Tony Ressler

Southeast Notes: Connelly, Heat, Ressler

Now that the Nuggets’ season is over after a thrilling seven-game series loss to Portland, the Wizards are ramping up their efforts to hire Denver’s current president of basketball operations Tim Connelly to the same position in Washington, per Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington.

While there were questions as to why the Wizards would wait until the Nuggets’ season was over to pursue Connelly, Standig notes that Connelly wasn’t expected to fully explore a move until the Nuggets’ playoff run ended, despite reportedly having interest in running the Wizards.

The Nuggets appear to have an extremely bright future, but Connelly is from Baltimore and began his front office career in Washington in 1996 when he was hired as intern before working his way up to director of player personnel under then-general manager and Wizards’ legend Wes Unseld.

The Nuggets have been in a similar situation as this before. Back in 2013, Nuggets’ GM Masai Ujiri took the same position with the Raptors after team owner Stan Kroenke acquiesced to Ujiri’s desire to return to Toronto. It will interesting to see if a similar situation will arise with Connelly and the Wizards.

There’s more from the Southeast Division this evening:

  • While it remains highly unlikely that either Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic opt out of their contract with the Heat, Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel relays that even if they did, Miami would still need to use the stretch provision on veteran forward Ryan Anderson just to get close to having enough cap space to sign a max-salary free agent. The more likely scenario is a trade of Dragic, but not Whiteside, after both opt in, especially considering the unlikelihood of a free agent wanting to sign with Miami if Whiteside and Dragic are both gone.
  • In another Q&A session for the Sun-Sentinel (link), Winderman agrees with one of his readers that the Heat probably mistimed their rebuild by beginning a little too early. Rather, they should have followed the lead of other Eastern Conference contenders and waited for LeBron James to leave the East before going into rebuild mode.
  • Despite a overwhelming consensus that this year’s draft crop is lacking in overall talent, Hawks’ owner Tony Ressler is not using that as an excuse, telling Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “If we can’t make two top-10 picks work for us, it’s our fault. Our job is to make them work and I think we will.”

Southeast Notes: McGruder, Butler, Kidd-Gilchrist, Ressler

Heat guard Rodney McGruder is boosting his chances for a contract extension with his productive start to the new season, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Through four games, McGruder is putting up numbers that dwarf his career averages, posting 16.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists per night. After missing all but 18 games last season with a leg injury, McGruder is making the most of his newly won spot in the starting lineup.

The 27-year-old is eligible for an extension that could pay him up to $47MM over four seasons. McGruder and the Heat can negotiate an extension through June 30, so there’s no rush to get a deal done. Miami could also opt to make him a restricted free agent by making a $1.9MM qualifying offer.

The Heat’s salary structure could be the main thing standing in the way of a McGruder extension, Winderman notes. If Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson and Goran Dragic all opt in, the team will have eight players earning at least $10MM next season. A long-term deal for McGruder would also cut into Miami’s cap room for 2020, when the organization hopes to be competitive in the free agent market with those three contracts off the books.

There’s more news from the Southeast Division:

  • Jimmy Butler‘s greatest value to the Heat could be to entice another star to join the team in 2020, Winderman suggests in a separate piece. Even if the organization gives Butler the maximum contract he wants, it would have enough to offer a max deal in free agency.
  • Even though he’s no longer a starter, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is enjoying the changes implemented by new Hornets coach James Borrego, relays Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Kidd-Gilchrist also had his minutes reduced and was moved from small forward to power forward, but he’s thriving in the new system. “A new coach, a new way of playing, a new lifestyle,” he said. “It is easy and simple. It’s me running in transition. All my teammates helped me from Day One about not starting, saying, ‘It’s OK.’”
  • Hawks owner Tony Ressler tells Jeff Schultz of The Athletic that he takes the blame for the team’s recent collapse and describes his former management team of Mike Budenholzer and Wes Wilcox as “total dysfunction.” They frequently disagreed on personnel moves, with Budenholzer, who also served as coach, being focused on a win-now approach. “Bud was not the right coach for us,” Ressler said. “He was desperate to coach a superstar. I don’t know where Bud’s head was; you’ll have to ask him. But I do think when some people have a very short life as the decision-maker, and they no longer have it, sometimes they miss it.”

Hawks Fully Embrace Total Rebuild

Hawks majority owner Tony Ressler is convinced the franchise had no choice but to go into full rebuild mode, as he told NBA.com’s David Aldridge in an extensive piece on the team’s direction. New GM Travis Schlenk helped convince Ressler that the franchise was spinning its wheels and needed to stockpile draft picks while developing a young core, Aldridge continues.

“Truly, there are three options in the NBA, I would argue: being a contender, being a competitive team, and being young and fun,” Ressler told Adridge. “At least that would be my opinion. And we didn’t have the option of being a contender. So we could be competitive, or more competitive, and maybe, shall we say, with a whole bunch of higher-priced vets that made us older and made our payroll less flexible, and made our future more cloudy.”

Instead, Ressler selected the “young and fun” option, despite knowing the losses would pile up this season. The team has five first-round picks during the next two drafts, including one from the Clippers that they acquired this offseason by getting involved in a three-way deal that included the Nuggets. The Hawks also traded away center Dwight Howard and opted not to pursue their top free agent, power forward Paul Millsap.

Aldridge also offered these nuggets in the story:

  • The team is building around point guard Dennis Schroder, second-year wings Taurean Prince and DeAndre’ Bembry, and rookie big man John Collins.
  • Schlenk feels pressure to produce on the draft picks: “It’s my job to, hopefully, get four of those right,” he said.
  • Ressler told coach Mike Budenholzer that he didn’t think anyone could be an effective head coach and run the organization at the same time. Budenholzer relinquished his duties as president of basketball operations. “I tried to convince him and I think he realized fully that being the GM is a full-time job,” Ressler said. “So why does anyone on earth think they can do two extraordinarily difficult jobs? And I believe Bud saw that very clearly.”
  • Budenholzer lobbied Schlenk to make an offer to Millsap even after the decision to rebuild was made.

Hawks Rumors: Millsap, Wilcox, Front Office

It was a “poorly-kept secret” in NBA circles that Wes Wilcox and Mike Budenholzer haven’t seen eye-to-eye on the Hawks’ direction in recent years, according to TNT’s David Aldridge. In his latest Morning Tip column on NBA.com, Aldridge takes a deep dive on the Hawks and the “philosophical” differences between Wilcox and Budenholzer, citing one source who referred to the front office situation as “a Game of Thrones kind of thing.”

According to Aldridge’s sources, Wilcox was in favor of trading Paul Millsap earlier this year and going all-in on an Atlanta rebuild, but Budenholzer – who retained final say on the team’s personnel moves at the time – nixed that idea.

[RELATED: David Griffin, Joe Dumars, Troy Weaver on Hawks’ radar?]

Although Hawks owner Tony Ressler – in a conversation with Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution – dismissed the notion that Budenholzer and Wilcox couldn’t work together, both men were re-assigned last week to roles that reduce their influence within the basketball operations department. Budenholzer is no longer the president of basketball ops, while Wilcox is no longer the Hawks’ GM.

Here’s more out of Atlanta:

  • No matter who the Hawks hire as their next GM, Millsap is expected to negotiate directly with Ressler this offseason, per Aldridge. And Atlanta will do everything it can to re-sign the All-Star big man. “There’s no disagreement on whether we’re going to try and keep him, and whether he’s great for the Atlanta Hawks,” Ressler said of Millsap.
  • While Millsap has publicly expressed a desire to remain with the Hawks, there are “rumblings about what he really thought about this season,” according to Aldridge, who writes that “there was unhappiness among some with a lack of accountability for other players who consistently made mistakes on the floor.”
  • Said one Hawks source to Aldridge: “We had guys out there doing (stuff) they had no business doing.”
  • Some members of the Hawks were also confused about why Thabo Sefolosha fell out of the club’s rotation in the playoffs, says Aldridge.
  • Ressler is serious about continuing to listen to Wes Wilcox‘s input as the former GM moves to a new advisory role, per Aldridge. The Hawks owner will also listen to input from execs like assistant GM Jeff Peterson and director of player personnel John Treloar, who were hired by Wilcox.
  • Wilcox is negotiating a new contract with the Hawks as he transitions to his new role, according to Aldridge, who notes that the deal will have offset protection for the franchise in case Wilcox finds a job with another team.
  • With free agency looming, Millsap still feels like he can improve as a player, as KL Chouinard of Hawks.com details.

Eastern Notes: Colangelo, Harris, Johnson, Hawks

Bryan Colangelo, who was introduced today as the Sixers‘ new president of basketball operations, defended the controversial “process” championed by his predecessor, Sam Hinkie, writes Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer“I do think it has been a success, because we’re at a jumping-off point now,” Colangelo said. “The organization is poised to take a major leap forward because of what has transpired over these last few years of what I’m going to call a measured rebuilding process.” Brookover isn’t a fan of Philadelphia’s complimentary players, but says the franchise has three valuable pieces in Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, along with three or possibly four first-rounders in this year’s draft. He believes Hinkie was a poor communicator and claims the Sixers are in better hands now that Colangelo is in charge.

There’s more news from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Sixers are eager to move past the avalanche of losing that has marked the past three seasons, according to Brian Seltzer of NBA.com. Philadelphia has sunk to a league-worst 10-70 this season after going 18-64 last year and 19-63 in 2013/14, all while Hinkie tried to stockpile draft picks and young players. “It’s been a tough three years,” co-managing owner Joshua Harris said at a press conference this afternoon. “I think we’ve been very honest with the city and the fans.  I think the fans have been very patient with us.  It’s not easy to build a winner.  It’s not easy to build an elite team.  Now it’s time to move to the next phase.”
  • Joe Johnson would have been a valuable addition to a Cavaliers team that is weak at the backup wing position, contends Jeff Kasler of AmicoHoops. Cleveland was considered an early favorite to land Johnson as he was negotiating his buyout with the Nets, but Johnson opted for Miami because he prefers the Heat’s up-tempo offense. Kasler says Johnson would have given the Cavs quality minutes that Richard Jefferson and Iman Shumpert aren’t providing and would have allowed more rest time for LeBron James in the postseason.
  • New Hawks principal owner Tony Ressler is planning a major upgrade to Phillips Arena, according to Chris Vivlamore of The Journal Constitution. Ressler, who bought the team nine months ago, claims Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told him the city could finance about half of a planned $200MM to $300MM project. The work is projected to begin in the summer of 2017 and be completed in 2018.

Eastern Rumors: Cavs, DeRozan, Celtics, Monroe

Some sources tell Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders that they think LeBron James will ask the Cavs to change coaches (Twitter link), though he has no intention of pushing the team to fire David Blatt, as ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported last week. Blatt has made it clear on multiple occasions that he expects he’ll be back. Still, we’ll see what happens this summer in Cleveland. Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Chatter continues to indicate that DeMar DeRozan will opt out and seek a maximum-salary deal next summer, and “there is no way” that the Raptors would be willing to pay him that much, reports Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun. For this summer, the Raptors will probably have particular interest in Marc Gasol and Paul Millsap, Wolstat also writes.
  • Celtics don’t find their chances to land a star encouraging, as Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe hears. Himmelsbach confirms earlier reports of interest in Greg Monroe and Millsap, though he hears from several team sources who say the team didn’t offer Marcus Smart in trade proposals to other teams on draft day.
  • Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com believes the new regime in Atlanta isn’t as enamored with Monroe’s game as the team’s last set of higher-ups was (Twitter link). The Hawks, who have a new principal owner in Tony Ressler and have formally cut ties with GM Danny Ferry, aren’t among the teams reportedly meeting with the soon-to-be free agent big man.
  • Jimmy Butler would like to sign a one-year offer sheet with the Lakers, a league source tells Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, but that would be impossible since offer sheets must be for at least two years and at least three if, as the Bulls have long planned, Chicago makes a five-year max offer. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported a couple of weeks ago that Butler’s interest in the Lakers had increased, but the Bulls have the right to match any offer and are expected to do so, Medina notes.
  • Reggie Jackson turned down an offer worth more than $12MM a year in extension talks with the Thunder last year because he wanted out of Oklahoma City and onto a team where he could start, a source told Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. Jackson will probably demand the max if the Pistons want him to sign for five years, the same source said to Ellis.
  • Mario Hezonja and Barcelona, his Spanish team, have reached a deal on a buyout that will allow him to part ways with the club and sign with the Magic, who drafted him fifth overall Thursday, reports Jose Ignacio Huguet of Mundo Deportivo (translation via Sporando’s Enea Trapani). The buyout is worth 1.6 million euros, the equivalent of about $1.79MM at today’s exchange rate. Orlando will presumably cover the maximum $625K of that amount.

League OKs Tony Ressler’s Purchase Of Hawks

Private equity mogul Tony Ressler and his partners have officially assumed control of the Hawks after receiving unanimous Board of Governors approval today, the league announced. Controlling owner Bruce Levenson, who last September announced his decision to sell as he self-reported racially insensitive emails that he had sent in 2012, and the rest of an often-divided consortium of co-owners have relinquished the team in the $730MM deal. The Ressler group is also assuming some $120MM in arena-related debt, raising the total purchase price to $850MM, as several reports made clear in April, when Ressler and his partners secured an agreement to buy the team. USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt reported a few days ago that league approval and the transfer would take place today.

“We are pleased that the NBA’s Board of Governors has approved the purchase of the Atlanta Hawks by principal owner Tony Ressler,” commissioner Adam Silver said.  “Tony and his diverse and experienced ownership group will bring tremendous energy and passion to the Hawks and the team and its fans will greatly benefit from their commitment to the Atlanta community.”

Former player Grant Hill, private equity investor Rick Schnall, women’s wear magnate Sara Blakely and her husband, entrepreneur Jesse Itzler, are among those in Ressler’s group. They beat out another bid that reportedly involved baseball legend Hank Aaron as well as former Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien and current Grizzlies minority owner Steve Kaplan. Former Suns and Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo, former player Junior Bridgeman and neuropsychologist Richard Chaifetz also apparently teamed for a run at the Hawks as part of a bid that once included Hill.

The new owners appear poised to work on a deal that would make Mike Budenholzer team president and coach, as well as one that would give assistant GM Wes Wilcox a promotion to GM, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported last week. Former GM Danny Ferry received a buyout earlier this week that gave him more than he would have received over the remainder of his contract, according to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com. Ferry had been on a leave of absence since September that he began after the revelation that he repeated racially charged comments about Luol Deng that had been written in a scouting report from an outside firm. The departures of Ferry and Levenson allow the team to move on from the scandal that hung in the background amid the team’s 60-win season.

Ressler and the front office face a challenge this summer to retain both Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll with only Early Bird rights on them and perhaps not enough cap space to meet their collective market price, as I examined in our Offseason Outlook for the team. Atlanta holds the 15th, 50th and 59th picks in Thursday’s draft.

Southeast Notes: Beal, Nene, Ressler, Fournier

It’s conference finals or bust for the Wizards next season, opines Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com. Coach Randy Wittman acknowledges the challenge is to find the right complements to John Wall and Bradley Beal, as Youngmisuk notes. J. Michael of CSNWashington.com reported in October that the team is planning an extension for Beal, who’s eligible to receive one this summer, and Wittman hinted that the team has no intention to let the shooting guard go anywhere anytime soon.

“We know what we have to do and the pieces that I would like to add moving forward,” Wittman said. “Brad and John will be here a long time and so we got to utilize their strengths and find the right people to put around them.”

There’s more on the Wizards amid the latest from the Southeast Division:

  • Marcin Gortat said Monday that he wants to play with a stretch four, but Nene, who doesn’t fit that description, made it clear that he’d prefer not to have to play more center, as Michael relays in a pair of pieces. Moving to center might mean a backup role for Nene as he enters the final season of his contract with the Wizards, Michael suggests. “As much as I love Nene, and I think Nene understands this, too, I would love to play with a stretch four, with a guy who shoots the ball from the three-point line because that automatically gives me more room under the basket to operate,” Gortat said. “It gives me more opportunity to play pick-and-rolls to the paint where the paint is open.”
  • The Board of Governors are expected to complete the approval process for Tony Ressler’s deal to buy the Hawks within the next four to six weeks, a source told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The draft is five weeks from Thursday, and free agency begins six weeks from Wednesday.
  • Offseason trade acquisition Evan Fournier was a revelation early in the season for the Magic, but his numbers were inconsistent after a switch to the bench, and he’d likely be a reserve again next season if the team re-signs Tobias Harris, writes Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel. Fournier is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer.

Tony Ressler Finalizes Deal To Buy Hawks

7:04pm: The Hawks announced in a press release that a definitive agreement has been signed for the purchase of the team by the group fronted by Ressler. “We are honored and thrilled to have been chosen to become the new stewards of the Hawks,” said Ressler. “We respect the NBA’s approval process and, accordingly, can say no more other than we are incredibly excited by the Hawks’ success and wish them luck in the playoffs.” The sale, which also includes operation of Philips Arena, requires the approval of the NBA Board of Governors before it can be finalized.

The statement lists Hill, Itzler, and private equity investor Rick Schnall as members of the group, as well as clothing entrepreneur Sara Blakely, who is married to Itzler. Starker and Frankel aren’t listed.

2:50pm: Michael Gearon Jr., who currently owns a minority share of the team, will keep a small percentage of the Hawks, reports Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Gearon reportedly pressed for Ferry’s dismissal this past June.

2:14pm: Shelburne, Soshnick and Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com all indicate that the Ressler group will assume debt as part of the deal (All Twitter links). Soshnick refers to it as about $120MM worth of arena debt, and Arnovitz says the total price, debt included, will come to approximately $850MM. So that seems to back up Soshnick’s original $730MM figure, which appears to represent the cost of the team itself.

1:35pm: The price will be somewhere between $750MM and $900MM, according to Wojnarowski, who writes in a full story.

1:32pm: A sale price of more than $800MM will be announced soon, as Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com hears (Twitter link). The new owners plan to keep CEO Steve Koonin and coach/acting GM Mike Budenholzer aboard, Shelburne adds. The disparity between the figures may be related to $112MM worth of bonds left over from the construction of Philips Arena, a point Mike Ozanian of Forbes.com made earlier when there was about $100MM difference between reported amounts of the preliminary bidding figures.

1:20pm: The Ressler group is paying $730MM for the team, reports Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg.com (Twitter link). That’s somewhat lower than the roughly $800MM figure previously reported for preliminary bids.

12:56pm: Private equity mogul Tony Ressler is finalizing a deal with Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson to buy the team for a price of less than $1 billion, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter links). Ressler’s bidding group reportedly includes Grant Hill. Brokerage firm founder Steven Starker and rapper-turned-entrepreneur Jesse Itzler have also been a part of the bid, as has Tampa Bay Rays part owner Randy Frankel. Ressler recently replaced investor and Lionsgate Entertainment chairman Mark Rachesky as the leader of the group that was pitted against a bid that involved baseball legend Hank Aaron as well as former Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien and current Grizzlies minority owner Steve Kaplan.

Ressler was a late comer to the Hawks bidding, but he and Hill were part of a group that made a strong impression on the league when they put in a $1.2 billion bid for the Clippers, as TNT’s David Aldridge wrote in September, speculating then that Ressler and Hill could end up going after the Hawks. Hill reportedly left another group that included former Suns and Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo, former player Junior Bridgeman and neuropsychologist Richard Chaifetz to join the Ressler bid.

Levenson announced in September that he would sell his share of the team as he self-reported racially insensitive emails that he had sent in 2012. The rest of the owners later agreed to put 100% of the franchise on the block. GM Danny Ferry‘s fate also seems tied to the sale, as he’s been on indefinite leave of absence since his own racially charged remarks about Luol Deng surfaced.