(This Sunday blog has been updated with the news this morning that Danny Ferry has been hired as the Hawks’ new president and general manager.)
There will be a blur of issues for the Hawks’ new architect to deal with, but all that really matters today is the organization seems to have the right guy in charge.
The Hawks have finalized the hiring of Danny Ferry as their new team president and general manager, replacing Rick Sund. New general managers, like new coaches and first-round draft picks, come with no guarantees. But Ferry has a strong reputation around the league as a sharp personnel guy and he did a solid job for five years as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ general manager.
Ferry spent the last two years as vice president of basketball operations for the San Antonio Spurs, following his resignation from the Cavs in 2010. He and owner Dan Gilbert split after Gilbert fired coach Mike Brown, in part because the owner hoped to keep LeBron James from fleeing in free agency (didn’t work).
James left Cleveland because he wanted a better supporting cast, but Ferry did an admirable job, acquiring guard Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison and Shaquille O’Neal, among others. In five years as Cleveland’s general manager, the Cavaliers twice finished with the league’s best record, went to the finals once and had a cumulative winning percentage of .663 (272-138). Was that largely because of James? Sure. But that shouldn’t diminish the job Ferry did.
Ferry appeared to be ticketed for Philadelphia but the Hawks obviously put enough on the table in terms of autonomy and compensation to lure him to Atlanta.
Ferry said in a statement that, “There were many components that made this the right fit for me,” and expressed confidence in ownership, saying: “They are committed to building with the right people and investing in critical areas for development; both essential elements if we want to create sustained success.”
He’ll face a number of issues, including, but not limited to:
1.) What to do about forward Josh Smith, who has requested a trade and will be entering the final season of his contract.
2.) How to manage the Hawks’ salary cap situation with one player (Joe Johnson) taking up so much space while often not resembling an elite player of that compensation level ($20 million).
3.) Who to select in Thursday’s NBA draft, or should the team try to package Smith and/or make a trade to move up from the 23rd overall spot.
But at least the Hawks won’t have somebody in charge at the draft whose contract doesn’t expire at the end of the month (Sund).
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The partners of the Atlanta Spirit believe I pick on them too much for matters pertaining to . . . well, you know, pretty much everything. So in the interest of equal time, here goes:
The Hawks reportedly have offered the general manager position to Danny Ferry and are in “serious talks” with him, according to Yahoo Sports. There has been no confirmation of this from team officials, but also no denial. The Hawks’ interest in Ferry was first reported by ESPN two days ago, but many believed he was ticketed for the GM opening in Philadelphia.
The team released a statement confirming they have “reached out” to Ferry: “As we continue to evaluate our franchise and look to build a championship caliber organization, we reached out to Danny Ferry. We are engaged in conversation regarding the Atlanta Hawks and our basketball operations. As the situation evolves, we will update at the appropriate time.”
If the Hawks get Ferry, it would be a solid move for the franchise for at least two reasons: 1) It would ensure that Rick Sund is not back as general manager; 2) Ferry is pretty good.
Let’s start with the Sund factor. His contract expires at the end of the month. He has been doing this Hamlet act since during the season, not knowing if wanted to return next season as general manager, a consultant or not at all.
I wrote three weeks ago — here’s the link – that the Hawks should not bring back Sund in any decision-making capacity because the team has major decisions ahead and it doesn’t make sense to put those in the hands of an executive who seemingly already was one foot into retirement.
As it is, the NBA draft is Thursday night and Sund will be the man in charge of the Hawks, unless ownership can get something done with Ferry in the next few days.
As for Ferry, he did a solid job when he was running things in Cleveland, where the Cavaliers went to the finals and twice had the best regular-season record during his five-year tenure. Granted, it helped that LeBron James was on the roster. Ferry resigned after the 2009-10 season when he disagreed with owner Dan Gilbert over the firing of coach Mike Brown (with the hope of enticing James to re-sign). So Ferry went back to San Antonio, where he had started, as a front office executive. I figure any executive twice hired by the San Antonio Spurs must know what he’s doing.
Ferry’s hiring obvious wouldn’t guarantee success. He would have to deal with some of the Hawks’ unique issues, the biggest being Joe Johnson’s contract and Josh Smith entering the final year of his deal. But if he takes the job and is allowed to work free of ownership entanglements, there’s good chance he’ll move the Hawks in the right direction.
By Jeff Schultz