Ferry: Hawks Still In Thick Of Things In Crowded Eastern Conference Race

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — With a busy offseason behind him and a what promises to be an arduous 2013-14 NBA season ahead of him, it wasn’t surprising to see Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry sporting a scruffy summer beard Thursday afternoon at Philips Arena.

Like every other shot-caller in the Eastern Conference, Ferry has to find a way to stay in the mix in the playoff chase behind the two-time defending champion Miami Heat, while also maintaining the roster and financial flexibility he worked so hard to achieve when he took over day-to-day operations of the Hawks’ basketball operation prior to the 2012 Draft.

That job is tougher now than it was this time a year ago, what with all of the jostling for position in the East. The teams at the bottom are inching closer to the middle, while some of the teams that were considered contenders have fallen off the pace a bit. The middle class remains muddled. And Ferry believes the Hawks are still very much in the thick of the crowded East after a roster rebuild in the offseason.

“I think we have to get through the beginning of the year to get a feel from our group, but we’re not just putting together new players. We have an entirely new coaching staff that is working together. That being said, the guys will work hard and compete. And we have smart coaches and they’ll put guys in positions to succeed. I expect us to be competitive. What that means as it relates to wins, losses and so on … I don’t know. The East is better, first of all. You can go through the teams and see the East has gotten more competitive, which I like.”

The Hawks have had near-wholesale changes to their basketball operation since Ferry came on board. Mike Budenholzer was hired to replace Larry Drew this summer and that was before Ferry turned the roster over for the second straight summer, the most notable move this time being the parting of the ways with Josh Smith (Detroit via free agency). Ferry traded away both Joe Johnson (Brooklyn) and Marvin Williams (Utah) in his first couple of months on the job.

Only Al Horford and Jeff Teague remain from the previous regime.

And there is that crowded East race Ferry spoke of that is sure to factor into the situation.

“Charlotte’s a better team, their coach is going to do a better job, I have a lot of respect for him, and they have added more talent. Detroit with [Brandon] Jennings and Josh [Smith], that’s a better group. They’re going to be more competitive. Milwaukee will be good. Larry [Drew] will do a nice job there. That being said, I like where we are right now. We have options going forward to continue to get better. But we have a group of guys that are going to compete. We have to continue to make good decisions, and from there I think we’ll be competitive because of the nature and the spirit of our guys.”

With Derrick Rose returning from injury in Chicago, Brooklyn’s new-look roster, the anticipated rise of younger groups in Washington, Cleveland, Toronto and Orlando, Ferry is well aware that the landscape has changed dramatically from last season to this one.

There is undoubtedly more depth in the Eastern Conference, maybe not as much as there in the Western Conference, and that means the Hawks will have to scrap and claw their way into the playoffs for a seventh straight season.

“I do think the West, having been there, they beat themselves up more getting there [to The Finals] than Miami has had to,” he said before running down the list of improved teams that will factor into the Eastern Conference race this season.  “You look at the East and the challenge is there, and if we’re going to be a team that competes and gets better every day, we’ll be there.”

Ferry mentioned guys like Horford, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and the consistent level of play they bring to the floor every night as staples for a revamped Hawks team that will conform to a system rather than freelance the way they might have in years past.  In addition to the core members of this new team having the sort of leadership qualities that have historically been critical to a team’s success, Ferry also suggested the Hawks will field a no-nonsense, blue-collar team fans in Atlanta will support vigorously as opposed to tolerating them the way many had grown accustomed before Ferry’s arrival.

Drafting well and having a sound player development program in place are other areas Ferry has focused on since taking over, upgrades and improvements that fans and the media either won’t see or simply don’t have access to.

Ferry’s focus is on the Hawks’ overall program as much as it is on putting a competitive team on the floor night after night this season. They go hand-in-hand, a factor that changes the way a team operates if that hasn’t been committed in that way before.

“I think we’re in a position where we have started to build on the values we want to work as a team,” Ferry said. “I think we have professional guys that will compete every night, and pretty good characters guys as well. With that, we want to keep flexibility as strategic option for us right now with where we are as a team. With where we are lined up, with contracts and the future we have the opportunity to still take different paths. I think we have a value system that is going to guide us along that way. But we still have the option to make changes and do things going forward that allow us to continue to build and to continue to try to get better.”


  1. Roy says:

    I have high doubts this team will be in the playoffs this season. They lost their best player for nothing and replaced him with a PF that’s average at best. Not to mention the Cavs making multiple significant pick ups, Mike Brown, Jarrett Jack, Andrew Bynum (for barely any money), and the #1 pick on top of having a young and talented core in Kyrie, Waiters, and Thompson. Detroit will also be making big strides with Jennings and Smith to provide some star power with Billups to mentor and a great young duo of big men in Monroe and Drummond. I’m not a fan of the Wizards but I think they’ll climb a bit higher too. And we can’t count the raptors out either they have a ton of athletic young players and a defensive coach with a developing big man in Jonas.

    The fight for the bottom seeds in the East are going to be tough, compared to these other teams Atlanta just isn’t cut out for it, they’re going to drop into the bottom 5 in the East mark my words.

  2. JSM01 says:

    If you´re not an up & coming team it makes no sense to chase the 7-8 spot of the playoffs – you probably get swept in the first round and don´t get any top picks the next year… thats a problem the NBA has – they award loosing!!

    • Frankie says:

      Well the thunder was the 8th seed once with their core set already, they got better and better every year after that, just getting to the playoffs and getting that playoff experience can go a long way

  3. okc2014 says:

    I support the Hawks, my hometown team 100%. I think it’s gonna take them at least a year to get the chemistry going and the new coach settled in. But I’d love to be surprised. I still maintain that teams like Cleveland, Detroit and Wizards are the new 6th, 7th and 8th seeds, replacing the Hawks, Bucks and Celtics. Hawks will make playoffs only if any of these teams struggle with injuries to key players. Let’s Go Hawks!!!

  4. bruno says:

    ferry can spin it anyway he wants but he should have traded Josh Smith last year instead of losing him for nothing! the hawks do this all the time. that’s what they’re a middle pack team and a middle draft team and never get any better (or worse).

  5. Akeem Asante says:

    It will be a long time before the Hawks are any better than they were when they challenged Chicago 3 years ago in the 2nd round.

    Top free agents DON’T want to go to Atlanta. Ferry just dismantled an up and coming team, to start ALL over and do the same thing again, only HIS way. Maybe he’ll have something in 6+ years, if he lasts that long.

    But, the best thing Ferry did was to send JJ to the Nets. That move set up everything for the Nets,…D Will now stays, the Boston 3 come over, AK47. No Joe and D Will may have been gone.

    On Thu, Sep 26, 2013 at 5:18 PM, Hang Time Blog | NBA.com wrote:

    > ** > Sekou Smith posted: ” [nba-video > vid=/games/heat/2013/07/15/20130714-danny-ferry-interview.nba] HANG TIME > HEADQUARTERS — With a busy offseason behind him and a what promises to be > an arduous 2013-14 NBA season ahead of him, it wasn’t surprising to see > Atlanta Ha”