Posts Tagged ‘Milwaukee Bucks’

Ten (or so) intriguing games for 2014-15

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, here in 2009, haven't squared off since February 2010 (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, here in 2009, haven’t squared off since February 2010 (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

LeBron James is in Cleveland, Kevin Love soon will be (barring a startling change of direction), and so the eyes of the NBA world will focus there as well, from the very beginning of the season to around the middle and obviously to the bitter/glorious end.

When the Cavaliers go to Rio de Janeiro for an Oct. 11 preseason game, the Heat are the opponent, which should lead to the ultimate in commanding the spotlight: an exhibition game that will generate attention. It’s going to be that kind of 2014-15, with Cleveland dominating the 10 games (or so) to watch that initially jump out with Wednesday’s release of the full NBA schedule for 2014-15 (you can see the full 2014-15 national TV schedule here

HANG TIME: Digging deeper into the 2014-15 schedule

Cavaliers at Heat, Dec. 25, American Airlines Arena, Miami (5 p.m. ET, ABC)

It’s on the Christmas schedule, which is a big deal. It’s James’ first game back in Miami, which is a big deal. Put them together, it’s a very big deal. That goes for hype and network marketing more than anything, because this won’t be like the scorching emotions when LeBron returned to Cleveland for the first time while playing for the Heat. He didn’t just perform open-heart surgery without anesthesia on South Florida. Still, the buildup will be a sight anyway.

Mavericks at Spurs, Oct. 28, AT&T Center, San Antonio, (8 p.m. ET, TNT)

Another season opener, another banner raising. The Spurs get their latest celebration in front of an in-state rival and an opponent hoping to become a primary challenger in the Western Conference following the arrival of Chandler Parsons and the return of Tyson Chandler. Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan and the San Antonio machine does not like pageantry. They’ll put up with nights like this, though.

Cavaliers at Timberwolves, Jan. 31, Target Center, Minneapolis (8 ET)

The teams first meet Dec. 23 in Cleveland — a nice schedule stretch for the Cavaliers, with the possible Love reunion game against the Wolves followed by the James reunion game against the Heat –- but the location of this second matchup makes it a much bigger deal. This would be Love as a Twin Cities visitor. This is fans having a chance to get a few things off their chest now that his situation has finally been untangled. If it gets untangled.

Bulls at Knicks, Oct. 29, Madison Square Garden, New York (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

This will be the return of Derrick Rose to the NBA, after the very promising return of Rose to Team USA and the opportunity to build more momentum with the international games before training camp. Because Rose matters so much to the team that could, health willing, become a serious threat in the East, this early read will be valuable. The Chicago start is particularly worth watching since the Bulls’ second game, Oct. 31, is at home against Cleveland.

Clippers at Warriors, Nov. 5, Oracle Arena, Oakland (10:30 ET, ESPN)

Not just this game, but the whole four-game season series, really, including one of the Christmas showcases. The teams had several confrontational moments that threatened to turn ugly last season, then went the full seven games in the first round of the playoffs in a series hijacked by the Donald Sterling mess. It was always a fun matchup. Now it could build into must-see TV, with the twist of L.A. native Steve Kerr new to the Golden State sideline.

Bucks at Nets, Nov. 19, Barclays Center, Brooklyn (7:30 p.m. ET)

Not that New York fans would ordinarily ever try to make life uncomfortable for an opponent, but this time the opponent is ex-Nets coach Jason Kidd, now manning the sidelines for Milwaukee. So the Bucks might want to pack ear plugs. One other bit of advice: This wouldn’t be a good night for Kidd to play the “Hit me” card. Someone not on his own team might take him up on it.

Five games, Dec. 25 (12 p.m. ET – 10: 30 p.m. ET)

The lineup for the Christmas extravaganza: Wizards at Knicks at 12 p.m. ET (ESPN), Thunder at Spurs at 2:30 ET (ABC), Cavaliers at Heat at 5 ET (ABC), Lakers at Bulls at 8 ET (TNT), Warriors at Clippers at 10:30 ET (TNT). Washington becomes a featured attraction around the league, San Antonio and Oklahoma City meet after likely opening the season as the two best teams in the West, LeBron to Miami and much more. Go ahead and just put the TV at the head of the table.

Bulls at Lakers, Jan. 29, Staples Center, Los Angeles (10:30 ET, TNT)

There was no animosity when Pau Gasol left — certainly nothing like the Lakers and the league have seen in other situations — so this game won’t come with much tension around the buildup. But Gasol’s 6 ½ seasons, three All-Star appearances and two championships in Los Angeles counted for a lot, in what the titles meant to the legacy of Kobe Bryant and the push that should land Gasol in the Hall of Fame (especially considering his international play). He will say all the right things about coming back. And, given the direction of the team he left behind, the L.A. fans who were so hard on him would be smart to show some appreciation.

Mavericks at Rockets, Nov. 22, Toyota Center, Houston (8 p.m. ET)

The Parsons exit from Houston as a restricted free agent was not smooth, from the front offices trading jabs to James Harden’s dig about role players to Mark Cuban and Parsons clubbing it the night the offer sheet was signed. With two Texas teams wanting to prove they belong in the upper-echelon of the conference, this would have been a good season series to watch anyway. It just got better.

Bucks at Timberwolves, Nov. 26, Target Center, Minneapolis (8 p.m. ET)

No. 1 draft pick (Andrew Wiggins) against No. 2 (Jabari Parker) was supposed to happen when the Cavaliers played the Bucks. Then came the reported agreement to send Wiggins to Minnesota as part of the James trade. So the draft-related focus shifted to the Twin Cities. The Bucks took Parker with the intention of playing him mostly at power forward, so actual head-to-head matchups may be rare. But this will still be a compare-contrast that will last for years.

Morning shootaround — July 16


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played July 14

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Hornets, Stephenson reach deal | Reports: Wolves, Warriors renew Love trade talks | Parsons clarifies comments about Houston | ‘The Greek Freak’ at point guard? | Silver: Clips sale may not happen soon

No. 1: Report: Stephenson headed to Hornets — The Charlotte Hornets opened free agency by taking a big swing at landing restricted free-agent swingman Gordon Hayward of the Jazz, but Utah matched the Hornets’ offer sheet last weekend. Swing No. 2 appears to be a success for the Hornets this time, though, as they have agreed to terms on a three-year deal with Indiana Pacers standout (and unrestricted free agent) Lance Stephenson, as first reported by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. This marks a big loss for the Pacers — who had the best record in the East last season — but there had been talk that contract negotiations between Stephenson and Indiana had broken down of late. Bonnell has more on the move for Charlotte:

Following an all-night negotiating session, the Charlotte Hornets have come to an agreement to sign Indiana Pacers shooting guard Lance Stephenson, the Observer has learned.

Under terms of the agreement, Stephenson will make $9 million in 2014-15 and $9 million in 2015-16. Stephenson will get a slight raise in 2016-17 if the Hornets pick up the team option.

Stephenson fills an obvious need, as the Hornets were weak offensively at the shooting guard and small forward positions. The 6-foot-5 Stephenson had a breakthrough season statistically, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He also shot 49 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range.

However, he has a quirky personality that seems to have limited his market when he became an unrestricted free agent July 1.

The Pacers had offered Stephenson $44 million over five seasons, and reportedly did not come off that number. Stephenson thought he was worth considerably more.

But the question becomes how Stephenson’s quirkiness might play out once he signs a lucrative contract extension. He famously blew in opponent LeBron James’ ear in the playoffs. He was fined for flopping this season and was charged with 14 technical fouls, fourth-most in the NBA.

It is not the Hornets’ habit to take frequent risks on high-maintenance players. Trading for Stephen Jackson worked out for two seasons before they traded him on to the Milwaukee Bucks. Now they have drafted P.J. Hairston, a player who lost his NCAA eligibility over improper benefits and who recently was cited for punching a teenager during a pickup game at a Durham YMCA.

Hornets owner Michael Jordan has said one of his team’s greatest strengths last season was the character of the players on the roster. Did that embolden the front office to pursue Stepehenson? Is Stephenson now a threat to that chemistry?

Certainly the Hornets faced competitive pressure in the Eastern Conference. The Cleveland Cavaliers improved dramatically with the addition of James, so that’s a non-playoff team in the East that now looks like a post-season lock. While the Heat lost James, they weakened the Hornets with the signing of Josh McRoberts.

It’s possible the Hornets would have struggled just to make the playoffs this season without upgrading the roster with a move like Stephenson.

(more…)

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

Blogtable: Jason Kidd is in Milwaukee

Jason Kidd joins a team that won only 15 games last season (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Jason Kidd joins a team that won only 15 games last season. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: The Carmelo Sweepstakes | The steal of free agency | Jason Kidd: Discuss


> Is Jason Kidd the right man for the job in Milwaukee? Anything else you want to say about how this whole Kidd-to-Bucks thing went down?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’ve been out front and outspoken on this topic already, so I’ll try not to repeat any previous harangue. When Kidd was hired by Brooklyn last year, my thought was: Interesting choice but he needs to take over a rebuilding team so he can learn and grow as a coach along with his players. The win-now, veteran-heavy Nets roster seemed like (and mostly was) a mismatch. So if Kidd had been fired, oh, last December when Brooklyn was losing and got hired by Milwaukee now — sometime after Larry Drew‘s firing — it would have seemed legit. But then, he wouldn’t have tipped his hand in craving personnel power — a privilege completely unearned at this point — or in relying so much on “buddy ball” with his wealthy pal, Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry. One more thing: Letting a coach weasel out of a four-year contract after one season to switch teams and double his pay is something the players and their union might want to bring up to the NBA owners at the next CBA talks in 2017.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: It was one thing to have Kidd trade in his jersey for a suit jacket and stand on the sidelines running a team packed with veterans and led by a couple of future Hall of Famers.  Now the Bucks are asking him to roll up his sleeves and go to work with a 15-win club.  No.  I believe that job takes more of a coaching background and resume. In addition, Kidd is a guy who always creates turmoil and heads for the door at the first sign of trouble. No reason to think he’s got the stomach or the know-how for this long-term job. As our man Steve Aschburner wrote, Kidd and the new owners ham-handedly handled the whole situation. Replace Larry Drew?  Fine.  But you do it with a whole lot more class.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Who knows if Jason Kidd’s the right man for the job in Milwaukee? Which coach was the last right man there? George Karl? Don Nelson? I’ll give Kidd this, he managed to get the Nets turned around after that clueless start. But we’ll see what kind of patience he has with a young team that needs a teacher. As for how the whole situation went down, I have one word — despicable.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The big picture is that we just learned a lot about how the new Bucks ownership intends to conduct business. It’s not a good lesson, of course. Beyond the obvious that Kidd and Marc Lasry just gave a clinic on how not to handle the situation, beyond the fact that Larry Drew and John Hammond are two of the classiest people in the league and deserved professionalism and honesty instead of this back-door play, Lasry gave away his honeymoon in Milwaukee and gave away his credibility to get someone who would have been a questionable hire under the most basic circumstances. Underhanded and arrogant — making a basketball decision without input from your basketball people — never looks good. Underhanded and arrogant to get a coach with one season of experience and position him to run personnel looks even worse. So, no, I really don’t have anything else to say.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Once the Nets found their identity in January, Kidd did a nice job of managing his rotation and getting contributions from everybody, while keeping his vets relatively fresh. He made the most of his team’s matchup advantages in the playoffs against both Toronto and Miami. He’s a basketball savant. But what happened in Brooklyn is the latest evidence that he’s just not a good person. And the most important aspect of a coach’s success is the talent he has on the roster. The Bucks are lacking in that department.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: He could be the right man for the job, but the way this was handled makes it extremely difficult to have anything but a sour taste in your mouth about Kidd and his future in Milwaukee or anywhere else. I’m going to avoid the moral soapbox and refrain from cracking Kidd or the Bucks for doing what they have done. This is the NBA. No one goes in thinking it’s going to be all roses and lollipops. Larry Drew, as low down as he was treated by both the Bucks and ultimately Kidd, will survive this. The Bucks will even shed this drama in time. Kidd’s reputation, however, might never recover.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Perhaps it came out when I was watching the Money In The Bank pay-per-view the other night, but somehow I missed the memo where Larry Drew isn’t a good coach. I enjoyed watching his Hawks teams, who utilized a balanced offense and went to the playoffs three consecutive seasons. Drew also was terrific drawing up back-picks and slip-screen plays in last minute situations; Drew was no fan of Hero Ball. I think Jason Kidd is also a very good coach, and he improved as the season went along with the Nets, and he’s a bigger “name” than Larry Drew. So that’s all great. Maybe the way this situation shook out wasn’t handled as cleanly as it could’ve/should’ve been, but it is what it is. Either way, I’d like to have seen Kidd win more than 15 games last season in Milwaukee with that 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.

Reports: Bucks land Kidd as coach

From NBA.com staff reports

The story that took the NBA by surprise over the weekend — Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd working his way into an interview for a job with the Milwaukee Bucks — is seemingly a done deal. Kidd, who tried to power his way into the Nets’ GM gig, only to be rebuffed by team ownership, will become the Bucks’ new coach. As part of the deal, the Bucks will send the Nets two future second-round picks (2015 and ’19).

He will replace last season’s coach, Larry Drew, who went 15-67 in his first season in Milwaukee and has two seasons left on his current deal.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein first tweeted the news of the deal, and other outlets followed suit via Twitter (see below).

Stein, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger and Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel all have fully detailed reports on the move as well.

https://twitter.com/HowardBeck/status/483628510318063617 (more…)

Morning Shootaround — June 30



VIDEO: Chris Bosh opts out of his contract with the Heat

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Bulls up first to talk with ‘Melo | Report: Heat’s Big 3 discuss future contracts | Rose won’t recruit ‘Melo to Chicago | Report: Bucks offer second-round pick for Kidd | Report: Jazz to match all offers for Hayward

No. 1: Report: Bulls up first to talk with ‘Melo; Suns planning pitch to him (as well as LeBron) — As we reported in this space yesterday, the Knicks remain confident they will be able to re-sign free agent Carmelo Anthony despite the advances of other teams this summer. That notion won’t keep other teams from taking a crack at landing the superstar scorer and according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the Chicago Bulls will be up first to talk to Anthony.

The Phoenix Suns, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, are also planning to not only pitch to Anthony, but also to LeBron James in hopes of wooing both out West to a team that has oodles of cap space and young talent, too.

First, here’s Stein’s report on the Bulls and Anthony:

Carmelo Anthony is planning to meet with the Chicago Bulls in Chicago on the opening day of free agency after the NBA’s offseason market officially opens Tuesday at 12:01 a.m., according to sources familiar with Anthony’s plans.

Sources told ESPN.com that Anthony is in the process of arranging a trip to Chicago to meet with the Bulls, then intends to travel to Texas for Wednesday meetings with both the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks.

Sources say Anthony is likely to visit the Rockets first on Wednesday, followed by the Mavericks in the afternoon.

Anthony, who maintains an offseason home in Los Angeles, is also expected to meet with the Los Angeles Lakers face-to-face next week.

One source close to the process told ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne that Phil Jackson is planning to make a determined attempt to try to recruit his former Lakers center, Pau Gasol, to replace the freshly traded Tyson Chandler alongside Anthony on the Knicks’ front line, despite the fact New York is limited to offering Gasol less than $4 million for next season.

Sources told ESPN.com this week that the Knicks swung their trade with the Mavericks to send out Chandler and the out-of-favor Raymond Felton to bring back a clutch of veterans in return — headlined by point guard Jose Calderon – in their belief that Anthony would relish the prospect of playing with the Spaniard. Calderon has been a perimeter threat and a beloved teammate everywhere he’s played.

Sources insist that the Knicks feel far better about their chances than Jackson is letting on. No team can match the five years and $129 million that New York can provide if it wishes to offer a maximum contract to Anthony, and while Anthony is undoubtedly intrigued by the chance to team with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and coach Tom Thibodeau in Chicago, he also still loves the Madison Square Garden stage dearly.

And here’s Wojnarowski’s report about the Suns planning a pitch to this summer’s two biggest names:

Suns officials understand the bid will be something of a long shot, but are determined to get a meeting with James to convince him how the possibilities of two full max contracts, a roster stocked with talented, young players and the chance to pick the superstar free-agent partner of his choice ought to make Phoenix one of his most appealing suitors.

Phoenix is determined to emerge as a legitimate destination for James and Anthony, who have privately shared an affinity for playing with each other in the NBA. Salary-cap structures make it prohibitive for teams elsewhere to fit these two stars together without completely gutting a roster, but Phoenix’s general manager Ryan McDonough has constructed a far different reality to sell them in potential meetings next week, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Suns have $33.5 million in salary-cap space and could shed the next $10 million needed to sign James and Anthony to maximum contracts without unloading the young core of guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic and center Miles Plumlee that pushed the franchise to 48 victories in the Western Conference last season.


The Suns have three first-round draft picks in 2015, and the picks could help the shape the roster with deals for veteran players, or infuse more young talent – or both – based on whatever intrigues the best player on the planet.

For now, the Suns are like everyone else in the NBA, including Houston and Cleveland: hoping against hope James will pause before recommitting to a deal with the Heat and truly bring an open mind to free agency. So far, James’ representatives have been cautious on promising meetings with teams, and Heat president Pat Riley has been working on new deals with the reps for the four players who’ve opted-out of Miami – James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem – sources said.

The Suns are banking on James’ basketball acumen and business intelligence to see the roster, financial flexibility that could sustain the Suns’ success for years. Phoenix officials believe the best chance to get Anthony away from his preferred free-agent destinations – Chicago and Houston – will be to turn James’ attention toward the Suns, and get Anthony on board with his one true chance to play with James, sources said.

For now, the Suns wait with everyone else. They want a meeting on Tuesday, want a chance to tell a story to the planet’s best player. The message will be unmistakable: If LeBron James wants to play with the biggest co-star available in free agency – along with a supporting cast of playmakers in a warm climate – the Suns have a story to tell him.

(more…)

Morning shootaround — June 29



VIDEO: Dwyane Wade opts out to give the Heat more salary restructuring room

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Jason Kidd out as Nets’ coach? | In with the Bucks? | Wade opts out; Bosh next? | Lakers won’t rule out Gasol return | Knicks quietly confident on Melo front

No. 1: Power play knocks out Kidd? — Seemingly out of nowhere, Jason Kidd appears to be on his way out as coach of the Brooklyn Nets. Rebuffed by the Nets’ ownership on several demands seeking more control of the club, Kidd, whose rookie season started shakily, but recovered to advance to the second round of the playoffs, could be headed to a position with the Milwaukee Bucks. Tim Bontemps of the New York Post broke the story:

According to a league source, Kidd recently approached ownership with a series of demands, including the role of overseeing the Nets’ basketball operations department in addition to his head coaching responsibilities. The source said Kidd didn’t want general manager Billy King to be dismissed, but wanted to be given a title and placed above him in the organizational hierarchy.

Ownership declined to grant Kidd that kind of power, which is rare for any coach in the league to have. The source said ownership felt Kidd wasn’t ready for that kind of responsibility after having only one year of coaching experience — the team finished his first season on the bench with a 44-38 record, good for sixth in the Eastern Conference — and allowed Kidd to seek other opportunities.

The franchise then was asked by the Bucks for permission to speak with Kidd about the prospect of hiring him, and the Nets allowed them to do so.
Bucks coach Larry Drew just completed his first season in Milwaukee after the team hired him last summer following his contract expiring with Atlanta.

Kidd did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

***

No. 2: Bucks, Nets already talking compensation for Kidd — This story moved at a blazing pace Saturday night and it appears that the Nets and Bucks are already discussing compensation to release Jason Kidd from the final three years of his original four-year, $10.5 million contract. The connection between Kidd and the Bucks? Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry is known to be close with Kidd after stints as a Nets minority owner and as his financial adviser. Lasry and Wes Edens, two New York investment firm executives, bought the team for about $550 million earlier this year. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein fills in the details:

Sources close to the situation said the Bucks and Nets already have begun discussing possible compensation to release Kidd from the final three years of his original four-year, $10.5 million contract.

“I don’t think Kidd will be back,” a source close to the process said Saturday night.

New Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry is known to be close with Kidd after stints as a Nets minority owner and as the former All-Star point guard’s financial adviser. Lasry and Wes Edens, two New York investment firm executives, bought the team for about $550 million earlier this year.

Bucks coach Larry Drew, who guided the team to an NBA-worst 15-67 record in his first season, and Milwaukee’s front office were unaware Kidd was about to potentially interview for their jobs, sources told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

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No. 3: Pieces falling in place for Heat master plan — A second and third shoe dropped Saturday in the Miami Heat’s plan to retain the Big Three and re-tool around them. Dwyane Wade opted out of the final two years and $41.8 million on his contract and Udonis Haslem chose not to opt into the final year of his contract. Both players will become free agents on Tuesday. They join LeBron James in opting out and now Chris Bosh is expected to follow by Monday’s deadline. Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald puts the moves in perspective:

Team president Pat Riley was informed that Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade decided to exercise the early termination option in their contracts, according to agent Henry Thomas, and the moves put into motion a plan that could retool the Heat’s roster for another run at an NBA championship.

The ultimate goal, of course, is to keep LeBron James in Miami and then add some new talent around him, Wade and Chris Bosh.

“Today we were notified of Dwyane’s intention to opt out of his contract and Udonis’ intention to not opt into his contract, making both players free agents,” Riley said in a statement. “Dwyane has been the cornerstone of our organization for over a decade, and we hope he remains a part of the Heat family for life.

“Udonis has been the heartbeat of this team for 11 years. He has sacrificed countless times to make this organization successful, and he is the epitome of what this organization stands for. We look forward to meeting with Dwyane and Udonis and their agent in the coming days to discuss our future together.”

Bosh remained undecided on his contractual future on Saturday afternoon but will soon need to inform the Heat of his decision. The deadline for opt outs is Monday, and teams and players can begin negotiating free agency on Tuesday. As Heat fans went into meltdown mode on Twitter on Saturday and conflicting reports began popping up about Bosh, the Heat’s center didn’t seem too concerned.

James Rodríguez is a beast!” Bosh wrote on Twitter after the Colombian midfielder’s goal in the first half of his team’s World Cup match against Uruguay.

Bosh said earlier this past season and again in the playoffs that he would take less money for the 2013-14 season to remain in Miami and keep the Heat’s core together. According to a report by ESPN, Bosh is seeking a new five-year contract worth between $15 million to $16 million per season. Bosh is currently on the books for more than $20 million for next season. Wade was also under contract for more than $20 million next season, and Haslem was set to be paid $4.6 million.

In the end, June 28, 2014, could be remembered as another landmark day in the history of Heat offseason roster building.

***

No. 4: Gasol a Melo magnet?Pau Gasol never felt wanted by former Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni. Feeling the love no longer seems an issue. Both the Lakers and Knicks are said to be interested in the 7-foot Spaniard’s services — sure, still as one of the top offensive centers in the game, but the Lakers think Gasol can help attract Carmelo Anthony to the purple-and-gold. Funny, the Knicks seem to think the same thing, and why not? Knicks president Phil Jackson has an excellent relationship himself with Gasol. Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more:

Although the Lakers’ ideal free agency scenario involves convincing both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to come play for them this summer, according to a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking, they are not ruling out the return of the four-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion Gasol by any means.

In fact, should it appear that James and Anthony are not pursuing a mutual destination as a package deal — especially with Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh opting out of their deals with the Miami Heat — the Lakers believe that having Gasol back on the team could be vital in their solo pursuit of Anthony.

While the last two seasons for Gasol haven’t gone anything like when he first got to L.A. and helped lead the team to three straight NBA Finals appearances, he is still considered one of the most offensively talented big men in the game when healthy. Gasol averaged 17.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists last season, but missed 22 games because of a variety of injuries, including a bout with vertigo.

Coincidentally, the New York Knicks, now run by former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, also plan to go after Gasol in hopes of convincing Anthony to stay, a source told ESPN.

It remains to be seen how receptive Gasol will be to the Lakers’ pitch.

“My decision will be based purely on sporting considerations,” Gasol wrote on his personal website in February. “It couldn’t be any other way. I want to be in a team with a real chance of winning a ring and where I can help to compete for it. I would like to win another championship. The financial side comes second at this stage of my career.”

***

No. 5: Knicks like chances with Anthony — Free agency doesn’t begin until midnight Tuesday, but the New York Knicks are apparently feeling pretty decent about their chances to keep Carmelo Anthony. They feel he and new team president Phil Jackson have made a connection could have the star scorer believing what the 11-time champion as a coach is selling. Marc Berman of the New York Post brings the latest:

According to one Knicks player Carmelo Anthony spoke to recently, he gave no indication he was planning an exit strategy from New York.

The source told The Post this week one reason Anthony wants to remain in New York is he has enjoyed being in a big media market, as opposed to being in Denver.

The Post reported two weeks ago Knicks officials liked their odds of re-signing Anthony following their June 13 dinner meeting in Los Angeles in which Phil Jackson, coach Derek Fisher and general manager Steve Mills met with Anthony and his agent Leon Rose and broached the Mavericks trade.

The Post reported the organization likes its chances because of cap-space issues of Chicago and Houston. ESPN.com confirmed The Post report Saturday, saying Knicks officials were “increasingly optimistic’’ about their chances because Anthony and Jackson have “connected.’’ And now Anthony has a more consistent point guard in Jose Calderon, one of seven players Jackson added this week.

In Anthony’s words, nothing is official until a deal is “signed, sealed and delivered,” and Tuesday he dips his toe into the free-agent waters for the first time in his NBA career — something he has said since October he wanted to experience.

Anthony has planned visits to Chicago, Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles, where he has an apartment and the Lakers have cap space. There’s no plans on visiting Miami yet, but Heat president Pat Riley has called the Big Four scenario a “pipe dream” — even though of the current Big Three, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have opted out, and reportedly Chris Bosh will do the same.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Teams wanting to set up a meeting with LeBron James have been unsuccessful … Rockets decline fourth-year option for Chandler Parsons, making him a restricted free agent … Wizards expect to bring back veteran point guard Andre Miller … League interested in pushing Draft back to July.