Somewhere amid his current period of purgatory, Danny Ferry has got to be smiling.

Granted, it can’t be easy doing that as Ferry continues with a self-imposed leave of absence from the Atlanta Hawks. The ugly words he spoke this past summer in describing then-free agent Luol Deng – whether they were verbatim from a scouting report he was reading, or extemporaneous from his brain to his lips – will never be forgotten.

It is still uncertain whether or not Ferry will ever return to once again serve as Hawks General Manager. But make no mistake about one thing no matter where you weigh in on the Ferry flap: the team he built is something to be proud of.

Ferry’s choice of Mike Budenholzer as head coach was brilliant. The Hawks play a brand of basketball that is fun to watch, and – more importantly – successfully scripted. Ball movement and defense are at the heart of it all – one-on-one basketball be damned — and Coach Bud always has his team well prepared and playing together like a well-oiled machine.

Then there’s the signing of free agent Paul Millsap, which has turned out to be spot-on perfect. If you can attract solid players and people like Millsap to come play in this system, it doesn’t matter if you can’t reel in the big-name free agents that eat into your salary cap. Last year, after Al Horford went down for the season, it was Millsap who became an All Star by being a steady, confident and reliable inside force on both ends of the court for the Birds. Now that he and Big Al are back together, they have formed one of the more daunting front-line duos in the NBA.

Ferry’s drafting of Dennis Schroeder has taken some time to take hold, but in this sophomore season of his, the foreign point guard import has displayed an impressive knack of being a spark plug off the bench. He possesses a great first step to the hoop, is playing much more under control in running the show when he’s on the court with Jeff Teague, and while his outside shot still needs a good deal of work, Schroeder hasn’t been prone to hoisting up bad ones.

So here are the Hawks, winners of 10 of their last 11 games heading into Cleveland on Wednesday night for an Eastern Conference showdown versus LeBron James and a Cavaliers team that is starting to get the expected positive results following a rather rough start to the season.

When the Hawks visited the Cavs back in November they absorbed a serious spanking, one of their worst to date. But not long after that they went on a nine-game winning streak and made an impressive statement that people around the league need to take notice.

And somewhere, no doubt fully aware of what they’ve been doing, Danny Ferry’s got a grin on his face.