A franchise record 60 wins, winning a division title and finishing as the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 1993-1994 may not be reason enough for the Atlanta Hawks to retain Danny Ferry.
According to a report from Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ferry is expected not to be back once the sale of the Hawks is complete:
In situations like this, new ownership generally would rather not have to deal with answering questions at the introductory news conference about sticky situations like Ferry’s status.
There has been a belief within the Hawks’ organization for several months that the team’s general manager is not going to be brought back. The thinking is that coach Mike Budenholzer (expected to get a new contract with a raise and more autonomy) and assistant general manager Wes Wilcox likely will be at the top of the basketball operations department, at least for the next year.
Ferry is currently on an indefinite leave of absence due to the comments he made about then free agent Luol Deng during a conference call last June with Atlanta ownership.
Ferry was recorded saying “Deng is a good guy overall but he’s not perfect. He’s got a little African in him. And I don’t mean that in a bad way.” Ferry also described Deng as a shady shop owner who says one thing and does another.
Schultz lays out three possible scenarios for Ferry and the Hawks, but believes only two are plausible:
• Ferry resigns: This is the favorite. It could happen any day. The Hawks likely would agree to pay off the balance of Ferry’s contract and it would allow him to make an exit statement along the lines of, “I’m proud of the work I did here but I feel it’s the best for all parties to move on.”
• Ferry is fired: It doesn’t serve anybody to have this thing end ugly, least of all Ferry, who wants to get another job (and will). But he has been resistant to leaving, loves living in Atlanta and it may come to this.
• Ferry is kept: Think “PowerBall” odds.
NBA originators of deflating game balls, not NFL:
“Get the ball, ‘Tsssss’ let a little bit of air out, squeeze it — OK, good,” is what former center Shaquille O’Neal said in an episode of “The Big Podcast with Shaq.”
O’Neal was venting about the recent Deflate-gate scandal surrounding New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and had his own take on how he dealt with the ball, as transcribed below:
Sometimes, in the games during all my championship runs, if a ball was too hard, I let air out. I’d have a needle. A friend of mine would have a needle and I would get the game ball. I needed that extra grip, but I wasn’t doing that for cheating purposes. I just needed the extra grip for my hands so I could palm it, a la Michael Jordan, the way he used to palm it.
And O’Neal doesn’t believe he was cheating:
Because, first of all, I’m not aware of any letter of the law that says, you can’t let air out of the ball,” O’Neal said. “I’m not aware of that. Second of all, it’s all about my [comfort level]. A lot of times, if the balls have too much air in them, they’re too bouncy. I didn’t want them to be bouncy. I needed that grip.”
His teammates didn’t complain, either, he said.
“No,” he said, “especially when you’re winning.
ESPN’s Baxter Holmes recently wrote a piece about the chronology of the game ball’s journey to the NBA Finals and discussed what certain players would do with the ball. Holmes revealed O’Neal wasn’t the first person to release air from the game ball. More on ESPN.com:
Phil Jackson said he did so during his playing days with the early 1970s New York Knicks, including on their 1973 title team.
“What we used to do was deflate the ball,” the Hall of Fame coach told the Chicago Tribune in a story published in 1986. “We were a short team with our big guys like Willis [Reed], our center, only about 6-8 and Jerry Lucas also 6-8, [Dave] DeBusschere, 6-6. So what we had to rely on was boxing out and hoping the rebound didn’t go long.
“To help ensure that, we’d try to take some air out of the ball. You see, on the ball it says something like ‘inflate to 7 to 9 pounds.’ We’d all carry pins and take the air out to deaden the ball.
“It also helped our offense because we were a team that liked to pass the ball without dribbling it, so it didn’t matter how much air was in the ball. It also kept other teams from running on us because when they’d dribble the ball, it wouldn’t come up so fast.”
In Holmes’s piece, you find numerous tales about what players did to the air pressure of the ball and what it meant for a teams’ strategy. It seemed players and coaches would go to extremes to make sure the ball was in ideal condition. But nothing seemed more superstitious than what Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook would do before home games:
Oklahoma City Thunder’s top security representative will personally deliver the game ball to star point guard Russell Westbrook in the locker room. Westbrook then takes it, inspects it, rubs it, dribbles it, holds it, smells it and, after approving it, passes it to each of his teammates, a sacred ceremony before the players circle up and sprint out of the tunnel.
Other News From Around the League:
- Need some coverage of the NBA Finals? We’ve got some for you. Here’s our Chris Sheridan’s take on why this series is so powerful. Long-time writer Paul Ladewski was also on hand to experience the incredible atmosphere of the Finals, and he couldn’t get over the greatness of LeBron James, with good reason. Despite his greatness, though, the offense of the Cleveland Cavaliers has come to a grinding halt. Chris Bernucca explains why and how the offense can get better here.
- The NBA Finals has had its highest ratings ever through two games, according to an ESPN press release: ” The 2015 NBA Finals is the highest-rated ever on ABC through the first two games, according to Nielsen. The series, which is currently even at 1-1, is averaging a 12.9 overnight rating.The NBA Finals continued to set records Sunday as it generated a 12.9 overnight rating, making it the highest-rated NBA Finals Game 2 ever on ABC. The broadcast peaked with a 16.9 from 11 p.m.-11:15 p.m. ET. The rating was up 26 percent from a 10.2 for Miami-San Antonio last year.” The second game of the series help set local records in the San Francisco and Cleveland markets as well: “Game 2 delivered a 42.1 rating in the Cleveland market and a 31.7 in the San Francisco market. Both are records for an NBA game on ABC (or any ESPN network) and also up from their previous records, which were set for Game 1 of this series.”
- Former Sacramento coach Mike Malone has been brought back for a second interview with the Denver Nuggets, according to RealGM.com: ” Mike Malone will be brought back for a second interview with the Denver Nuggets. Malone’s interview last week solidified himself as a top candidate for their head coaching job, along with Melvin Hunt.” Hunt was the interim coach after Brian Shaw was fired and according to RealGM.com, has the backing of some top players in the organization: “Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried are among the veterans who have lobbied for the Nuggets to retain Hunt.”
- Iowa State has tapped Murray State’s Steve Prohm to replace Fred Hoiberg as the program’s next head coach, reported by college basketball insider Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com: “Murray State’s Steve Prohm has reached an agreement in principle to become the next head coach at Iowa State, a source told CBSSports.com on Monday. A formal announcement is expected soon.” Many linked Phoenix Suns coach and former Cyclones player Jeff Hornacek to the vacancy after Hoiberg left to join the Chicago Bulls.
- Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert is going to work with Dallas Maverick forward Dirk Nowitzki’s personal shooting coach in hopes of becoming a better offensive player, Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune reports: “Already one of the league’s most feared rim protectors, Gobert hopes to put a little more fear into opposing defenses next year. The center intends to improve his post-game and add some mid-range shooting to his repertoire. He says he’s hitting consistently from about 15-feet right now, and he plans to spend 10 days in Germany with Dirk Nowitzki’s shooting coach later this summer to help fine tune his form.”
- The Milwaukee Bucks, Monday, unveiled their new uniforms they will be playing in for the 2015-2016 season. The color scheme and patterns are a contrast from the previous jerseys:
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) June 6, 2015
Odus Evbagharu is a blogger for Sheridan Hoops and you can follow him on Twitter: @iamodus_