Jerry West left retirement and the comforts of California to see if he could transform the woeful Memphis Grizzlies. Five years later, the Lakers great decided to stop trying.
He said Tuesday he will leave as the Grizzlies’ director of basketball operations July 1 at the end of his contract. Injuries, losses, weariness and uncertainty became too much.
“I’m not a youngster anymore,” said West, who turns 69 next month.
West oversaw the Grizzlies’ only three playoff berths, although he never got to enjoy a postseason victory. This season, there were problems on several fronts: The Grizzlies not only had the worst record in the NBA but were up for sale.
West said “the wear and tear of the season, particularly like this,” took a toll.
“There’s been a lot of turmoil here,” he said. “The ownership thing has made it very difficult to concentrate on what we need to do here to improve our basketball team.”
Billionaire owner Michael Heisley said Monday night the team will be off the market if a viable offer doesn’t come by May 1.
West, whose silhouette from his playing days forms the NBA logo, disclosed his plans during a 20-minute session with reporters. But his departure had been the worst-kept secret in Memphis, with his contract up after this season. He put his 18-room home up for sale in February, calling that a “downsizing” move after his son left for college.
West is staying through June 30 and will advise Heisley on his replacement and a new coach and in a draft that could deliver 7-foot center Greg Oden or college player of the year Kevin Durant. Then he said he would be open to working as a consultant.
On the court
Elton Brand scored 21 points to lead six Clippers in double figures and Los Angeles beat the Phoenix Suns 103-99 in Phoenix.
Jason Hart made two free throws with 7.8 seconds left to seal the win and deprive the Suns of a 62nd win, which would have tied the franchise record.
Los Angeles needs to win tonight at home against New Orleans and have Golden State lose at Portland to get the No. 8 seed in the West and a first-round playoff date with Dallas.
Warriors 111, Mavericks 82: At Oakland, Calif., Mickael Pietrus scored 22 points, Matt Barnes had 19 and Golden State moved to the brink of its first postseason berth since 1994 with a win over Dallas.
Dallas kept Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse and Erick Dampier out of a meaningless game – for them – in preparation for the postseason. The Warriors took a 28-point lead in the first half.
Cavaliers 98, 76ers 92: At Philadelphia, Larry Hughes scored 22 points and LeBron James had 18 to lead Cleveland to a win over the 76ers, keeping the Cavaliers alive for the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
Pistons 100, Raptors 84: At Auburn Hills, Mich., Richard Hamilton scored 10 first-half points and Detroit beat Toronto in a glorified exhibition game for both teams.
Neither team had anything to play for – the Pistons are locked into the Eastern Conference’s top seed and the Raptors will be No. 3.
Magic 95, Wizards 89: At Washington, Orlando overcame Antawn Jamison’s 48 points and kept up a last-minute push to improve their playoff seeding with a victory over the Wizards.
Hawks 118, Pacers 102: At Atlanta, Tyronn Lue and Josh Smith each scored 25 to lead the Hawks to a victory over Indiana.