NEW YORK— The Big Apple is Atlanta North for the weekend with Hawks all over the place, competing in events on Friday, Saturday and finally Sunday when four players and the entire coaching staff will represent the East in the All-Star Game.
“It’s awesome to have everyone here,” said Hawks forward Al Horford. “When we get on the bus, almost half the bus is Hawks. I’ve been here before at the All-Star Game but never has it been to this magnitude, mainly because we have a number of players and our coaches here with me.”
Well, there is one notable absence. Somewhere in Atlanta, the person who put the Hawks together is observing from a distance, to say the least. Danny Ferry took a voluntary leave of absence after the events of this summer, when he read a scouting report that was viewed as racially if not culturally insensitive, and has been a ghost while the Hawks surprisingly soared to the top of the East.
Ferry was responsible, either directly or indirectly, in every member of the Hawks’ All-Star contingent with the exception of Horford, whom he inherited when he became GM three years ago. Ferry matched an offer sheet to keep Jeff Teague, signed Paul Millsap, traded for Kyle Korver and signed coach Mike Budenholzer. That’s one-third of the East team, plus the coach.
The question now is, will Ferry ever get to enjoy the benefits of his hard work from a point-blank range, instead of his TV set?
Well, all indications say that will be up to the next owners of the Hawks, whenever they’re sold, which might not happen until this summer or fall. If left up to the players, however, there’s a pretty clear consensus.
“He brought us all together,” said Teague. “I don’t think anyone would be against it.”
Millsap: “I would welcome him back. We still don’t know the truth as far as everything that’s going on or everything that happened. I try to stay out of it. But we had a great relationship before all of this happened. I’m not going to let one day throw that relationship down the drain. People make mistakes.”
Remember, Ferry wasn’t told to stay away by the league or even the fractured Hawks ownership. He took it upon himself. And technically, he could return on his own accord, although there probably would be some awkward moments if that happened. In any event, one of the groups trying to buy the Hawks is led by Grant Hill. They both attended Duke and remain friends, so you can guess what might happen should Hill’s team win. If another group wins, then all bets are off.
“He’s definitely a great GM,” said Millsap. “And I’m sure this must be tough for him.”
Elsewhere around All-Star Weekend:
Melo will play at least one more game:
Carmelo Anthony will play in the All-Star Game. Otherwise, that’s all he would guarantee.
There’s bait of controversy surrounding the Knicks forward. On one hand, Melo has complained about a chronic left knee problem, which forced him to miss games. But he felt fine enough to play in London in the Knicks’ game against the Bucks, and has played since, leading up to the All-Star Game.
Therefore: With the 10-43 Knicks comfortably out of the playoff hunt and three months to go, will Melo suddenly feel unfit to play once the All-Star Game is over?
It looks that way, and can you blame him? Melo felt he had a responsibility to suit up in London, if only because he was clearly a drawing card, and also serve as host of the All-Star Game since it’ll be played at the Garden.
“I really want to embrace that,” he said. “This will be a moment I’ll never forget. New York won’t forget. I want to be a part of that moment.”
Melo added: “It’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. Because if I said I’m not participating, I would’ve gotten backlash about it. I’m saying I’m participating, I get backlash. It’s here in New York, the fans voted me in and I’m going to play in the game.”
DeMarcus is good with Karl:
There won’t be any push-back from DeMarcus Cousins when George Karl begins coaching the Kings next week, so says DeMarcus Cousins.
“He’s a good coach,” said Cousins. “I haven’t really had a chance to talk with him, so may things were going on when they brought him in. I’m excited to see him and move forward.”
Cousins dismissed the idea that he was against the hiring of Karl and insists he has no voice in major decisions. If Karl can help the Kings return to a level of respectability they had under Mike Malone, Cousins is fine with that.
“I didn’t want them to fire Mike Malone,” he said. “That wasn’t my doing. And this hiring wasn’t my doing. But I’m fine with it. Look, everybody needs to be on the same page. That’s been the biggest issue so far. We were a team above .500 when Malone was there. Things happen for a reason and there are things beyond our control as players, beyond my control.”
Cousins did say one thing will continue: If the Kings sleep-walk through games, they will hear about it from him.
“As leader of my team, I’m supposed to voice my opinion about how we’ve been playing. I should be in that position.”
Boogie Barks Back:
Cousins also had some harsh words for Charles Barkley. The two aren’t exactly friends; Barkley has criticized Cousins on-air (although Barkley did say Cousins deserved to be on the All-Star team) and Cousins took exception to it then, and now.
“I mean, that’s Charles being Charles, man,” he said. “A lot of people don’t really know the real story about it. I never really had anything to do with it in the first place. It ain’t personal. I mean, I really respect the guy but at the same time I don’t really care what he thinks either. I don’t respect him and I don’t care what he thinks.”
Curry ready for prime time:
You come to New York expecting to see LeBron James and Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony dominating the billboards. But … Stephen Curry?
Curry is splashed on a huge neon billboard overlooking Times Square, as the spokesman for Express, the men’s casual sportswear company. And others are featuring Curry in ads. And Curry, the leading vote-getter in the West, finds it … amusing if not overwhelming.
“Two years ago I wasn’t here,” said Curry, meaning on the All-Star team. “Now, to have all of this support, from all over the world, fans of the NBA and fans of myself and how I play the game, I feel very humbled to know that we have an impact on so many people.
“There are guys here who are MVPs and who have won championships. That’s what I’m striving for. To know that along the way these kinds of acknowledgments happen, it’s encouraging to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Wade gives thumbs-up to Korver:
Dwyane Wade won’t play in the All-Star Game because of a lingering hamstring injury but he almost pulled another muscle when he was approached by his replacement, Kyle Korver.
Korver was extremely apologetic and Wade was caught off-guard.
“It’s funny,” Wade said. “He had this look on his face like, ‘I’m sorry that you’re not able to play, but really I’m not sorry.’ It was hilarious. So, I’m happy for him to get his All-Star nod.”
Wade added: “Obviously, we came in the league together. So it’s cool that he’s getting his nod. And they deserve it, man. When you play the way they’ve played all year, you deserve to be represented and showcased.”
Davis says Pelicans are all in:
The race for playoff pole position in the West is fierce, with the Suns and Thunder, separated by a half-game, largely considered the favorites for the eighth spot. But Anthony Davis believes the Pelicans are in the picture for the long haul.
“I believe so,” he said. “It’s easy to kind of count us out because of where we’re at in our development, but everyone on the team thinks the playoffs is in our reach. So, yeah, we’re going for it.”
New Orleans has lost 3 straight games and fell a game behind OKC, which is trying to recover from losing Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant for a chunk of the season due to injuries. Still, the Pelicans recently managed a split with OKC and Davis is having an MVP-like season.
“We’re not going to give up,” Davis said.
As for OKC?
Durant: “Man, I’m not even thinking about that right now. I just want to enjoy this All-Star Weekend.”
Awkward media/player interview exchange:
Reporter from Europe: “Chris Bosh, you are elegant.”
Bosh: “Thank you.”