Dominique Wilkins

Eastern Notes: Ferry, Brand, Kirilenko, Heat, C’s

Hawks executive and prospective owner Dominique Wilkins hasn’t exactly been enamored with Danny Ferry after he tried to block the building of a statue in honor of the Hawks legend, as Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes in a subscription-only piece. Schultz examines the uncertain future of the GM who’s been on indefinite leave of absence since September and the opposition he faces from Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr., who reportedly sought Ferry’s ouster and, according to Schultz, fears the GM’s return. There’s more on the Hawks amid the latest from the Eastern Conference:

  • Elton Brand says he’ll wait until season’s end to decide whether he’ll retire, tweets Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Brand also considered retirement after last season before he re-signed with the Hawks on a one-year, $2MM deal.
  • It appears that Andrei Kirilenko‘s departure from the Sixers constituted a buyout deal, as his salary was reduced from $3,326,235 to $2,328,365, according to Eric Pincus, who reports via Twitter and shows more detail on his Sixers salary page at Basketball Insiders. Presumably, that $997,870 difference is on top of the money Kirilenko lost during his unpaid suspension.
  • Having Hassan Whiteside blossom as he has is “almost like getting a lottery pick” to make up for the first-rounders the team dealt away when it signed-and-traded for LeBron James and Chris Bosh in 2010, Heat president Pat Riley tells Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick (Twitter link). Riley added that he feels as though Michael Beasley and perhaps Tyler Johnson also have the ability to offset the loss of those picks.
  • Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is much more pleased with his club now than he was two months ago, as Chris Forsberg of observes.

Latest On Nets, Hawks Sales

WEDNESDAY, 1:20pm: Investor and Lionsgate Entertainment chairman Mark Rachesky is joining the Frankel-Itzler-Starker bid, league sources tell Marc Stein of At least one of the groups with interest in the Hawks is willing to pay more than $900MM, a source tells Stein, though it’s unclear if that total would include bonds tied to the arena that aren’t part of the franchise value, as Mike Ozanian of recently suggested. Stein also adds the names of Indonesian sports and media moguls Erick Thohir and Handy Poernomo Soetedjo to the group fronted by baseball legend Hank Aaron. Wilkins, the Hawks icon and current front office executive for the team, is expected to be a “prominent” member of a bidding group, Stein also hears.

12:23pm: Geffen tells Peter Newcomb of Bloomberg News that he’s not interested in buying the Nets, as Newcomb’s Bloomberg colleague Scott Soshnick tweets.

MONDAY, 8:54am: The Chinese investment conglomerate Fosun is bidding for the Hawks and has interest in the Nets, report Josh Kosman and Claire Atkinson of the New York Post, who hear from a sports banker who believes the Hawks will strike a deal with a new owner in six weeks. The investment fund for the government of the nation of Qatar and former interim Clippers CEO Dick Parsons are also among those interested in the Nets, a franchise that multiple sports bankers believe would sell for as much as $2 billion, according to Kosman and Atkinson. Impresario David Geffen is also considering a run at the Nets, Kosman and Atkinson write, renewing apparent interest from the past. The Post scribes also identify “two wealthy U.S. families” as parties eyeing the Nets.

One of the bankers to whom Kosman and Atkinson spoke disputed an earlier report that the NBA is mandating that current Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov attach his 45% stake in the Barclays Center to his 80% share of the team, saying that the league hasn’t made a decision. The league is promising a verdict on the matter soon, but the confusion over just what’s a part of the sale is causing complication, Kosman and Atkinson hear. Bruce Ratner’s Forest City Enterprises has confirmed it’s shopping its 20% stake in the team, though Prokhorov’s camp has been reluctant to make the same pronouncement regarding its interest in a sale.

The Qatari investment fund seems an unusual bidder, though it has existing connections to the sports world. It owns a French soccer team, as Robert Windrem of NetsDaily points out. It also has ties to the NBA through beIN, a French sports television channel, the NetsDaily scribe tweets. Others linked to the Nets include former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, investor David Bonderman and hedge fund manager David Einhorn, as well as Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

The same banker who suggested the Hawks sale will be complete in six weeks tells Kosman and Atkinson that he believes the NBA would like to see the Hawks sold before the Nets are. A deadline for preliminary bids for the Atlanta franchise passed last week, and a long list of potential buyers exists. Tampa Bay Rays part-owner Randy Frankel is teaming with rapper-turned-entrepreneur Jesse Itzler and brokerage firm founder Steven Starker in one bid. Former NBA players Grant Hill and Junior Bridgeman, former Suns and Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo, and neuropsychologist Richard Chaifetz are partnering for another.  The owners of Atlanta’s WNBA team, Kelly Loeffler and Mary Brock, along with their husbands, Jeffrey Sprecher and John Brock, are also reportedly interested in bidding for the Hawks. Former players Dominique Wilkins, Dikembe Mutombo and Chris Webber, former Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien, attorney Doug Davis and Seattle-focused investors Chris Hansen and Thomas Tull have been linked to the club, too.

Southeast Notes: Andersen, Hawks, Taylor

Chris Andersen said he was never close to leaving the Heat in free agency this summer and wants to remain in Miami even after he finishes his playing career, as Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post chronicles. Here’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks players were unified in expressing their disappointment in the racist language revealed over the summer from owner Bruce Levenson’s email and GM Danny Ferry‘s scouting conference call, but maintained optimism for both the team and Ferry’s future. Paul Millsap says he’s met with the embattled Ferry and forgives him for his racially derogatory remarks about Luol Deng, while DeMarre Carroll insists Ferry is not a racist, as Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution relays. Elton Brand said he spoke with Deng before deciding to re-sign with the Hawks, and Al Horford also vouched for Ferry.
  • The Hawks have named Dominique Wilkins a special adviser to CEO Steve Koonin, the team announced (Twitter link). Wilkins, who was already a part of the front office as vice president of basketball, inked a long-term contract, as Vivlamore notes, though it’s unclear how the move affects his desire to buy the team.
  • The Hornets will continue to pay Jeff Taylor while he’s on leave from the team as he faces domestic violence charges, GM Rich Cho told reporters, including Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).