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Original Issue

Heisley and West May Exit


Looking to buy an NBA franchise? Michael Heisley owns a team in Memphis with a deep, young roster and the league's newest arena. "We've tried for three years to get some people in Memphis to buy it," says Heisley, who in 2000 purchased the Vancouver Grizzlies for $160 million and moved them to the league's smallest market a year later. "We've now decided we'll try to see if there's somebody outside of Memphis who might also be interested."

Based on sales over the past two years--the Suns for $401 million, the Celtics for $360 million and a reported $375 million offer for the Cavaliers--Heisley could recoup some of his operating losses over the past four years. But the Grizzlies' ownership isn't the only thing up in the air. After winning a club record 50 games last season, Hubie Brown announced his retirement on Thanksgiving, citing health problems. He was replaced by Mike Fratello, who has tried to shorten Brown's 10-man rotation only to find that many of his players lacked the conditioning to play extended minutes. The injury-riddled Grizzlies were 11--15 at week's end.

Then there's the status of 66-year-old team president Jerry West, who according to league sources is planning to retire after this season. Says Heisley, "When Jerry came here [in April 2002], he said, 'I'll give it three to four years.'" Heisley is willing to be flexible to keep West on board. "I've talked to him about being part of the ownership of the team," Heisley says. "But Jerry is his own man, and he makes his own decisions. I don't know any more than you know, and I can tell you anybody writing about it doesn't know what the hell they're talking about because Jerry doesn't tell anybody what he's thinking."