John Salmons is a Buck now and for the rest of the season. In five games the 30-year-old, 6’7″ guard has fit in extremely well, better than expected. He’s given the Bucks a reliable scoring option beyond Andrew Bogut and the bombs-away tendencies of the Bucks perimeter players. He’s getting to the line nearly 7x a game, something the Skiles Bucks have needed more than ankle tape. The Bucks are winning (five in a row). The team’s defensive rating has even improved a few percentage points since Salmons has been a Buck. And he’s only begun to learn the plays and the nuances of his new teammates.
But there’s that feeling again, just waiting there to ambush Bucks fans — that feeling that all this is temporary.
Temporary like Richard Jefferson. Temporary like Hakim Warrick and Ramon Sessions. Temporary like draft picks Joe Alexander and Jodie Meeks. Like Luke Ridnour, probably gone after this season. When Bucks fans begin to look ahead to next season and think about ticket purchases, can we count on John Salmons being here? Or is this latest acquisition just another rental by Bucks GM John Hammond?
There’s nothing Hammond can say that can quell this feeling — he’s the reason for it. Since the day in June 2008 when Hammond made the trade for RJ and drafted “project” forward Alexander, Hammond’s flailed about in a sort of GM limbo. He has been unable to commit to players(Andrew Bogut excepted), unable to fulfill promises or plans, and said pretty much whatever he thought fans wanted to hear about any number of moves — even if it has conflicted with what he said days earlier.
Is it dishonesty or just bad to tell media and fans that Alexander could play power forward in the NBA — “you are what you guard,” Hammond said. Amir Johnson was “a special player.” Carlos Delfino a good shooter. Hakim Warrick too good an opportunity to pass up.
So it turned out that Warrick was no better than two forwards the Bucks already had, Ersan Ilyasova and Luc Mbah a Moute, and, unlike Ersan and the prince, Warrick wasn’t getting better or getting along with Skiles. No upside and an expiring contract translated to trade bait, and that’s what Warrick was from the start.
But that wasn’t what Warrick was supposed to be, according to Hammond, despite the one-year contract. Now where does that leave Bucks fans as they cheer on Salmons on the Bucks playoff run?
Salmons of course is a much better player than Warrick, and a better fit for the Bucks, too. There wasn’t much forward playing time available for Hak with Ersan and Mbah a Moute here. Salmons is also a bargain. There are not many 18 pts per game scorers paid $6.4 million now and looking at a decrease to$5.8 million in 2010-11.
But Salmons can also terminate this summer and seek better pay or a better opportunity. With Andrew Bogut developing into an All Pro, Milwaukee may not be such a bad place to be for a 30 or 31-year-old shooting guard. And with the free agent bonanza in the NBA this summer, Salmons won’t be anybody’s priority — though he could be a nice consolation prize.
Let’s not forget that Charlie Villanueva and Andre Miller got $7 million per year deals last summer. Miller is older than Salmons and Charlie, well … if bad shot selection, a lot of chucking from downtown and poor defense are worth $7 million per year, Salmons will surely be looking for a raise this summer. Will the Bucks GM be ready to make a commitment to his latest acquisition?
Don’t bother asking him. Whatever Hammond tells Bucks fans and the media now, the chances are very good that he’ll do precisely the opposite.