Kurt Helin

Danny Ferry, Mike Budenholzer

Law firm hired by Hawks says no evidence Danny Ferry motivated by bias in Luol Deng comments

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This past week, the outgoing ownership of the Atlanta Hawks voted to approve a settlement buy out of former GM Danny Ferry, ending his limbo status before the new ownership came in. Ferry had been on leave since August, when a recording of a call one year ago in June with ownership was made public, a call where Ferry said of then soon-to-be free agent Luol Deng he “has a little African in him,” and “He’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back.”

Ferry said he was reading from a scouting report and did not filter that part (and since then a scouting report with those phrases was made public).

Now the law firm that independently investigated the incident for the Hawks says it “did not find evidence” that Ferry “was motivated by racial, ethnic or country of origin bias or animus.”

Through a source, NBC’s ProBasketballTalk obtained a copy of the letter from Bernard Taylor, a partner in the law firm of Alston & Bird (the results of that letter were already made public by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media). That firm did witness interviews and looked through more than 24,000 work emails.

Taylor wrote this in the letter:

“We reported the results of our work to the Hawks. In summary, the facts indicated that you repeated comments that were not your own about Mr. Deng from a scouting report during the call, and there was no evidence to indicate that during the call you acted in a manner motivated by negative bias toward Mr. Deng.”

PBT also obtained a letter from one of the Hawks current co-owners, Todd Foreman, to Ferry, which shifted the onus more own ownership. That letter states that “at the heart of this dispute was the unfortunate disagreement amongst owners.” The Hawks current and outgoing ownership has three separate groups and infighting amongst them was common, as different groups tried to grab more power. All three parties are selling their shares to the incoming ownership group headed by Tony Ressler, which includes former NBA All-Star Grant Hill.

These letters were part of the settlement deal with Ferry.

Report: Greg Oden working out for Hornets, Mavericks

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game 6
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Greg Oden is not yet ready to give up the dream of the NBA.

When we last saw the former No. 1 pick, he was buried on the bench of the Miami Heat. They gave him a shot at a comeback after three years out of the league, he even started a couple games for them, but by the time of the playoffs he was a complete non-factor and they let him walk. (Actually, the last time we saw him was in court dealing with a felony assault charge, but that has been resolved.)

Now, after another year out of the NBA, another year trying to rehab his rickety knees, Oden was working out at Ohio State and is now attempting to make a comeback, reports Shams Charania at Real GM.

As Greg Oden attempts a return in the NBA, the former No. 1 overall pick worked out for the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday and will visit the Dallas Mavericks this week, league sources told RealGM.

Oden will be part of the Mavericks’ free-agent mini-camp that includes wings and several big men, such as Keith Benson. The 7-foot Oden had worked out for the Memphis Grizzlies in the spring, and the franchise is expected to continue to monitor him.

This seems a real long shot. Just as a reminder, Oden has had seven knee surgeries, three microfracture. To his credit, most people in his shoes would have given up and just lived the rest of their lives comfortably on the million he made off his rookie deal as the former No. 1 pick, but Oden loved the game enough to fight all the way back and make the Miami Heat.

Still, it’s hard to imagine this working out differently than his last stint at this point. I would love for it to be different for him, but it’s just hard to picture.

As expected, Steve Blake opts in with Portland Trail Blazers

Brooklyn Nets v Portland Trail Blazers
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Last season, solid veteran point guard Steve Blake saw his numbers dip — he averaged 4.3 points a game, shot just 37.3 percent overall and a career-low 35.2 percent. In the playoffs, those numbers fell off the table — 18.2 percent from the field and 12.5 percent from three.

At age 35, Blake earned himself another year of a nice paycheck, opting in with the Portland Trail Blazers for $2.2 million, the team announced. This was expected; Blake was not going to do better — he might struggle to find any guaranteed money — out on the open market.

Blake is still second on the Trail Blazers depth chart at the point, behind Damian Lillard. The team may look to change that this summer.

Blake helped lead Maryland to the national championship in 2002 and since then has worked hard to carve out a solid 12-year NBA career. He’s averaged 6.7 points and four assists a game, shooting 38.5 percent from three for his career. He also is well liked in locker rooms and active in the community wherever he has played.

However, as is to be expected, his numbers have dipped in recent years.

He can provide some veteran leadership in the locker room for the Blazers, while it is likely his on-the-court role will diminish from the nearly 19 minutes a game he saw last season. It’s also possible the Blazers use him in a trade package.

 

Lakers, with No. 2 pick, don’t expect to get to work out Karl Anthony Towns

NBA Draft Prospects Workout 2015
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On Friday, the Lakers had their second workout with Jahlil Okafor out of Duke. With the No. 2 pick in the draft — the highest pick the organization has had since it took James Worthy No. 1 in 1982 — the Lakers are wisely doing their due diligence, working out and meeting with all the guys near the top of the draft board: D’Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay, Kristaps Porzingis and others.

Well, all except Karl Anthony Towns.

The Kentucky big man projected to go first overall to Minnesota isn’t working out for anyone privately, and the Lakers have given up expecting him to, reports Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

The Lakers have also become increasingly doubtful they will have a workout for Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns. The Lakers believe their lack of progress with those efforts stem from most NBA mock drafts predicting the Minnesota Timberwolves will select with their No. 1 pick. But the Lakers will accommodate their workout schedule should Towns and his representatives express interest in a workout.

Towns reportedly met with Minnesota officials Friday but is not believed to have worked out for them at that time.

This is simply an agent making sure he controls the spin and situation as best as he can, and he wants to make sure his client is seen as the unquestioned, prohibitive favorite No. 1 pick.

Still, it’s unusual, particularly for this reason: It’s not a lock the Timberwolves take Towns No. 1. It’s likely, but there is a well-reported difference of opinion between Minnesota decision maker Flip Saunders — who loves Okafor — and the rest of his staff (and just about every other scout) who likes Towns better. Saunders watched Towns at a workout last week in Southern California — one not put on or organized by the Timberwolves — and reportedly came away impressed. It made it more likely Towns goes No. 1. But it is no lock.

You can expect the top of the draft board to go Towns then Okafor, but even if the order flips those will be the top two. When things really get interesting is with Philadelphia at No. 3 and the Knicks at No. 4 (with New York willing to move the pick for the right price).

Report: Expect Bucks, Khris Middleon to reach quick deal in free agency

Chicago Bulls v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Three
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Khris Middleton was the best value in the NBA last season. The Milwaukee Bucks got 13.4 points per game (18.1 per game after the All-Star break) and a guy who shot 40.7 percent from three, played strong defense against multiple positions, and was incredibly efficient with a league 10th-best real plus-minus of +6.07, all for just $915,243.

This summer, Middleton is going to get paid.

The restricted free agent should have a number of suitors but nobody thought the Bucks would let him go (they have the right to match any offer). However, it may not come down to matching, according to the Milwaukee Journal’s Gery Woelfel (hat tip Eye On Basketball).

Free agency begins July 1 and, according to a person close to the scene, Khris Middleton won’t be a free agent for long and will reach a quick agreement to remain with the Bucks.

Expect that deal to be north of $8 million a year, maybe well north. He is the perfect example of a player who gets locked up on what seems a big contract this summer, but a deal that looks good once the salary cap spikes in 2016.

The Bucks only have a couple potential free agents this summer, and Middleton is the highest priority (Jared Dudley is expected to opt out of his deal as well and be an unrestricted free agent). Middleton fits with a lineup loaded with versatile and long defenders, such as Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Middleton has said he wanted to reach a deal with the Bucks and stay with this team and coach Jason Kidd.

Milwaukee announced itself as a team on the rise last season, and they will add instant offensive punch getting Jabari Parker back from injury, plus whoever they likely add in free agency. Middleton is a key part of that future and the Bucks aren’t going to let him go.