The standoff between the Memphis Grizzlies and the team’s two first-round draft picks, Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez, has entered into the ninth week and the two sides are showing no signs of relenting.
In a nutshell, teams can pay rookies between 80 and 120 percent of the slotted amount and generally fork over the latter without any hesitation.
The holdup on signing their rookie deals is related to Memphis’ insistence that Henry and Vasquez sign contracts that pay them 100 percent of the slotted amount with 20 percent tied into performance bonuses.
According to a report from the Associated Press, performance bonuses for rookies in the NBA have been few and far between:
“The agent, Arn Tellem, says the Grizzlies are trying to make Henry meet performance bonuses, such as making the rookie challenge at All-Star weekend or being named to one of the all-rookie teams. He says only one player out of more than 450 since the rookie salary scale was instituted in 1995 has agreed to a performance bonus.”
The contract disagreement has already caused Henry, whom the Grizzlies selected 12th overall, to sit out of NBA Las Vegas Summer League play at the advice of his agent.
Vasquez, who was taken with the 28th overall pick, chose to play in the Las Vegas Summer League showcase, but was limited on the court due to an ankle injury that later required surgery to repair.
So where does it leave the two Memphis rookies now?
Thankfully for all parties involved, the stalemate has not created any bad blood, at least not yet.
For their part, both Henry and Vasquez have stated that they understand the nature and business of the NBA and harbor no ill-will towards the franchise that drafted them.
However, if the contract situation is not resolved, especially in time for training camp which is less than 40 days away, this whole contract mess could boil over in a very ugly way.
Drafted in part to bolster the backcourt of the Grizzlies and inject some competitiveness at both guard positions, one of Memphis’ positions of strength would then become more of a weakness.
On the other side of the spectrum, both Henry and Vasquez need as much practice time as they can get in order to grow as basketball players.
Henry has already missed out on helping his learning curve by sitting out the summer league and missing anymore time would hamper his own further development.
Looking at the big picture, it would be easy to say that both Henry and Vasquez should bite the bullet and sign the contracts that include easy-to-achieve performance bonuses; however, taking into account the fact that this is not a common practice for NBA clubs to include contract language such as this, Memphis would be well served to bite a bullet of its own and pay the players.
Ultimately, neither side of the equation comes out looking good. The Grizzlies look cheap, while the players look demanding. It would be best to put this issue to bed before the legs on this story have more opportunity to grow.
© 2010 Neal J. Leitereg — All Rights Reserved