Danny Ferry blows up the Hawks

The local media seems pretty happy with Ferry’s demolition act in Atlanta as he dumped Joe Johnson and his monster salary on the Brooklyn Nets.

It took Danny Ferry a week to turn a franchise going nowhere into one with room again to grow. It took him a week to reach an agreement to send Joe Johnson to the Nets for a bunch of guys whose principal value rests in the expiration dates on their contracts. It took this general manager a week to ship Marvin Williams, enduring symbol of opportunity squandered, to Utah.

To follow the Hawks is to expect the worst, which means the initial response to this watershed Johnson deal was to figure it would be overturned on some technicality. Maybe we shouldn’t be fatalistic. At the rate Ferry is moving, he might be able to convince the NBA to replay the final seconds of Game 6 against Boston from 1988, and make it so that Dominique Wilkins (and not Cliff Levingston) takes the last shot this time.

A week ago we wondered if/when Ferry would dare to tamper with the Core Four. On Day 1 of Week 2, we got our answer. Ferry gored the Core without having to deal either Josh Smith or Al Horford, and by offloading Johnson he turned this capped-out club into one with a hangar’s worth of financial headroom.

Shedding Johnson’s contract was the only way the Hawks could get better. He makes $20 million per season, which is roughly one-third of what the NBA allows to fund an entire roster. It’s one thing if your $20-million-man is Kobe Bryant, but Johnson, over the two years since he re-upped, has sunk to being third-best among Hawks.

This looks like a great move by Ferry, but then he needs to show that he can build a team back up. Ferry did a decent job in Cleveland, and it’s hard to blame him for Lebron’s emotional breakdowns that did in the Cavs in the playoffs after they won 66 and then 60 games in the regular season.

That said, he made some big blunders in Cleveland as well (Larry Hughes). So here he has to show he can do more than wield a sledgehammer to a bloated roster.

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Steve Kerr on LeBron, Kobe, the Knicks and why he didn’t trade Amare

Steve Kerr appeared on the B.S. Report with Bill Simmons and had some interesting things to say. Feel free to head over to ESPN and spend an hour with Bill and Steve or read the highlights below:

On Ron Artest’s game-winning put-back in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals…

I wake up at night still thinking about that rebound — I mean, why didn’t it just hit the rim, and taken a normal bounce. I’ve thought about the game constantly, but as far as how that would have impacted my job, I haven’t looked at it that way.

On Ron Artest…

He was fantastic in the last couple of games of the Finals. I just think that Artest is one of the strangest players in the league because in a normal environment, in a normal game, sometimes he doesn’t look that great. He doesn’t make shots, he takes bad shots, he makes weird decisions, but when the game becomes kind of a street fight, especially like Game 7 of the Finals, there’s nobody you’d rather have. He’s just so strong and physical. And like that play he made against us in Game 6 — or Game 5 I guess it was — he just seems to have a knack for coming up with the loose ball, the rebound, whatever it is. He’s a crafty player, he really is.

On whether or not Amare Stoudemire is worth $100 million…

I was on the same page with Robert [Sarver, the owner of the Suns], with our management. We talked about it all year long. We really wanted him back, but if the price was too much though, then it didn’t make sense. And the main reason was because of the injuries. He’s had four knee surgeries, including a microfracture. You’ve seen what’s happened over the last few years with guys like Tracy McGrady and Jermaine O’Neal — the guys who come out of high school and play huge minutes right away. Their clock ticks a lot faster and they get to 29, 30, and they really start to slow down. I think you’ve even seen it a little bit with KG and Kobe last year although both guys really turned it on in the playoffs. But because of that, with Amare, I think he’s got a few really good years left in him. You know, years four, five and six though, if he can’t go and can’t produce, now you’re really tied up and locked down with a bad contract and that can be a major problem.

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Cavs GM Danny Ferry resigns

Brian Windhorst has the details:

In an interview with the The Plain Dealer, Ferry said the decision was mutual after the sides had talks about a new contract earlier this week. Ferry’s five-year deal that he signed when he came to the team in 2005 was scheduled to expire at the end of June.

Ferry will be replaced by top assistant Chris Grant, who has been functioning in the role of a co-general manager for the last several years.

On his Twitter feed, Windhorst wrote the following about LeBron’s possible involvement:

High level sources: LeBron did not play a role in decision, he liked Ferry. This was about power. Ferry wanted same level as in 2005, with the stakes [owner Dan] Gilbert didn’t want to give it. So they parted ways.

It’s very tough to judge a general manager because we’re not privy to all the details of the trades that were available to them. Things get especially murky when the team has someone like LeBron, who seemingly has his fingers into everything.

Ferry did acquire talented players like Mo Williams, Shaq and Antawn Jamison, but the pieces didn’t mesh very well, at least not at playoff time. And it’s not that tough to acquire talent, especially when your owner is willing to open his checkbook in this economy.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

What LeBron really meant in his first post-playoff interview

Back in the good ol’ days, athletes used to speak their mind when someone put a microphone in front of them. Players would get into trouble for the things they said, so as time goes on, they’ve become more and more careful about not offending anyone. Some guys even hire publicists to teach them how to interact with the media. This has led to virtually all player/reporter interactions to be completely sanitized of any possibly controversial material.

As a former college player, I’ve been interviewed by a few reporters in my day, and watching one of the best (Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan), I learned how to sound like I was saying something when I was actually saying nothing. I did it out of pure fear — I didn’t want Bo waking up the next day to see that his small forward had said something stupid or controversial to a reporter.

While listening to LeBron’s first post-playoff interview the other day [video], it occurred to me that he was talking a lot, but wasn’t actually saying much of anything. There were a lot of platitudes — he needed to get better over the summer, that he loves playing in Cleveland, etc. — but the interview was seemingly absent of honest opinion or revelation.

So here is LeBron’s transcribed interview, along with my translation of what he really said when he wasn’t saying anything…

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Otis Smith is the real Executive of the Year

All due respect to Denver’s Mark Warkentien, who won the 2009 NBA Executive of the Year Award, but Orlando GM Otis Smith deserves the honor. This is the problem with how the league hands out these awards at the end of the regular season — there’s no way to take the playoffs into account. Granted, it’s a regular season award, but in that case, wouldn’t Danny Ferry deserve it for pulling the trigger on the Mo Williams trade, which led to an All-Star nod for the guard and a 66-win season? Mitch Kupchak also deserves mention for his theft of Pau Gasol (now a year and a half old) along with mining Trevor Ariza and Shannon Brown from other team’s benches.

Of course, Warkentien pulled arguably the best in-season move by sending Allen Iverson to Detroit for Chauncey Billups, which gave the Nuggets the toughness and defensive intensity to go from a Western Conference also-ran to a legitimate contender. I didn’t like his decision to give away Marcus Camby last summer in a salary dump, but in his defense, his signing of Chris Andersen offset that loss. Still, it would have been nice to have Camby on the roster against the Lakers, but there probably wouldn’t have been enough minutes for three centers. Warkentien rolled the dice that Nene was ready to explode and that Andersen could bring energy, rebounding and shotblocking off the bench, and it worked out, for the most part. Warkentien also signed Dahntay Jones, who eventually turned into (sort of) a starter for George Karl, and re-signed J.R. Smith.

Now let’s take a look at the job Otis Smith has done (from HoopsHype):

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