Things could have gone worse. Things could not have gone that much worse, but nobody’s on crutches, at least. The Atlanta Hawks have been shaken to their figurative core, though. The team is up for sale, the squad’s ostensible (and failed) leader is on indefinite leave , and the franchise has done little to enhance its roster in spite of a momentum shifting playoff turn, heaps of cap room, and decades-long presence in the jewel of the American south. Its prized free agent played a total of five seconds in his last team’s final game of its playoff run. Its second-year coach now has to run both the front office and work the sidelines. Its general manager only makes news these days when some NBA legend or would-be Hawk goes on record to call him not racist. Not “racist,” but “not racist.” Such a wonderful distinction! That GM, NBA lifer Danny Ferry, did well to partially blow up the staid operation that was the Atlanta Hawks after taking over in 2012. He dumped Joe Johnson’s millstone of a contract , earned draft picks, refused to fall in love with what Josh Smith could do, and he appears to have done a sound job in his latest attempt at raiding Gregg Popovich’s staff – plucking Mike Budenholzer out of San Antonio to run his team. The Hawks faltered down the stretch in 2013-14, losing 23 out of 36 games to end the season, but it still earned a playoff spot ( that it may not have wanted ) and dutifully took a reeling Indiana Pacers squad to seven games in the opening round before falling. The defense improved under Budenholzer, the outfit forced quite a few turnovers on both ends of the court (burn), and in all it played as expected – a group that was learning on the fly under a new coach, anxiously awaiting the reinforcements that summer would eventually provide. Instead, the 2014 offseason brought embarrassment and shame to the Hawk franchise – though you couldn’t tell by the front office’s lingering reaction to terribly screwing things up . Danny Ferry remains the ultimate corporate “anyone’s fault but my own”-creature as he ducks away from press, fans, and culpability after creating a culture that made it OK to deem “a little bit of African in him” a knowledgeable and appropriate statement. Much less something that could work as blight on one’s character, as if being of African descent is something to be ashamed of. Ferry remains, to Atlanta and the NBA’s great shame, and the scads of “I’m sure he’s not a racist”-re-castings doesn’t take anything away from the back-slapping atmosphere he created in the Atlanta front office. Ferry, and the remaining Hawk ownership (to say nothing of the NBA) appear to see no problem with this. It’s an astonishing, ongoing situation. To the discredit of many. In less important, basketball terms – the Hawks messed up their offseason. They remain around $13 million under the salary cap, which would work to their advantage on the trade market only in a different era, and they’ve whiffed on supplanting a core that was just a few games above .500 even with Al Horford in the lineup last season. The Knicks are in flux, Brooklyn has diminished, Indiana has been taken out of the picture, Washington and Charlotte are just one injury away, the middle of the East is eminently ripe for the taking – and yet Atlanta isn’t scaring anyone. Save for prospective free agents.
The Scoop:Johnson will earn heavy playing time as a starter, whether at SG or SF, and he's coming off a nice 2013-14 during which he returned mid-round value on a cumulative basis. Owners in need of a SG who can score and make 3-pointer should keep the Nets' veteran in mind on draft day.
A look around the league and the web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out. C : The Brooklyn Game . Joe Johnson can’t hide his giggly-face when asked about the difference between Lionel Hollins and former Net coach Jason Kidd’s practice schedule: PF : New York Times . Kobe Bryant and Arianna Huffington go out for lunch, on record, and the result is shockingly self-serving and ponderous. SF : SB Nation . A look at some of the new faces in new uniforms as Media Day churns along. SG : New York Post . Derek Fisher is not Phil Jackson’s puppet, dammit. Marionette, maybe, but not a puppet. PG : NBA.com . Discussing Becky Hammon’s future with the Spurs as she enters her first year as assistant coach. 6th : Charlotte Observer . Taking a look at Charlotte’s Lance Stephenson, as he readies to enter the most important year of his career. He also “has ambitions of doing more songs.” 7th : USA Today . Thankfully, the Los Angeles Clippers seem appropriately cheery and enthused about the 2014-15 season. 8th : Boston Globe . Baxter Holmes’ fascinating feature on Marcus Smart. Read this. 9th : Wall St. Journal . Russell Westbrook discusses a whole bunch of fashionable accessories that you probably can’t afford. 10th : SB Nation . Tom Ziller talks up three head coaches on the hot seat as 2014-15 rears its head. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops