And neither is anybody else, Bucks GM John Hammond told reporter Gery Woelfel in a feature interview that ran in the Racine Journal Times Sunday.
Center Andrew Bogut and big forward Yi Jianlian, however, are “two, very good young pieces … that you can build around,” Hammond qualified. “Bigs are so hard to find. The Boguts and the Yis … it would be awfully hard to move guys like that.”
Bogut and the Bucks are expected to come to terms on a five-year extension this July that would keep the 23-year-old center in a Bucks uniform through his prime and the 2013-14 season. Including his option for next season, the dollar terms would likely be in the neighborhood of six years – $66-72 million. As for Yi, the Bucks have two exhibition games scheduled in China this September; it’s difficult to imagine the team showing up without Yi.
Hammond continued to address “the untouchables” issue without prompting from interviewer Woelfel.
“Does that mean Michael Redd can be moved? Or anybody else on this roster? No. But I don’t think it’s fair to use the term untouchables when you are a team that won 26 games this year.”
How’s that for dancing around the question? It’s time to stop the music. Consider Michael Redd officially on the trading block.
Journal Times: It was pretty apparent the Bucks had some significant chemistry issues this season. Is it necessary to weed out some of the malcontents on this team or can Skiles come in and alter the attitude?
Hammond: When you start talking about chemistry issues or evaluating what went wrong with this team … we’re going to evaluate the situation and, if we can do something to improve our team, we’re going to do that. Does that mean we’re going to make wholesale changes? No. We will not do that. That’s not our thinking going in. Chemistry issues, weeding people out, that kind of terminology … it’s going to come down to opportunities. We are going to explore the opportunities that are presented by other teams and go from there.”
Bob Boozer Jinx: With the exception of Bogut and Yi, everybody’s on the trading block, maybe even Ramon Sessions, one player who could make trades work for the Bucks. The Bobby Simmons, Mo Williams and Dan Gadzuric contracts are difficult to move, unless attached with affordable players like Desmond Mason, Charlie Bell, Charlie Villanueva and Sessions. “The way [Sessions] finished the season … as we continue to work the phones (in trade talks) I guarantee you his name will come up,” Hammond said later in the interview.
Journal Times: There’s a good chance Michael Redd will be playing for the United States Olympic Team this summer. Yet, there are some basketball observers who contend Redd isn’t a franchise player. What’s your take on him?
Hammond: “I think Michael Redd is a great player. When you start using terminology like franchise player … I think if we sat down and looked at the (NBA team) board together and said which team has a franchise player, we’d see there aren’t many of them in the league. Even if you said Michael Redd isn’t a franchise player, that’s not taking a shot at Michael Redd. Saying Michael Redd is a great NBA player is a great compliment to him.”
Bob Boozer Jinx: Most Bucks fans have become painfully aware over the last five years that Redd is not Kobe, Lebron, or a few All-Star teams of players, from McGrady to Stoudamire to D-Wade to Joe Johnson. Yet somebody forgot to tell Michael who still thinks he’s as good as his contract, which, to him, meant that last season he had the right to undermine the team on the court. Redd’s “franchise” contract is now a lodestone keeping the Bucks in the Central Division cellar.
JT: I think it’s fair to assume that this summer you’ll be making some trades. What areas would you like to shore up on this team?
Hammond: “If you look at our team, in your backcourt, it is Mo Williams and Michael Redd. Up front, we have Bogut and Yi. Desmond (Mason) is at the small forward position and that might be something you maybe address. You appreciate Desmond for the player he is and the man he is. And you got Bobby (Simmons), so it’s not like the cupboard is bare at that position. But if you say there’s maybe one spot that maybe could be addressed, that would be the small forward position.”
BBJ: The small forward position, a scoring slot for most of Bucks history, has been all but obliterated on the last few Bucks teams. Dez doesn’t shoot well enough to be the starter, Simmons’ career has floundered in Milwaukee and his rehab from ankle and foot surgery has been slow. Bobby’s overpaid, signed on for $20 million over the next two years. Hammond won’t get much back in a trade for Simmons alone, but Simmons and Charlie Bell and a draft pick? That could net a player. Hammond could trade Redd for a small forward (say, to Dallas for Josh Howard, BrewHoop’s favorite trade) which would leave no space on the bench for both Simmons and Mason. A third option is to trade Redd for guards/expiring contracts/future draft picks, and see what Bobby and Dez look like without Redd, but it doesn’t sound as though Hammond is leaning that way.
Hammond could be hinting at the draft, where 19-year-old Danilo Gallinari of Italy is projected to go as high as 6th. Donte Green out of Syracuse and Chase Budinger from Arizona are also ranked in the top 16 picks. There is no room for both Simmons and Dez in this scenario, either. And, as Brewhoop reminds us, there’s always Ersan, the Bucks 2005 2nd round pick, who played small forward for Barcelona this season.
Looking at the SF position is also the obvious answer for Hammond; it’s a throwaway that keeps other players’ names out of the trade market. If Hammond leaks names to be bandied about in trade talks, and the deals fall through, Coach Skiles could be stuck with a situation similar to the one he had last season in Chicago. Bulls GM John Paxson put half the team on the trading block in hopes of acquiring Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant (Kobe’s attempt to trade himself), and the resulting bad vibes didn’t go away. Simmons’ contract ranks as one of the worst in the NBA and every team in the league knows the Bucks would love to get rid of it.
JT: Some Bucks fans believe you should blow up this team, while others believe it just needs to be tweaked. What’s your view on this matter?
Hammond: “Maybe something in between. Maybe more than a tweak, but you sure as heck wouldn’t want to blow up a team with some of the assets that are here.
BBJ: More “maybes.” Players are “assets” but are not “untouchable.” Wholesale changes won’t be made, but only two players are the type to build around. Hammond danced around a lot of questions. The bottom line is that the Bucks have been bogged down the last few seasons with the a group guards and small forwards (Redd, Mo, Charlie Bell, Simmons and Mason) that don’t win games and will cost $46 million next season, two-thirds of the luxury tax limit — not the salary cap, which the Bucks will exceed next season if Hammond does nothing, but the luxury tax (likely to be about $70M). The four bigs (Bogut, Yi, Charlie V and Gadzuric) are young with the exception of Gadz, and will be paid $20 million next season – the last year the group remains a bargain.
So what does Hammond do? Package Simmons and Bell in a trade and hope for the best? No. That’s just asking to lose again and give your new head coach a season of headaches dealing with third-tier “stars.”
I think the reality is that the evaluation of the team is just getting started. Hammond has been on the job a month; Skiles is in his 4th week and has already hired an impressive staff of assistant coaches. At last report the assistant contracts are still in the process of being signed and triplicated. The Bucks won’t know where they’re picking in the draft until the lottery May 20.
One of the holdovers from last season who kept his job was Jason Staudt, the video assistant. This is important. Staudt, one would hope, knows the equipment room and where all the tape from last year is, having invented a filing system so confusing that he cannot be replaced. My guess is that Staudt has been working harder than anyone the last few weeks, preparing an entire season’s worth of evaluation video. So far, there hasn’t been anyone to watch it except Skiles and Hammond. The definitive evaluations won’t get started until the assistant coaches arrive to help Skiles go through it all … and help him drink his beer.