Grizzlies can only hope it isn't a contractual obligation

Just when you thought it was safe to go to a Grizzlies game. . . .

If Commissioner David Stern was just messing with players' heads, contraction didn't play that well everywhere.

"I'm not even sure that the league has the authority to shut a franchise down without the cooperation of the owner," Memphis owner Michael Heisley told AOL Fanhouse.

Even if the NBA trumps something up, it would have to buy out the owner to keep him from taking it to court.

At $300 million, or $10 million per surviving team, per franchise they want to fold, that wouldn't be contraction, but reverse expansion.

If you think there's any chance, Stern will be glad to recommend you for a leadership position with the NBA Players Assn.

The beat goes on

Not that Stern is psyched with the deal running through July, but we're getting new sinister reports of his intentions weekly.

With Stern confirming their proposal would roll back existing contracts, reported the NBA offered to impose smaller cuts — if the players took them this season.

Union director Billy Hunter must have needed a nanosecond to turn that down, depending on how long it took him to get over his shock.

If this isn't show business and the NBA is in that much trouble, Stern will have to prove it.

Short of that, it's just the Internet craziness the NBA hated, until recently.

What have I done?

Not that dropping dark hints before touring his otherwise-sparkling league was so convenient for Stern.

Giving himself away, again ("That's our story and we're sticking with it"), Stern said "contraction" shouldn't be a chilling word in Memphis.

"It's a good word to use," he said, "especially in collective bargaining."

In Miami, he made headlines, noting the NBA would expand to Europe in 10 years.

So, it's goodbye Southwest Division, hello, Western Europe?

"It's a wonderful topic," Stern said later, "because 10 years ago, I said, 'Oh, it's inevitable, it'll happen in 10 years.'

"And now I'm saying, 'It's inevitable, it'll happen in 10 years.'"

I'd say he should go back to his office and make up more rules, but he'd do it.

Judicial restraint?

One for David: The game really is better without all the gnashing of teeth about calls — but hitting New Orleans' Chris Paul with a technical for a little wave late in Friday's nail-biter against Miami was awful. . . . Can we have the program with some good sense? . . . Good sense is when you adjust rules to accommodate real-life factors. . . . No, you still have the rule, just with some flexibility! . . . Oh, forget it.

Updating ESPN's Heat Index updates: With LeBron James averaging 20 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists in six games, it has foregone the feature it advertised, following his chances of averaging a triple-double. Who knew that was a non-starter? Oh yeah, everyone. . . . The "Chase for 72" — the Bulls' record for wins — remains but don't wait to check it out. John Hollinger, who drew the unlucky straw, gave the Heat a 3.8% chance last week, before it lost in New Orleans, dropping to 4-2. . . . Hey, I know something about math. They can still do it by finishing 68-10!

—Mark Heisler

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