Monday, June 27, 2005

Believing in Ferry

It's official, The Plain Dealer reported this morning: Danny Ferry, deservedly or undeservedly the patron saint of off-the-cuff trade busts in Cleveland, will be introduced as the Cavaliers general manager today.
Ferry will get right to work today preparing for Tuesday's NBA draft, in which the Cavaliers currently do not own a pick. Ferry's first job will be to try very hard to trade and acquire one.
Ferry is quite possibly the most important GM hire the Cavs have made since Wayne Embry, the man who, reportedly at the demand of then-owner Gordon Gund, traded Ron Harper to the Clippers for Ferry's rights in 1989.
(Lesson number one to Ferry: never, never, never trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. If he can't look in the mirror, he still has Lamond Murray and Darius Miles making a strong case that trades with the Clippers never work out.)
Ferry trade aside, Embry helped rebuild the Cavs from the disaster of the Ted Stepien years, acquiring Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, Kevin Johnson (later traded for Larry Nance), John "Hot Rod" Williams and Harper, laying the groundwork for the most successful run in Cavs' history. Those teams won three of the four playoff series the Cavs have ever won.
Ferry has a similar task ahead of him, but maybe even more important.
Ferry's job is to pull the franchise out of the wreckage of a very disappointing end to a once-promising season. Ferry's job is to put a roster on the floor that can clinch the Cavs their first playoff berth in eight years next spring, and do it with relative ease. Ferry's job is to put a championship contender on the floor within several seasons.
And, above all, Ferry's job is to keep LeBron James.
Cleveland fans tend to spit out Ferry's name when they say it. After all, Harper went on to be a key component to the Bulls' three-peat of 1996-98. Ferry was never more than a decent bench player who could knock down a few three-pointers, a far cry from the "next Larry Bird" he was christened coming out of Duke.
Ferry did have some elements of Bird in him, though. He was heady as a player. He was tough, and wasn't afraid to be the bad guy. He was always looking for what he could get away with on the court.
You think the Bulls, with the royalty of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, were above the likes of Ferry? In the early '90s, while Jordan was busy calling the Cavs "cream puffs," and the Bulls eliminated the Cavs from the playoffs four times between 1989 and 1994, who was the one player that got under Chicago's skin enough to draw boos at Chicago Stadium?
Ferry clobbered Pippen once during a late-season game at The Coliseum, and subsequently became Public Enemy No. 1 in Chicago whenever the Cavs were in town.
Ferry needs to take that same knife-twisting mentality to his new job. He needs to be on the lookout for ways he can get the better of other teams. That's the jungle mentality of the NBA market: you're either a predator or prey. You only have to look at the Cavs' record in the past decade to know what side they've been on.
Ferry has some front-office street cred. Since leaving Cleveland in 2000, Ferry has been involved with the Spurs. He now has a championship ring as a player (2003) and an executive (2005). He has studied at the foot of Spurs GM R.C. Buford, one of the NBA's great money managers. He has learned from Gregg Popovich, a coach who belongs on the same pedestal with Larry Brown and Phil Jackson.
Ferry has not had the experience of running an NBA front office before, but numerous basketball people call Ferry "a student of the game." If that's the case, hopefully he's been a sponge these past few years, learning as many championship-winning tips as he could in San Antonio.
I don't care if Ferry ever was the next Bird. What I would really like him to be now is the next R.C. Buford.


Zach said...

I'm glad you look at Wayne Embry the same way that I do, because I think few Cavs fans give him a fair look.
Embry was never a huge fan of Ron Harper for sure, but had Gordon Gund not demanded a deal, he wouldn't have made it.
And the fact is, it wasn't losing Harper, but the two first round picks that drained the team.
But Embry kept the Cavs competitive, along with an unquestioned degree of character.
Well, except for Shawn Kemp ...

Nathan Kaufman said...

who owns the Cleveland Cavaliers these days?