Memphis Commercial-Appeal removes story about Robert Pera stiffing Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

A Memphis Commercial Appeal report suggested that new Grizzlies owner Robert Pera invited only Mike Conley and Marc Gasol -- and not Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph -- to dinner. Then, the newspaper mysteriously removed that anecdote from their original story.

As most of the NBA world knows, the Memphis Grizzlies have been a popular team on the NBA rumor mill. With new ownership in place and a looming luxury-tax bill coming, the Grizzlies have seen Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph end up on the trade market due to their high salaries. It's a sensitive situation because Memphis is also one of the best teams in the West.

Therefore, an anecdote from a story in Memphis Commercial Appeal by beat writer Ronald Tillery was eye-popping. According to Tillery, new owner Robert Pera had dinner with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, two franchise cornerstones that have not been on the block. However, he did not invite Gay and Randolph, the two Grizzlies that are rumored to be shopped.

Gay and Randolph were not thrilled. Here's what they said, via SB Nation's Grizzlies blog Straight Outta Vancouver.

The response from Gay was more measured, saying, "It is what it is," before adding, "I just hope it wasn't my favorite restaurant!" Well-played, sir.

Randolph, on the other hand noted it didn't feel like anything personal, but then went on to say that he told the younger players, "It's not like they love you... It's business."

Why are we quoting Straight Outta Vancouver? Because if you click the link to Tillery's story now, those quotes have mysteriously disappeared. Here's what's in their place now:

Before the team concluded a three-game trip last week at Golden State, Griz owner Robert Pera had dinner with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.

"We had a great time. We really enjoyed spending time with those guys," [Grizzlies CEO Jason] Levien said.

"We look forward to having that kind of dialogue with other players as well in the future."

Levien was not quoted in the first version of the story. Via Straight Outta Vancouver, Tillery's piece notes that Levien has "declined requests from the Commercial Appeal to talk publicly about his plans for the team."

But wait. This gets weirder. First, Commercial Appeal columnist Geoff Calkins wrote an entire piece based off the quotes from Gay and Randolph that were removed from Tillery's story. Here's the beginning of Calkins' column:

When the Grizzlies were on the West Coast last week, Robert Pera had dinner with just Marc Gasol and Mike Conley?

This makes me question Pera's judgment. How could he not invite Tony Allen along? That guy is hilarious.

"I just hope it wasn't at my favorite restaurant," said Rudy Gay, who already had trade rumors to fret about.

Then, Tillery himself wrote a blog post at 9:19 EST on the Commercial Appeal's website with the deleted quotes from the initial story.

So ... what's going on here? It seems pretty obvious that Pera didn't invite Gay and Randolph to that dinner, because Gay and Randolph confirmed that news. Why didn't the Commercial Appeal leave that anecdote in the original story? Some possible explanations:

  • They changed the original story to get it to fit in the print edition, then switched the original online story for the print version.
  • They changed the original story because they finally heard from Levien after it had been published, and they followed Levien's wishes to replace Gay and Randolph's quotes with his own.
  • They changed the original story because some part of Tillery's reporting was wrong. Based on Tillery's blog post, though, this seems unlikely.

SB Nation has emailed Commercial Appeal sports editor David Williams to ask for an explanation. We will post his response once we receive it.

UPDATE: In an email to SB Nation, Williams wrote that the story was re-written because "Levien agreed to talk to us." The quotes from Randolph and Gay "didn't make the updated version" of the story, so the paper decided to post them in the aforementioned Tillery blog post the next morning.

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