his fiery intensity. On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank him for his incredible contributions to the Grizzlies and the unique way that he inspired the city of Memphis. We are proud that the Grindfather's #9 jersey will hang in the rafters of FedExForum alongside Zach's one day."
It was nice to hear the optimism coming from any and all at Grizzlies media day whenever the topic of Parsons came up. Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace: “He’s cleared to be a full participant.” Grizzlies coach David Fizdale: “I’m not going to use kid gloves with him this year, for sure.” Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley: “He’s the X-factor for us. He’s the guy. Looking for a big year from him.”
Retired forward Tayshaun Prince will soon be named special assistant to Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace, according to several NBA sources. Prince, 37, played for the Grizzlies from Jan. 2013-15. Prince and Austin Daye were traded to the Grizzlies in a three-team deal that sent Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi to the Toronto Raptors, and the Raptors sent José Calderón to the Detroit Pistons. The Grizzlies also received Ed Davis from the Raptors.
Not only are there differences among the owners. Sources claim Rod Thorn, a longtime NBA executive who is now a consultant for the Bucks and has spearheaded the GM search with Edens, also has a differing viewpoint on whom the next Bucks GM should be. Thorn, according to several NBA officials, is pushing hard for Ed Stefanski, the vice president of player personnel for the Memphis Grizzlies who worked with Thorn in New Jersey and Philadelphia.
“I think the deal that set us up for the future was the Pau Gasol trade," said Wallace, who described the atmosphere surrounding the team at that time as "non-electric." " … We didn’t really do anything dramatic in the (2007) offseason, we go into the season, and I could just tell with Pau Gasol that his candle had been doused. He really didn’t want to be with us anymore. His spirit wasn’t there, wasn’t in it. And we had a couple more years with him.”
“I felt we set ourselves up for the future, and if the Lakers win a championship, so be it," Wallace said. "Both teams are supposed to, in theory, profit in a trade. That’s not my problem what the Lakers got out of it or what issues it caused competitors of the Lakers. I’m working for the Grizzlies and trying to set our franchise up for the future, and I think as time has proven, nobody had a deal that put us in a position to chart a new course for the future like that deal did, and it worked out."
Memphis Grizzlies Controlling Owner Robert Pera announced today that General Manager Chris Wallace, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Hollinger and Executive Vice President of Player Personnel Ed Stefanski have been signed to multi-year extensions with the organization. Per team policy, terms of the extensions will not be disclosed. “I am pleased to announce that our Basketball Operations executive team, led by General Manager, Chris Wallace, will continue to lead our franchise for years to come,” Pera said. “Chris, John and Ed bring a wealth of NBA experience and success, and have done a tremendous job establishing the strong culture that I believe is necessary to ensure sustained success in this ultra-competitive environment. More importantly, I am confident that the toughness, resilience, discipline and unselfishness that are embedded in the fabric of our culture will continue to serve as a point of pride for Memphis, the surrounding region and all Grizzlies fans.”
Memphis Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace today announced the hiring of Allen Gruver as Medical Director, the promotion of Jim Scholler to Head Athletic Trainer and the addition of Eric Oetter as Director of Performance. As Medical Director, Gruver’s responsibilities include overseeing and directing the team’s medical team, performance team, nutrition team and sports science team in an effort to ensure long-term player health. Gruver comes to Memphis after spending the previous eight years as the owner and director of Foothills Sports Medicine in Gilbert, Ariz. where he specialized in the rehabilitation of professional and amateur athletes of all sports.
Q: What do you make of the reports that Wallace interviewed for a front office job with Sacramento? A: I’m not sure what to make of them. Wallace has flatly denied the reports. Other Grizzlies sources have said they’re not true. But it wasn’t some rinky-dink outfit reporting this. It was USA Today and ESPN. I also talked to a source on the Sacramento side, who not only said Wallace interviewed for a job, he entered into contract negotiations and would have taken the gig except the Kings decided to go another way. Logic would tell you it makes no sense for Wallace to take a lesser job with the Kings, but logic would also tell you that ESPN and USA Today don’t just make things up.
Brian Geltzeiler: League sources also told that ultimately Vlade hired Catanella because he came at a cheaper price and was no threat
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July 1, 2022 | 2:47 am EDT Update

Bulls among the teams calling about Kevin Durant

When the two-time NBA Finals MVP made it known he wanted to be traded out of Brooklyn, expected business quickly fell by the wayside as teams tried to reposition themselves to at least make an offer. According to a source, the Bulls were a part of those phone calls, despite Durant reportedly having the Heat and Suns among his desired destinations — and despite the reality that the Bulls don’t have the type of high-profile player or quality of draft picks the Nets were looking for in a trade package.
Phoenix has the kinds of players who might make this a win-win for all involved — namely, Suns small forward Mikal Bridges and restricted free agent center DeAndre Ayton. In the days before Irving’s choice to opt-in, sources close to Ayton had raised this possibility of an Ayton-Bridges deal being very much on their radar. At that time, however, it was unclear whether Durant was going to ask out.
Beck: I asked a well-connected NBA source which teams, other than the increasingly desperate Lakers, would be willing to acquire Irving. His answer: “None.” I think I agree. The league has seen Irving wreak a lot of havoc over the last five years, from Cleveland to Boston to Brooklyn. It’s left an impression. But the Lakers badly need another scorer/playmaker next to LeBron and AD, and Irving is an infinitely better fit than Russell Westbrook.