Our very own Tom Ziller of SB Nation has broken the news over at Fanhouse that Grizzlies's payroll weight Marko Jaric appears to have signed with Real Madrid -- the lesser known basketball version of the club -- and is likely to be bought out in the near future. The Memphis Grizzlies have not yet publicly acknowledged his signing, neither have any other news outlets by my estimation, so terms of any buyout are all speculation at this point.
Grizzlies fans will remember Jaric forever for being absolutely piss poor, overpaid, a tremendously bad defender, and having a smoking hot wife. In fact fans around the entire league will probably remember Marky Marko more for her than any of his own basketball attributes.
Here is his summary of the matter:
The Grizzlies had previously given Jaric permission to find a new team, either by trade in the NBA or an outright signing in Europe. The most likely scenario -- which seems to have played out here -- is that Jaric would find a deal abroad and Memphis would buy out his contract, which runs $15 million for this and next season. [...]
Jaric has now left some portion of his 2009-10 Memphis pay on the table. His contract with Real hasn't been reported in the Spanish media, but I imagine Jaric's Memphis buy-out will be the difference between his owed $7.1 million and his new salary. If that's $4 million, well, that's more cash saved for the Grizzlies.
Now, if you read the entirety of the article it becomes clear that it is, in fact, not at all about the Grizzlies buying out Marko Jaric, which is the real story among Memphis Grizzlies fans, but about Memphis owner Michael Heisley's supposed interest in fielding a team that costs him under the league minimum salary.
Get over the jump for some analytics of that point, as well as considerable raging anger.
Ziller's argument here is centered around a piece of information that he discovered earlier this summer: Zach Randolph's contract is heavily back-loaded so that he is only owed $11 million dollars of his deal this year; the remaining cash is paid to Z-Bo in 2012.
Because some believe that Heisley is actively shopping the team, Ziller asserts that their current ownership is attempting to sell the franchise prior to that enormous bill coming due.
He closes the post with this nice concluding quip:
Of course, the Grizz are winning for the first time in years, and Randolph has been a pleasant surprise. Just be careful not to buy into Heisley's line that he's paying for a winner. No team is cheaper, and it really seems as if the Grizzlies are winning in spite of management's blueprint for minimizing payroll. The franchise's desire to keep the league's tighest payroll will be evident this summer, when Rudy Gay moves on and Memphis struggles to replace him on the cheap.
This is where I believe there is a huge disconnect between Ziller's argument and the reality in Memphis. I've never heard a line from Heisley that he's paying for a winner. I didn't even ever hear Heisley claim he was paying for a winner while he paid the luxury tax earlier in the decade for two teams of overpaid role-players complementing Pau Gasol just enough to get both squads swept in the playoffs.
What I have heard from the Memphis Grizzlies and Grizz fans is that Heisley is rebuilding the Memphis Grizzlies, that Michael Heisley blew up the Grizzlies to get the necessary draft selections to do the rebuilding, that this is a rebuilding team showing a lot of resilience and giving their fans hope, but also that the core of this squad is still too young to really compete meaningfully this season.
Could Michael Heisley have added another meaningful piece in free agency this off-season? Financially speaking, yes, he could have added some depth to the bench. But would it have been smart for Memphis's long-term outlook? Now that one's slightly more difficult to answer.
I appreciate Ziller getting to the bottom of what very well could be an incredibly interesting story and a story that every Grizzlies fan should track. But I'd also caution fans who are keeping faith in the franchise to remember that once you start digging deep, sometimes you're too far down to see what's going on right above you.