VIDEO: Brandon Jennings 1st practice… NBA cuts tax limit… Free and unfree agency ramble on

Bucks summer league workouts are under way!!

Either the Bucks need to hire a new cameraman or rookie Brandon Jennings is too quick for video.

Watch snippets of Jennings’ first practice here. The link also takes you to video of 2nd round pick Jodie Meeks, who today signed a three-year deal (numbers anyone?).

Encouraging commentary from Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson after Jennings finished off a 2-on-1 break:

“That’s more exciting; fans want to see that. They want to be entertained, and this kid is going to entertain them.”

NBA sets cap and tax levels: As league officials forecast last winter, the NBA cut salary cap and luxury tax levels for the 2009-10 season. This squeezes the Bucks budget just a little bit more as the team negotiates with restricted free agents Ramon Sessions and Ersan Ilyasova.  Bucks owner, Sen. Herb Kohl, has indicated he will not allow the payroll to rise into tax territory. Teams over the luxury tax threshold pay $1 to the league for every dollar over the limit.

The luxury tax threshold was reduced from $71.15 million to $69.92m, a cut of 1.7%. The salary “cap” went from $58.68m down to $57.7m.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Bucks cannot or will not slightly exceed the limit to sign Sessions and Ilyasova. The tax is levied after the close of the regular season, April 2010, so the Bucks could start the season over the limit and have until the February trade deadline to make a move or two to get under.

Only half of forward-guard Bruce Bowen‘s $4.1m contract is guaranteed, so the Bucks could secure $2m in wiggle room by releasing Bowen. The veteran defensive menace was acquired from the Spurs in the Richard Jefferson trade, and very likely would prefer to return to the Spurs for another playoff run this season. Bowen is also reportedly considering retiring, so there seems little point (other than making me happy) in keeping Bowen around.

It’s really too bad. It would be nice to see Bowen, Luc Mbah a Moute and Charlie Bell playing together next season, sticking some nasty team D on Bucks opponents.

The $884,000 contract of shooting guard Salim Stoudamire, all 6’1″ of him, is also not fully guaranteed. Not sure, however, how much would count against the salary cap if the Bucks release him. You have to assume GM John Hammond has had additional payroll shaving moves/trades in mind since the end of the 2009 season — otherwise, the addition of Stoudamire doesn’t make much sense.

Shamsports’ very useful guide to 2009 NBA free agents: The Bucks may be talking to Hawks small forward Josh Childress, who jumped ship to Europe last season, but that doesn’t mean he’s available. The term free agent gets used pretty loosely when discussing NBA players, and Childress isn’t “free” — the Hawks, if they choose, can match any offer for him.

I know this because Sham over at has put his madness over minutia to good use and provided a handy dandy guide to 2009-10 free agents. It’s open season as of today (July 8) and Sham’s provided a team-by-team breakdown of who opted out of their contracts, who opted in, who’s restricted and who’s truly free and unrestricted.

Perusing the list, we also learn that:

There are so many scrub ex-Bucks on the list that it’s gotta be a joke on ex-GM Larry Harris. Desmond MasonDavid Ruffin, Jake Voskuhl .. c’mon. Also: Joe Smith, Brian Skinner, Royal Ivey.

Like Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess is jumping off the Pistons ship. McDyess will join the Spurs, who are loading up on forwards this offseason (RJ, DuJuan Blair, and now McDyess). Actually that’s hot off the presses and hasn’t made Sham’s list yet.

Hedo Turkoglu’s signing with the Raptors. Why Hedo, why?

Shawn Marion‘s headed for Dallas, which is gearing up for one more run with Jason and Dirk. Can’t say owner Mark Cuban is not the committed sort.

Does this make Josh Howard expendable? And might Cuban and the Mavs be interested in Michael Redd, if fully recuperated from knee surgery?

Unrestricted Mike Bibby and former Buck Zaza Pachulia will resign with the Hawks.

The Celtics have left Stephon Marbury (takers?) and big men Leon Powe and Miki Moore free and unrestricted.

Trevor Ariza will sign with Houston (as good as Ron Artest can be, whose getting better in the Artest-Ariza swa, the Lakers or the Rockets? Looking ahead, I’d rather have Ariza.)

The Sixers have five restricted free agents, headed by Andre Miller, who could be good pickups. Former Buck Royal Ivey is among them (don’t worry, I’ll stifle the Royal Ivey rant this time.)

Paul Millsap, the Jazz’ up and coming, young big forward, a favorite of many Bucks fans, is restricted. (Don’t expect the Jazz to let him slip away).

Anderson Varejao from the Cavs and the Lakers Lamar Odom look to be the big prizes on the unrestricted front.

(Day after I wrote this, Varejao got a new deal from the Cavs – 5 yrs, $50million, which is what he wanted two years ago when he was a restricted holdout. Can’t help but figure that the 5 yrs, $37.5m ($7.5m/yr) Charlie Villanueva got from Detroit bumped Varejao’s stock up.)

PF Chris Wilcox from the Thunder and Rodney Carney from the T-Wolves might be interesting targets.

Suns forwards Matt Barnes and Grant Hill are free and unrestricted. (Hill resigned with the Suns.)

Could the Bucks pick up Brandon Bass from the Mavs for the mid-level exception? Is Bass worth it ($5.85m)?

Yahoo’s Johnny Ludden ranks his Top 20 NBA free agents, complete with deals and signings as they come.

Speaking of the Bucks very real need for tough power forward play, why are the Bucks talking to restricted small forward Josh Childress? Shouldn’t the Bucks leave the SF position to our young and developing forwards (Luc and Joe) and get some rugged help in the paint?  Brandon Bass certainly matches that description. Wilcox maybe less so, but he does qualify as paint-help.

Let’s face it — Kurt Thomas, Malik Allen, Francisco Elson and Dan Gadzuric aren’t going to help the Bucks get anywhere.

In any case, there just aren’t really any good small forwards out there in the free and unrestricted market. Would Matt Barnes be all that big of a help? Probably not. So what about a PF like Boston’s Leon Powe, a guy who, moreso than Wilcox or Bass, would be less of a mid-level risk.

So goes my brainstorm for now. More later (consider that a warning if you like). I think the Bucks have a shot to improve if they play their mid-level exception right in this market.

Food for thought: Who in the market is worth the Bucks $5.85 exception?

Ramble on …

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