Posts Tagged ‘John Hammond’

Morning Shootaround — June 25

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Is Ingram the next big star in LA? | Bucks big on Maker | Rose sounds off

No. 1: Is Ingram the next big star in LA? — These are enthusiastic times in Los Angeles regarding the Lakers. They have Luke Walton as head coach, they no longer need to deal with the Kobe retirement tour, and the draft fetched Brandon Ingram, the promising forward from Duke who should pay immediately, or at least the Lakers hope. He’s the most anticipated rookie since Kobe if only because the Lakers are awaiting the next star and also coming off a poor season that led to the draft lottery. Here’s Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times going full cuddle on Ingram:

In his first and only season at Duke, the kid shot 46% on two-pointers, 41% on three-pointers, both figures which would have led all Lakers playmakers last season. Throw in the kind of defensive havoc that a 7-foot-3 wingspan can cause and you’ll understand how even cool hand Luke Walton got excited.

“We got the player I wanted in the draft,” said Walton at a buzzing Lakers training facility. “I don’t know if he’s the best or not, but we got the player I wanted, for sure.”

Oh, he’s the best. The majority of scouts who follow these things agreed. The sly smile on General Manager Mitch Kupchak’s face agreed. The perception was even shared by the crowd of Lakers season-ticket holders sitting on folding chairs watching a giant TV on the facility’s gym floor, as they cheered loudly before Ingram was even picked.

They were cheering because the Philadelphia 76ers, picking first, went for the glitz selection of Louisiana State’s Ben Simmons. Many of them then erupted in a standing ovation when the obvious pick of Ingram was next.

“We felt we’d be very lucky to get Brandon into this organization,” said Kupchak.

The celebratory mood was in contrast to the defensiveness that permeated the organization last June when the Lakers shrugged off the natural No. 2 pick of Jahlil Okafor and instead reached for D’Angelo Russell. In some ways, they’re still reaching for Russell, trying to connect with him, and this pick of Ingram may lead them to eventually trade him for a stabilizing veteran if they feel a core of Ingram, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle is their future.

“We’re going to stress competition here, and we’re going to compete,” said Walton. “And if that means a young guy we’re developing isn’t playing the way he should be, then he’s got to come out of the game.”

Or out of the organization? Stay tuned. For now, the Lakers are thrilled to add a player who, unlike Russell last year, played bigger as the games became bigger, growing from an early benching to playing 119 out of a possible 120 minutes in three NCAA tournament games, averaging 23 points, six rebounds and three assists.

“We’re picking a player that played at, some might say, a very established college basketball program,” said Kupchak with a grin, the former North Carolina star taking his usual draft-day shot at Duke. “And he played big minutes in an excellent league with excellent competition

The Lakers love Ingram’s maturity, which was in evidence from the first answer he gave as a Laker, saying on national TV that he wanted to bring leadership to the team. The young Lakers could certainly use some of that, and while it’s unlikely an 18-year-old kid can lead anyone right now, it’s revealing that he aspires to do so.

“You need leadership, you need cohesiveness, you need energy, and everything I’ve heard about this kid, he brings all those to the table along with his skill set,” said Walton.

The biggest hindrance is his weight, which is officially 190 pounds, which unofficially makes him look downright reed-like even though he’s reportedly gained nearly 30 pounds in the last year. He’s always been thin, and the target of jokes because of it. When he was growing up in Kinston, a town of about 22,000 in eastern North Carolina, he was so thin he could barely wear his souvenir Duke jersey. Even today, he hears it all the time, including immediately after being drafted when his first interviewer called him “Skinny.”

“I think it just gives me motivation to show these guys that the skinny part doesn’t matter,” said the quiet Ingram in a conference call with Los Angeles reporters. “It got me here today … and being skinny didn’t mean nothing when I was battling with each and every guy, each and every night.”

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No. 2: Bucks still defending Maker decision — The Milwaukee Bucks rolled the biggest pair of dice on draft night when they used the 10th pick to select seven-footer Thon Maker, a human question mark, as far as the average NBA fan is concerned. Bucks coach Jason Kidd and GM John Hammond believe Maker, in time, will become a solid player if not a star with the Bucks, even though his name wasn’t a prominent one prior to the draft. He grew upin South Sundan and then Australian before coming to the States and impressed the Bucks during his workout. Here’s Charles Gardner of the Journal Sentinel with more clues:

Maker wasn’t even in ESPN international expert Fran Fraschilla’s top five international players.

“The reason why is he’s neither fish nor fowl,” Hammond said. “He wasn’t an international player; he wasn’t a college player. He was the only high school player in this year’s draft.”

Hammond said when Maker worked out for the Bucks a few weeks ago, he stayed around after the six-man session and went through drills with some of the Bucks coaches for another hour and 45 minutes.

“I didn’t know if we were going to be able to draft him, but we got in the car and I said, ‘Thon, if you get drafted, you just got a taste of what’s going to happen with you.’

“The blueprint is real simple. It’s called hard work and it’s going to happen here in this gym. He’s willing to do it; that’s the most important thing.”

Hammond said the Bucks explored moving up in the draft but decided they had to give up too much to do that. Published reports said Boston was seeking deals with multiple teams, trying to get shooters or scorers, and Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker were Bucks players named as sought by the Celtics.

Maker played for two schools in Ontario, spending last season at the Athlete Institute Academy in Mono. Earlier he played for Orangeville Prep and was a teammate of Kentucky recruit Jamal Murray, who was selected seventh overall by Denver on Thursday.

“He’s really multifaceted,” Hammond said. “At 7 feet tall, he has the ability to handle the ball more effectively than you realize. He has good vision with the ball.

“The fact he shoots it makes it extra exciting. His experience is limited but I think he does have a pretty good feel for the game.”

Hammond said the age controversy did not affect the Bucks’ interest at all.

“Look, he’s 19 years old,” Hammond said. “We’ve been through this before with international players at times. Sometimes guys are questioned on age. It’s tough. You look at Thon Maker coming from the South Sudan and there are difficult situations.

“But we’re comfortable with who he is and what he is.”

In the evolving NBA, what position will he play?

“We’re going to figure it out,” Hammond said. “I don’t know. You have a vision.

“Could you ever imagine, three years down the line when we’re moving toward becoming a championship-caliber team, could you see having Giannis and Jabari and Thon at the floor at one time?

“I think it has a chance to be pretty dynamic and I don’t know who is playing what position, but hopefully we’re going to be pretty good doing it.”

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No. 3: Rose sounds off — The biggest trade of the summer so far is Derrick Rose going to the Knicks, and in a hard-to-please city, the news was met with mostly positive reviews. So Rose has conquered one demand, at least for the short term. But what does he think about the Knicks, especially after leaving his hometown Bulls? KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune found out:

“It still don’t feel real,” Rose said in New York. “Driving in and seeing my picture on a billboard or a screen outside the building, it kind of blew me away a little bit. It probably won’t hit me until I step on the floor and put a uniform on.”

“Chicago is more than just like a home. It grew me into the man I am today,” Rose said. “All my family and friends are back there. It’s one of the reasons why I changed my number to 25.”

That’s Rose’s number from Simeon Career Academy, the high school that officially retired it in 2009 to honor the late Ben Wilson. Previously, Simeon’s best player, including Rose, wore it to honor Wilson.

Now, the Knicks, who acquired Rose in Wednesday’s stunning, five-player trade, hope Rose becomes one of their best players.

“I feel like I’m great right now,” Rose said. “I felt like the only thing I was missing was my rhythm. … Last year, I feel I had a hell of a year coming off three injuries. And I think it’s only going to get better.”

Rose, who once famously said he’d roll with Keith Bogans as his running mate at shooting guard, served as a tepid participant in the Bulls’ recruiting pitch to Carmelo Anthony in 2014. After his first trade and fresh start with a new franchise, Rose said he likely would change his approach to recruiting players. And he started with a passionate pitch to Joakim Noah, with whom he partied Thursday night in New York.

“I want him,” Rose said. “He knows that. I think his family knows that. I think everyone knows that.”

Rose raised eyebrows last fall when, in unsolicited fashion, he raised his 2017 free agency on the first day of Bulls training camp. Though he often has been linked to returning to Los Angeles, where he makes his offseason home, Rose sounded committed to the Knicks.

“I hope I’ll be able to play the rest of my career here,” he said.

Rose clearly sounded like someone who had moved from cherishing the ability to play in his hometown to getting worn down by the burden. Now, looking odd in Knicks blue, he has a fresh start.

“I don’t hold any grudges with the front office or anybody in Chicago,” he said. “I loved all the teammates I had there. … I don’t know why I was traded. But I would like to tell them, ‘Thank you.’ For real. Giving me another start, I’m grateful to be where I’m at.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Suns are big on Dragan Bender and suspect he can get big minutes right away on a front court that’s as thin as he is … The Nuggets are telling third-year pro Gary Harris not to worry, he’s the starting two-guard this season … Remember, the Jazz are still a developing team, so it’s small steps for them until a franchise player arrives, and no such player is coming from the draft … Remember when the Pistons drew a few scattered thousand fans per game and routinely missed the playoffs, like a few years ago? Well, incoming Pistons rookies have nothing but good things to say about the franchise.

Morning shootaround — March 22


VIDEO: Highlights from Monday’s games

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Durant questionable vs. Rockets | Why LeBron unfollowed Cavs on social media | Wade to Davis: Don’t rush back | Hammond praises Antetokounmpo’s development

No. 1: Durant (elbow) questionable tonight vs. Rockets — The Oklahoma City Thunder were not their sharpest right after the All-Star break, amassing a 4-8 mark after March 12 loss on the road to the San Antonio Spurs. Things have picked up a bit lately for the Thunder, though, as they are in the midst of a four-game win streak as the Houston Rockets visit tonight (8 ET, TNT). However, it’s not all positive for OKC as leading scorer Kevin Durant has an elbow injury that may keep him out of tonight’s game. Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman has more:

Late in the third quarter on Saturday night in Indianapolis, Kevin Durant flew in for an acrobatic block, but was undercut and fell hard on his right elbow.

He stayed down for a little while, wincing in pain during a timeout, but remained in and closed out the game. But after an off-day Sunday, he didn’t practice on Monday. Durant was seen walking across the floor with an ice-pack on his elbow.

“Did a little bit on the side,” coach Billy Donovan said. “But in terms of the contact stuff we did, he didn’t do anything.”

Does Donovan expect Durant to be available against the Rockets on Tuesday night?

“Gonna see how he’s doing tomorrow, but it’s nothing too serious, nothing that’s a major problem,” Donovan said. “He’s got some discomfort, but we’ll probably find out (if he’s available) at shootaround.”


VIDEO: OKC gears up for its showdown with Houston tonight

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Bucks reward Hammond for building the right way


VIDEO: John Hammond talks about the fresh new look of the Milwaukee Bucks

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — If you don’t know John Hammond by face, that’s fine by the Milwaukee Bucks’ general manager.

He’s old school that way. He’s not interested in the spotlight, never has been in all of the years I’ve known him (dating back to his days as Joe Dumars‘ top assistant in Detroit). But he might not be able to avoid it much longer, what with the work he’s done rebuilding the roster and reshaping the image of a Bucks team many of us believe is on the cusp of becoming an annual fixture in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Bucks coach Jason Kidd deserves plenty of credit for what we saw from the young Bucks last season, including that first round playoff scare they put into the Chicago Bulls. But the overall vision and direction for this team has been set by Hammond, who was rewarded by the Bucks today with an extension of his contract through the 2016-17 season.

In a business where front-office executives wash out before they can implement the changes to the culture and the systems they are hired to fix, Hammond’s extension is the ultimate vote of confidence. He was voted the 2010 NBA Executive of the Year by his peers for his early work with the team, but the Bucks have gone through coaching and ownership changes since then and Hammond has overseen a significant reversal of fortunes for the Bucks throughout the process.

“A great deal of our team’s success and progress is due to the vision and hard work of John,” Bucks owner Wes Edens said in a statement released by the team. “He’s assembled a talented and competitive roster and we’re very pleased that he will continue to lead basketball operations. With John and Coach Kidd at the helm, our young team has a very bright future.”

A future with Greg Monroe, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Michael Carter-Williams and Jabari Parker serving as franchise cornerstones certainly holds promise. Kidd has been praised, and rightfully so, for coming in and immediately instilling an air of confidence in his team.

Quality leadership at the NBA level is multi-tiered, from ownership to the front office to the bench and throughout the locker room. The Bucks appear to have all the pieces in place to continue rising up the ranks.

Making sure Hammond is around to keep things going is a wise move.

Morning shootaround — July 18


VIDEO: Sophomores delivering at Summer League

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Giannis sees Bucks as (more) family | Project Durant on track in Washington | Knicks, if not Jackson, kept ‘Melo in loop | Smart to miss Africa game

No. 1: Giannis sees Bucks as (more) family — It’s too bad, when Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo writes about himself on his official blog, that he doesn’t lapse into third-person references to himself. If he did, he’d face the same challenge – spelling and typing that last name repeatedly – other scribes face. Nonetheless, the Bucks’ rising star posted Friday about the bond he feels with his team and how his sense of family extends these days to his workplace:

The Bucks and John Hammond chose me in the draft, got me in the NBA, kept me in the team with a role from my very first season and they are my basketball family. Not only that, but already at this young age, they have enough faith in me as a leader and they are doing everything in order to develop all of my potential. From my side, I feel that I want to be playing in the Bucks. I’m not talking about my next contract. The way I feel now, I want to keep playing for the Milwaukee Bucks for the next 20 years!

You never know how life turns out. Three years ago I was thinking that I might be playing for Filathlitikos forever! All of a sudden, the draft emerged, the NBA, the Bucks and everything that followed. I don’t know how I’ll be feeling and thinking in 2, 3 or more years. Right now I feel like I want to play for the Milwaukee Bucks forever.

I’m a guy who doesn’t really care about glamour and big markets. I like to be home all day. I get up in the morning, I take a shower and I go to practice. When I’m finished, the only thing that’s on my mind is to go back home and spend time with my family. I usually feel that I prefer to hide from people.

Okay, if LeBron said to me ‘Come to my team and play with me,’ I’d think about it! (laughs) He’s the best player in the world and a member of that exclusive group of the best that have ever played the game. Still, though, the Milwaukee Bucks would come first. They will always be the team that gave me my chance and opened up the doors to paradise.

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No. 2: Project Durant on track in Washington — The Washington Wizards aren’t running afoul of NBA tampering rules, but within the letter of the law, they’re not hiding the fact that they hope to be players in what most expect to be a Kevin Durant Sweeptakes next July. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post looked at the Wizards’ plan, which will be competing with approximately 28 other teams’ plans 11.5 months from now in trying to lure the NBA’s 2014 MVP away from Oklahoma City:

The Washington Wizards have meticulously prepared for the opportunity to coax Durant, born in the District and a product of Montrose Christian School, to Washington once the clock strikes midnight on July 1, 2016. But the courting of Durant, 26, will be wildly competitive: Thanks to the coming flood of money from a new television contract that will kick in next July, a bevy of franchises will have the salary cap space to offer the maximum possible contract to Durant, the 2014 league MVP. Other teams are only a couple moves away from getting in the mix. It could become a free-for-all, raising the risks of going all-in for one player.

“The one thing I know about my brother is he wants to win,” said Damion James, Durant’s best friend and a member of the Wizards’ summer league team. “He’ll do whatever it takes to win. Whoever gives him the best chance to win is where he’s going to end up.”

“It’s difficult to imagine him leaving [the Thunder],” said a Western Conference executive, who spoke under condition of anonymity because league tampering rules bar discussing potential free agents who are still under contract with another team. “That team is loaded. If they can stay healthy, they’re championship favorites.”

Oklahoma City is one of the NBA’s smallest markets, a factor that would’ve repelled a player of Durant’s caliber just a few years ago, but technology has altered the NBA terrain. No longer does a player need to play in a metropolis to become a superstar and procure endorsement dollars. Every game is available to anyone, anywhere. Highlights are instantly accessible on the Internet. Social media is replete with NBA fandom. Durant, a Nike pillar, and [Russell] Westbrook, a fashion impresario of sorts, are two poster boys of the shift. The fact that [LaMarcus] Aldridge spurned a meeting with the Knicks and turned down the Lakers to sign this month with the San Antonio Spurs seemed to solidify the change.

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No. 3: Knicks, if not Jackson, kept ‘Melo in loop — Lest anyone fret that Carmelo Anthony was being kept in the dark on the New York Knicks’ offseason maneuvers, the New York Post stepped up to report that the veteran All-Star scorer actually was in the loop on team transactions. Certainly no Knicks fan could aide Anthony not being consulted, considering how, er, well thing have gone around Madison Square Garden lately:

According to an NBA source, general manager Steve Mills has been in communication with Anthony across the free-agent process to explain the recent additions.

As president, [Phil] Jackson delegates a lot, and Mills is in charge of directly speaking with agents and other teams regarding potential trades or free-agent acquisitions. According to the source, Mills also handles reaching out to players on matters such as recent transactions.

In fact, Mills has said publicly Anthony spent a lot of time in his office going over “the boards’’ regarding potential free agents they were after. One of the combinations, Mills has said, was the trifecta of Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Kyle O’Quinn. The Knicks still had enough cap space to sign 2011 draft bust Derrick Williams and re-up with Lou Amundson and Lance Thomas for more than their minimums.

Jackson raised eyebrows on Monday when he said he had yet to speak with the vacationing Anthony, sparking speculation perhaps the Knicks rehabbing superstar was displeased with the signings. The Post reported on Wednesday Anthony had been in touch with Knicks officials this week and expressed frustration he was being perceived as a malcontent, and said he still “had trust in Phil.’’

After the draft, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported Anthony felt “hoodwinked’’ by Jackson’s selection of European project Kristaps Porzingis with the No. 4 overall pick. The Post reported Anthony was indeed disappointed on Draft night but more because his friend Tim Hardaway Jr. was traded for a college prospect he barely saw play — point guard Jerian Grant. No one, other than Anthony, remains from the roster since Jackson took over 16 months ago.

Since, Anthony has been outspoken about his “love’’ for Porzingis and called him directly to tell him he wasn’t upset. Anthony watched Porzingis’ Knicks workout and multiple sources said he felt the Latvian big man would be a good pick.

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No. 4: Smart to miss Africa game — The good news for Boston guard Marcus Smart and the Celtics was that the two fingers on his right hand that Smart injured Thursday in the Las Vegas Summer League won’t require surgery. The unfortunate news is that Smart will miss participating in the NBA’s exhibition game in South Africa Aug. 1. Here is some more on that situation from the Boston Globe:

Smart, guard Evan Turner, and coach Brad Stevens were to be among a contingent of NBA players and coaches taking part in the first NBA game played in Africa. But Smart will now stay in Boston as his fingers heal.

Smart has not been available to speak to reporters since suffering the injury. One source said the guard is disappointed about missing the game in Africa but relieved that his injury is not more serious.

With 6:34 left in the second quarter of Boston’s summer league game against Portland, Smart, guard Terry Rozier, and Trail Blazers forward Noah Vonleh all converged on a loose ball. Smart braced himself with his right hand as he fell, and his right index and middle fingers were dislocated.

A bone in Smart’s hand also punctured his skin, requiring five stitches. Those sutures could slow Smart’s recovery, as they will affect his ability to regain range of motion in his fingers. Still, the Celtics were relieved that the X-rays on Smart’s hand were negative.

Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry said Smart will remain with the team as long as they are in the summer league playoffs, partly because he wants to support his team, and partly because the medical staff is here. Smart will undergo further evaluation when he returns to Boston.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Cleveland Cavaliers might be adding another Russian center, this one a player whose NBA rights they’ve had for the past eight years. … Jimmy Butler said again, on yet another media platform, that his relationship with Derrick Rose is friction-free. … New Nuggets head coach Mike Malone talks with Grantland.com about Ty Lawson, what he learned in Sacramento and a little Boogie Cousins. … Seth Curry writes about what he hopes is the end of his D League days. … Everything old is new again, as some NBA rookies remind ESPN.com of certain predecessors. …

Bucks deny report of Kidd adding GM job


An Internet report that Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd is expected this week to add the team’s general manager title and duties was denied by several league sources Sunday night.

“Unequivocally not true,” a source told NBA.com, echoing the words in the report itself from Jake Suski, the Bucks’ vice president of communications.

The piece, posted by OnMilwaukee.com Sunday evening and reported by longtime Milwaukee sports and news journalist Dave Begel, had heft for several reasons.

First, Begel has been a fixture on Milwaukee’s sports scene for nearly four decades. Second, Kidd’s clout within the organization is considerable. In his first season, he led the Bucks from a 15-67 finish in 2013-14 to a 41-41 mark and a Eastern Conference playoff berth. Kidd also was seen by many as one of the draws for free agent big man Greg Monroe, who left Detroit and spurned interest from both the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers to agree to a three-year, $50 million deal with Milwaukee.

And finally, Kidd’s arrival in Milwaukee happened so abruptly last June – being courted as head coach by co-owners (and Kidd friends) Marc Lasry and Wes Edens while Larry Drew still held the position – that it lent credibility to another possible grab at a job currently filled by John Hammond, the Bucks’ GM since 2008.

Here is an excerpt from Begel’s report:

The move will give Kidd the two titles he wanted and that played a part in his leaving the Brooklyn Nets for the job in Milwaukee.

Kidd had moved to get both jobs in Brooklyn to replace Billy King as general manager. He didn’t want King fired, but given a title in the organization.

The Nets turned him down and then the Bucks new owners asked permission to talk to Kidd and he moved to Milwaukee shortly thereafter.

Hammond was extended with a three year contract in 2013, an extension that paid him a total of $5.5 million. He has one year left on his contract and may either stay with the team in another capacity or move on. There are reports that he has been contacting other teams and may have a lead on a new job.

But even if the Bucks ownership cuts him loose, the final year of his contract is less than $2 million, an amount that they could be willing to eat.

There have been reports that this move was one of the things that lured Kidd to Milwaukee. Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Stan Van Gundy of the Pistons also hold both jobs.

It also cited a difference of opinion on draft night between Kidd and Hammond and his staff, with the coach favoring UNLV shooting guard Rashad Vaughn over Arkansas forward Bobby Portis. The Bucks chose Vaughn with the No. 17 overall pick.

One person familiar with Milwaukee’s draft room that night told NBA.com there was no disagreement over those two players.

Meanwhile, a league source did speculate that Kidd – based on his Brooklyn pursuit of personnel power – might one day add “something like they did with [Mike] Budenholzer in Atlanta, a ‘vice president or president of basketball’ title.” That wouldn’t necessarily mean a change in Hammond’s position within the team, the source added.

Wiggins vs. Parker, season 1, episode 1


VIDEO: Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker generated plenty of buzz in their first pro matchup

LAS VEGAS – It wasn’t LeBron James showing up unannounced or anything on the first night of Summer League action here, but it was close in terms of crowd and buzz and curiosity.

Cox Pavilion, smaller sidekick to the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus, was crammed to its modest 2,500 capacity and beyond. Some fans were standing against the wall behind the top rows – and they were the lucky ones. Others couldn’t get in at all, and when they were shooed from the two congest entrance/exit bottlenecks, they were offered refunds on their $25 tickets.

Which isn’t nearly the same as being able to say, years from now, that you witnessed the first NBA clash of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.

Sure, it was played in the desert, the rules were different (10-minute quarters, for instance) and the scores, stats and standings largely were immaterial, surely forgotten 10 days out. But when the No. 1 pick in the Draft goes head-to-head with the No. 2 pick, when the two have been linked since their high school days and when there was genuine mystery – right up until NBA commissioner Adam Silver read Wiggins’ name — which one might be selected first, it ranks as a showdown, a matchup, something special to cap an NBA day full of same.

“It was crazy,” said Wiggins, the rookie from Kansas, said of the Cox Pavilion atmosphere. His new team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, had learned during shootaround Friday morning that James was headed back to the franchise. But Wiggins’ and Parker’s debuts stirred imaginations on their own.

“Our game was probably the most packed,” Wiggins said, no offense to the other five Friday. “It was crazy. The fans were excited, which made the game more fun than if you didn’t feel them.”

Wiggins’ team won the game but the battle with Parker, happily grabbed second by the Milwaukee Bucks, was essentially a push. Wiggins scored 18 points in 31 minutes on 7-of-18 shooting. He was 1-of-8 on 3-pointers, including an air ball. Parker shot 5-of-11 scored 17 points He was 7-of-11 from the line and grabbed nine rebounds. They guarded each other occasionally, but the sturdier Parker – 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds to Wiggins’ 6-8 and 194 – more often squared off with power forwards, including Anthony Bennett, the 2013 No. 1 pick.

The two rookies enjoyed the encounter without dwelling on it, just as they shrugged off a few mistakes. Parker talked of communicating more with the other four Bucks on the floor and gave himself a grade of “B-minus.” Wiggins looked forward to the opportunities in Cleveland’s upcoming games and enjoyed the moment with his rival/cohort.

“It was a great feeling,” he said. “On the court, we just have to battle. But off the court, we’re good friends. He’s a great player, able to score in multiple ways, very smart, intelligent player. It’s always good to play against him.”

Each lived up to his pre-draft evaluation: Wiggins showed his natural athletic ability merely running up and down the court, but pushed it into gear when soaring for an errant alley-oop pass or draining a nifty step-back jumper. Parker carries a more-ready-to-contribute label that was evident in some of his post-ups and his aggressive rebounding. The one-and-done Duke player also unsheathed a slick pass or two.

“He showed that he is somewhat of a ready player, that he can step into the league and play,” Bucks general manager John Hammond said. “Neither one of those guys surprised me. Both of ’em have a chance to be special players in this league, and what Andrew showed tonight was a total glimpse of that.”

A pair of soon-to-be-sophs showed flashes, too. Bennett, who has lost weight and looks more serious after his disappointing first season, seemed driven to make an impact. He had one monstrous dunk and seven rebounds, but he also shot 6-of-16 and racked up eight fouls (summer rules).

For the Bucks, it was last year’s find, lanky 19-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo (playing at 6-foot-11 after another growth spurt), pushing the pace and loping around the court with boundless energy. “The Greek Freak” scored 17 points and hit a couple 3-pointers, to go with seven fouls and five turnovers.

As closely as Wiggins and Parker have been linked – in case you didn’t already know it, both are the sons of former NBA players, Mitchell Wiggins and Sonny Parker – their shared path might have diverged some Friday.

James’ arrival changes the Cavaliers’ dynamic from merely a young and promising team – Wiggins might find himself a few less opportunities but a whole lot less pressure. Parker continues as a Bucks’ cornerstone, his learning curve assumed to be shorter and steeper.

But that’s OK, because his self-critique afterward showed a young guy driven to improve.

“It’s been a pretty good transition because Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski] has prepared me,” Parker said. “A lot of the language, a lot of the stuff we did with Duke has helped me so far.”

His early NBA lessons? “That games are won on the defensive end and there are going to be a lot of runs. You’ve got to keep your composure and play on both sides of the floor, and you can’t have any sense of complacency.”

Forget complacency. In what’s looking suddenly like a Central Division on steroids, there figures to be lots of NBA competition and more than a few comparisons between Wiggins and Parker in the coming years. This was the start.

Bucks’ Drew stays classy on way out


VIDEO: GameTime: Kidd to Milwaukee

Given what was done and how it happened, Larry Drew – freshly minted former head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks – would be within his rights to take a few parting shots at the team’s co-owners who abruptly fired him and the fellow who lobbied for Drew’s job while his warm rump still was in the seat.

It surely would feel good, after the wringer through which he was put in a span of 72 hours last weekend, to vent in the direction of Marc Lasry and Wes Edens, the co-owners, and Jason Kidd, the Bucks’ new coach thanks to his friendship with Lasry.

Of course, that might somehow gum up the delivery of the checks Drew will continue to receive — $5 million due to him for the final two years of his coaching contract. Here at Hang Time HQ, we know fired head coaches who wound up inviting the mailmen to their daughters’ weddings, based on the friendships they struck up loitering by the mailbox each month, awaiting the checks owed them. Nothing to gain in making those a day late or a dollar short.

The fact is, Drew handled the ham-handed firing-and-hiring with the same grace he showed in enduring the Bucks’ 15-67 plunge to the NBA’s basement last season. Milwaukee swapped its “Fear The Dear” bumper stickers from a few years back for a “We Don’t Tank But We Sure Do Stank” motto en route to another seat at the lottery.

Sure, he was the coach, but injuries, flaws in a roster with 11 new faces, underperformances by the likes of O.J. Mayo, Gary Neal and Ersan Ilyasova, and Larry Sanders’ misdeeds conspired to drag down Milwaukee’s results. Besides, a few more victories would have cost the Bucks the No. 2 spot and thus Jabari Parker, their ready-to-go cornerstone draftee.

Anyway, Drew issued a statement through the Bucks Thursday and kept it classy:

THANK YOU MILWAUKEE

“I would like to thank Senator Herb Kohl and [general manager] John Hammond for giving me the opportunity to coach the Milwaukee Bucks this past season. Although my tenure was brief, it will forever be memorable.

“Thank you to all of the great Bucks fans for your love and support, you truly are some of the best fans in the NBA.

“My swift termination did come as a surprise to me, but I accept new owners Wesley Edens’ and Marc Lasry’s decision that they’ve made. I wish the entire Bucks organization and the great city of Milwaukee nothing but the best in the future.”

Bucks, Kidd move on from clumsy hiring, claim one job’s enough now


VIDEO: Kidd, Bucks discuss how decision came about

MILWAUKEE – When you’re committing the basketball future of your new $550 million toy to Jason Kidd, a fellow who dished 12,091 assists in his 19-year career, it’s no wonder that you might cop an attitude of this too shall pass.

That was the tone of Kidd’s introductory news conference Wednesday as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, held midday at midcourt of the BMO Harris Bradley Center. It was by the numbers – strictly “business,” a word Kidd used a few times in a “Godfather”-like way – and something to move on from as quickly as possible.

Questions were limited (one reporter counted a total of 15), follow-ups were discouraged and then it was over. No customary huddles immediately afterward for 1-on-1 interviews, TV stand-ups or idle chatter. This had the feel of a business meeting – once the CEOs were finished, the employees were expected to disperse and return to their cubicles.

Certainly, Bucks management had valid reasons for not wanting to linger too long in the moment. Kidd’s hiring (and Larry Drew‘s firing as predecessor) had been botched badly. A reported power play by Kidd in Brooklyn – the head coach with one year’s experience allegedly angling for personnel control and a lofty title, only to be rebuffed – was followed by some power flexing in Milwaukee that rewarded Kidd and the guys who hired him, despite what looks like clumsy, sneaky or pushy behavior.

Marc Lasry and Wes Edens, the Bucks’ new co-owners, sought and asked for permission to talk with Kidd about their head coaching position while they still had a head coach (Drew). Lasry’s personal relationship with Kidd predates their purchase of the franchise in April, back to his time as a Nets minority owner and work as the former All-Star point guard’s financial advisor.

Only after Lasry and Edens had decided to hire Kidd, as news of the front-office intrigue was breaking in a New York Post story, did they cut GM John Hammond into the loop. His task? Negotiate compensation with the Nets for a guy who, for all anyone knows, might have designs on his Hammond’s job too.

Things moved quickly from there: Drew was fired (taking with him $5 million owed over the next two seasons). Kidd’s departure from Brooklyn was made official. The Bucks announced his hiring. And by Wednesday, the only remaining chore was to sell it. Or at least wait impatiently for everyone to swallow.

One of the questions for the new owners was whether this was a rookie mistake in a business very different from where they made their hedge-fund billions, or an indication of a new, heavy-handed, smartest-guys-in-the-room approach to Bucks basketball decisions.

“I’m going to tell you it was very much newness,” Lasry said. “We’ve learned a lot in this process. Our view hasn’t changed from the beginning, that all the basketball operations and everything goes through John. And I think in this process we learned we made a mistake. And I think we’ve learned that pretty well.”

Lasry and Kidd, after about 15 minutes, did come back to the court to meet with media types individually or in small clusters. Still, they shed little additional light on the timeline.

Here are two possibilities: Kidd wanted power in Brooklyn, got told no, then turned to his friend Lasry for a back door. Or Kidd and Lasry had kicked around the idea of them working together in Milwaukee – the Bucks did finish 15-67, after all, so a coaching change had to cross someone‘s mind – and the eventual Hall of Famer ruffled his Nets bosses’ feathers to earn his freedom.

Lasry said he couldn’t recall which day it was last week that Kidd’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, made the first contact to gauge their interest in working with Kidd. Kidd wasn’t clear on whether he pushed so hard in Brooklyn because he knew he already had a Plan B waiting.

But they both admitted that Milwaukee considered no other coaching candidates and Kidd considered no other strategies, including mending a bridge in Brooklyn.

Instead, it was as if they wanted to sell a bridge in Brooklyn.

Kidd even disputed the alleged origins of the shenanigans, questioning countless reports that he wanted to usurp Nets GM Billy King. He even dodged a question about taking heat for that, and for chasing another coach’s job, by talking about the criticism that all coaches face for losing or having the wrong player take a game-winning shot.

Later, Kidd said: “It’s not about power. You guys [reporters] ran with that. It’s not about power. As I think [I said when] I was introduced, I’m the coach, so I’m the coach and I was the coach in Brooklyn. And I’m going to be the coach here. So it’s not about power. It’s about the guys getting better and here in Milwaukee that’s what I’m going to do.”

He is right from that standpoint.

People can wring their hands and cluck disapproval all they want over the style of Kidd’s job switcheroo, but the substance is what matters: Lasry and Edens have the guy they want on Milwaukee’s sideline and Kidd has to show that whatever he contributed to a veteran-laden team with lofty playoff hopess can translate to a rebuilding club on training wheels. The Bucks send a group, including draft prize Jabari Parker and last year’s phenom Giannis Antetokounmpo, to the Las Vegas Summer League Monday for practices in advance of the July 11 opener.

“For me, it’s about who I was as a player,” Kidd said. “My job was to make the guys around me better. I take the same approach as a coach. I want to make those 15 guys better.

“The one thing I told the guys last year, trust me and respect me. That’s what I had. I got to see a lot last year as a rookie coach. When you see the Shaun Livingstons of the world have the season he had, Alan Anderson got better, and they’re being rewarded [in free agency]. I feel like I can do the same thing here.”

Hammond praised Kidd as the ultimate “coach on the court,” the ideal for point guards. He mentioned working Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson in their playing days, before the two former NBA guards found success as head coaches without serving as assistants.

“You could see they had that ability to see the game, know the game,” Hammond said. “And you saw then, if they wanted to do it someday, they can be a coach and be a great coach. I feel exactly the same way about Jason Kidd.”

Maybe Kidd can, if he stays focused on coaching, rather than career-climbing or comparing contracts (he is believed to have a three-year deal worth $4 million to $5 million annually, putting him in Steve Kerr’s and Derek Fisher‘s neighborhood). He has left a trail of bad exits and hard feelings dating back to his college years at Cal, but he said Wednesday he hopes to find something positive even in the shaky stuff.

“When you look at my career, 19 years, I can look back at going to Dallas as a 19- [or] 20-year old,” Kidd said. “Being surrounded with talented players like Jimmy [Jackson] and Jamal [Mashburn]. High expectations. There might have been a couple of controversial things about being selfish or unselfish.

“But those are things that I can draw back from as a player and share with these players first-hand. There are going to be some growing pains, but they can always be looked upon as a learning experience and that we get better each time we take the floor.”

Then Kidd talked about the biggest lesson from his one season in Brooklyn. He and his new bosses seemed not to pick up on the irony.

“Patience,” Kidd said.


VIDEO: Kidd discusses the Bucks’ roster

Milwaukee owners owe apologies for sorry tactics in Kidd’s hiring


VIDEO: Bucks bring Jason Kidd on board as its next head coach

The first thing Marc Lasry is going to have to do is apologize.

Apologize, not for his actual hiring of Jason Kidd to be the Milwaukee Bucks’ new head coach – though that might be in order soon enough, based on the NBA’s time-honored W-L standards – but for the manner in which he did it.

That is to say, the abrupt, secretive and unprofessional way Lasry, one of the team’s new co-owners, went courting his buddy Kidd, trampling all over business etiquette and even ethics by filling one job that wasn’t vacant and throwing several more held by longtime respected basketball executives into immediate limbo.

Lasry, who bought the Bucks this spring with hedge-fund partner Wesley Edens, already has apologized to Larry Drew, NBA sources confirmed, for the public undercutting that played out over about 48 hours. Actually the process took a little longer: Drew was in the Bucks’ war room on Draft night Thursday in suburban Milwaukee while Lasry and Edens were at the event at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Drew was at No. 2 pick Jabari Parker‘s introductory news conference Friday while the owners clandestinely interviewed Kidd in New York. The ham-handed maneuver leaked out Saturday and finally, on Monday, the Bucks and the Nets agreed on compensation in the form of two future second-round draft picks.

Drew still has about $5 million coming over the next two seasons, which could soothe bruised feelings from rude treatment for a lot of us. Still, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things, and Lasry, the point man on the hire, botched this badly. He rewarded Kidd for all the wrong reasons – the former All-Star point guard wanted more money and power within the Nets organization but got rebuffed, so he turned to his former financial adviser with the shiny new team – and he violated an unwritten code against hiring before firing by which even sports’ most ruthless power brokers abide.

Lasry might claim ignorance on that, being new to this fish bowl, but then Kidd should have informed him. Frankly, Kidd owes Drew an apology too because crossing the informal but well-understood line among coaches.

Lasry needs to come with some fat, sincere mea culpas to Bucks general John Hammond and front-office execs David Morway, Dave Babcock and Billy McKinney. They all might find it harder to work this season, constantly glancing over their shoulders, than it was enduring last season’s 15-67.

Contract extensions, along with the apologies, might help. You say Kidd has been hired only as the head coach? That’s what the Nets thought they were doing 12 months ago, and look where we are.

For all we know, plans already are in place for a more complete coup. But it would be nice if Kidd – looking like a me-first person after a Hall of Fame-worthy career as a pass-first point guard – proved for a couple more seasons that he can do one job well before grabbing at a cpuple more. Ditto for staying out of trouble in the domestic abuse and DUI categories. (It’s between him and his bosses, meanwhile, whether he gets an escalator clause in his contract guaranteeing him a raise every time some other team hires an ex-point guard as a coach.)

Parker probably is good without an apology. The forward from Duke and Chicago native has been so gracious and humble since the Bucks selected him that he’ll no doubt let Lasry off the hook for squashing the excitement of his arrival, the franchise’s giddiest point since the spring of 2010’s “Fear The Deer” playoff run.

But Lasry and Edens should reserve their biggest, gooiest admissions of wrongdoing for Bucks/NBA fans in Milwaukee. As much as the two private-equity billionaires have done in securing the team in the community – purchasing it for a price ($550 million) that’s whopping by anyone’s but Steve Ballmer‘s standards and moving ahead with new arena plans – this was a stylistic faux pas of the highest order.

And hopefully, only that. If this is indicative of the way the co-owners plan to operate going forward – pushing into basketball decisions simply because they can – the Bucks likely are headed sideways more than up. That’s been proven time and again as owners across all sports try and fail to replicate the George Steinbrenner model.

The Bucks are Lasry’s and Edens’ toy. They can do what they want. No one questions the chain of command. But this isn’t a board room, executive suite or trading floor, the venues where they amassed their fortunes. There’s a huge public trust and ownership involved, from season-ticket holders in VIP seats and the folks who dig deep to attend one Bradley Center game each season to the lowliest concessions worker. Milwaukee mixes in a little bit of paranoia, too, and simple expectations.

The fans deserve to know, in making their Bucks buy decisions, whether this is going to be standard operating procedure for two exuberant owners, or a hard lesson learned that won’t soon be repeated.

A few “I’m sorry” remarks delivered in a sincere, timely and public fashion – perhaps at Kidd’s introductory presser in the coming days – could smooth this over, along with some time and a sense that Kidd is focused on coaching rather than career-climbing.

Otherwise, the Bucks situation simply will remain sorry.

Bucks risk vibe, goodwill reset with Kidd


VIDEO: Draft review: Jabari Parker’s potential impact

Jabari Parker should ask the Milwaukee Bucks for a trade. Today.

If it’s buzz kill the Bucks want, that’d give them buzz kill. Why stop at the reports of buddy ball about to be played between new co-owner Marc Lasry and Jason Kidd, the Brooklyn Nets’ soon-to-be former head coach angling for power and money atop the Milwaukee team’s food chain? Go straight to Parker and remind him that, in the business of the NBA, things he talks about such as loyalty, humility and gratitude are but a rube’s game.

Then the classy kid taken No. 2 Thursday in the Draft, the franchise’s latest and greatest hope, can appropriately approach his livelihood with the necessary cynicism, ruthlessness and selfishness.

You know, like the unclassy Kidd.

Bad enough that Kidd, after one middling season as the Nets head coach, would attempt a power play within that organization to grab more authority – and allegedly a sweetened contract from the four-year deal he signed just 12 months ago – over the man (general manager Billy King) who hired him. The New York Post was first among several outlets reporting Kidd’s Machiavellian maneuver Saturday, a coup apparently snuffed by Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

Worse, though, is that Lasry – the private-equity billionaire described as a “past financial partner” with Kidd, possibly as an advisor – would entertain installing Kidd as the Bucks’ president of basketball operations. That’s the lofty position for which Milwaukee apparently has sought permission to interview him. Talk of compensation (second-round draft pick?) already is in play, should Brooklyn release Kidd from the final two years of his deal.

It is a bad idea on so many levels.

First, the Bucks are full-up, their front office and coaching jobs staffed by highly competent individuals. GM John Hammond is fresh off his most rewarding Draft night ever, on the heels of a stellar 2013 move in drafting below-the-radar phenom Giannis Antetokounmpo and second-round point guard Nate Wolters. And lest Lasry or anyone else think that the Bucks merely did the no-brain thing Thursday – grabbing the best available player once Andrew Wiggins went to Cleveland – he’d be overlooking the rapport Parker already seems to have with Hammond, coach Larry Drew and their staffs, seeded in pre-draft workouts and conversations and growing toward a bond.

As for Drew, he’s a proven head coach – more proven than Kidd – after three playoff appearances in Atlanta (with smaller payrolls and less talent than Kidd’s Nets) and his grace under fire during last season’s 15-67 tanking mission.

B-b-b-but Kidd only wants to be Hammond’s and Drew’s boss? Right. Kidd wants what he wants when he wants it. He is a Hall of Fame-bound point guard with one spotty season as a coach, zero experience as an executive and chronicled flaws in his people skills. It requires no great leaps to imagine Kidd blowing out both Hammond and Drew in short order – which would be wrong even if his name were Jason Popovich.

[UPDATE, 6/30: Multiple outlets, including the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, reported later Sunday that the Bucks were talking with Kidd only about coming in as head coach. Again, Milwaukee already has a head coach, so dangling his job while he’s still in it is horrible management form for Lasry — while interviewing for it is a serious breach by Kidd of the NBA’s unwritten “coaches’ code.” Also: Kidd was hired “only” as a coach 12 months ago. That didn’t stop his power grab in Brooklyn, did it?]

The New York- and New Jersey-based media accounts of Kidd’s attempted power play within the Nets were rife with tales of Kidd’s clubhouse lawyering, coach undercutting and ego-driven antics, both in his playing days and since. Last season, after pushing for veteran coach Lawrence Frank to be hired at big money as his right-hand man, Kidd turned on Frank early in the season and got him banished from the bench.

The antithesis off the court, it seems, of the pass-first playmaker he was on the court, Kidd also has a domestic abuse charge on his resume and a guilty plea to drunk driving, hiccups that – for all of Wisconsin’s taverns – aren’t dismissed as easily in a smaller, image-conscious market such as Milwaukee.

Then there’s this bonus of a bad reason: Kidd reportedly grew envious of the bigger coaching paychecks of fellow former NBA point guards Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher, similar newbies to the sidelines who signed five-year, $25 million deals recently with Golden State and New York respectively. Heck, in an offseason of coach/owner madness – Tyronne Lue as the highest paid assistant in league history, management titles spliced on almost perfunctorily – it’s feasible that Kidd grabbed at the Nets’ personnel reins with the intent of having things blow up. Then he could shake free to link up with Lasry.

Unfortunately, Lasry and his partner Wesley Edens were at the Draft in Brooklyn Thursday night, not in St. Francis, Wis., at the Bucks headquarters or down on the Lake Michigan lakefront for the team’s fan party. The co-owners missed out on the vibe that carried the night and that Milwaukee so desperately needed. With Parker’s selection and his appreciative reaction, the Bucks hit a good team/good guy reset button, a shared sense of renewal that runs from the front office to the newest, most special rookie.

They’re now at risk of turning the franchise into Kidd’s private ATM and personal preening mirror. Parker hasn’t scored a point or swiped a pass, but already he deserves better.