The position of power with the Atlanta Hawks' organization held by Michael Gearon had been neutralized by Bruce Levenson and Danny Ferry.
But Gearon was on a conference call with Ferry in June in which free agents were discussed.
The call proceeded with Ferry hustling through free agent names, a list that included Carmelo Anthony: "He can shoot the [expletive] out of it, but he screws you up in other ways," Ferry said, according to a transcript obtained by Yahoo Sports.
Ferry would go on to say of Anthony: "So is he really worth the 20 million dollars? … I would argue if he plays the right way, absolutely."
The Hawks never had an opportunity to pursue Anthony, but they did have a chance to sign Luol Deng.
Several sources told Yahoo that within the basketball operations, Ferry was Atlanta's biggest proponent to sign Deng.
Ferry started about how Deng "has got some African in him" and proceeded to make a comparison to Africans with phony facades selling counterfeit goods.
As soon as those words left Ferry's mouth on the call, Gearon responded in a dramatic way in the background of the tape recording, according to a partial transcript of the call obtained by Yahoo Sports.
"Oh my God, that comment sounds like Sterling on TMZ," Gearon said.
Gearon allowed Ferry to keep talking.
On Deng, Ferry said: "… For example, he can come out and be an unnamed source for a story and two days later come out and say, 'That absolutely was not me. I can't believe someone said that.'
"But talking to reporters, you know they can [believe it]."
Ferry kept going on Deng: "… Good guy in Chicago. They will tell you he was good for their culture, but not a culture setter. He played hard and all those things, but he was very worried about his bobble-head being the last one given away that year, or there was not enough stuff of him in the [team] store … kind of a complex guy."
According to the report, Ferry appears to be making his own interjections on the call and not reciting words belonging to someone else.