Two African-American NBA general managers come to Danny Ferry's defense

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Two African-American NBA general managers come to Danny Ferry's defense
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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s release of Danny Ferry’s actual recorded words confirms what Adrian Wojnarowski already reported on Wednesday: Ferry was more than certainly the brains behind the needless and insulting comments about then-free agent forward Luol Deng, and the entire Atlanta Hawks franchise is in flux as a result.

When I navel-gazed regarding Ferry’s future with the Hawks and the league he’s called home since returning stateside in 1990, I mentioned the absence of leadership as the most damning reason why Ferry should not continue with the team. To relay those thoughts and perceptions, be they his or the words of some witless scout, was so far off base that it still defies belief. It defies belief no matter how many times we’ve had to re-read or eventually hear the words that I won’t waste your time in relaying once again.

What are worth relaying are the words of two of Ferry’s contemporaries in the general manager market. Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri and Brooklyn Nets GM Billy King have both known and have worked with Danny Ferry for years, and both spoke out on Thursday in regards to the thought process that leads to scouting reports like these, Ferry’s character as a person and professional, and his future.

The Nigeria-born Ujiri, in an expertly-penned op-ed piece for The Globe and Mail, gets the first nod:

R. C. Buford is the GM of the San Antonio Spurs. He was one of the first NBA executives to come to our Basketball Without Borders camps a decade ago. That same year, he adopted a young man from Cameroon. Wayne Embry is an adviser for our team. Forty years ago, he was the first African-American GM of an NBA team.

Both of these men, whom I trust so much, are close to Danny. They have nothing but great things to say about him. The league is a small world. Other people I’ve spoken to who know Danny well say that he has never done anything they’ve seen to suggest he holds racist views.

I spoke to Danny myself about this. He started off by apologizing to Luol. He apologized to me and apologized for any insult he’d offered to African people in general. He explained the incident as best he could to me. There are some things about that conversation I would like to keep between the two of us, but I came away feeling like I’d understood what he had to say.

Here is what I have to say:

I have no idea what is happening in the Atlanta Hawks organization, but I do know how the scouting world works. We all have different ways of sharing information about players and different vocabularies to do so. It crossed a line here.

That said, we are all human. We are all vulnerable. We all make mistakes.

You discover a person’s true character in their ability to learn from and then move on from those mistakes. One of the truly important things we must learn is how to forgive.

Via Grantland’s Zach Lowe, here are King’s statements:

The issue here is that nobody I know has called Danny Ferry a racist. I’m sure he’s been referred to as much in message boards I don’t frequent and comment sections I don’t peruse, but even with that highly-dubious Bonzi Wells incident from 2002 still lingering, I cannot recall any NBA voice of substance referring to Ferry in such strict terms.

We do know that he’s prejudiced, because to impugn an entire continent as sneaky and backhanded by definition of its name alone shows a shocking lack of knowledge and character. We do know that he failed as a leader, because no voice of the basketball end of the Hawks franchise should be either relaying or (more likely) thinking and then expressing these thoughts as a way of describing a potential employee.

I cannot recall who, but someone on Twitter recently wondered aloud as to what a scouting report in someone like Ferry’s hands would say for someone like Michael Beasley. Luol Deng is widely respected and the recipient of the NBA’s Citizenship Award, and Beasley is a career-wasting flameout that is looking to join his fourth NBA team in two calendar years right now, with little luck so far and with training camp just weeks away.

The issue with that (appropriate) query is that good leaders don’t need to reduce themselves to even nastier language to describe someone like Beasley, who didn’t even bother to show some sort of care and concern for his game last season even while being gifted the opportunity to spell LeBron James and play deep into June with the Miami Heat.

The same goes for Deng, even if he does have some batch of mitigating factors Atlanta Hawk owners should worry about. Mitigating factors we’re unaware of.

(Though if it is true that Deng sometimes acts as an anonymous source for the press while denying as much, can you blame him? This is the guy that watched as the Chicago Bulls publicly scolded for not playing on a broken leg, before having to get an outside opinion that confirmed that, yeah, Luol Deng has a broken leg.

This is a guy whose Chicago front office stood by silently while their coach – who knew exactly what was wrong with Luol Deng at the time – referred to his career-threatening botched spinal tap as “flu-like symptoms.” This is the guy that had to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, before the franchise got its head out of its tails and dumped the Chris Grant/Mike Brown regime.)

Danny Ferry should have found some way to discuss Luol Deng’s merits and demerits and the sometimes beneficial overlap of the two in ways far better than the ones we read about on Wednesday, and heard on Thursday. Whether or not this misstep is a fireable offense in a vacuum is up for debate. This didn’t happen in a vacuum, though, and there are feelings to consider and a franchise’s future to think about.

Donald Sterling wasn’t pushed out of the NBA because he’s a racist – the league has known about his line of thinking and discriminatory practices for decades. He was pushed out of the NBA because he was bad for business. The Hawks may have just signed Elton Brand, a solid pickup that shares a university affiliation with Ferry, but that doesn’t mean Ferry won’t be bad for their particular brand of business – be it recruiting players, fans, or potential owners – in many ways moving forward.

Ujiri and King were right to talk about forgiveness, and after the initial shock and anger wore off, I think most of us have already forgiven Danny Ferry for what appear to be his own dumb thoughts and expressions.

What matters now is the cold, hard world of creating a winning team and (more importantly) securing profits. In that regard, Ferry’s future is out of forgiveness’s hands.

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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!