Deng, indirectly in middle of Hawks’ mess, in town

Luol Deng, who indirectly played an enormous role in the current Hawks ownership and management controversy, was in Atlanta Friday to play a basketball game.

Deng was a top free-agent target of the Hawks this summer. It was in a June conference call with ownership and management that general manager Danny Ferry used racially insensitive and stereotypical remarks in referring to Deng.

As a result, the Hawks conducted an independent investigation into the statement. It led to the discovery of a racially inflammatory e-mail written by controlling owner Bruce Levenson about, in part, the makeup of the team’s fan base and game operations. Levenson announced in September his intention to sell his interest in the team.

The sale process continues to drag out. Ferry asked for and was granted an indefinite leave of absence. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer is currently making all basketball operation decisions.

Deng ended up signing a two-year, $20 million contract with the Heat, the Hawks opponent Friday, before the comments were made public. The same offer was on the table from the Hawks but they would not include a third-year option for the forward.

Ferry maintains that he was reading from a background report when he said his comments about Deng. Deng addressed the issue during the Heat’s media day to start the season.

“I think one of the hardest things to do as a human being, and it’s something we should do more often, is forgive,” Deng told reporters. “I really do forgive Danny. It’s not something I want to hold onto for the rest of my career or the rest of my life.”

Deng has declined to discuss the situation since his media day statement.

The Heat normally hold a morning shoot-around at Philips Arena. On Friday they held the workout on the campus of Georgia Tech at the same time the Hawks held their session.

Hawks Elton Brand and Kyle Korver, one-time teammates of Deng, spoke to him this summer.

“It was pretty amazing, really,” Korver told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after their conversation. “He just wants everything to move on. He wants to get back to basketball.”

Friday was the Heat’s first regular-season trip to Atlanta. The Hawks played an exhibition game in Miami.

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