While it’s been common knowledge for awhile now, the Atlanta Hawks officially announced today their plans to unveil a Dominique Wilkins statue, to celebrate Philips Arena’s 15th Anniversary. That statue will be unveiled in a ceremony on March 15th, 2015. Nique is the biggest legend in Atlanta Hawks history, so giving him a statue is really a no brainer.

It was also announced that Wilkins has been named a special advisor to CEO Steve Koonin, and signed a new long term partnership. He will also retain his role as Vice President of Basketball, with the team.

“Being honored by the great City of Atlanta and my beloved Hawks team is incredibly humbling, I have to thank all the fans, the community and the Hawks organization, in particular the Gearon family, Rutherford Seydel and Tommy Dortch, who have been close friends and important figures since the day I was drafted,” said Wilkins. “I look forward to continuing my partnership with the team and the City for many years ahead.”

Every Hawks fan knows the name Dominique Wilkins and what he means to the team. The day he was traded scarred some fans so much, that it bothers them to this day. Nods to the all time legend with front office roles, and now a statue, are hopefully healing some of those old wounds.

The statue itself, is sure to be awesome. There are so many amazing Nique moments to choose from, but I’m almost 100% sure that he’ll be throwing down one of his rim shaking dunks in the statue. We’ll also get to see those incredible 80’s Hawks jerseys that we all know and love.

Every NBA player can be useful with the right coaching staff, system, or organization. Defense can be taught to just about any player. I’ve held these beliefs ever since I started to get deeply into the NBA and I truly believe it.

So when the Hawks signed Kent Bazemore to a new contract, I got excited. Bazemore was a young player that never really got a chance in Golden State, and was allowed to run free in Los Angeles. Despite the solid numbers he put up in Los Angeles, Bazemore was seen as nothing more than end of the rotation roster filler. He might be able to make a few three pointers every once in awhile, but for the most part, he’s just kind of there.

It’s unlikely that Bazemore is going to be turned into an all star player in Atlanta; or even a starting caliber player for that matter. He’s 25 and players with high level talent rarely go unnoticed by coaches. If he was really something special, he would have played in Golden State. But there’s no reason to think that he can’t be a highly useful rotation weapon in the Atlanta system. Continue Reading…

Aron Baynes is the most underrated basketball player alive. ESPN.com just rated him 368th out of 500 players in #NBARank. Among the flotsam ranked ahead of him, just on that same page, were Jeff Withey, Meyers Leonard and Greg Stiemsma.

Last year there was another criminally-underrated player. He was rated 499th in #NBARank and started writing the number on his shoes as motivation. While he was languishing on the Golden State Warriors’ bench behind one of the deepest wing rotations in the league, I wrote on the AJC.com Hawks blog that the Hawks should pursue him. I was laughed at. Why should the Hawks go after a scrub who can’t get playing time, I was asked.

That player got traded to the Lakers and averaged 13.1 PPG on 45% shooting from the field and 37% shooting from 3-point range over the last 23 games of the season. That player, now an Atlanta Hawk, is Kent Bazemore. Continue Reading…

HawksHoop.com spoke with Rev. Markel Hutchins, organizer of a group of civil rights leaders seeking to meet with the Hawks, who said he has been in contact with Hawks officials. Rev. Hutchins said he expects the meeting, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 10th, will be rescheduled by the end of this week for a future date. In Hawks’ CEO Steve Koonin’s apology to fans, he wrote: “We have, are and will continue to meet with community leaders, not just now, but in an ongoing way to ensure that our values reflect, in the broadest sense, the community in which we play and work.” Rev. Hutchins told HawksHoop.com that his group has not met with Hawks officials, but anticipates that meeting will take place.

“There are Hawks officials who have met with community leaders but Steve Koonin and the senior leadership were not a part of those conversations,” Rev. Hutchins said. “The civil rights leaders and I remain anxious to have that conversation. The longer it goes, the more contentious that conversation may be.”

The group Rev. Hutchins helped organize includes Joe Beasley, Southern Regional Director for the Rainbow Push Coalition; Rev. Frank Brown, President of Concerned Black Clergy of Atlanta; Ms. Helen Butler, Executive Director for the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda; ​Dr. Gerald L. Durley, co-chair for the Regional Council of Churches; the Hon. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, chair of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus; Rev. Francys Johnson, Esq., President of the Georgia NAACP; Ms. Nancy Flake Johnson, President of the Urban League of Greater Atlanta; Mr. Michael Langford, President of United Youth-Adult Conference; Ms. Janice Mathis, Esq., Vice President and Executive Director of the Rainbow Push Coalition’s Peachtree Street Project; Rev. Timothy McDonald, III, founder of the African American Ministers Leadership Council; Rev. Samuel Mosteller, Georgia President for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; ​​​Rev. Charles White, the National Field Director for the National Action Network; and Rev. Dr. R.L. White, President of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP.

HawksHoop.com previously conducted a two-part interview with Rev. Hutchins. You can see video of the interview here.

Hawks CEO Steve Koonin released a statement Friday afternoon stating that Danny Ferry requested, and has been granted, an indefinite leave of absence.

“This afternoon, Danny Ferry requested, and I have approved, taking an indefinite leave of absence, effective immediately. This has been an incredibly difficult time for him and his family and it is my hope that this time away from the Hawks organization allows him the privacy he needs to listen to the community, to learn about his mistakes, and to begin the long process of personal healing. As a human being, manager and friend, I wish him well as he undergoes this process.

While the issues related to race are deeply troubling, at the heart of this dispute is an unfortunate disagreement amongst owners. That said, we have taken several steps to address what we can do as an organization to be better and stronger, including working with a diversity consultant to examine us and to train us to ensure something like this never happens again, we are committed to hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, and we have and will continue to meet with community leaders in an ongoing way to ensure our values reflect the community in which we play and work. The process of selling the team, which is to remain in Atlanta, is already underway.”

Koonin also announced that Mike Budenholzer will assume oversight of the basketball operation department. Budenholzer will report directly to Koonin.

Ferry has released his own statement:

“No words can adequately describe my remorse for the hurt that I have caused many people through the statements I repeated, most importantly Luol Deng. Continue Reading…

Finally, the infamous “Deng scouting report” has been found.

Working jointly, WSB’s Zach Klein and the AJC’s Chris Vivlamore — both of whom have been on top of this story — obtained the scouting report that Ferry was supposedly reading from.

While the audio suggests that Ferry was on specifically reading off of the report, the scouting report on Deng makes the African comment that Danny Ferry referenced over the conference call.

While the comments being used over the conference call show a bit of a problem with the team’s front office, Ferry is somewhat vindicated by the report. It shows that even if he was speaking off the cuff during the call, the words were not his own. It does not make the situation too much better, but it definitely helps out Ferry’s credibility in that he wasn’t lying when he said the comments are from a scouting report.

Is that enough to help Ferry keep the job that he is clinging to? Probably not, but this does help Ferry in that if he has to go, then the entire ownership group is going to have to go out that door with him.

Below is the transcription for the second part of my interview with civil rights activist Rev. Markel Hutchins. This interview concluded just after 6 PM, after which I drove through traffic from North Atlanta to Lawrenceville and started transcribing. In the meantime, the audio recording was released (which I haven’t had a chance to listen to yet).

I’d also like to share part of a statement I just received from Rev. Markel about the audio recording. Keep in mind that, in our discussion below of Danny Ferry’s protestation that he was “reading from a report,” we had no idea that within hours the recording would be released and make Ferry’s position absurd.

It is absolutely despicable. Hearing the recording felt like a kick to the stomach. Ferry’s words set race relations in this nation back decades. His fluidity and extemporaneous manner of speaking makes it clear that Ferry was not merely reading from a scouting report as Hawks officials have claimed. As Ferry verbally indicted an entire continent of people, the laughter of owners and team officials solidifies my contention that the Hawks and the entire NBA suffers from a culture of racism, prejudice and bigotry.

Interview Part 2:

Buddy Grizzard: I was looking at your web site and you have a private consultancy. You have a specialized diversity practice and a crisis communications strategy. You sound like the exact person that the Hawks need to be hiring right now to try and get them out of this mess. If they called you and said we want to hire your consultancy, what is your pitch to them? What do the Hawks need to make this right with the Atlanta community?

Rev. Markel Hutchins: First of all, as a civil rights leader, I would absolutely have to refuse to represent and to advise the Hawks because that would be a clear-cut conflict of interest. We’re interested in getting to the bottom of this problem and the Atlanta Hawks becoming a leader in the NBA for how to be transparent, for how to be honest and open with your customers and your community about the problems that your organization faces. Only when you expose the wound are you able to heal that wound. The Hawks ought to be more transparent. They ought to be more honest. Continue Reading…

I interviewed Rev. Markel Hutchins, who is organizing an effort among civil rights leaders in Atlanta to meet with the Atlanta Hawks and discuss racially insensitive comments that have come to light. Hawks CEO Steve Koonin cancelled a meeting that was previously arranged for yesterday. HawksHoop.com wanted to know what the Reverend had to say. The following is the first half of a transcript of my 30 minute interview with Rev. Hutchins. The second half, and hopefully video, will follow later this evening

Buddy Grizzard: Reverend, you were scheduled to have a meeting yesterday with the Atlanta Hawks and it didn’t happen. What is it that you want to discuss with the Atlanta Hawks?

Rev. Markel Hutchins:
First and foremost, the Hawks are a central part of what makes Atlanta, Atlanta. Because of all the controversy around the Hawks, we in the civil rights community felt that it was important for us to do what we have done in the civil rights community for the last 50 years that has made at Atlanta, and in fact our nation, as inclusive and as diverse as it is today.

Atlanta has a rich tradition and legacy for setting an example to the nation and the world about how African Americans and white Americans and others can work together to resolve conflict and confusion around race and racial incidents. So we think in some real sense this issue of what is happening, not only with the Levenson email, but more importantly with Danny Ferry’s commentary, we think it is something that is very important and critical to the whole of this community. Continue Reading…

As obtained by the AJC’s Chris Vivlamore, the audio from the now infamous conference call paints a bit of a different picture in this whole saga.

The main point: Ferry’s alleged “read off a report” excuse is now certainly out of the window.

After discussing New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, the subject quickly changed to then free agent Luol Deng, who Ferry described as “having a little African in him”, later suggested that Deng’s perceived attributes are just a counterfeit of the real player.

While many, including Adam Silver, thought that Ferry’s in-house discipline was enough when it was believed that he was reading off of a prepared, third-party scouting report, Ferry keeping his job at this point is certainly outrageous. That might also go for the rest of the parties on the call, as they endorsed the culture in which a comment like this could be said. That includes the man who recorded the call, Michael Gearon Jr, who as Adrian Wojnarowski described “is no whistle-blowing hero for racial justice, just as Ferry is no victim for falling into the trap.”

Yahoo Sports writer Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday that the investigation that uncovered a racially-insensitive email by Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson was initiated after Hawks GM Danny Ferry used inappropriate language in describing Heat forward Luol Deng during a conference call with ownership. Wojnarowski went on to describe Ferry’s remarks as an isolated incident:

There had never previously been a suggestion that [Ferry] had been insensitive or intolerant on issues of race.

There’s just one problem with Wojnarowski’s reporting: It’s inaccurate. In 2006, Sacramento Bee reporter Marty McNeal quoted William Phillips, the agent for Bonzi Wells, accusing Ferry of using a racial slur in reference to his client:

“Ferry (allegedly) called him a (racist name),” Phillips said. “That part of it never gets reported.”

McNeal elaborated on his 2006 reporting via Twitter on Tuesday:

The statements by Wells and his agent may be untrue, as Ferry claimed, but the suggestion that Ferry had never been accused of racial insensitivity is historically inaccurate.