RJ traded to Cleveland: Wally Szczerbiak’s parka wins out over Raef Lafrentz’s big yellow hat

The Bucks cocked a hunting rifle and fired on a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers late Wednesday, sending forward Richard Jefferson to the Cavs for guard-forward Wally Szczerbiak.

The trade, made just hours before today’s NBA trading deadline, will free up $14.2 million from the Bucks 2009-10 committed payroll and allow the team to sign restricted free agents Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions this summer while continuing its unwavering commitment to injured Michael Redd. It even leaves room to pay draft picks and still avoid the league’s luxury tax.

Szczerbiak’s $13.775 million contract expires at the end of this season, when he’ll become a free agent.

All parties involved acknowledged that the clincher was Wally’s hunting parka, which impressively features what can only be a wolftail collar. The Bucks had also been in much rumored talks with Portland regarding a trade that would have shipped RJ to the Blazers for shelved forward Raef Lafrentz — but all Lafrentz brought to the table was a cartoonishly large yellow hat.

In an interview with NBA-TV late last night, Szczerbiak explained how and why his parka was the lynchpin for the trade, and talked about the often cruel misperceptions the coat engendered in Ohio.

“I bought it in 2002 when I was playing for the T-Wolves,” the 10-year veteran said. “The coat was a big hit up there, where there’s a great northwoods and a lot of cold, and wolves, too. The coat’ll keep you warm in that tundra.  Minnesota’s still the ideal place for it but if it can’t be there, Wisconsin’s a great fit. The Bucks and GM John Hammond, and especially Sen. Herb Kohl, understood all this better than many other NBA executives seem to.” (And Kohl knows well exactly how many voters there are in Northern Wisconsin.–J.D.Mo)

“The lack of any northwoods or timber environment in Ohio (where Szczerbiak was traded last season from Seattle) really made the coat kinda lost on people,” Wally went on. “A lot of people thought it was a weird pimp’s coat or something. Can you believe that? What pimp would wear a hunting parka? I’m glad I’m headed for Wisconsin, where people will understand and I can wear the coat in public.”

Cleveland GM Danny Ferry had nearly settled on keeping Wally, a key member of the Cavs rotation. However, sensitivity to the needs of Wally’s parka may have tipped his decision to go ahead with the trade.

“Sure, I thought about the coat, but I also started thinking about how well Mo Williams has worked out for us, and my gut instinct told me: well, why wouldn’t R.J. work out just as well? I think we could have won it all standing pat but, then, we have to get by Orlando or Boston or both before even thinking about the title; it won’t be easy by any means.

“Now’s the time, and we had to try to get better. I’m happy to provide a home for any high quality pro who is obviously not as big a priority for the Bucks organization as Michael Redd is,” said Ferry, who tried last summer to trade for Redd but couldn’t work out a deal. “Now the Bucks can keep Redd and pay a full roster next season — plus, I owed John Hammond a favor for making the Mo trade happen for us last summer. I’m glad I was able to return the favor so quickly.

Raef LaFrentz in the Boston schools as Curious George's friend, The Man in the Yellow hat.“Look, they’re getting a great Wisconsin coat in the deal that people can connect with,” added Ferry, getting a bit defensive. “As far as I know, we don’t have wolves here in Northern Ohio, and the fans just never got used to it.”

Bucks GM Hammond was feeling downright upbeat about the trade and likes the new options presented by the parka.

“We kept our options open as long as we could, but at the end of the day we just couldn’t say no to such a great coat. I believe that’s a wolfskin collar, but that’s the beauty of it. It could be coontail or bobcat. We’re keeping our options open about which animal skin it might be, because, well, you never know.”

Portland’s Lafrentz was disappointed that the Bucks opted for Wally’s parka over his big yellow hat, which he wears when visiting elementary schools to read H.A. Rey’s “Curious George” books to kids. “I understand the coat is a good fit for Wisconsin, but you should see the kids light up when I walk into school wearing my yellow hat. They think I AM George’s friend, the Man in the Yellow Hat, come to life.”

(Lafrentz really does look the Man in the Yellow Hat, doesn’t he?)

“My playing days may be all but finished, but my hope was to bring the Man in the Yellow Hat to a new city. The kids love it everywhere I’ve been: Denver, Dallas, Boston and Portland. It’s a dam shame that Milwaukee kids will be missing something special because of a coat with a crazy collar.

“What is that, some sort of Northwoods pimp’s coat?”

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Does Skiles miss Kirk Hinrich? It sounded so last night after Hinrich lit up the Bucks for 18 in the 4th in the Bulls 113-104 victory at the BC. Here’s what Skiles said postgame in comments that didn’t make the Milwaukee paper:

“Kirk had a great game, obviously shooting the ball and scoring. He just took our guards and made us look pretty silly on several occasions because he was playing so hard.”

Hinrich has been on the trading block, and a rumored deal between the Bulls and T-Wolves was in the works. That appears to be off. Could the Bucks possibly step in and bring one of Skiles’ Baby Bulls to Milwaukee? Hinrich and Skiles might say aye but sending R.J. to Chicago is pretty unrealistic, especially considering the Bulls just acquired John Salmons.

Luke Ridnour and Dan Gadzuric for Hinrich would help the Bucks out salary-wise next season (cuttng $3.75m in payroll) and send a good backup point guard and a bench big man Chicago’s way. Too bad, though, that the Bulls are fighting for a playoff spot and the last thing they would do is send Hinrich back to the Skiles team ahead of them in the standings.

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