The Atlanta Hawks‘ season came to an inglorious end when the Cleveland Cavaliers swept them in the Eastern Conference Finals last month, but that disappointing conclusion in no way detracts from a historic run during which the team won a franchise record 60 games, boasted four All-Stars, and had the NBA Coach of the Year winner Mike Budenholzer at the helm.
All of this transpired despite the organization’s inner turmoil during the offseason last summer, which started with a scandal surrounding racially-insensitive comments GM Danny Ferry made about Luol Deng during a conference call and culminated with owner Bruce Levenson putting the team up for sale, a transaction that will be finalized on June 24 when a new ownership group led by Tony Ressler takes over.
In the wake of that scandal, numerous players, colleagues, and reporters around the league jumped to Ferry’s defense to insist that he’s not a racist, but it now appears the most likely outcome is that Ferry will resign his position prior to the NBA Draft at the end of the month. Via Jeff Schultz of AJC Sports:
“At this point, there are three scenarios for Ferry, but only two plausible ones:
• Ferry resigns: This is the favorite. It could happen any day. The Hawks likely would agree to pay off the balance of Ferry’s contract and it would allow him to make an exit statement along the lines of, “I’m proud of the work I did here but I feel it’s the best for all parties to move on.”
• Ferry is fired: It doesn’t serve anybody to have this thing end ugly, least of all Ferry, who wants to get another job (and will). But he has been resistant to leaving, loves living in Atlanta and it may come to this.
• Ferry is kept: Think “PowerBall” odds.”
Hot off the heels of the Donald Sterling saga, there was little possibility this could have played out any other way, and with this knowledge Ferry took an indefinite leave of absence from his duties prior to the season. Assistant GM Wes Wilcox has been handling those duties since and would likely stay on as interim GM if/when Ferry resigns, although it’s unclear whether he’ll remain in that position for the long term.
Whoever’s in charge will face some difficult decisions heading into the Draft and free agency this summer, most notably concerning DeMarre Carroll, who’s been one of the best values in the league but who’s also earned a significant pay raise given his growth this season.
Paul Millsap will likewise enter free agency this summer but has indicated he’d like to remain with the Hawks for the foreseeable future. Regardless, other more nebulous questions remain about whether a team like the Hawks can be a legitimate title contender without a bonafide superstar on its roster, and that’s something that will linger until they can ultimately prove otherwise.