HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Our infatuation with the Chicago Bulls this summer has angered some in the shadow of the Windy City, namely a few fans of their neighbors to the north and west in Milwaukee.
“The Bulls aren’t the only Central Division team on the rise,” one email reminded us late last week.
“We’ve got our own [potential] superstar point guard in Brandon Jennings, an All-Star caliber big man in Andrew Bogut and a proven coach in Scott Skiles,” another said, “plus we’ve got the reigning Executive of the Year in John Hammond, who has put together a solid supporting cast that is every bit as good as what the Bulls will trot out on the floor this season. Fear the Dear!”
These don’t register as simple complaints from biased observers. Bucks fans have a right to demand their team receive its due as one of the league’s up and coming outfits. They were better than the Bulls at the end of last season, playing without Bogut down the stretch and in the playoffs.
Why shouldn’t they be included in the conversation of the most promising young teams in the league?
No team in the Central Division, including the Bulls, has added more than the Bucks. They traded for assets — Corey Maggette, Chris Douglas-Roberts and the highly underrated Jon Brockman, an instant fan favorite in Fear The Deer Country. They signed free agents — John Salmons, Drew Gooden, Keyon Dooling — to fit specific needs. And they drafted plenty of talent, including Larry Sanders, Darrington Hobson, Jerome Jordan and Tiny Gallon (Sanders is the only draft pick guaranteed a roster spot).
“It’s players that can help us win and players that we think are assets around the NBA,” he said. “That’s really what it comes down to when you put your roster together. If you look at guys on your roster and say that he’s not an asset around the NBA and he’s not an asset on your team, then you have yourself in a position where you need to make some moves.
“The thing I like about our roster is all 12 guys that we have are assets to us and assets around the NBA. I like that part about where we’re at.”
A healthy Bogut turns this team into a major problem inside. And having Salmons and Maggette on the wing alongside Jennings keeps things intact on the perimeter. Dependable role players like Carlos Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova and Luc Mbah a Moute, should not be overlooked either.
The one player the Bucks lost that worried us was HT fave Luke Ridnour, who has moved on to that point guard festival in Minnesota. But the signing of Dooling takes care of that.
Dooling is bigger and more physical than Ridnour, giving the Bucks a veteran option behind Jennings capable of handling the bigger guards teams used to defend the surprisingly durable Jennings (he started all 89 games for the Bucks last season) in an attempt to slow him down.
“In today’s NBA, with the way the rules are, it’s so important to have a guy who can guard the ball on top,” Weltman said. “And Keyon has always been a premier NBA defender. He’s got length and quickness and as he’s gotten older, he’s figured it out.
“The other nice thing about Keyon is he takes pride in it. He’s a good fit with (coach) Scott (Skiles); he fits into the team we want to be.”
Plenty of folks have fallen in love with the star power the Bulls will have on display this season. And we’re on board. We believe Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and the crew will be a major factor in the Eastern Conference this season.
But the Bucks should be in the mix, too.
They’ve got all the ingredients to make some noise of their own this season.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The New Orleans Hornets don’t even want to discuss these Chris Paul trade rumors.
What team wants to talk about moving its one golden asset in a summer of such uncertainty for so many, what with the draft and free agency all brewing like the perfect storm for something crazy to happen.
“I’m not going to comment on rumors, regardless of confirming them or denying them or saying how believable or unbelievable they are. Because it’s something that will be there throughout the free agent process. I’m not going to begin commenting now.
“We have the duty to listen and have dialog with teams about all of our players. I’ve also always said we have a very high value and opinion of what Chris provides for us. Things really haven’t changed.”
… the Hang Time crew is happy to pick it up there.
Sure, it’s being mowed down in nearly every direction — New Orleans, Cleveland, New Jersey and everywhere else James sits atop the summer wish list. That’s fine.
But to dismiss the discussion entirely is sheer craziness.
Unless the Hornets have grand plans to put a much improved supporting cast around Paul, a group that can thrive under new coach Monty Williams, don’t they owe it to themselves to at least explore all their options this summer?
“Everything sounds far-fetched when you first hear it as a rumor,” a former Eastern Conference general manager told me this morning by phone. “But no one is ‘untouchable’ in our league, not even Chris Paul. So if my phone is ringing right now and they are asking him about him, I’m going to take that call. I might not be listening seriously to whatever someone is trying to offer, but I’m taking that call.”
We would, too.
There’s not a single player in this draft more valuable right now than Paul, who when healthy is considered among the top two or three point guards in the game by most.
And if anyone needed to be told that having Paul on the roster makes their team a more attractive destination for James or any other marquee free agent … well, there’s always World Cup soccer to keep you busy this time of year.
Other Draft Day Eve tidbits from around the league
The Washington Wizards are actively attempting to acquire at least one more pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, with team president Ernie Grunfeld working the phones in hopes that the team can assemble to best possible talent around No. 1 pick John Wall. The eventual selection of Wall isn’t a secret, but the NBA does not allow teams to make the official choice known before David Stern steps on stage at Madison Square Garden to make the announcement.
The Wizards also have the 30th (acquired from Cleveland in the Antawn Jamison deal) and 35th picks in the draft, but they are not content with just those choices. New owner Ted Leonsis has already expressed his desire to add more players through the draft. They are also in pursuit of a pick between the late lottery and early 20s of the draft, Grunfeld said on Tuesday that “we’re having as many conversations as any team in the league about trying to move up and acquire another pick, but a lot of teams are trying to do the same thing.”
Washington is among several teams with multiple first-round draft picks. Minnesota and Memphis have three picks, and Oklahoma City and New Jersey have two. Miami and Atlanta could also be looking to move their lone first-rounders to create cap space for the 2010 free agency class. Grunfeld wouldn’t confirm or deny that he’s been in touch with any of those teams. But the Wizards have competition for first-round choices, with teams like Cleveland and Dallas — which don’t have selections — also looking to move in.
Dave Hyde of the Sun Sentinel says it’s time for the Heat to abandon the Michael Beasley project after just two years. That seems a bit harsh after such a short sample of what Beasley can and cannot do. But Hyde is convinced it’s time to turn the page:
Two years ago today, Michael Beasley entered a Manhattan, N.Y., ballroom, straight off the campus in Manhattan, Kan., whispering to himself, “You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”
He saw the pre-draft media crowd part before him and said, “Look, it’s like I’m Moses before the Red Sea.”
He was so fun then. So loose. And so 19, as it turned out once you got to know him better.
Two years later, the best move for everyone is for the Heat to eat that decision to invest the second overall pick in Beasley. It will taste like cat litter in some ways, especially when the Heat’s best option might be to get nothing in return.
Yes, nothing. Which is still something in the salary-cap world. As we’ll see, it’s the last time the Heat can turn this nothing into something, too.
The telling image of Beasley that matters now is his sitting on the bench for the most important half of the past season, the Game 5 playoff loss at Boston. Couldn’t help, the coaches concluded. Wasn’t needed. If not then, when?
On a team constructed around expiring contracts, Beasley’s existing contract of about $5 million becomes his most valuable commodity for the Heat. It’s not like we’re reducing his game to a price tag. It’s reduced. He’s in the discount bin.
This is normally the time of year when Bryan Colangelo is successfully climbing a mountain of information.
But as the Toronto Raptors head into what will surely be a franchise-defining few weeks, even their general manager acknowledges that, like almost every executive in the NBA, he’s feeling for an elephant in a dark room. There’s something big in there, but what exactly it is, he can’t be sure.
Welcome to the off-season of 2010, unlike any other in NBA history and almost unique in professional sports, where some of the biggest names in basketball – not just LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Raptors’ Chris Bosh, but all-star veterans like Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki and Amare Stoudemire – may be free agents angling for long-term contracts even as the league’s salary cap is shrinking and most insiders are expecting a labour stoppage prior to the 2011-12 season.
The uncertainty will affect Thursday night’s entry draft.
The Raptors are selecting 13th and have narrowed their list of desirable prospects to about a half-dozen after working out 36 or more players. Uncertainty abounds, however, because of Bosh’s unknowable decision, the desire of forward Hedo Turkoglu to be traded, and an apparent log-jam at point guard, where the Raptors have $17.7-million (all currency U.S.) tied up in Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack and Marcus Banks.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty with the roster, and with that uncertainty there’s a lot of uncertainty around this pick,” Colangelo said after the Raptors’ final predraft workout Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre. “But we’ve said we’re going to take the best available player, the one we feel has the most talent, the most upside, that we feel will fit this organization long-term.”
Ron Tillery of the Commercial Appeal says Hang Time’s Grizzlies are weighing their draft night options and might make a move up the food chain. Whatever it takes to make HT’s Grizzlies better is fine with us:
A potential deal that would have the Griz exchanging their picks at 25 and 28 for the Timberwolves’ 16th selection has not been agreed upon but is one of several possibilities being seriously considered.
ESPN.com first reported the proposed trade. A person with knowledge of the talks said Minnesota presented Memphis with the deal. However, the Grizzlies remained hesitant Tuesday night, preferring to wait until the draft begins before committing to such a transaction.
Memphis brass wants to gauge which players might be available before agreeing to move up to 16. The Griz also own the 12th pick.
Griz general manager Chris Wallace had no comment when reached Tuesday afternoon.
During a pre-draft workout early in the day at FedExForum, Wallace said the Griz are very active in trade talks and weighing several scenarios.
“Talking about and doing are two different things,” Wallace said. “Every team in the league is talking about moving up, moving down, moving out … all of that stuff is swirling around right now.”
It’s not likely that the Griz will draft three times.
Mike Monroe of the Express News says the draft is just the first step in a franchise revival project soon to get underway in San Antonio. The name Tiago Splitter is being tossed around liberally in connection with the Spurs:
The NBA draft Thursday features a class of prospects deep enough to put a talented player in reach of the Spurs, who have the 20th selection, their highest pick since they made Tim Duncan the No. 1 overall choice in 1997.Spurs general manager R.C. Buford acknowledges a “larger pool of players than most summers,” though he warns it will take three years before anyone can truly know how good, and deep, the class is.
The standard belief among NBA personnel chiefs holds that three seasons are needed to fairly judge nearly every player who comes into the league.
Take, for example, the Spurs’ first-round pick in 2007.
Then, they selected a 6-foot-11, 22-year-old Brazilian center.
Three years later, this is what Buford knows about Tiago Splitter: “He’s the MVP of the Spanish league and of the Spanish finals. That hasn’t been done since (Arvydas) Sabonis.”
In his prime, the 7-foot-3, 290-pound Sabonis was one of the best big men in basketball history. In 1994, the Lithuanian giant was 28 when he had his double-MVP Spanish League season for Real Madrid. He was a few weeks shy of 31 by the time he got to the NBA, with the Trail Blazers.
Sabonis’ late-entry NBA career made fans wonder how good he must have been in his early-to-mid 20s, before he put on weight and his knees began to betray him.
Buford isn’t saying Splitter is another Sabonis. He isn’t even saying he would drop right into the Spurs’ starting lineup.
“We already have a pretty good starting center,” said the Spurs’ GM, acknowledging what everyone but Duncan himself knows about which post position the two-time MVP fills.
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said Hayward reminds of him of former Oregon player Luke Jackson, the 10th pick in the 2004 draft.
“I really want to like him. I’m just not sure about him,” Bilas said Monday. “I do wonder a little bit on who he guards. He’s not a super athlete. The (small forward) spot seems a little bit difficult for him defensively and he’s certainly not a (power forward).
“So you ask, who does he guard? At that spot, when a guy is not a great shooter, not a super athlete and not a great defender, that raises a few questions that I think are fair ones.”
Hayward has been projected to go as high as No. 8 to the Los Angeles Clippers. He could go as low as the mid-teens. The Pacers aren’t expected to select Hayward if he’s available at No. 10.
“I have him ranked 13th or 14th,” Bilas said. “I think Hayward has a very good chance in the NBA. It’s just that my personal view, I would have some questions about him.”
Hayward said he hasn’t paid attention to mock drafts because he forgot his laptop charger while he was on the road working out for teams.
“I think just about everything is positive about him,” Minnesota Timberwolves assistant general manager Rob Babcock said. “He’s a versatile player. He’s a much better athlete than people think. He’ll get stronger as time goes on. He’s got a real good feel for the game. He’ll start out as a small forward with a chance to play some power forward down the road if he gets stronger.”
John Hammond was the NBA’s executive of the year for last season.
My question now is whether a higher award might be available for Trader John.
To make Dan Gadzuric finally disappear is one thing. But to make the Floppin’ Dutchman and Charlie Bell go away at the same time? And get a 20-point scorer for two players who made the Maytag repair guy look like an overachiever?
Somebody needs to text message the White House to ask if the president has one of those Wizard of Oz humanitarian/genius ribbons lying around in a cigar box or something.
OK, so Golden State is dumping salary, Gadzuric had an expiring contract and Corey Maggette has a reputation as a selfish player who has scored in bunches because somebody has to score for bad teams. And, let’s face it, being a good teammate is not exactly a job requirement for the Warriors and Clippers.
But let’s see this trade for what it is: Danny G. had long ago become the poster child for all that ailed the old Bucks, drawing $7 million a year for basically taking up the seat between Royal Ivey and Primoz Brezec.
And besides getting on the business end of the Scott Skiles glare for missing a Game 7 playoff bus, Bell can’t play anymore. He had completely fallen out of the rotation. Not only that, but he was making $4 million a year. For the next two seasons.
So there you have it, nearly the final purging of the crippling financial mistakes that symbolized the Larry Harris years and almost dragged the Bucks down to a place where no light could penetrate.
By Hammond’s hand, Gadzuric and Bell are gone. So are Bobby Simmons, Mo Williams and Yi Jianlian. Only Michael Redd’s ominous $18.3 million player option hangs over the Bucks now, and my guess is Redd, too, will vanish before the expiration of the last maximum contract this franchise could ever bestow.
These are the new Bucks, symbolized by the flexible value contracts of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ersan Ilyasova and Carlos Delfino, not to mention the promising future that comes with having Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut locked up for the next four years. This is more about Hammond continuing to get the Bucks’ financial house in order as a means to give them a chance to compete.
ATLANTA – Now that the Fear The Dear movement is officially over, Bucks coach Scott Skiles made me wonder if the FTD era is over altogether.
Did you hear him after the Hawks punished the Bucks in Game 7 Sunday afternoon?
All it took for me was one sentence:
“In the summer a lot of moves are made so there is a high probability that this is the last time they are together as a unit,” Skiles said.
Now I’m not crazy enough to think that the Bucks planned on this being their team of the future.(John Hammond didn’t win that Executive of the Year award by spending his offseason on the golf course.)
And you have to know that the building blocks will remain the same (Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bogut, hopefully John Salmons, Carlos Delfino and perhaps even Luc Mbah a Moute and my main man Luke Ridnour, too — has to get him in there).
But the rest of the this most motley of crews could be totally different by training camp.
I’d gotten attached to these Bucks the past couple of weeks. There’s something about underdogs scaring the daylights out of the establishment that makes me feel better about the world of basketball. I needed everyone to Fear the Deer, even if they didn’t finish the job.
But Skiles brought me back to reality. There’s a good chance we won’t see Kurt Thomas doing his MMA routine for this team again next season. Rid is a free agent this summer as well, meaning he might not be a part of this crew next season. Jerry Stackhouse, Primoz Brezec and FOHT Royal Ivey are all free agents this summer.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We weren’t late to the Bucks’ bandwagon.
We jumped on shortly after the All-Star break, apologizing for not believing in Andrew Bogut‘s All-Star campaign and not recognizing a true up and coming team before they started slapping the big boys in the face.
But it’s okay now, you are cordially invited to “Fear the Deer” now and into the playoffs. The Bucks are trouble and will certainly be that for some poor team in the first round of the playoffs.
Scott Skiles has done his usual, taking a team that didn’t look like a winner and browbeating it into doing just that.
Sure, it helps to have a mercurial rookie point guard like Brandon Jennings to work with. And it always helps to have a legitimate big with skills like Bogut. That 15-2 record since John Salmons showed up is pretty impressive as well.
But the man most responsible for what’s going on in Milwaukee is the one you probably don’t know.
Bucks general manager John Hammond has played the role of discreet architect in Milwaukee this season better than anything Sandra Bullock or Mo’Nique did to earn Oscars.
It’s too bad he’s not a publicity hound like some of his colleagues around the league, because he actually deserves the attention.
The Bucks are the best team in the league since All-Star Weekend. The Bucks, not the Mavericks or Cavaliers, Lakers or Jazz.
They still have to prove themselves in the postseason, like all upstarts have to do. But you’d be nuts to assume that what they’ve done the last month or so has been a fluke.