Outgoing Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson has the power to force as much as 60% of the team to be sold, even though he and his partners have only 50.1% of the team, reports Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The NBA appears to be pressuring all of the other owners to sell so that the entire franchise can change hands, Vivlamore adds. All of the team’s owners still have yet to meet to discuss how much of the franchise they’re going to sell, and so far, their only action as a group has involved preparation for vetting prospective buyers, though vetting itself has yet to begin, as Vivlamore explains.
Here’s more from around the league:
- When Jordan Crawford signed with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association for $1.4MM it wasn’t because he didn’t receive any NBA offers. The Kings had tried to sign Crawford this summer, but he wasn’t comfortable with a backup role in Sacramento, David Pick of Eurobasket reports (Twitter links). Crawford also relayed that he felt “overlooked” by the league, and that’s what led him to China, Pick notes.
- Brock Motum‘s one year, minimum salary deal with the Jazz is non-guaranteed, as is reflected on the Basketball Insiders salary page for Utah.
- Many of the teams that joined the Sixers in a voting bloc that scuttled immediate lottery reform are nonetheless miffed about Philadelphia’s stripped-down roster, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe writes. Teams voted down lottery changes in part because they feel too much is in flux, and that includes the unknown of just how or whether the league will phase in the substantial increase in the salary cap that the league’s enhanced TV revenues will bring about, Lowe adds. Some influential agents oppose the idea of any phase-in, preferring that the cap simply leap in the summer of 2016 based on the idea that teams might be uncertain of how to handle the changed landscape and hand out contracts they’ll later regret, according to Lowe.
- The surging salary cap projections have some small-market teams worried about how they’ll manage in a league where $100MM payrolls are the norm, in spite of the TV money that would make that sort of spending more palatable, as Lowe writes in the same piece. Small-market teams also fear that they’ll become slightly profitable and lose the benefit of tens of millions in income through the league’s revenue sharing program, the Grantland columnist explains. The Lakers handed out $50MM, the Knicks $27MM and the Bulls $17MM in revenue sharing last season, Lowe reports.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
12:16pm: The moves are official, the team announced via press release and on Twitter.
12:07pm: The Hawks are waiving Dexter Pittman and Jarell Eddie, reports Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). Vivlamore indicates the moves have already taken place, though the team has yet to make a public acknowledgement. Each has been on a non-guaranteed contract. Letting them go would leave Atlanta with 15 players, which means the team wouldn’t need to make any more cuts.
Pittman has been on his second stint with the Hawks after having joined the club on a 10-day contract in February. The center briefly spent time on the Rockets roster at the end of the 2013/14 season, but his only two appearances in regular season games last year came with Atlanta. The former 32nd overall pick has struggled with weight issues and has never averaged more than 8.6 minutes per game in any of his four NBA seasons.
Eddie went undrafted this summer out of Virginia Tech and joined the Wizards for summer league before hooking up with the Hawks this fall. He averaged 2.7 points in 13.1 minutes per game in the preseason, but nonetheless made a positive impression on Atlanta’s brass. That suggests the team envisions retaining the D-League rights to the 6’7″ small forward forward, though that’s just my speculation.
The moves leave the Hawks with 14 fully guaranteed contracts plus a partial guarantee of about $408K with Mike Muscala. In a twist of fate, the Hawks released Pittman from his 10-day contract before the 10 days were up last season to accommodate the signing of Muscala, who remains on the same deal.
More NBA players will hit waivers in the next week than at any other time of the year, but the Heat and Wizards are bucking the trend and bringing new players aboard. The Heat signed Larry Drew II on Monday and the Wizards are poised to do the same with John Lucas III. Still, both teams will have to make cuts, too, and it appears Washington already has three players destined for the waiver wire. Here’s more from around the Southeast Division.
- Pau Gasol admits that Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade recruited him heavily but says that the Heat‘s situation was too “unclear” at the time he made his decision to sign with the Bulls, notes Ethan J. Skolnick of Bleacher Report (on Twitter).
- Danny Ferry seems unlikely to return to the Hawks from his leave of absence, but Jeff Teague is the latest player to come out in support of the embattled GM after Ferry made racially derogatory remarks about Luol Deng, as Sekou Smith of NBA.com chronicles. “Me, knowing Danny, he’s a good dude,” Teague said. “He’s never said or done anything disrespectful like that to me. So when those things came out I didn’t overreact or think he was a racist or anything like that. It’s a mistake that anybody could make. And he’s dealing with it right now. And hopefully, he can come back from it.”
- P.J. Hairston is considering switching agents for the second time since becoming a pro, reports Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (on Twitter). Former UNC-Greensboro player Rodney Blackstock is among those the Hornets‘ rookie is considering, Bonnell adds. Hairston switched to Jonathan Stahler of Upside Media Group after the discovery that his first agent, UMG’s Juan Morrow, wasn’t union-certified.
Charlie Adams contributed to this post.
Henry Abbott of ESPN The Magazine hears from agents and team sources who say Kobe Bryant‘s rough-edged personality is driving free agents away from the Lakers. The Buss family receives more income from the team’s local TV deal if ratings are better, and that helped persuade the team to sign Bryant to his lucrative two-year extension 12 months ago and to eschew an aggressive rebuilding project, Abbott hears. Bryant’s popularity with powerful front-row celebrities also played a role, and co-owner Jim Buss is just “waiting for [Bryant] to leave,” a source tells Abbott, fearful of engaging in a public spat with the superstar. Steve Nash nearly decided against approving his sign-and-trade to the Lakers and Paul George signed his extension with the Pacers in part because of Bryant, sources tell Abbott. Chris Bosh was one of the Lakers’ missed free agent targets this summer, and there’s more on him amid the latest from around the league:
- The Thunder will join the Sixers in voting against the changes to the lottery, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, but Wojnarowski seconds Lowe’s report (below) that the measure still has enough support to pass.
- Bosh spoke of a desire to be paid at his full market rate as he explained his decision to turn down a four-year max deal from the Rockets for five years at the max from the Heat to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. “It’s always business,” Bosh said. “Nothing is ever personal. I think 100% of those dudes would have taken the deal I took.”
- Another NBA team has joined the Sixers in opposition to the league’s lottery reform proposal as the Board of Governors meet today, but the measure is still expected to receive approval, Grantland’s Zach Lowe reports (Twitter links).
- Players union secretary-treasurer James Jones is an opponent of shortening games and believes, as teammate LeBron James does, that players would instead like to see fewer games on the schedule, as Jones tells Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group.
- Former Hawks All-Star Dikembe Mutombo has met with a group of investors about joining their effort to buy the team, reports Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Hornets owner Michael Jordan isn’t on board with shortening games, an idea the NBA is experimenting with this weekend, as Jordan tells Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. Jordan said the league didn’t indicate to him when it let him know of Sunday’s planned 44-minute game between the Nets and Celtics that it was seriously considering such a change for regular season games, Broussard notes. The iconic former player also expressed his disagreement with LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki, who told reporters this week that they’d like to see the NBA shorten the season.
“It’s not like football,” Jordan said. “We don’t really have to worry about concussions and some of the physical damage that football players deal with after they retire. I can understand football players wanting to play fewer games from a physical standpoint. But basketball’s not the same. I’m not diminishing the fact that we go through a grueling season. But I wouldn’t want to shorten the game or play 15-20 fewer games.”
Still, shorter games clearly have their proponents, so it’ll be interesting to see if Jordan can prevail on his fellow owners to make Sunday’s game a one-time experiment. Here’s more from MJ’s Southeast Division:
- Chris Webber took to Twitter to confirm his interest in the Hawks, and while he doesn’t disclose the identities of the investors he’s partnering with, he insists they would keep the team in Atlanta.
- The formal sale process and vetting of prospective owners can’t start for the Hawks until all of the team’s existing owners determine whether they’re selling, and they’ve yet to schedule a meeting to discuss the issue, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Free agent power forward Tyrus Thomas has changed agents as he attempts to return to the NBA, tweets Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Thomas hired Roger Montgomery of the Montgomery Sports Group, according to Kennedy, replacing John Hamilton of Performance Sports Management. Thomas has been out of the league since the Hornets (then the Bobcats) put him on amnesty waivers in July 2013.
- Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel takes a stab at predicting the Heat‘s opening-night roster amid his latest mailbag column.
Hawks GM Danny Ferry is not expected to return to his job from the indefinite leave of absence he took last month, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports writes at the end of his full story on Chris Webber‘s bid for an ownership stake in the franchise. Controlling owner Bruce Levensen and his partners are selling what amounts to a 50.1% share of the franchise, and new owners often make changes in their front offices. The racially derogatory remarks about Luol Deng that Ferry read from a scouting report in a June conference call with Hawks owners precipitated his leave of absence and would presumably make Ferry’s job security especially tenuous once a new owner is in place. Still, Wojnarowski’s report is the most significant indication to date that Ferry doesn’t appear long for Atlanta.
Deng has forgiven Ferry for repeating the scouting report’s comments, and several of Ferry’s longtime associates, including former teammate Tim Duncan, have come to his defense. Commissioner Adam Silver has said he believes Ferry is wise to have taken a leave of absence, though he’s also said that he doesn’t believe the executive has committed any offense that would warrant termination. Still others, including Carmelo Anthony, have said that the entirety of the scandal, which germinates from a racially charged email that Levenson sent in 2012, has left them with a negative perception of the Hawks.
Coach Mike Budenholzer is serving as interim GM while CEO Steve Koonin is running the franchise in Levenson’s stead. A report earlier this month indicated that the team is likely to be sold by the end of the year, though another dispatch from later that same day indicated that it was premature to set such a timetable. Webber is part of a group of bidders that includes more significant financial backing from others, though the identity of the primary investors remains unclear, according to Wojnarowski. The former player would like to become a “prominent figure” in the team’s basketball operations, Wojnarowski writes, though it’s unclear just what sort of role he’s targeting and whether he would want Ferry to return as GM. Hawks executive Dominique Wilkins has also expressed a desire to be part of an ownership group for the franchise, though it’s unclear if he still wants that in the wake of his recent promotion within the team’s front office.
With Kevin Durant expected to miss a minimum of six to eight weeks with a fractured foot, the Thunder will have to look for help from within the organization, Nick Gallo of NBA.com writes. “The process is ongoing and it will continue to be ongoing,” coach Scott Brooks said. “The first part of that process is not making an excuse. If you can all come to grips with that, then you have a better chance to have success. We’ve always done that as an organization. Whatever is thrown at us, we’re going to control what we can and not worry about the things that we can’t.”
Here’s more from around the league:
- One of the players in the running to be the first overall draft choice next June is Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress (video link) profiles the top ranked player in the ACC.
- Newcomer Ryan Hollins‘ biggest value to the Kings may be taking the defensive weight off of DeMarcus Cousins, Nick Avila of SI.com opines. Hollins is part of a crowded frontcourt mix in Sacramento that includes Jason Thompson, Reggie Evans, Carl Landry, and Sim Bhullar.
- Jamelle McMillan, son of former NBA player and head coach Nate McMillan, was named the player development coach for the Pelicans, the team announced in a press release. McMillan was on New Orleans’ staff as an intern the last two seasons.
- A few head coaches enter the season already on the hot seat, while others’ perches will heat up as the season progresses. Sam Amick of USA Today looks at each coach’s job status entering the new campaign.
- Chris Webber is part of a potential ownership group that has registered interest with the NBA league office about buying the Hawks, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports (Twitter link).
Grantland’s Zach Lowe includes a few eye-openers among his annual preseason predictions, including his assertion that the Suns will again miss out on the playoffs. As usual, Lowe’s must-read column isn’t all conjecture, and he shares a few whispers he’s heard from around the league. We’ll pass along the news items here:
- The Celtics have set a remarkably high price for Rajon Rondo as they’ve gauged the trade market for him over the past year, but Boston is also putting out trade feelers about Jeff Green, Lowe writes. People around the league are higher on Green than the forward’s public reputation would suggest, according to Lowe, who adds the Pelicans to the list of teams that have shown interest in Green in the past. It’s unclear if New Orleans still has eyes for Green, however.
- The Hawks brought up Al Horford‘s name in trade talk with a few teams last year, seeking an unprotected 2014 first-rounder in return, sources tell Lowe.
- Michael Carter-Williams found his name in trade rumors around the draft, and the Sixers indeed made a hard push to find a deal, Lowe hears. The Grantland scribe cautions that the team isn’t necessarily dead set on trading him, writing that the Sixers understand there are plenty of quality point guards to go around and that Philadelphia prioritizes deal that would help the team land more high draft picks.
- It would catch no one in the league offices by surprise if Mikhail Prokhorov eventually decides to give up control of the Nets, according to Lowe.
- The Cavs have shown reluctance to surrender the 2015 first-round pick that the Grizzlies owe them, Lowe writes. It’s the only first-rounder other than their own that the Cavs possess.
Owner Michael Jordan‘s presence in Charlotte’s pitch meeting with Lance Stephenson was key to the team’s ability to strike a deal with the shooting guard, but the mere presence of Jordan via video conference was enough for Gordon Hayward, as Hayward tells USA Today’s Sam Amick. Hayward was “ecstatic” about the idea of playing for the Hornets before the Jazz matched Charlotte’s max offer sheet this summer, Amick writes.
“I didn’t know what to expect … but they blew me away with their presentation,” Hayward said of the Hornets. “They came in and did a whole analytical presentation too, which was really, really impressive. It spoke to the analytical part of me. I was a computer engineer and math major in college, so that was really impressive to see. It just showed that they’re taking steps to try and become a next-level team and push toward trying to win a championship.”
There’s more from Amick’s profile of Charlotte’s legendary player-turned-owner amid the news out of the Southeast Division, as we pass along:
- Hornets assistant coach Patrick Ewing was also in the team’s meeting with Stephenson, and head coach Steve Clifford credits the presence of the former Knicks star as a linchpin in the recruitment of Stephenson, a Brooklyn native, as Amick details.
- The Hawks will probably release camp invitee Jarell Eddie, since he has a non-guaranteed deal and the team has at least partially guaranteed money out to 15 others, but the swingman has impressed the team’s brass so far, writes Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Justin Hamilton has only a partially guaranteed deal with the Heat and has missed time with a heart condition, but coach Erik Spoelstra on Monday gave a subtle hint that suggests the team intends to keep him around, observes Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. Spoelstra pointed to Hamilton’s absence as a reason why the team’s frontcourt rotation is in flux, Winderman notes.
The Heat will take on LeBron James and his Cavaliers in Saturday’s preseason game for the first time since he left to return to Cleveland, but the sentiments between James and those he left behind in Miami aren’t as raw as the feeling between new Wizards forward Paul Pierce and the Nets. Pierce and his former team have conflicting stories about just what led to his departure, but the Wizards are surely glad about whatever it is that pried the 16-year veteran from Brooklyn. Here’s more from the Southeast Division:
- Lance Stephenson cried when he told Pacers he was signing with the Hornets instead this summer, as he admits to Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling, but a surprise appearance by owner Michael Jordan in the team’s meeting helped seal the pitch. “When I shook [Jordan's] hand, I was shaking,” Stephenson said. “I was very nervous because that’s like everybody in the world who played basketball’s idol. I thought I would never meet Michael Jordan, but when I finally met him and talked to him and got to know him, that was the best feeling ever.”
- Kemba Walker‘s endorsement of Stephenson, whom he played against for years when they were both growing up in New York City, helped convince the Hornets to pursue the free agent shooting guard this year, as Zwerling details in the same piece.
- Elton Brand‘s ability to guard opposing centers is the chief reason why the Hawks brought him back, and familiarity is what led the 35-year-old to choose Atlanta over a handful of other suitors this summer, as he tells Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic are starting their seasons by making strong impressions in Orlando, writes Ken Hornack of FOX Sports Florida. Timing is everything for these players as they have until the end of the month to sign extensions to their rookie contracts. Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn isn’t letting his players get distracted by their pending contract statuses. “My message to them has been I’m going to coach you. No matter if you’re in a contract year or your first year in the league. I’m going to coach you the same. Hopefully that puts a little bit of ease underneath their wings in the sense of, ‘Just go play basketball,’“ Vaughn said.
Chris Crouse contributed to this post.