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Willy Mo

January Hawks Thread.

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A bit of a long read

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/05/sports/basketball/despite-tumult-around-them-the-atlanta-hawks-have-risen-to-the-top.html?_r=0

Despite Tumult Around Them, the Atlanta Hawks Have Risen to the Top

By MIKE TIERNEY

JAN. 4, 2015

HAWKS-articleLarge.jpg
Paul Millsap of the Hawks shooting over Tristan Thompson in a win over the Cavaliers on Tuesday. Atlanta has a 25-8 record, the best in the Eastern Conference. Credit Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

ATLANTA — If there are surefire formulas for chasing an N.B.A. title, here is not one of them: Infuriate your players and alienate much of an already diminished fan base with the disclosure of racially charged comments by the controlling owner and the general manager soon before training camp opens; hang a for-sale sign on the franchise; operate without the exiled general manager; and entrust a roster with just one All-Star (Al Horford, third team in 2010-11) to a coach in his second season overseeing a team, not counting youth leagues in Denmark.

Somehow, though, the Atlanta Hawks have moved beyond these issues to forge the best record in the Eastern Conference (25-8) and, compared with last season, generate a substantial spike in attendance (up 15 percent) and local TV ratings (up 40 percent).

Several players warrant all-star consideration on a team that has won 18 of its last 20 games. Mike Budenholzer may be the league’s coach of the year so far. And the work Danny Ferry did to shape the team would make him worthy for the G.M. award, if only he were on the job.

Instead, Ferry was placed on leave, as the team described his status, an early step on its extended apology tour orchestrated by Steve Koonin, the Hawks’ chief executive since April. The next phase is accepting bids from prospective owners this week, meaning that the controlling owner, Bruce Levenson, and many of his partners stand to make a tidy profit as they exit.

Alluding to Atlanta’s rise from the ashes after being burned to the ground during the Civil War, as symbolized by a phoenix above flames on the city seal, Koonin said, “Maybe we’ll be the latest” to do so.

Between opening tips and game-ending buzzers, the recovery could not be proceeding more smoothly. The players, most of whom were on the team last year, have bought in to the Budenholzer-Ferry doctrine that accentuates ball movement and unselfish play.

Elton Brand, a backup center-forward who has played for five teams in his 16 seasons, said the Hawks shunned the isolation sets designed to create one-on-one situations.

“Every team I’ve been on before has run iso plays,” Brand said, adding, “We have freedom.”

The Hawks’ passing is statistically unsurpassed: 67 percent of their baskets have been assisted. Only one team had taken fewer uncontested shots through Saturday.

Dallas Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle has called the Hawks the league’s most underrated team. The Cavaliers’ LeBron James lauded them as the Eastern version of the San Antonio Spurs, with their unselfish approach.

But Koonin, an Atlanta native who has been an executive with Coca-Cola and Turner Entertainment Networks, suggests that a lofty perch in the standings is no cure-all for lingering ill will in the community from an insensitive email written by Levenson in 2012 and sent to Ferry and Levenson’s ownership group.

In the email, Levenson speculated that the team’s black fans “scared away the whites” and that there were “not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season-ticket base.” He also said the Kiss Cam on TV broadcasts was “too black.”

The email was discovered after a team investigation into an audiotape in which Ferry was heard disparaging the African heritage of Luol Deng, a player who was a free agent. Soon after the details went public in September, Levenson said he would sell his portion of the team.

“Nothing prepares you for what we went through,” Koonin said, adding that his goal now was for the team to create a “personal connection” with fans.

“I wish winning was the only thing,” he said. “That’s just not Atlanta.”

Koonin trumpets Atlanta as a bastion of diversity that once lifted tourism by dubbing itself “the city too busy to hate.” He wants the team’s aspirations, from the bosses on down, to mirror the city’s.

Last month, he created a position unique to professional sports, chief diversity and inclusion officer. He gave the job to Nzinga Shaw, who previously worked in human resources with the N.F.L. and the YES Network and as a public relations executive.

“I was disheartened to learn that people in such positions of power would use such harmful and negative language,” said Shaw, who responded to the job posting after seeing it on the N.B.A.’s website.

She has pledged to rebuild trust with the community by advancing training for employees and forming a diversity council to develop strategies, including having players serve as mentors to youth. As a start, Koonin has envisioned the club financing construction of playground courts or providing security for existing ones.

Still, the announcement of the intent to sell the team and the departure of Ferry did not placate all civic leaders, primarily African-Americans, and the burden to make amends has fallen largely on Koonin. Besides hiring Shaw, he approved a statue to honor the popular Hawks Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins (“easiest decision I’ve had to make”), lowered ticket prices for some cheaper seats and solicited advice from prominent residents.

One of them, Tommy W. Dortch Jr., chairman emeritus of the volunteer movement 100 Black Men of America, has been critical of the Hawks and the league for not moving more quickly on overhauling ownership.

Noting that Donald Sterling was forced to divest his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers within weeks of the revelation of racist remarks he made, Dortch said: “It’s been months, and I think it’s appalling that they have dragged their feet. If you compare it to the Clippers, the Atlanta situation was worse. It was more ingrained.”

Dortch said Commissioner Adam Silver should have expedited the sale.

“The team is having a winning streak, but the organization is in limbo,” Dortch said.

Koonin attributes the drawn-out process to a complicated ownership structure. Levenson and two associates control just over 50 percent. A consortium of Atlantans holds a 32 percent stake, while a faction based in New York maintains the rest.

“It’s a very complex and very big transaction,” he said.

The entire franchise is on the market, according to a report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, though at least some current local owners wish to stay involved. Among the interested parties is a group that includes the former N.B.A. player Chris Webber, who has a home in Atlanta. The mayor’s office, which has helped line up suitors, wants the Hawks’ new owners to be local, unlike Levenson, who lives in Washington.

To Koonin, an owner’s mailing address is less important than his understanding of the fabric of the city that bills itself as a mecca of opportunity for blacks and other minorities.

The racially tinged strife seems to have unified the Hawks, as it did the Clippers.

“As a team, we cared together and decided the situation was wrong and moved on,” Atlanta forward Paul Millsap said. “In a sense, it brought us closer.”

Budenholzer, from a slightly different angle, theorized that the team’s existing fellowship enabled it to get beyond the hurtful statements by Levenson and Ferry.

Ferry’s fate will be determined once new ownership is in place. As much as the team’s thriving is a reflection of his uncanny judgment regarding players and coaches, the new owners may want to rid the franchise of any reminders of troubled times.

“No way Ferry can come back,” Dortch said. “If he comes back, it will rekindle the hate spread by him and Bruce. Danny needs to move on. He can’t be forgiven for what he said.”

On the court, the Hawks are displaying a brand of basketball that is drawing waves of admirers, though they and Budenholzer, a longtime Spurs assistant who has absorbed some of Ferry’s duties, downplay any suggestion that they are San Antonio East, preferring to carve their own identity.

Since arriving from St. Louis in 1968, the Hawks have yet to reach the conference finals. That possibility, which seemed far-fetched a few months ago, has become so real that Koonin believes the team can become a magnet for free agents.

“They all stay here,” he said, referring to the numerous players with primary or secondary homes in Atlanta. “Now we have to get them to stay here and play here.”

In bold I call BS we still don't know where the scouting report came from, and how is it worse then LA Clips situation call me when you've heard people mention hawks ownership throughout 30 years has been that bad seriously that bad. You've had former players come back from way back talking about Donald Sterling I've yet to see anyone black/white/hispanic or otherwise say anything about Atlanta like that.

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So the Atlanta Hawks are now Leaders of the ECF and our lead could become bigger as of tonight because Toronto is losing as we speak to Phoenix Suns.

It's a great time to be an Atlanta Hawks fan!

I hope they keep it up not only for this season, but beyond.

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**** and it's fun as chit to watch them play, first team, second team … it doesn't matter they are well coached, pass the ball extremely well to get a good inside shot or can rain down 3's from long range. 6-0 west coast trip speaks volumes.

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It's amazing to me how people like Dortch still have a voice. If anything, they spew more hate and vitriol than those they are crusading against.

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No way Ferry can come back, Dortch said. If he comes back, it will rekindle the hate spread by him and Bruce. Danny needs to move on. He cant be forgiven for what he said.

Sigh..anyone else have a problem with this statement?

g-dawg likes this

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No way Ferry can come back, Dortch said. If he comes back, it will rekindle the hate spread by him and Bruce. Danny needs to move on. He cant be forgiven for what he said.

Sigh..anyone else have a problem with this statement?

Yes. Danny Ferry made some comments that were likely taken a bit out of context, may not have even been his words, and it hurt someone's feelings. Meanwhile there are real problems in the world. Get over it and move on. He shouldn't have his career ruined over one random incident. Despite what this Dortch idiot has to say, the Sterling situation was 1000x worse. He was a racist to the core and there are decades of evidence supporting that fact. Ferry makes one stupid comment and he's the worst person in the world? Please.

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**** and it's fun as chit to watch them play, first team, second team … it doesn't matter they are well coached, pass the ball extremely well to get a good inside shot or can rain down 3's from long range. 6-0 west coast trip speaks volumes.

It was genius to go defensive in free agency with bazemore and sefolsha, they could always put up points last year.

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No way Ferry can come back, Dortch said. If he comes back, it will rekindle the hate spread by him and Bruce. Danny needs to move on. He cant be forgiven for what he said.

Sigh..anyone else have a problem with this statement?

Ferry reading the awful scouting report was poor judgement

Firing Danny Ferry for this would be taking a mistake and compounding it to the power of ten.

Let me tell you how long it would take Danny Ferry to find another GM job.....1, 2......bang! new job - he would be a red-hot commodity. What Danny Ferry did in Atlanta is nothing short of miraculous! Hopefully the new owner will be smart and understand this fact.

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I love how the hawks record has changed everyone's tune about ferry around here.... Lol.

Selling your souls for a winning team I see

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I love how the hawks record has changed everyone's tune about ferry around here.... Lol.

Selling your souls for a winning team I see

it's Atlanta, winning teams are harder for us to find than souls...

freebird310 likes this

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Why? I thought while ferry showed bad judgement, he didn't:

1. Kill anyone

2. Drive drunk

3. Beat his wife

4. Beat his children

5. Run an illegal dogfighting ring

6. Shoot himself with his own handgun in a nightclub

7. Knock his girlfriend out in an elevator or choke her out on a bed of guns

8. Make it rain in a Vegas strip joint then start shooting at people

Etc etc etc...

No, he read a scouting report out loud. And for that, people want to castigate him/get rid of him. Was it poor taste, yes. Did he deserve to lose the season for it? No...does he deserve to get fired for it? No...

People are way too friggin sensitive...and my opinion has nothing to do with the hawks record, it was how I felt at the time...

freebird310 likes this

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I love how the hawks record has changed everyone's tune about ferry around here.... Lol.

Selling your souls for a winning team I see

Everyone? My contention has always been it was an error in judgememt of DFs part. And like the firm that did the investigstion - not a fireable offense.
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Everyone? My contention has always been it was an error in judgememt of DFs part. And like the firm that did the investigstion - not a fireable offense.

The Hawks wound be crazy to fire DF. New Ownership or not. Dude didn't make comments. He read a scouting report. Poor judgement. Let's hang him.

freebird310 likes this

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Man, I want to watch the Lakers game tonite, but WTF 10:30 pm ......as for Ferry, anyone thinks he is in any way, shape or form a racist is a fkng moron ....

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We are playing the Clippers tonite, not the Lakers

That's alright, we are better than both LA teams now LOL ....I'm gonna try to make at least halftime but already nodding ...

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That's alright, we are better than both LA teams now LOL ....I'm gonna try to make at least halftime but already nodding ...

I was going to correct you too then I thought what Diff does it make. It's still LA. Fuk em...

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Personally I can't see Ferry being a racist I mean look who he played with in Detroit. I don't know the man personally so I can't judge him.

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I like Bazemore. They just went through an ongoing inside joke between him and Teague about ODU and Wake Forest on the pregame. Good stuff.

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