Tony Ressler

And-Ones: Adebayo, Olympics, NBA Foundation, Tsai

Although he didn’t make the final 12-man squad that took part in the 2019 World Cup, Heat center Bam Adebayo participated in Team USA’s training camp leading up to that event and received consideration to represent the U.S. in the international competition.

With the Tokyo Olympics on tap for the summer of 2021, however, another national program is hoping to recruit Adebayo away from USA Basketball, according to Colin Udoh of ESPN, who says Nigeria wants to add the big man to its Olympic roster. Adebayo’s father is Nigerian, Udoh notes.

“Having Bam in our national team is a possibility that we are considering as a federation ahead of the 2020 Olympics and beyond,” Nigeria Basketball Federation president Musa Kida said in a statement to ESPN. “We are excited about how far he has gone and what he can achieve in his career with D’Tigers if he chooses to play for Nigeria.”

Nigeria has already earned an Olympic berth and – assuming next season’s schedule allows for it – is expected to feature NBA players such as Josh Okogie, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chimezie Metu, and potentially Spencer Dinwiddie. It remains to be seen if the team will be able to land Adebayo, but he has said in the past that he’d consider Nigeria if asked. He also may be more open to the idea after being cut from last year’s Team USA roster.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The NBA and NBPA issued a joint press release today announcing the board of directors for the NBA Foundation, a new organization dedicated to driving “economic empowerment for Black communities through employment and career advancement.” In addition to Harrison Barnes and Tobias Harris, whose involvement was previously reported, the NBA Foundation’s board of directors will be made up of Adam Silver, Michele Roberts, and four team owners (Gayle Benson, Tony Ressler, Larry Tanenbaum, and Michael Jordan).
  • As we relayed earlier today, China’s CCTV has lifted its year-long ban on NBA broadcasts, citing the league’s role in fighting COVID-19 in China as a primary reason for that decision. NetsDaily suggests Nets owner Joe Tsai may have played a key part in that effort, having sent a $3.7MM donation to China in February to help fight the pandemic.
  • In an Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks lists the trade assets held by all 30 teams, including moveable players, surplus draft picks, and trade exceptions.

Multiple NBA Teams Commit To Paying Arena Workers During Hiatus

Some of the first comments Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made on Wednesday night after the NBA announced that it had suspended the 2019/20 season were focused on the team’s part-time, seasonal, and hourly employees, such as security guards and concession workers at the American Airlines Center. Cuban made it clear that the Mavs plan to take care of those employees.

“I reached out to the folks at the arena and our folks at the Mavs to find out what it would cost to support, financially support, people who aren’t going to be able to come to work,” Cuban told reporters, per Mark Medina of USA Today. “They get paid by the hour, and this was their source of income. So, we’ll do some things there. We may ask them to go do some volunteer work in exchange, but we’ve already started the process of having a program in place. I don’t have any details to give, but it’s certainly something that’s important to me.”

Since then, a handful of other teams have followed Cuban’s lead. Hawks owner Tony Ressler had been preparing for this possibility and had planned all along to compensate the team’s full-time and part-time employees who will have their jobs disrupted by the NBA’s hiatus, writes Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“We have a pretty clear set of priorities in this kind of remarkable time that we’re living through,” Ressler said. “Protecting our fans, protecting our employees, and protecting the reputation of our league, all of which is important, but let there be no confusion, that means taking care of all of our employees, our full-time, our part-time.”

After Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie tweeted about taking care of non-salaried arena staff, team owner Joe Tsai responded that the Nets are working on a plan for those workers.

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love pledged $100K of his own money to aid arena employees displaced by the NBA’s stoppage, telling ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that he hopes “others will step up” as well. The Cavs announced (via Twitter) shortly thereafter that they’d be compensating all of their arena and event staff members as if every game and event at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse is still taking place.

While only a handful of teams have addressed the issue so far, I’d be surprised if that list doesn’t continue to grow in the coming days. Team owners and players will be affected financially by the suspension, but their losses likely won’t be as damaging in the short term as they would be for the lower-level employees who had been relying on the hourly wages earned at NBA events.

Southeast Notes: Hawks, I. Thomas, Herro, Magic

Hawks owner Tony Ressler has no regrets about trading Luka Doncic for Trae Young and would make the same decision again, relays Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Atlanta shook up the 2018 draft by agreeing to a deal that enabled Dallas to move up to No. 3 and select the eventual Rookie of the Year. The Hawks received Young, who also looks like a star after a slow start, along with a 2019 pick that was used to add Cam Reddish.

“I have to be honest, but I didn’t think Luka would be this good,” said Ressler, who admitted to being nervous about the gamble. “I didn’t think Trae was going to be this good. They are both better than I expected. I think they’re both really special players and have a shot to be for a really long time if they stay focused. I think this trade is going to have a nice, long history of discussion. I wouldn’t completely, again, declare success or whether we won it or lost it today because I do think both teams have someone they can really help build around for years and years to come.”

The Hawks are in the third step of the plan that Ressler developed to build a title contender after purchasing the team in 2015. Step one was a $200MM renovation to State Farm Arena. Next came a new management team with Travis Schlenk as general manager and Lloyd Pierce, who had experienced rebuilding with the Sixers, as head coach.

“The third step, we don’t know when and we want to do it intelligently, but is spending the money that it will take to add greatness to what we hope is existing greatness,” Ressler explained. “That is how you become a contender.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Isaiah Thomas had a promising debut with the Wizards Saturday night, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. After missing his first four shots, Thomas finished with 16 points, five assists and three rebounds in 20 minutes. The performance offered hope that he can become productive again after two injury-plagued seasons.
  • Years of early-morning workouts with his father helped prepare rookie Tyler Herro for the Heat culture, notes Lori Nickel of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. When Herro was taken with the 13th pick in this year’s draft, he was ready for Miami’s emphasis on fitness and hard work. “We say it all the time: We’re not for everyone. You have to be the right kind of player,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “So, for a young player you’re checking to see if there’s any kind of entitlement. And there’s zero with that kid. He has a whole lot to his game, because you can tell he’s put in a lot of hours and sweat equity behind the scenes when no one was watching. He’s extremely driven, very ambitious. We love that.”
  • Even though the Magic are coming off a playoff season, outside shooting remains an area of concern, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

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.