Even though it was already written in a scouting report, it was Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry who chose to closely paraphrase bigoted comments about free agent Luol Deng on a conference call — “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.
Deng has said before he was disappointed by the comments, that he was proud to be African.
But he has also decided to forgive Ferry and try to put the entire incident in his past, Deng said at Miami Heat media day, as reported by the Associated Press.
“I don’t think Danny’s racist,” Deng said….
“It’s not something I want to hold onto for the rest of my career or the rest of my life,” Deng said. “I had a chance to speak to Danny. I really believe that he’s really sorry for what he said. Whether it came from him or wherever it came from, I think the main focus really should be how we move on forward.”
That’s Deng being the bigger man (and is an example of why the whole comment about him being two-faced was off the mark from the start). It is why Deng is one of the most respected players around the league.
Deng was traded to the Cavaliers last season and wasn’t happy about it, then ran into a dysfunctional locker room Mike Brown had lost. The Cavs were a mess. It would be fair to say Deng had one foot out the door from the moment he got to Cleveland, and that and his attitude about it clearly didn’t sit well with someone (or someones) in the Cavs organization.
The Deng that the Heat signed will be a different one — he defends hard, he scores in transition, and he plays within the system. A system in Miami that will give him more freedom than Tom Thibodeau’s did in Chicago.
Deng should be happy on a pretty good Heat team, and he’ll be happier if he can put this all behind him. Which it sounds like he is trying to do.
While Ferry has a lot of people around the league in his corner, his fate will be left to whoever ends up buying the Hawks (the majority of the team is up for sale).