Dear Senator Kohl,
I should probably start this letter out by apologizing for my persistent, annoying calls to send your friend Michael Redd back to Ohio, not to mention those nude photos of Peter Vecsey. But I’m sure you’re very busy reading the stimulus bill and I don’t want to waste your time, realizing of course that if I did have nude photos of Peter Vecsey, I’d post them in a heartbeat.
In all sincerity, let’s talk about the luxury tax.
It certainly looks like the Bucks will have little choice but to move into luxury tax territory next season unless some next-season salaries are moved by the trading deadline Thursday. Your opposition to paying luxury tax is widely known.
This is certainly no comfortable position to be in for anybody in your organization. However, this is a consequence of tempting the fates by hanging on to Mr. Redd just a little bit too long for anybody’s good. Redd has never been the kind of player coach Scott Skiles prefers, and GM John Hammond heard a few too many complaints from Skiles about the defense being “in the toilet” and didn’t send the shooting guard packing. Notice that Skiles hasn’t complained about the defense since Redd went down.
But that’s sludge in the Kinnickinnic River but for the gift horse that at least part of Redd’s $17.1 million salary next season could be paid by insurance. It’s a potential break you’ll certainly deserve once you close the books on this season and your four-year payout to Redd climbs to over $55 million.
What matters now is how your manager, Hammond, reacts to this near future situation over the next couple of days. Soon-to-be restricted free agent (RFA) Ramon Sessions looks more than ready to run the show at point and has trade value. Soon-to-be RFA Charlie Villanueva has proven that he can be a 20-ppg scorer, and, while he may not be able to break the Bob Boozer Jinx, he does have trade value. Luke Ridnour has some trade value. Joe Alexander and Charlie Bell should have value to a few teams.
Some fans are even calling for Hammond to go ahead with the trade of Richard Jefferson to Portland for Raef Lafrentz’s expiring contract. Others say Ridnour is expendable now that Sessions has shown he can be a spectacular point guard; Houston is looking for help at the point.
I’m sure there are other possibilities that haven’t been tossed into the NBA rumor mill just yet but consider this: RJ and Frodo are the two players acquired to help Skiles implement his offensive (Luke) and defensive (RJ) schemes. To trade either one would be to allow Redd’s situation to dictate the direction of the team, and that’s unfair to your new coach. Some explaining would also be in order to the fans, though, admittedly, not much marketing has been done around either player (a subject for another day).
So there is a need to hang on to players considered Skiles-type players. Jefferson, Luc Mbah a Moute, Charlie Bell and Andrew Bogut certainly fall into this category. Skiles likes Ridnour.
There is also a need to end the squandering of player resources, a hallmark of the Larry Harris era. The Redd situation is bad enough but let’s note that Charlie V is the last remaining player resource from the 2002-03 trades of The Big Three. Every other player obtained in those deals and in subsequent deals is gone. All that’s left is Charlie, who represents the draft pick (T.J. Ford) obtained in the Big Dog trade with Atlanta.
The Bucks have developed Charlie (haphazardly until this season) for two-and-a-half seasons, and now we’re seeing the results. We’re also seeing the results of the development work Bill Peterson and Skiles have done with Sessions. It’s important to sign both young players this summer and retain them as team resources.
Almost every fan would love to see a Dan Gadzuric trade, of course, but he’s next to untradable unless paired with a player who has some value or with your first round draft pick. Or with Joe Alexander, if that’s possible.
Barring a Gadzuric trade, the math says some luxury tax may be in order. I realize it has been policy to not let payroll exceed the luxury tax threshold, and that this is a lot to ask considering all you have already invested in the Bucks. But these circumstances may require a one-year exception to this policy. The current group with Bogut on the floor should be very competitive next season, and may prove to be competitive down the stretch this season. Give Skiles and his players a chance.
And you may have a few million coming your way next November-December via the insurance for Mr. Redd. If his recovery is slow, the insurance benefit could even cover the entire luxury tax burden.
This doesn’t mean Hammond should break the bank paying Charlie V and Sessions, and the GM should certainly do everything he can in contract negotiations to keep their 2009-10 salaries down. Danny Ferry has been very successful in Cleveland under luxury tax conditions holding down the salaries of his restricted free agents (Pavlovic, Varejao, Gibson and West). Bucks fans should be confident in Hammond’s ability to do the same with Sessions and Charlie V.
Skiles has this team moving in the right direction and it’s great to finally see. Hang in there with this team, Sen. Kohl, and please consider a one-year exception to your luxury tax policy.
P.S.: As a thank you for your patience and time in reading this tome, I’ve found a rare final ending to the latest Batman flick, The Dark Knight, previously seen only by those who saw the IMAX version of the film and sat through the credit reel. Enjoy!