Author: Kurt Helin

Charlie Villanueva

Report: Charlie Villanueva reaches non-guaranteed deal with Dallas Mavericks


He chose Dallas.

Charlie Villanueva was trying to get another NBA contract, documenting every step, after finishing a disaster of a five-year deal (well, for the time that had him, he made his $37 million) and it was down to the Clippers and Mavericks.

He chose Dallas, reports Tim MacMahon of

The key is the non-guaranteed part — Dallas can cut him without a cost. Dallas has 15 players under guaranteed contract already (teams can only carry 15), plus a couple guys such as Ivan Johnson and Eric Griffin on partially guaranteed deals.

What Villanueva can bring to Dallas is being a stretch four to play behind Dirk Nowitzki, if he finds his shot again. Villanueva has long been a streaky shooter who gives a team that, some defensive rebounding, and little else. In recent years those good shooting streaks have gotten shorter — he took 60 percent of his shots from three last season and hit 25 percent of them.

If he’s healthy and hitting shots… still, it’s going to be hard for him to make this roster. But he’s made his choice.

Gustavo Ayon spurns minimum offers to play in NBA, reaches deal with Real Madrid

Australia v Mexico - 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup
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Gustavo Ayon wanted to stay in the NBA, but in the end this is a business and he made the business decision.

Ayon was trying to find his space on the Hawks last season when shoulder surgery shut him down for the year in February. He showed in the FIBA World Cup he was back, leading Mexico to the knockout round then putting up 25 points and 11 rebounds on Team USA’s front line in a losing effort. He looked solid.

But the offers that were coming in to return to the NBA, with the Spurs and others, were for the league minimum.

Which is why he has signed to play for more money from Real Madrid in Spain, something reported by (via Hoopshype).

Ayon played in Spain for years before coming to the NBA.

Ayon is very skilled which helped make up for the fact most NBA centers he went up against were more athletic than him. But he was fairly efficient (although that stepped back last season with the injury) and was a good passer and finisher. His free throw percentage (40 percent last season) was always an issue helping keep his minutes down.

This is a business for players, they have a limited window to earn money as a professional player and while for the All Stars that populate Team USA that means eight figures a year, for a lot of guys its about making as much as they can right now before that well goes dry. Real Madrid is a top European team that pays well, if Ayon will make significantly more there he had to make this move.

We’ll see if down the line an NBA team ponies up more to bring him back to North America.

Report: Hawks GM Danny Ferry said of Luol Deng, “He’s got some African in him”

Danny Ferry

This was the first domino that has ended with Bruce Levenson selling his majority share of the Atlanta Hawks.

It was a conference call in June where owners were being informed of potential free agents the Hawks could chase this summer when team general manager Danny Ferry allegedly said this about Luol Deng, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

“He’s still a young guy overall,” Ferry said, league sources with direct knowledge of the probe told Yahoo. “He’s a good guy overall. But he’s not perfect. He’s got some African in him. And I don’t say that in a bad way.”

That is just clearly, blatantly unacceptable. It should make you cringe.

Deng was born in what is now South Sudan where he was fortunate to get out during one civil war. He is almost universally seen around the league as one of the better, more high character guys out there — he has helped organize many humanitarian missions to his troubled native country, not to mention other parts of the continent and globe. The Hawks did meet with him but Deng chose to sign in Miami.

Ferry has apologized.

Ferry allegedly read that line straight from a scouting report, but that doesn’t really matter, it shouldn’t have been written in the first place and should have been edited long before it got to a meeting with owners. The scout that wrote it should be in trouble.

The comment made some of the owners on the conference call uncomfortable, particularly in a post Donald Sterling world where the NBA was going to have zero tolerance for race issues.

The owners called for and started an investigation on bigoted things in organizational correspondence — and remember that there has been a lot of infighting within the Atlanta Spirit ownership group for years. No punches were going to be pulled.

That investigation found the 2012 email Levenson had sent out that crudely and, in a rather oversimplified way, tried to say the Hawks needed to bring in more white fans and make the in arena experience less African-American. The email talked about black cheerleaders, music played at the games and other steps.

The league was informed of the email and on Sunday Levenson apologized and said he would sell his majority stake in the team. His phone has been ringing off the hook (he’s going to turn a big profit here).

Ferry is getting a fine for his comments according to Hawks CEO Steve Koonin but Ferry keeps his job. It was Ferry’s poor choice of words (or lack of editing) that was the first domino to fall.

But it will not be the last.

Team USA’s Spanish vacation over, this week things get serious

Mike Krzyzewski, DeMar DeRozan

So far Team USA’s vacation in Spain has been a relaxing romp — they are 6-0 at the FIBA World Cup in Spain and the closest game finished with a 21-point USA win. The Americans felt no stress and had plenty of time to take in the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and nosh on gambas al ajillo.

Team USA has averaged 99.5 points a game on 52.7 percent shooting as a team. Their pressure defense has overwhelmed everyone they faced and they have the best defensive points per possessions allowed in the tournament. More importantly, the depth and versatility of the American roster has allowed them to just beat their opponents at their own games.

Now the vacation part of the trip ends — starting Tuesday this is a business trip for Team USA.

There have been cracks in the USA armor — a stagnant halfcourt offense, defenders getting lost (they switch screens a lot and the communication has been an issue, defenders get lost on backcuts) — but they have not faced anyone who can exploit it.

Frankly, only Spain has the talent and system to exploit the flaws enough to beat Team USA, however the Americans will not see the host nation until next Sunday’s World Cup final.

Prior to that this week Team USA will see two teams that have the skill to pick at those flaws, to play the blueprint that gave the USA trouble against Turkey for a half. Team USA should win those games, likely handily, but if the Americans do not start to fix those flaws Spain will rip them wide open.

The Americans cannot just flip the switch against Spain.

First up for the Americans is Goran Dragic (and his brother Zoran Dragic) and the Slovenian team — a squad Team USA overran and beat by 30 in an exhibition at Madison Square Garden. On the surface it doesn’t look like much of a test, but there are a couple things at play here. First, Slovenia has seen the Americans and their system before, they will not be as overwhelmed and intimidated.

Also, the Slovenians run a lot of pick-and-rolls and that has been a minefield for Team USA — starting Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry and James Harden always meant perimeter defense was going to be an issue. The Americans are running a very Tom Thibodeau influenced system where they are going under most picks, but Turkey zig-zagged off picks, which caused problems, and Turkey showed if you run some back cuts defenders get lost and easy shots open up. Slovenia runs a system offense and will look for these kind of actions, and the Dragic brothers have the skills to make the Americans work.

It’s not that Slovenia will win, but if they are getting a lot of clean looks and open layups, it will be a bad sign of things to come. This game will be closer than the game in New York a few weeks back.

Next up on Thursday will come either Turkey — who laid out the blueprint for beating Team USA (remember Turkey led by five at the half) — or a Lithuanian team that runs a good system and has talent. Lithuania rolls out NBA big men in the Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas and the Rockets’ Donatas Motiejunas, which would make the American front line works. Lithuania would be another real test for the Americans, but they don’t really have the talent to exploit the flaws enough to win.

Everything still points to a USA vs. Spain World Cup final Sunday in Madrid. They have clearly been the two best teams in the tournament.

Spain has Pau Gasol, who is having a tournament MVP level run, along with his brother Marc Gasol, and they bring Serge Ibaka off the bench. That front line is a serious challenge for the American front line of Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried and DeMarcus Cousins (a group which has owned the glass so far). For guards the Spanish have Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon, Sergio Rodriguez, Juan Carlos Navarro, and on the wing there is Rudy Fernandez — they have great shooting, as well guys who are unselfish. They have guys who match up with the American wings (this is where they miss Paul George and Kevin Durant, they miss the size).

Also, all those Spanish players have played together for at least six years on the national team — they know their system. Their big men pass well and you can expect a lot of back cuts and pick-and-rolls, you have guards who can handle the Americans’ athleticism and pressure and not buckle. Lose your man on defense and they will get and hit the open shot.

Bottom line, the Americans need to play better against Spain than they have so far to beat them.

Which means Team USA needs to clean up their flaws against Slovenia and whoever they play Thursday. If they just try to flip the switch against Spain, it will not end well.

Hawks GM Danny Ferry to face internal disciplinary action over comment he repeated

Danny Ferry

The fallout around the Atlanta Hawks continues.

During a recent internal investigation of the Hawks it was found that back in 2012 majority owner Bruce Levenson sent a rambling, crass email to other members of the Hawks front office and business side discussing ways to bring in more fans to Hawks, games, specifically white fans. He said he thought the black crowd at the games was scaring off the white fan base that would buy season seats. Levenson himself called the email “inappropriate and offensive” in his statement Sunday where he said he will sell his share of the team. (At a huge profit we should add, he basically gets a golden parachute out of this mess.)

The Hawks CEO told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that there were other incidents out of that investigation that would lead to punishments, and that includes team GM Danny Ferry.

Sunday night, Hawks co-owner and CEO Steve Koonin said other disciplinary action will be taken, including against general manager Danny Ferry….

According to Koonin, the Hawks held a meeting in early June to discuss free agency. At that meeting, a player was being discussed and Ferry cited a background report that included an “offensive and racist” remark.

“Instead of editing it, he said the comment,” Koonin said.

That’s what is going to land Ferry with some kind of punishment, which will be internal and not made public.

This is the NBA walking on eggshells in a post-Sterling world. It is why other owners are concerned — they don’t want to see themselves or their guys next on this slippery slope. But that also doesn’t make it wrong — there should be a zero-tolerance policy towards bigoted comments and actions.

What that means is there will be more fallout from around the league. And with the Hawks.