Mark Story

‘New-employee kits’ for Kentucky’s latest batch of NBA Draft picks

New-employee kits for some recent Kentucky college students who entered the workforce Thursday night — by hearing their names called in the 2019 NBA Draft:

Ja Morant

Hired by: Memphis Grizzlies (second overall pick, first round)

Starting salary: Slot is $7,265,800

Last season’s bottom line: 33-49, tied for third in the Southwest Division

Meet the bosses: Team owner Robert Pera, 41, founded the communications technology company Ubiquiti Networks and bought the Grizzlies in 2012. After the post-season demotion of long-time general manager Chris Wallace and the ouster of coach J.B. Bickerstaff, Pera has ushered in a front-office youth movement. Executive vice-president Zach Kleiman ,30, is now the primary basketball decision maker. Taylor Jenkins, 34, a Mike Budenholzer disciple, is the new head coach.

Key current employees: Of the players currently under contract for 2019-20, ex-Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (16.1 ppg, 4 apg) is the leading returning scorer. Former Michigan State standout Jaren Jackson averaged 13.8 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 50.6 percent last season after being the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 draft. The Grizzlies acquired long-range shooting specialist Kyle Korver, ex-Celtics forward Jae Crowder and former Duke star Grayson Allen from Utah as part of the trade that will send franchise staple Mike Conley to the Jazz.

How new hire fits in: With Conley and veteran center Marc Gasol (Toronto) traded away, Morant, the dynamic former Murray State point guard, and the 6-foot-11 Jackson will be the cornerstones of the next era of Memphis Grizzlies basketball.

Career adviser: Agent is Jim Tanner of Tandem Sports, whose other clients include Marvin Williams, Thaddeus Young and Omer Asik.

Office dress code: The Grizzlies team colors are “Memphis Midnight Blue, Beale Street Blue, Smoke Blue, Grizzlies Gold and White.”

PJ Washington

Hired by: Charlotte Hornets (12th overall pick, first round)

Starting salary: Slot is $3,189,100

Last season’s bottom line: 39-43, tied for second in the Southeast Division

Meet the bosses: Michael Jordan (that Michael Jordan) owns a controlling interest in the Hornets and is the team chairman; former Los Angeles Lakers executive Mitch Kupchak is the basketball decision maker; after three seasons as a San Antonio Spurs assistant, James Borrego was a rookie head coach last season.

Key current employees: Charlotte star point guard Kemba Walker (25.6 ppg, 5.9 assists) is an unrestricted free agent. So is second-leading scorer, Jeremy Lamb (15.9 ppg), like Walker a former Connecticut star. Forward Marvin Williams (10.1 ppg) and center Cody Zeller (10.1 ppg) are the leading scorers under contract for next season. Swingman Nicholas Batum (9.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg) was a disappointment in 2018-19. Ex-Kentucky stars Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (6.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and Malik Monk (8.9 ppg, 33.3 percent three-point shooting) are also on the Hornets’ roster.

How new hire fits in: Charlotte’s immediate future hangs on what Kemba Walker decides. If the point guard leaves, the Hornets would seem headed for a major rebuild. That would give Washington a chance to establish himself as a key figure in the future of a franchise that has long seemed “stuck in the middle.”

Career adviser: Agent is Roger Montgomery of Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter’s Roc Nation Sports. Other clients of Montgomery’s include Jeremy Lin, Rudy Gay and ex-Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein.

Office dress code: The Hornets’ team colors are “Hornets purple, teal, gray and white.”

PJ Washington Hornets logo.JPG
Kentucky’s PJ Washington went to the Charlotte Hornets with the 12th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Charlotte also chose ex-UK players Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (second pick in 2012) and Malik Monk (11th in 2017) in prior drafts. Julio Cortez AP

Tyler Herro

Hired by: Miami Heat (13th overall pick, first round)

Starting salary: Slot is $3,029,600

Last season’s bottom line: 39-43, tied for second in the Southeast Division

Meet the new bosses: Micky Arison, Carnival cruise ship magnate, is the Heat owner; former Kentucky Wildcats forward Pat Riley is team president; Erik Spoelstra has spent 11 years as head coach (523-363) and led the Heat to the 2012 and 2013 NBA titles.

Key current employees: Heat icon Dwyane Wade retired after last season. Former Tennessee star Josh Richardson (team-best 16.6 ppg, 35.7 percent three-point shooting), ex-Marshall big man Hassan Whiteside (12.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 1.9 blocks) and point guard Goran Dragic (13.7 ppg, 4.8 apg) are among the core players under contract for 2019-20. Ex-Kentucky big man Bam Adebayo, Miami’s first-round draft pick in 2017, averaged 8.9 ppg and 7.3 rpg last season.

How new hire fits in: Even with Wade’s retirement, the Heat still have shooting guards Richardson and Dion Waiters. That should give Herro a chance to develop at his own pace.

Career adviser: Agent is Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports Management, whose other clients include Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, LeMarcus Aldridge and Nikola Jokic.

Office dress code: The Heat team colors are “Heat Red, Heat Yellow, Black and White.”

Tyler Herro draft on the phone.JPG
Kentucky’s Tyler Herro adjusts his headset during an interview after the Miami Heat selected him as the 13th pick overall in the 2019 NBA Draft. Julio Cortez AP

Keldon Johnson

Hired by: San Antonio Spurs (29th overall pick, first round)

Starting salary: Slot is $1,623,300

Last season’s bottom line: 48-34, second in Southwest Division (lost to Denver Nuggets, four games to three, in first round of playoffs)

Meet the new bosses: The Holt family, owner of the largest Caterpillar dealership in the country, owns the Spurs, with Peter J. Holt serving as Chairman and co-CEO; R.C. Buford is general manager; former Spurs guard Brent Barry is vice-president of basketball operations; Gregg Popovich is both team president and the long-time Spurs head coach (1,245-575, five NBA championships).

Key current employees: Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (21.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg) and former Toronto Raptors All-Star DeMar Derozan (21.2 ppg, 6 rpg, 6.2 apg) are the Spurs’ leaders. Guards Bryn Forbes (11.8 ppg, 42.6 percent three-point shooting) and Marco Bellinelli (10.5 ppg, 37.2 percent three-point shooting) are both under contract for 2019-20.

How new hire fits in: Forward Rudy Gay, the former Connecticut star, averaged 13.7 ppg and 6.8 rpg last season but is an unrestricted free agent. If San Antonio brings Gay back, he would be a veteran from whom Johnson can learn. If Gay leaves, Johnson could have an opening for playing time as a rookie.

Career adviser: Agent is Steve McCaskill of One Legacy Sports Management, whose other clients include Iman Shumpert, Jerami Grant and Moe Harkless.

Office dress code: The Spurs’ team colors are silver, black and white.

Keldon Johnson Adam Silver.JPG
Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson shook hands with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after the San Antonio Spurs selected Johnson with the 29th overall pick in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft. Julio Cortez AP


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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.