Danny Ferry takes an indefinite leave of absence with the Hawks as more documents emerge

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Danny Ferry takes an indefinite leave of absence with the Hawks as more documents emerge
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  • Luol Deng
    Luol Deng
  • Danny Ferry
    American professional basketball player and general manager

In the wake of ever-swirling revelations about the way Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry handled the free-agent courtship of Luol Deng in July, the Hawks’ recently-promoted CEO Steve Koonin has accepted Ferry’s request to take a leave of absence from the team he has run since 2012.

Here is part of the statement made by the Hawks on Friday afternoon:

“This afternoon, Danny Ferry requested, and I have approved, taking an indefinite leave of absence, effective immediately.  This has been an incredibly difficult time for him and his family and it is my hope that this time away from the Hawks organization allows him the privacy he needs to listen to the community, to learn about his mistakes, and to begin the long process of personal healing.  As a human being, manager and friend, I wish him well as he undergoes this process.

While the issues related to race are deeply troubling, at the heart of this dispute is an unfortunate disagreement amongst owners. That said, we have taken several steps to address what we can do as an organization to be better and stronger, including working with a diversity consultant to examine us and to train us to ensure something like this never happens again, we are committed to hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, and we have and will continue to meet with community leaders in an ongoing way to ensure our values reflect the community in which we play and work.  The process of selling the team, which is to remain in Atlanta, is already underway.

Effective immediately, our Head Coach, Mike Budenholzer, will assume oversight of the basketball operations department.  He will report directly to me.

Ferry released his own statement:

"No words can adequately describe my remorse for the hurt that I have caused many people through the statements I repeated, most importantly Luol Deng.

"Luol is a good man who I have known for many years and he has done a tremendous amount of good for his country and around the world. I apologize to Luol and I apologize to all that I have offended. As I have said, while these were not my words, I deeply regret repeating them. Almost all the background information I provided during the lengthy presentation regarding Luol was positive and my personal and professional recommendation during the call was very much in favor of adding Luol to our team but I never should have uttered those offensive remarks and for that I apologize.

"My focus moving forward is to tirelessly work to rebuild trust with this community and with our fans. I realize that my words may ring hollow now and my future actions must speak for me. I will maximize my time during this leave to meet with community leaders and further educate myself and others on the extremely sensitive issues surrounding race, diversity, and inclusion. I will find a way to make a positive difference in this area, and further learn from the sensitivity training that I will go through.”

This move comes on the heels of yet another bombshell, following revelations of the meeting that Ferry called in order to detail Deng’s supposed background to a cadre of Hawk owners, and the release of the actual audio from that meeting.

A document recently obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB Channel 2 appears to disclose that a former Cleveland Cavaliers executive wrote the damning “scouting” report that Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry expounded upon in his discussions regarding Luol Deng’s possible signing with the franchise. The remarks were paraphrased by Ferry, they allowed one disgruntled minority owner to pounce and ask for Ferry’s resignation, and the resulting criticism could cost Ferry his job.

Here’s a screen shot of the Cleveland-sourced report:

(Courtesy the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
(Courtesy the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

And the text:

Herb [Rudoy, Deng’s agent] tells people he wants to start at $12 million.

From a physical when we got him: Chicago had run him into the ground. We tried to correct & manage it when we got him. People say that he is worn down but I disagree & think that there is more left in his body.

He’s a good guy on the cover but he’s an African. He has a little two-step in him = says what you like to hear, but behind closed doors he could be killing you. Con isn’t bad, but it’s there. African-like, store front looks great but there is a black market section in the back. Chicago thought he was good for their culture, but an outlier. Teammates liked him, but he had less impact on the locker room than you would think. He complained about things like not enough jerseys in the team store and that his or that his bobblehead was last during the year. Has some con and a sense of entitlement. Luol kind of treated Cleveland like a pit-stop after the trade, where he probably became more protective of his body and focused on his contract because he didn’t know his long-term plan. He said some things to the media privately but denied them publically said it wasn’t him. He’s not terrible, but you’ve got to know that stuff is there with him.

(Here’s the hilarious part.)

I would have no problem bringing him back, he’s still young and a pretty good player but he’s not a really good shooter so it’s hard for him to be impactful. You have to play differently with him because it’s hard for him to create offense & is an average shooter … we had a hard time fitting him in. He needs to be able to slash and play with consistent movement to be okay because you’re not going to get much out of him from being a spacer. He’s really good defensively when he locks in.

He has two guys around him all the time, one of them is a foundation guy. Money will be important to him because of the foundation.

(This would be “the foundation.”)

We offered him [REDACTED] that’s what we thought his value really was, not the $12-14M he was looking for CHA, PHX, DAL, & LAL all had degrees of interest around the deadline.

[REDACTED] felt like he was hard [REDACTED] and didn’t pass the ball, play defense, or fight through things.

There’s a lot there.

It’s true that Deng wasn’t the slashing, moving and exhilarating component that we saw in Tom Thibodeau’s offense, because nobody has ever really slashed or moved in (former Cleveland coach) Mike Brown’s stagnant and dreary offenses. And it’s true, as someone who has closely followed Luol since 2004, that after his first month with the Cavaliers it became apparent that he was playing at only 90 percent in anticipation of missing the playoffs in Cleveland, and his first unrestricted free agent trip.

It’s only natural, considering the ways in which Chicago wore him into the ground, and the way they botched one medical procedure after another, while lying to the press (two significant times) about how injured Luol Deng really was.

A Chicago-sourced portion of the document reveals as much, referring to not only Deng’s misdiagnosed broken leg and the way the team’s coaching staff and front office sold him out after his botched spinal tap, but in regards to a less-noticed injury to his wrist and thumb:

He’s a great guy, as great as you’ve heard. Guys loved him in our locker room. A lot of his stuff was medical related and distrust between [REDACTED]. The spinal tap issue was a big one, he didn’t need it and they convinced him to get it.


He blamed the team and they put pressure on him to play when he was seriously sick.


He had a wrist thing two years ago, needed surgery, but played the entire year with the injured wrist … management convinced him to not get surgery until after the season. Luol did what they asked. That summer, Luol wanted to play for the English National Team and put off surgery and [REDACTED]. The NT stuff with Luol is huge. He’s really into it and proud of it and when management gave him the mixed message … don’t get the surgery when you’re playing for us, but don’t play for the NT and get the surgery, this really bothered him.

Then there is the contract stuff … from our (the coaching staff’s) understanding there was no contract talks between Luol and Management until they made their “take it or leave it offer.”

Two takes?

The Chicago Bulls front office, as we’ve known for years, should be ashamed of themselves and their treatment of Luol Deng the asset, as opposed to Luol Deng the person and player. Squeezing every inch out of the best years of his career, shaming him publicly along the way, before trading him to one of the league’s most pathetic franchises (at the time) in a payroll dump.

Most importantly?

By including, paraphrasing, and relaying the former Cleveland executive’s ham-hock thoughts on Luol Deng’s heritage, Danny Ferry showed an abject lack of leadership, thinking this was the sort of language that would best help express his own thoughts on Luol Deng as a person and eventually as a player. The buck should have stopped with him, it didn’t and it will likely cost him his job.

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Kelly Dwyer

is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!