With the Memphis Grizzlies holding a 19-4 record that even the most optimistic of Grizz fans probably didn't predict, it's easy to forget the front office meltdown that transpired in the Bluff City over the off-season.
That is, it was until late Monday night when Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski dropped some of the most shocking news of the NBA season, that the Sacramento Kings had fired head coach Mike Malone after an 11-13 start that "didn't meet the win-loss expectations of ownership".
The Kings have been a franchise trapped in futility, winning 28 games or less every single season since 2007-08. Few expected this season to be any different, until Sacramento jumped out to an impressive 9-5 start featuring wins over the Spurs, Blazers, and Clippers. Since star center DeMarcus Cousins contracted a case of viral meningitis a few weeks ago, the team has trailed off — dropping seven of its last nine games — but the Kings' overall record is still one that surpassed any reasonable expectations for the roster.
Couple this with owner Vivek Ranadivé's outlandish statements made in the past, such as lobbying for a 4-on-5 cherry picking strategy, and there are some parallels to be drawn between the Kings' owner and the Grizzlies' own, Robert Pera.
After all, it wasn't all that long ago that this Chris Mannix Sports Illustrated article was giving everyone the impression that Pera was an asinine, meddling new owner bound to derail any hopes of a parade down Beale Street, just a year removed from the franchise's first ever appearance in the Western Conference Finals.
Where Vivek had cherry picking, the public thought Pera had a head coach receiving instructions from a headset. Where Vivek had interests in the "Grinnell System". Pera was accused of having interests in Mike Miller as a player-coach — and let's not forget the infamous one-on-one game between Pera and Tony Allen. (Ed note: the 1-on-1 with Allen is the only thing that can be confirmed as actually being a tangible idea from Pera, and it wasn't a good one.)
Robert Pera began his journey as an NBA owner by treading down a dangerous road, involvement with Jason Levien being the first stop along that path. But luckily for him — and the Grizzlies — he was able to recover from it. Things settled down after meeting with Joerger and reshaping the front office, and his public image was mostly restored after Twitter Q&As and radio appearances.
Oh yeah, and winning. That one always seems to do the trick.
Perhaps if the Grizzlies stumbled out of the gates this season this wouldn't be the case, and question marks regarding the Grizzlies' owner would remain. Or worse, Pera could fall back to his mentality from last season and can Joerger, much like Ranadivé did to Malone. Perhaps then Pera would still be viewed by some as a know-it-all billionaire running his franchise into the ground.
Robert Pera and Vivek Ranadivé have taken two similar paths in their young tenures as NBA owners. Pera was able to learn from his mistakes, and as a result, the Grizzlies are well on their way to the best regular season finish in franchise history. For Sacramento, there is only the hope that Ranadivé can follow in Pera's steps, or the Kings could be in for several more years of turmoil.