INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Perhaps no NBA team is as connected to the Cleveland Cavaliers as the Atlanta Hawks. They’re pretty much pro basketball’s version of the BFF.
Let’s start with Cavs coach Mike Brown and Hawks general manager Danny Ferry.
As you know, Ferry was the Cavs GM during the LeBron James era of 2005-10. Brown was his coach. As you also know, that period included a trip to the Finals in ’07.
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Or how about current Cavs GM Chris Grant? He spent nine seasons in the Hawks’ front office, including time as Hawks assistant GM.
Meanwhile, the Hawks’ current assistant GM, Wes Wilcox, spent nine seasons in the Cavs’ front office. Wilcox was even the first GM in the history of the Canton Charge (2011), the Cavs’ affiliate in the NBA D-League.
Oh, and let’s not forget first-year Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.
Budenholzer and Brown were assistants together with the San Antonio Spurs from 2000-03. Ferry was a player for the Spurs in each of those three seasons. Coincidentally, Ferry retired as a player and joined the Spurs’ front office when Brown left.
Today, Ferry is in his second season running the Hawks, Brown in the first year of his second stint with the Cavs.
Well, don’t worry about it. Just know all that really matters to all of these folks is how their current programs are performing on the court.
The Hawks (10-10) sport the third-best record in the jumbled mess that is the Eastern Conference. The Cavs (6-12) started poorly, but have won two straight and aren’t far behind. The teams tangle for the first of three times Friday in Atlanta (7:30 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio).
The Cavs boast Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao and suddenly, Andrew Bynum.
The more-experienced Hawks counter with the likes of Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Lou Williams, Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague.
The Hawks haven’t missed the playoffs since 2006-07. The Cavs haven’t made it since 2009-10.
Each team respects the other.
“If you think about everybody they have on their team, they’re used to winning,” Brown said of the Hawks. “That’s a pretty big advantage when you have guys who have won recently. There’s a sense of understanding of how you have to go about your business on a daily basis. All their guys, when you think about it, are players who have been with winning programs.”
Clearly, the same isn’t yet true of the Cavs. But Ferry said he thinks the Cavs have the right guy to take them there.
“Mike (Brown) is a relentless worker and a quality, high character person,” Ferry told FOX Sports Ohio. “He is a good teacher and holds players accountable. His will and passion for defense will always give any team a strong chance to be successful. This will have such a strong impact for a team establishing a foundation for years to come.”
Of course, the Hawks have a defensive-minded man of their own in Budenholzer.
“To be honest, it starts with defense,” he told reporters in Atlanta following the Hawks win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. “If you’re taking the ball out of the net (following a made basket) a lot, it’s hard.”
That type of talk is a symphony to the ears of a coach like Brown. It’s a big reason why he feels the Hawks are off to a solid start — or in the East, doing what could be considered a bang-up job.
“Their coach, Budenholzer, is a good coach and has paid his dues,” Brown said. “He’s well-deserving of that job, he’s a winner. Then you talk about Danny Ferry. He’s a winner, too.
Spoken like a man who knows Ferry, Budenholzer and the Hawks fairly well.
“To have the type of culture they have down there just bodes well for them,” Brown said. “It’s not a surprise to me (that the Hawks are playing well), knowing the people they have in the front office, led by Danny and their coach.”
• The Hawks are planning an in-game acknowledgement should Korver break the all-time NBA record of consecutive games with a 3-pointer. He is tied for first with former NBA guard Dana Barros at 89.
• Cavs guard Jarrett Jack on Korver: “It shows a tremendous level of consistency, tremendous level of professionalism, on his part. He’s been a guy who’s stayed true to his title. A lot of young guys don’t understand that you have to try to find a niche in this league, and try to live up to it as much as you can. He’s done a tremendous job of that.”
• The Eastern Conference is struggling mightily with all but three teams having bumbled their way to losing records. Brown can’t explain it, but he’s OK with it. “I don’t know why the Eastern Conference record is the way it is, and the West is the way it is,” he said. “But I like it. We still have a chance. Everybody in the East feels that way.”
• Irving leads the Cavs in scoring (20.8 ppg) and assists (105). He has committed just three turnovers in the previous two games. For the Hawks, Horford leads the way at 17.3 ppg, followed by Teague at 16.8. Twitter: @SamAmico