Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said Atlanta is in no jeopardy of losing the team to another city, even with the controlling interest up for sale, as he told Mike Conti this morning in an appearance on Sports Radio 92.9 The Game in Atlanta, and as Conti passes along via Twitter. Still, there are many variables concerning the Hawks saga, and we’ll detail the latest here, with any additional updates on top.
- Luol Deng issued a statement on the Hawks’ “African” comments regarding him, which Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel relayed in their entirety. In the release, Deng writes, “I’m proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just ‘a little’. For my entire life, my identity has been a source of pride and strength. Among my family and friends, in my country of South Sudan and across the broader continent of Africa, I can think of no greater privilege than to do what I love for a living while also representing my heritage on the highest stage. Unfortunately, the comment about my heritage was not made with the same respect and appreciation.”
- Deng continued on, writing, “Concerning my free agency, the focus should purely have been on my professionalism and my ability as an athlete. Every person should have the right to be treated with respect and evaluated as an individual, rather than be reduced to a stereotype. I am saddened and disappointed that this way of thinking still exists today. I am even more disturbed that it was shared so freely in a business setting.“
- The NBA still isn’t planning to respond to Atlanta’s punishment of Ferry with sanctions of its own, a league spokesperson reiterated today, according to Vivlamore (Twitter link).
- Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr., who in June called for GM Danny Ferry‘s dismissal, will meet today in New York with executives from the league office, tweets Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Ferry supported the idea of signing Deng and was willing to give him a $40MM deal this summer, a source tells TNT’s David Aldridge. Deng signed instead with the Heat on a two-year deal worth slightly more than $19.866MM.
- Luol Deng has told people he’s close to that the racially charged description of him that Ferry recited confuses him, and that he doesn’t want to comment until he has a better handle on the situation, Aldridge reports in the same piece. Ron Shade, one of the agents for Deng, told Michael Lee of The Washington Post that it’s “a little disheartening” to hear of Ferry’s remarks but downplayed their effect on Deng’s frame of mind heading into the season.
- It’s believed that Ed Peskowitz, who owns a non-controlling stake in the Hawks, will sell his share of the team, as Aldridge writes in his article. Peskowitz is a longtime business associate of outgoing controlling owner Bruce Levenson.
- Levenson and Gearon haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, but in light of Gearon’s call for Ferry’s dismissal, it’s tough to see how Ferry can stay in his job, argues Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
- Fellow Journal-Constitution scribe Mark Bradley echoes that sentiment and notes that Gearon, who used to be the team’s controlling owner, is believed to hold more shares of the Hawks than anyone else, even though he, like Levenson, does not own a majority stake.
- A chastened atmosphere in the wake of the Donald Sterling episode puts all racially charged comments in the line of fire, whether or not the remarks were meant to be made public, as Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes. A scout told Deveney that many commonly use language they might not otherwise as they compile scouting reports in an effort to make their points quickly and memorably.
The revelation that Hawks owner Bruce Levenson has decided to sell the team because of a racially charged email that he sent is sending ripples throughout the league. We rounded up Sunday evening’s dispatches related to Levenson in this post, and we’ll track the latest developments throughout today right here, with additional updates at the top:
- NBPA acting director Ron Klempner issued a statement on the Hawks situation to reporters, including USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt (on Twitter). The statement reads: “We’ve had continuing discussions with the league office about the incidents of disturbing statements attributed to representatives of the Atlanta Hawks’ franchise. We recognize that there is an ongoing investigation regarding the circumstances, and we will continue to monitor these events and take any action we deem appropriate.”
- Meanwhile, Zillgitt hears (link) that the comments read by Ferry on the Deng background report were the extent of his comments on the player’s race.
- The NBA does not plan to give Ferry additional punishment on top of what the Hawks are already doling out, Vivlamore reports (on Twitter).
- Ferry made contact with Ron Shade, one of Deng’s agents, to apologize, and he’s reached out to Deng, too, Wojnarowski tweets.
- Ferry met with Hawks coaches and players Sunday and apologized as he told them what he said about Deng, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. A source disclosed Ferry’s statement about Deng to Wojnarowski. “He’s still a young guy overall,” Ferry said of Deng, according to Wojnarowski’s source. “He’s a good guy overall. But he’s not perfect. He’s got some African in him. And I don’t say that in a bad way.”
- The NBA and officials from the Hawks helped convince Levenson to sell the team, Wojnarowski writes, which seems to conflict with Windhorst’s report that Levenson chose to sell the team on his own volition.
- The Hawks are set to discipline Ferry, but it’s unclear if the NBA will also levy a punishment against the GM, Vivlamore reports. A person involved tells Vivlamore that they had “never heard a comment as offensive” as the one directed at Deng. The person who wrote the report that Ferry read was not with the Hawks organization, as Koonin says to Vivlamore.
- The NBA isn’t interested in having the Hawks move to Seattle or elsewhere, Mannix hears (Twitter link). The team’s lease at the arena in Atlanta, which runs through 2017/18 as Windhorst pointed out in his story, would also help forestall a move, Mannix says.
- Luol Deng is the player who was the subject of the background report that contained an offensive and racist remark that Hawks GM Danny Ferry read, sources tell Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link). That report sparked the investigation that uncovered Levenson’s email.
- Ferry faces discipline, but he will remain GM of the team, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com hears.
- Prospective buyers are already inundating Hawks CEO Steve Koonin with calls, as he tells Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I had over seven phone calls directly today from multi-billionaires,” Koonin said. “It blew my mind some of the people who wrote me today.” The league, rather than Levenson, will take the lead in conducting the sale, as Windhorst writes in his piece. It’s unclear how much of a role Koonin, who owns a share of the Hawks and who has been placed in charge of the team in Levenson’s stead, will play in finding a new controlling owner.
- Levenson made the choice to sell on his own, believing that his racially charged email would become public and that it would hurt business if he continued as owner, Windhorst writes. But an executive for another team tells Chris Mannix of SI.com that he believes Levenson is using the affair as an excuse to cash in on skyrocketing franchise values.
- Players and people around the league generally liked Levenson prior to Sunday’s revelation, according to Windhorst. However, Koonin told CNN’s Martin Savidge that he was “morified and angry” about the email, and that when he met with Hawks players Sunday night, “It was like walking into a funeral,” as CNN’s Eliott C. McLaughlin and Holly Yan pass along. “These are young men who wear our city’s name and our logo on their chest,” Koonin said. “They play for a team, and they are supposed to be supported by their ownership. And ownership failed in supporting them.”
The Clippers have pulled off a trade, reached a new deal with coach/executive Doc Rivers, and waived two players, and they reportedly met with Ekpe Udoh as they eye fellow free agent Chris Douglas-Roberts. That’s all within the space of the last three days. There’s a long holiday weekend ahead for some, but the Clippers certainly aren’t easing into it. Here’s the latest on the team:
- Few knock the coaching credentials of Rivers, but his roster-building skills as an executive are another matter. Plenty of executives around the league question Rivers’ acquisition of Jared Dudley last year and his surrender of a first-round pick in the deal to rid the Clippers of Dudley this week, as Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher writes. “If [former Timberwolves GM] David Kahn made those deals, they’d have been burning crosses on his lawn,” one NBA executive told Bucher.
- Shelly Sterling didn’t know who Steve Ballmer was when he called her this spring to express interest in buying the Clippers, as she tells Linda Deutsch of The Associated Press. Still, she negotiated him up from an initial offer of $1.9 billion to the $2 billion price he wound up paying and obtained a promise from Ballmer that he would never move the team to Seattle, as Deutsch details.
- Rival teams called the Bucks to talk about trading for Miroslav Raduljica last season, according to Shams Charania of RealGM. That seems to suggest there will be NBA suitors for the center whose three-day tenure with the Clippers just ended, though that’s just my speculation.
Donald Sterling had been the NBA’s longest-tenured owner, but when Steve Ballmer closed on his purchase of the Clippers today, Sterling’s reign came to an end. We’ll round up the fallout from the ownership change here, with any additional updates on top:
- As expected, a court of appeals has denied Donald Sterling’s final maneuver to prevent the sale of the Clippers, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
- While Sterling has previously vowed to sue the league for the rest of his life, Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com tweets that the Clippers are in no danger of ever returning to the hands of their disgraced former owner.
- Attorneys for Donald Sterling asked an appellate court for an immediate stay and an order that would halt or unwind the sale, report Nathan Fenno and James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times. Still, other lawyers familiar with petitions like that believe there’s little chance the effort will bear fruit, Fenno and Rainey add.
- Donald Sterling didn’t consent to the sale, so that’s why 10% of the team won’t be spun off into a charitable foundation in which Shelly Sterling would be heavily involved, as Fenno and Rainey write in the same piece.
- Ballmer is purchasing 100% of the team, so that means Shelly Sterling didn’t exercise her option to spin a stake of up to 10% of the franchise into a charitable foundation, tweets Dan Woike of the Orange County Register.
- The NBA has filed a countersuit in federal court against Sterling and the Sterling family trust in response to his antitrust suit against the league and commissioner Adam Silver, reports Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times. The league is seeking compensation for damages and enforcement of an agreement it claims Sterling signed in 2005 indemnifying the league against litigation and monetary loss, as Fenno explains. Shelly Sterling agreed this May to indemnify the NBA for costs and litigation relating to the sale of the team to Ballmer.
- Ballmer said he feels his record $2 billion investment in the Clippers carries much less risk than he took on in his business dealings, making him comfortable with the purchase, as he tells Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com (Twitlonger link).
- Ballmer, who was a part of Seattle’s bid to wrest the Kings from Sacramento last year, also reiterated his long-held stance against moving the Clippers out of Los Angeles, as Shelburne notes in another Twitlonger dispatch.
The relationship between the Suns and Eric Bledsoe continues to sour, and as it does, it’s looking like he’ll end up taking Phoenix’s one-year qualifying offer, worth about $3.7MM, tweets Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. That route would allow him to hit unrestricted free agency by next summer, but it would also represent a severe discount, not only on the maximum salary that Bledsoe has been seeking, but also from the four-year, $48MM offer the Suns have reportedly made. It’d be a surprising move if he ends up taking the QO, but it doesn’t seem as though the Rich Paul client is any closer to another deal. There’s more on Bledsoe amid the latest from around the league:
- Four NBA executives and two agents who spoke with Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic believe that the four-year, $48MM offer the Suns reportedly made to Bledsoe is fair and don’t think that the 24-year-old point guard has merited the maximum salary. “I’m surprised that they would offer him that much,” one of the executives said. “They don’t need to. It is really fair and, in fact, generous. He is talented, but he has never put it together very long, and he hasn’t been healthy. It’s hard to turn your team over to him.”
- The possibility that the Sixers could acquire Anthony Bennett and give up Thaddeus Young as the third team in a Kevin Love trade, one that Brian Windhorst of ESPN raised in a radio interview Monday, would be difficult to comprehend, argues Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com. Philadelphia’s purge of existing talent has been so profound that such a swap would seem like piling on, Lynam posits.
- Coming up short in bids for the Bucks and Kings prompted Steve Ballmer to pounce on the chance to strike a deal to buy the Clippers and abandon his dream of bringing the NBA back to Seattle, as he tells Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times. The former Microsoft CEO said he hopes Seattle ends up with a team eventually, though he reiterated that he has no intention of moving the Clippers.
A judge today denied a request to issue an injunction that would forestall construction of a new arena for the Kings in Sacramento, allowing the city and the team to proceed toward meeting a league-imposed deadline for its completion, reports Dale Kasler of The Sacramento Bee. A group opposing the project on environmental grounds was the last standing among a wide range of foes who took legal maneuvers to prevent the arena from being built. One such group drew the financial backing of investor Chris Hansen, who fronted a group last year that came close to buying the team and moving it to Seattle.
The NBA negotiated the right to buy the team and sell it to another bidder into the purchase agreement between owner Vivek Ranadive and the Maloof family, the team’s previous owners. That clause would be triggered if the arena weren’t complete by 2017 or if the Kings didn’t show satisfactory progress toward that deadline. Still, commissioner Adam Silver has expressed full confidence that the project will meet its targets. The arena is scheduled to open in 2016.
The primary challenges have been to the city’s $255MM contribution to the $455MM building, and Hansen admitted that he funded a petition drive that sought to put civic funding up to a public referendum. Hansen also said he would seek to withdraw his financial support of the petition campaign, although it’s not clear whether the group returned his reported $100K contribution.
Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry told Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times that the team would retain GM John Hammond, assistant GM David Morway and coach Larry Drew for next season, but fellow co-owner Wesley Edens wouldn’t confirm that, according to Woelfel. Edens is the team’s representative on the Board of Governors, which would appear to give him final say. Bucks officials and executives around the league told Woelfel that former owner Herb Kohl became “livid” with Hammond last season, and that Kohl, had he not sold the team, would have fired the GM, Woelfel hears. There’s more on the Bucks amid the latest from the Central Division:
- Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen bid $650MM for the Bucks earlier this year, with plans to move them to Seattle, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. Kohl rejected the bid in favor of Edens and Lasry, who’ve pledged to keep the team in Milwaukee, but the indirect role Ballmer played in pushing for new arenas in Milwaukee, Minnesota and Sacramento is part of why the NBA finds him appealing for the Clippers, Windhorst hears.
- Pistons boss Stan Van Gundy calls Andre Drummond and soon-to-be restricted free agent Greg Monroe an “ideal pairing,” but he also points to their shortcomings on defense and the team’s struggles with those two in the lineup together with Josh Smith. Keith Langlois of Pistons.com has that and more from his conversation with Van Gundy.
- The Pistons hired Brendan Malone and Bob Beyer as assistant coaches and cut ties with assistants Rasheed Wallace, Henry Bibby and Bernard Smith, the team formally announced. Beyer leaves the Hornets to take the job in Detroit. John Loyer, who served as the team’s interim head coach last season, remains as an assistant, but there’s a decent chance the team will reassign him, tweets Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.
- The NBA’s revenue sharing system paid the Pacers $15MM last season, multiple sources tell Grantland’s Zach Lowe, who also hears that the Grizzlies received that amount, too.
Steve Ballmer’s $2 billion bid for the Clippers is set to smash the record sales price for an NBA team, set just two weeks ago when the NBA approved the $550MM sale of the Bucks. The deal faces hurdles, including the NBA’s official OK, but the former Microsoft CEO seems ready to take the helm.
“I love basketball,” Ballmer said in a statement, as ESPN.com notes. “And I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win — and win big — in Los Angeles. L.A. is one of the world’s great cities — a city that embraces inclusiveness, in exactly the same way that the NBA and I embrace inclusiveness. I am confident that the Clippers will in the coming years become an even bigger part of the community.”
Here’s more in the wake of the deal between Ballmer and Shelly Sterling:
- Bobby Samini, one of many attorneys for Donald Sterling, insisted Thursday afternoon to Andrea Chang of the Los Angeles Times that there will be no sale without a signature from the banned Clippers owner. That’s despite a ruling from mental health experts that Donald Sterling is incapacitated, which transfers power over the Clippers to Shelly Sterling according to the rules of the Sterling family trust.
- All involved with the sale are bracing for a legal challenge from Donald Sterling, but they’re confident the deal will come to fruition, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
- The arrangement would give Ballmer 100% ownership of the team, but he agreed to let Shelly Sterling continue to associate with the franchise in some capacity other than ownership, ESPN.com reports.
- The Sterlings will have to pay $662MM in capital gains taxes on the sale, accountant Robert Raiola tells ESPN.com for the same piece.
- The deal drew a thumbs-up from some Clippers players, including Blake Griffin, who spoke to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. “I think it’s a great move for us,” Griffin said. “I think it’s putting the final piece to the puzzle together. It kind of allows everybody to go back to focusing on the real goal, and that’s putting 100% of everything into winning a championship for Los Angeles from our side.”
- Other players around the league, including Ty Lawson and Andrew Bogut, took to Twitter to marvel at the $2 billion price tag and express misgivings about the NBA’s assertion during 2011 collective bargaining agreement talks that teams were losing money (hat tip to Grantland’s Zach Lowe).
- The NBA has wanted Ballmer as an owner since the SuperSonics left Seattle, so the league probably sees this deal as a win, observes Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe (on Twitter). It’s probably a loss for Seattle, tweets Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee, as Ballmer was the primary financial backer of last year’s bid for the Kings. Ballmer has said he wouldn’t move the Clippers out of Los Angeles.
The Sacramento City Council approved a public funding plan for a new Kings arena late Tuesday night, as Ryan Lillis, Dale Kasler and Tony Bizjak of The Sacramento Bee report. The city’s $255MM contribution to the $477MM project largely puts to rest any concern about the team’s ability to meet a league-imposed 2017 deadline for a new building. The funding measure was widely expected to pass, and the council voted 7-2 to approve it. It includes a non-relocation clause that will keep the Kings, who little more than a year ago seemed on their way to Seattle, in Sacramento for 35 years.
“I’ve never been prouder of this community,” Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson said. “We had our backs against the wall and we defied the odds. We made a comeback for the ages and in doing so, I feel like we unleashed the very best that Sacramento has to offer. And for this I consider this Sacramento’s finest hour.”
Opponents remain, as a pending lawsuit seeks to stop the arena while a committee is forming with the plan to petition for a public vote that could nullify the council’s vote, according to The Bee. Another group plans a legal challenge stemming from concerns over noise pollution and overcrowding. Still, opponents face a short timetable. Construction on the arena is to begin in November, with completion set for September 2016. The league has retained the right to buy the team back from Vivek Ranadive and his partners if the arena isn’t built by 2017, but commissioner Adam Silver has expressed no worries that the team would run afoul of that deadline.
Earl Watson would like to coach the Jazz next season, and he’s picked up the endorsement of restricted free agent Gordon Hayward, as both Watson and Hayward tell Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. Watson, who played with the Blazers this year, hasn’t ruled out playing again next season, but if he becomes Jazz coach, he’ll target Hubie Brown as an assistant, he says. Here’s more from around the league with an altered title picture now that Serge Ibaka is expected to miss the rest of the playoffs.
- Kevin Love will have some say in who coaches him next season on the Wolves, owner Glen Taylor confirmed to Charley Walters of the Star Tribune. President of basketball operations Flip Saunders has spoken with eight candidates, but he hasn’t endorsed any of them to Taylor, Walters adds.
- Taylor also said the Wolves lost “a couple million” dollars this year, Walters notes in the same piece.
- Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who partnered with Chris Hansen on an ill-fated bid to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle, is open to purchasing any NBA team, but wouldn’t necessarily bring them to the Emerald City, as he tells Shira Ovide of The Wall Street Journal. He says he wouldn’t move the Clippers out of Los Angeles if he bought them.
- Isiah Thomas and the Pistons are in preliminary talks about a deal for him to purchase a minority share of the team, reports Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News.
- Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey and Cavs GM David Griffin have said they’re open to trading their respective first-round picks for players who can help immediately, according to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio.
- Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has political aspirations that would make him reticent to accept the post of executive director of the players union, but the job increasingly appears to be his if he wants it, tweets Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times.
- Hawks and Cavs officials will meet with draft prospect Alessandro Gentile of the Italian league, Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia reports. The swingman is No. 66 in Jonathan Givony’s DraftExpress rankings and 100th with Chad Ford of ESPN.com.