Author: Kurt Helin

Indiana Pacers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Six

Report: Two groups are frontrunners to buy Hawks, final bids due Friday


More often than not, when an NBA team goes up for sale, said team has been stripped of expensive assets and is in need of a rebuild on and off the court.

The Atlanta Hawks are the exception. The team is locked in as the top seed in the East and is a legitimate title contender, one with better attendance and television ratings than in years. And the team just happens to be on the market.

There are a couple frontrunners as bidders, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Other reports estimate the final bidding price is expected to be $900 million or more.

One leading group is led by Grizzlies minority owner Steve Kaplan, who is joined by Indonesian billionaires Erick Thohir and Handy Poernomo and former Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien. Braves great Hank Aaron also has been associated with the group.

The other leading group is led by Lionsgate Entertainment’s Mark Rachesky, who is joined by New York investment banker Steve Starker. Jesse Itzler, who has done consulting work for the Hawks and attends many games, is also associated with the group.

The process doesn’t end Friday. Whoever wins the bidding has to go through the NBA’s vetting process then be approved by a vote of the other owners. This likely takes until June.

The new ownership group will have to deal with the Danny Ferry situation. On a conference call with owners, Ferry read words from a scouting report  saying of free agent Luol Deng “he’s got some African in him” — that led to Ferry being on leave from the team and in danger of losing his job. And apologizing. Twice. Coach Mike Budenholzer has been pulling double duty in Ferry’s absence.

But in general you’d be hard pressed to find a team in a better situation on the court up for sale. Hopefully whichever group wins the bidding doesn’t blow that.

Likely first round pick, UCLA’s Kevon Looney, declares for NBA draft

Gonzaga v UCLA
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UCLA’s Kevon Looney — an athletic 6’9″ player, projected as a small/stretch power forward at the NBA level — has decided to declare for the NBA draft.

Looney is a likely mid- to late first round pick. currently has him at No. 20.

Looney was named to the second-team all-Pac 12 this season, averaging 11.6 points and 9.2 boards, shooting 41.5 percent from three, for a UCLA team that was a surprise Sweet 16 team. (Heck, they were a surprise tournament team.)

Going later in the first round could be good for him because he might land with a good team who will take the time to develop him. Our man, Ed Isaacson of Rotoworld and NBADraftBlog, broke down Looney’s game for PBT.

Looney had an up and down season, but still finished the year almost averaging a double-double (11.6 pts, 9.2 rebs). He is much more of a prospect than player right now, but at 6’9 with at least a 7’3 wingspan, he uses his length well, especially on the boards. Right now, his best offense is a put back off an offensive rebound though he did hit 41% of his 53 three-point attempts. Looney has shown some flashes in everything from ballhandling to passing to scoring off the dribble; he just hasn’t figured out how to put it all together yet. There were quite a few offensive possessions, even late in the season, where he just didn’t know where he was supposed to be, and that lack of awareness has hindered him defensively as well. Looney has the tools to be a pretty good defender, especially his length and athleticism, but he still needs to develop a better understanding of how to defend, whether he is in the post or on the perimeter. As I mentioned, he is a good rebounder, and though there isn’t a lot of technique involved, he just goes hard after missed shots, and his length gave him some advantage at the college level. As a pro, getting stronger will be necessary, as well as learning how to play a bit more physical. It’s not really a negative, but with his tools, he probably should be a better shot-blocker than he is now, and hopefully that comes to him with some coaching. Taking Looney would be an acceptable risk somewhere in the mid-first round, though a situation where not much is expected of him quickly would probably be best. He’s going to need time to let his understanding of the game develop and catch up to his physical tools. 


Barack Obama trash talks Paul Pierce after hitting game winner in pickup

Barack Obama, John Wall

I have no idea who is going to be our next president, but looking at the people likely to throw their hat in we can safely say this: The days of high-level hoop pickup games with the president and NBA stars is coming to and end. Unless I dramatically underestimate Jeb Bush’s vertical.

Monday was the annual White House Easter Egg Roll event — this year with more bees! — and a number of players were on hand including new Hall of Fame member Dikembe Mutombo as well as some Wizards such as John Wall and Paul Pierce.

There was a pickup game, and here is how Wall described it, via my man J. Michael of

When the President trash talks you, what are you going to do? Bump him in the chest and stare him down, only to get tackled by four Secret Service agents?

I’m going to miss these stories when he’s gone.