Nationals

New chairman says Memphis really owns Grizzlies

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New chairman says Memphis really owns Grizzlies

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The new chairman of the Grizzlies said he ``fully understands'' that the people of Memphis really own the NBA team, even though he's the controlling owner.

Robert J. Pera is not only saying the right things, he has put it in writing.

Pera, who introduced himself to Grizzlies fans Monday morning at FedExForum, agreed to provisions to keep the team in the city for at least 15 years.

``Memphis as a city, it's unbelievable,'' Pera said. ``The people have been great. I can tell the community is really special, and those two things combined I consider myself very, very fortunate. Probably the luckiest man in the world right now.''

Pera and his partners who form Memphis Basketball, LLC, bought the Grizzlies from Michael Heisley for $377 million in a sale finalized last week. The ownership group, along with the team's new chief executive officer, held the news conference in the lobby of the arena. The event was open to the public and there were even inflatable slides for children on hand for Memphis' home opener Monday night against the Utah Jazz.

``I believe it's the greatest sport in the world just from a fan perspective, from a player's perspective,'' said the 34-year-old former Apple engineer who started his own communications technology company in 2005 and described himself as an NBA ``super fan.''

Pera, wearing a dark blazer and black shirt, couldn't stop smiling sitting at the podium along with Jason Levien, his new CEO and managing partner of Memphis Basketball, LLC.

It was Pera's first public appearance in Memphis since his move to buy the Grizzlies first was announced in June. But he had been very busy behind the scenes working with Levien, Jeffrey Pollack and David Carlock in assembling a group of 22 limited partners including AutoZone founder J.R. ``Pitt'' Hyde and Memphis businessman Staley Cates. Both were minority owners with Heisley, who brought the Grizzlies to Memphis from Vancouver in 2001.

Former U.S. Congressman Harold Ford Jr., also a limited partner, said convincing Cates to join was a big key.

``Staley's involvement is the biggest thing as any as how serious Robert is about Memphis because Staley made it clear from the outset you have my support if you're committed to Memphis,'' Ford said.

The ownership group is loaded with local star power as well.

Entertainer and Memphis native Justin Timberlake is part of the ownership group along with a pair of other Memphians: former NBA player Penny Hardaway and Ashley Manning, wife of four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning.

Part of Pera's commitment to Memphis includes three provisions keeping the Grizzlies in town for another 15 years. He would have to pay a $100 million penalty if the Grizzlies are moved, local owners have the right of first refusal to match any offer for the team and the local owners can buy the team at the current price should Pera want to move the franchise.

``The team's not going anywhere for sure,'' said limited partner Edward Dobbs, a Memphis native and CEO of Dobbs Management Service. ``That was one of our main goals as local ownership to make sure the team stayed here for a long time, and the team's going to be here for a long time. I feel the team is much more cemented here, and we're just excited to be a part of it and want to make it an even better part of our community.''

Levien will be in charge of the ownership group operating both the Grizzlies and FedExForum reporting to Pera. The chairman said Levien - a lawyer and former agent - is one of his best friends and described him as a cross between Jerry Maguire and Ari Gold. Levien also was a team executive with the Sacramento Kings and was a co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers until recently. He also is a general partner for Major League Soccer's DC United.

NBA commissioner David Stern said Monday night that Pera told league owners he would hire professionals to run the Grizzlies. The commissioner spent the day in meetings all around Memphis and said he never caught as much enthusiasm and sense of real potential as he does with the franchise right now.

``I urged to anyone who would listen let's keep the momentum going with this group and this team,'' Stern said. ``There's no reason why Memphis shouldn't be both successful on the court but as successful a team as a business manner as any NBA franchise in a similar sized market.''

The Grizzlies are coming off two straight playoff appearances. They went 41-25 last season, setting a franchise-record with their 62.1 winning percentage and were the No. 4 seed in the West last season.

``We're very fortunate because we've come into a situation we just hope we don't (mess) it up, which is a little scary,'' Levien said.

Levien spent time Sunday for the first time with Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, who is in the final year of his contract. The new CEO already knows general manager Chris Wallace and even represented a Boston player when Wallace worked for the Celtics. Levien has no timetable for deciding whether to make any changes in the front office after so many months spent lining up the purchase of the team, but he said he sees a team with lots of heart and mental toughness.

This is the fourth ownership transition Wallace has been through counting Portland, Miami and Boston. The general manager said it's just life in the NBA and the Grizzlies simply need to focus on playing the rest of the season and the playoffs.

``It's nothing to fear, and you just embrace it,'' Wallace said.

Pera described himself as last on the bench when he took a job as an engineer with Apple out of college, and he opened Ubiquiti Networks in 2005 in California. He had been looking to buy a professional team and once had tickets for the Golden State Warriors where he first started becoming a fan of the Grizzlies.

``I stopped looking when this became a possibility,'' Pera said of buying the Grizzlies.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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Adam Eaton calls Todd Frazier ‘childish’ after the ex-teammates get into it again

Adam Eaton calls Todd Frazier ‘childish’ after the ex-teammates get into it again

NEW YORK -- Normal is not something the Nationals do this season.

Monday’s pivot from the mundane -- an otherwise run-of-the-mill 5-3 baseball game -- came when Adam Eaton was jogging toward the visitors dugout in the bottom of the third inning when he stopped to respond to New York third baseman Todd Frazier, whom Eaton said was chirping at him all night.

This is not new. The two were teammates on the Chicago White Sox in 2016 and did not get along. Last year, Frazier and Eaton also had an exchange. The one Monday night at Citi Field prompted several members of the Nationals to hop over the dugout railing while Frazier and Eaton were being restrained near the first base bag. First base umpire Mike Estabrook cutoff Eaton who was walking toward Frazier after initially heading to the dugout following a 4-6-3 double play which ended the inning for the Nationals. When Frazier came toward the Mets dugout from his position at third base, the two began their spat.

Afterward, Frazier declined to comment in the Mets’ clubhouse, saying only, “It was nothing.” Eaton took the opportunity to expound on his displeasure with the incident, its continuation and Frazier himself.

“Yeah, I don’t know,” Eaton said. “Gosh, who knows what goes through that guy’s mind? He’s chirping all the way across the infield. He must really like me, [because] he wants to get my attention it seems like every time we come into town, he really cares what I think about him. I don’t know what his deal is, if he wants to talk to me in person or have a visit or what it is. But he’s always yelling across the infield at me, making a habit of it.

“He’s one of those guys who always says it loud enough that you hear it but can’t understand it. So, he’s making a habit of it. I ignored him a couple times chirping coming across, but I had it to the point where I’m not going to say the saying I want to say but you got to be a man at some point. So, I turned around, had a few choice words with him. It’s funny, I was walking towards him, he didn’t really want to walk towards me but as soon as someone held him back then he was all of a sudden he was really impatient, like trying to get towards me. Just being Todd Frazier. What’s new?”

Asked if he is surprised such exchanges are still happening three years after they played together, Eaton said he was.

“Yes, absolutely,” Eaton said. “He’s very childish. I’m walking with my head down, play’s over, I’m walking away. I can still hear him. I’m a 30-year-old man with two kids, got a mortgage and everything. He wants to loud talk as he’s running off the field. At the end of the day, I got to be a man about it. I tried to stay patient with the childishness, but it is what it is. I got to stand up eventually.”

He did, and what could have been merely Game 47 for a struggling team turned out to be something else.

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Patrick Corbin’s rough beginning a hole Nationals can’t emerge from

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Patrick Corbin’s rough beginning a hole Nationals can’t emerge from

NEW YORK -- The Washington Nationals lost to the New York Mets, 5-3, Monday to drop their record to 19-28. Here are five observations from the game…

1. A wondrous, very Mets day preceded the game.

Their general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, held a press conference to announce...Yoenis Cespedes -- already out because of dual heel surgeries -- suffered multiple ankle fractures during a ranch accident over the weekend. Van Wagenen then went on to profess his support for maligned New York manager Mickey Callaway -- for the most part. Last, and most important to writers, three boxes of donuts were in the press box with a note: “Have a great series! -- BVW”.

Things are always a little different in Flushing. That was a problem for the Nationals.

In what could be labeled a “reverse-lock” situation, Washington’s $140 million starter, Patrick Corbin, was outpitched by unknown and often ineffective Wilmer Font, whom the Nationals smacked around just five days ago. The Nationals, as they often do, dragged themselves back into the game after trailing 4-0. A Juan Soto single drove in Anthony Rendon in the eighth to cut the lead to 4-3. Rendon was on base four times.

And, again, it was just enough to produce a close loss. Washington put two runners on with none out against dynamic New York closer Edwin Diaz before Kurt Suzuki flew out, Trea Turner grounded into a fielder's choice and Adam Eaton flew out.

The Nationals drop to nine games under .500 following one-run and two-run defeats. They also fell to 2-14 in series openers.

2. A rough, short evening for Corbin.

He trudged through the night on 98 pitches. Corbin lasted just five innings. He walked three, gave up four earned runs, struck out seven.

His night was a mess early. Amed Rosario and Pete Alonso homered in the first inning. Two walks in the third -- one with two outs -- led to two more runs scoring. He zipped through the fourth and fifth before being removed.

Corbin has endured two blowups this season in an otherwise quality first two months: Monday and April 29 against St. Louis. The latter outing featured four walks and a homer allowed against one of the league’s better offenses. Monday’s bad outing came against a Mets lineup which did not feature Robinson Cano to start and entered the evening 21st in wOBA.

Bad timing. Bad night.

3. Tanner Rainey made his Nationals debut Monday. He was interesting.

Rainey gave up a hustle double to pinch-hitter Cano -- yes, hustle and Cano -- but otherwise showed a sharp fastball-slider combination.

Rainey was the return for Tanner Roark in the offseason trade that sent Roark to Cincinnati during the Winter Meetings.

He has command trouble. He also throws 98-100 mph with ease. Asked in spring training where that velocity comes from, Rainey said his legs and weight lifting. No secret sauce. He lifted more, he threw harder. And he subsequently repeated the process.

Rainey’s velocity will always intrigue. The question is if he can command his two-pitch arsenal enough to become an actual bullpen weapon. The baseline tools are there.

4. A shuffle in the relief corps is coming.

Tony Sipp (oblique) was activated from the 10-day injured list Monday. Dan Jennings was designated for assignment. That experiment is over. Jennings signed a minor-league contract April 15. He was in the majors April 30. He’s gone less than a month later. He did not pitch well.

The Nationals claimed right-handed Javy Guerra off waivers Monday. Guerra was designated for assignment by Toronto. Guerra pitched 14 innings for the Blue Jays this season, with a 3.86 ERA and 3.17 FIP. In other words, distinctly better than most in the Nationals bullpen.

Washington expects Guerra to arrive in New York on Tuesday. Kyle McGowin is likely to be sent back to Triple-A Fresno to make room. So, two fresh pitchers in the bullpen early in the week.

Trevor Rosenthal should also be back shortly. He is expected to throw an inning for Double-A Harrisburg on Tuesday. Rainey will likely be sent back to the minor leagues to make room there.

And, a situation in West Palm Beach, Fla., to keep an eye on: reliever Austen Williams had to be shut down to allow his shoulder to rest. Williams threw 40 pitches at the spring training facility the first week of May, when he appeared on his way back from the 10-day injured list. However, he has stopped throwing after experiencing further shoulder soreness. He was placed on the injured list April 19 because of a sprained right AC joint.

5. Matt Adams worked with the team on the field Monday, which he expects to do the next two days.

He’s on the verge of being activated before the week is out.

“I watched him [Monday] and he took some really good swings,” Martinez said. “We’ll see how he feels [Tuesday]. I’m assuming that he might be a little sore, because he did take some swings and he’s going to continue to do baseball activities [Monday]. But we’ll see how he feels.”

Adams’ 15-day absence has handcuffed Martinez in multiple ways. Take Sunday. Right-handed slider-thrower Steve Cishek on the mound. Left-handed hitters’ OPS against Cishek is 143 points higher than right-handers. But, no Adams meant no left-handed pinch-hitter.

Those issues should be over soon.

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