New version of Danny Ferry quote is much worse, Hawks owner called for firing

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It appeared Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, whose comments on a conference call with team owners led to the investigation that uncovered Bruce Levenson’s email, would escape this sordid saga mostly unscathed.

The team was going to discipline him internally only, and the NBA planned no punishment of its own.

But with new information, the heat should turn up on Ferry.

Zach Klein of WSB-TV 2 obtained a letter sent by Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon to Levenson – read the full version here – that calls for Levenson, the team’s majority owner, to fire Ferry. Gearon also details the infamous conference call in which Ferry used a slur about Luol Deng, and Gearon’s version differed from the previously reported account.

A few excerpts from the two-page letter dated June 12:

During the call, which we recorded so that notes could be made for our partners unable to participate live, our GM Danny Ferry discussed player personnel issues at some length. With respect to one potential free agent, a highly-regarded African-American player and humanitarian, Ferry talked about the player’s good points, and then on to describe his negatives, stating that “he has a little African in him. Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out the back.” Ferry completed the racial slur by describing the player (and impliedly, all persons of African descent) as a two-faced liar and cheat.

We were appalled that anyone would make such a racist slur under any circumstance, much less the GM of an NBA franchise on a major conference cal. One of us can be heard on the tape reacting with astonishment.

We believe these comments by Ferry were far worse than Sterling’s because they were not from a private personal conversation—they were in a business environment on a business matter in front of a dozen or more people. If Ferry would make such a slur in a semi-public forum, we can only imagine what he has said in smaller groups or to individuals. We also note that the racial diversity of our management team has changed for the worse since Ferry took over. The media (and any savvy layer) would have a field day with that fact.

We are calling on you, as majority owner and NBA Governor, to take swift and severe action against Ferry. Our advisors tell us there is no other choice but to ask for Ferry’s resignation, and if he refuses, to terminate him for cause under his employment agreement.

It’s not clear what Ferry was reading and what he said himself – and that matters, but only so much. Presumably, nobody forced him to read what was on the paper in front of him. And I have my doubts whether Ferry was actually reading from a scouting report, the excuse presented earlier in the day. Especially as the quote looks worse the more details added, it seems possible someone was trying to spin this.

If Gearon still has that recording and shares it, that could really turn public opinion against Ferry. Reading his offensive comments is bad enough, but audio and video carry more power. Just look at Donald Sterling and Ray Rice.

Beyond public opinion, opinion among Hawks owners might have already shifted with Levenson’s pending exit.

The Hawks have removed Levenson from their staff directory and now list Gearon atop the list of owners as “Managing Partner.” Does he have the juice to fire Ferry himself if he desires? If so, I can’t imagine why Gearon would have changed his mind between June 12 and now.

[RELATED: Here is email that forced Hawks’ owner Levinson to sell team]

PBT Extra: Bobby Portis punch adds to challenges for Bulls this season

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Nikola Mirotic will be out 4-6 weeks due to his concussion and fractured jaw.

Bobby Portis has been suspended for the first eight games of the season for causing those injuries to Mirotic with a punch at practice.

What does this mean for a Bulls locker room that was already going to have to deal with the weight of losing a lot of games.  I get into all these questions in this latest PBT Extra.

It’s going to be a long season in Chicago.

Gordon Hayward’s agent says return this season unlikely

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Wednesday night in Boston Gordon Hayward underwent surgery to repair his dislocated ankle and fractured tibia suffered just five minutes into the season-opening game, a gruesome injury that put a pall over the rest of the night.

There had been hope from some Celtics fans that Hayward could return this season, likely for the playoffs, but now that the surgery is complete Hayward’s agent told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN not to expect him back until next season.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who saw the injury. Hayward is in the first year of a four-year deal with the Celtics, they were always going to choose a cautious path rather than rush him back. Under Danny Ainge Boston has always taken the long view, even with all their moves this summer — specifically bringing in Hayward and Kyrie Irving — the target was to be the team set up for next as LeBron James and the Cavaliers faded. That plan does not change now.

Earlier in the day, Hayward had sent a video message out to Celtics fans thanking them for their support in the past 24 hours.

Without Hayward, the Celtics now will focus more on smaller lineups, rookie Jayson Tatum will get more run, as will Marcus Smart in his contract year. Jaylen Brown will be thrust into a more significant role. Also, Kyrie Irving will be asked to do more as the team’s second-best playmaker is now out for the season.

The Celtics will take a step back this season without Hayward, who was going to be crucial for them on both ends of the floor. That’s evidenced by their 0-2 start, falling to the Cavaliers and Bucks on the first couple nights of the season. Boston should still be a team well above .500 and in the playoffs, but they will not be quite the same this season.

Trail Blazers beat Suns by 48, biggest season-opening rout in NBA history

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Any controversy over C.J. McCollum‘s suspension for the season-opener should be put to rest. The Trail Blazers fared fine without him.

More than fine.

Portland beat the Suns, 124-76, Wednesday. The 48-point margin is the largest ever in a season opener, even as the Trail Blazers let a 58-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle.

Here are the most lopsided season-openers in NBA history (openers for both teams appearing twice):

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The 48-point defeat is also the Suns’ worst lost in franchise history, topping a 44-point loss to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1988. It could be a long year in Phoenix.

Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova scrap (video)

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Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova thrive on aggravating opponents, so when matched up, of course they aggravated each other.

Deduct points from Smart for pulling the hold-me-back charade behind a referee. Plus, Dellavedova’s Bucks beat Smart’s Celtics, 108-100.