Tag Archives: Larry Harris

Steve Blake should write this Earl Boykins headline

I’m pouring over my ponderous analyses into what the Bucks can and won’t and might possibly do over the next 4-6 weeks to fill the void created by Brandon Jennings‘ fractured left foot — in hopes of finding some sliver of foresight into the great and mystical Lakers-destroying powers of the Bucks’ 5-foot-5, 135-pound, 3rd-string point guard, EARL BOYKINS.

Boykins scored 22 pts in 26 mins, hitting 4 of 5 three-pointers (8-for-12 shooting overall) as the Bucks shocked the Lakers in Los Angeles 98-79, holding the defending champs to 13 points in the 4th quarter while Earl bombed away from 3-point-land.

Boykins was the difference, a game changing advantage off the Bucks bench that not Kobe, Gasol nor Artest and could overcome, much less Steve Blake, the Lakers backup point guard, who happens to be the only player ever traded for Boykins in Earl’s 12-season, 10-team NBA career.

Nope.  I’ve hardly mentioned Boykins this week in the wake of the Bucks’ announcement that Jennings would miss a month or more.  I wrote that Boykins was “too, too short to guard anybody in the NBA,” grumbled about the point guards Bucks GM John Hammond let slip away and then spilled about 500 words mulling over the Bucks point-forward possibilities. “For the most part, it’s incumbent on Keyon Dooling to step up” in the absence of Jennings, I wrote.  Brilliant stuff, wasn’t it?

In my defense, I did describe Boykins as “electrifying” — but failed to even mention in that context that the Bucks had once traded Blake to Denver for Boykins (and Julius Hodge) for Earl’s electrifying entertainment value.  The Bucks were tanking in 2007;  Blake was set to become a free agent at the end of the season and had very little interest in playing for Milwaukee.   Michael Redd wasn’t going to play, coach Terry Stotts was about to be fired and then-GM Larry Harris figured he might as well give Bucks fans a mighty mite scoring machine to watch the rest of the season.  Blake was shipped to Denver; Boykins to Milwaukee.  Harris didn’t offer Boykins a new contract in the summer.  Blake signed with the Trailblazers, the team the Bucks had acquired him from (in a 2006 off-season trade for Jamal Magliore).

When the Bucks picked the 34-year-old Boykins up off the NBA scrap heap this summer, Andrew Bogut and Ersan Ilyasova were all that was left of the 2007 Bucks, effectively making the Scott Skiles Bucks the 10th NBA team Boykins has played for in 12 seasons.

It was all too fitting last night that Blake — again, the only player ever traded for Boykins — was the Laker most often found chasing Boykins around the Staples Center.  Blake — who didn’t score in the game — didn’t fare so well, obviously, and by the time the Lakers subbed Derrick Fisher back in for the stretch, Boykins was  was on fire, shooting guard John Salmons was in a groove and the Bucks were out-strong-arming the Lakers amid a game-clinching 22-7 run.

*********************************

YAHOO’S BUCKS-LAKERS PHOTO GALLERY (from AP).  You’ll want to hit that link before yahoo moves it or zaps me for licensing no-nos.  — AP photographer Jeff Gross reveals with 44 photos the tale of a gritty, determined Bucks team refusing to back down from the Lakers, finally breaking the will of the champs in an 4th quarter.  Gross’ camera zooms in on Andrew Bogut‘s scowling matchup with Lakers’ center Pau Gasol and gives a shot-by-shot narrative of Kobe Bryan’t ejection from the game.  Content Warning: Graphic grimacing, ugly defense, sweat.

Here’s a sample — feel free to insert your own captions below.  Please.

Bogut and Gasol waged a titanic battle, the first half going to Bogut (11 points) as the Bucks successfully established AB’s post game.  Gasol struggled all night to score against the NBA’s 3rd-rated defender as Bogut effectively shut down Gasol as a Lakers first option.  But Bogut repeatedly left Gasol to help on Laker drives and Pau cleaned 7 off the offensive glass to finish with 15 pts and 11 rebs.  Bogut matched his 15  and grabbed 8 rebs, also blocking two shots and taking a late charge on Kobe Bryant that led to Kobe’s ejection.

Dancing big men: In a play that was typical of Gasol’s struggles against AB (the photo at left) Gasol dribbled into Bogut, found his path impeded, stopped, carried the ball as he kept his dribble and tried to force is way around Bogut.  No call was made and the Lakers ended the possession turning it over anyway — but it got coach Skiles off the bench barking at the officials for not whistling Gasol for the carry.

Not surprisingly, the Bucks 98-79 blowout of the Lakers’this week has been largely attributed to the Lakers lack of energy and focus, especially with ESPN pointing all eyes to the Lakers’ marquee Christmas Day showdown with the Heat.  That’s too bad, because the Lakers reported “lack of interest” wasn’t all that evident watching the game live.  They may have “gone through the motions” but isn’t that what the Lakers do until the 4th quarter?  It usually results in a win (after the requisite Kobe highlights) and it’s what they’ve done all season against the softest schedule in the NBA.

The Lakers opponent Tuesday night, the 10-and-16 Bucks, had played the league’s toughest schedule and battled the elite of the West even tougher.  A week before the Lakers game, the Bucks beat the Mavs in Dallas and came within a traveling-on-Manu no-call at the buzzer of forcing overtime in San Antonio.  There was much going into the Bucks-Lakers matchup that had nothing to do with the Lakers state of mind.  Here’s some of it.

1) The Bucks’ pride had been wounded the night before in Portland (a 106-80 loss).  Even without injured point guard Brandon Jennings, there’s talent in the Bucks core.  Center Andrew Bogut is an All-Pro, shooting guard John Salmons a proven 20-point per game scorer, Ersan Ilyasova and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute two young, hustling, hard-nosed forwards who’ve won more than they’ve lost for coach Scott Skiles.  These days, the Bucks core is desperate to prove that last season’s 46 wins were no fluke.  They played with urgency, hunger — and it’s not as though Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, and Matt Barnes off the bench, didn’t.  Media heard nothing from an angry Bryant postgame, and Gasol and Odom weren’t exactly running to the microphones and tape recorders either.

2) The Bucks D, currently rated 6th in the NBA, was solid all night, as stingy as it’s ever been in the 4th quarter as Skiles relied on his core — Bogut, Ilyasova, Mbah a Moute and Salmons — and Boykins.  Bogut had Lakers center Gasol harnessed most of the game, Ilyasova wore down ailing Lamar Odom, who was less and less a factor in the 2nd half, and Mbah a Moute and Salmons’ defense on Kobe was about as good as it gets.  Mbah a Moute, who lives in L.A. and is an off-season friend of Bryant, put on a defensive clinic against his mentor on five or six consecutive possessions in the 4th — and the refs set new Bucks-Lakers precedent by letting them play.  Unfortunately, the clinic didn’t make the highlight reel.  Derrick Fisher and Ron Artest were offensive non-factors — negatives, in fact; and  nobody on the Lakers bench cut loose for a big scoring night, as Shannon Brown did Nov. 16 in Milwaukee.

3) The foul story. The refs whistled more fouls on the Lakers (19) than on the Bucks (18).  That’s unheard of — indeed new precedent for the Skiles Bucks and Phil Jackson-Kobe-Gasol Lakers.  Not coincidentally, Skiles recorded his first win as Bucks coach against Jackson and the Lakers.

4) Bogut, Salmons and Ilyasova. Bogut was a better center than Gasol last night, no big surprise to anybody who’s been paying attention to the Bucks and Bogut since last season. His post-up offense in the first half (11 pts) set the tone — and the stage — for the Bucks upset, and while Gasol scored 15 the Lakers’ offense bogged down repeatedly when the ball went to Gasol posting up against Bogut.

Ilyasova is a rising young power forward in the league who — despite a rough start and an early-season benching by Skiles — has successfully locked horns with the likes of Paul Millsap, Kevin Garnett and now Odom, who’s off to one of his best starts in years.  Odom took it right at the Ilyasova eary in the game for six driving points but forgot to guard Ilyasova’s jumper or block Ersan off the boards.  By halftime, Ilyasova had 13 pts.  By the 4th quarter, Ersan was beating Odom to the glass.  By the final minutes, Odom was resorting to cheap shot fouls on the last of Ilyasova’s 11 rebounds.  Odom finished with 12 pts, 10 rebs. Ersan had 17 and 11.

It can’t be said that Salmons outplayed Kobe, and he had defensive help from Mbah a Moute — but Salmons won the offensive efficiency battle.  Salmons had 20 pts, 6 assists and 2 turnovers.  Kobe had 21 pts on 9-16 shooting but turned it over 4 times and dished for only 2 assists, less than half his play-making average.

At the end of the game, the box score read:  52 pts, 22 rebs, 11 assists and 9 turnovers for Bogut, Ilyasova and Salmons;  to 48 pts, 24 rebs, 10 assists and 9 tos for Gasol, Odom and Kobe.   It looks nearly dead even until you look at the shots taken board — 48 shots for the Lakers to 42 for the Bucks, adjusted for free throw attempts, of course.  That’s a ten-point advantage to Bogut, Ilyasova and Salmons even if the Bucks were shooting 35% — which they weren’t.

With Boykins (4-for-5) and starting point guard Keyon Dooling (2-for-4) shooting a combined 6-of-9 from the Land of Ray and Reggie, the Lakers needed either a Christmas stocking full of big shots from the supporting cast or help from the refs to stay in this game. They got neither.

5) The supporting casts. The Lakers bench, playing against a shorthanded Bucks crew, kept them in the game until early in the 4th quarter, then faltered when the Bucks reserves found a higher energy and intensity gear.  Blake didn’t score in the game.  Shannon Brown disappeared in the 2nd half.   Ron Artest and Derrick Fisher shot a combined 3-for-13 and basically killed the Lakers chances.   Boykins looked ten years younger dribbling circles around 36-year-old Fisher, and Fisher’s strong arm tactics, which might have deterred a younger Earl Boykins, couldn’t slow the 34-year-old Boykins.  Fisher’s usefulness to this Lakers team has got to be nearing its expiration date.

Salmons and Mbah a Moute weren’t about to be physically intimidated by Artest, though Chris Douglas-Roberts was relegated to a quiet 20 mins.  A quiet game for Ron-Ron — but not so out of the ordinary.  He’s had a lot of those in his career.  Both Fisher and Artest generally suffered from the lack of ball movement created by Kobe and Gasol.

6) John Salmons. Fish has found water.  As stupid as that metaphor sounds, it’s a huge relief for the Bucks to have Salmons back to  last season’s 20-pts-per-game form, when the Bucks finished the season 22-8.  Salmons’ shooting woes have helped sink the Bucks to their 11-16 record, and they’re still dead last in NBA shooting percentage.  Yet Salmons lit the Blazers up for 23 pts in the 2nd half Monday and scored an active 20 on 14 shots in LA Tuesday.  The Bucks 40% shooting can’t possibly endure statistical probability, and neither could Salmons’ prolonged slump.

7) The absence of Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden. Maggette, who suffered a concussion last week against the Spurs, was in street clothes on the Bucks bench, hopefully taking notes on the good ball movement and offensive flow that the Bucks had going against the Lakers.  Gooden was in Milwaukee, still suffering from plantar fasciitis in his left foot.  Chemistry has been an issue with the Bucks this season.  As harsh as it sounds, one has to wonder whether the Bucks fourth quarter would have been possible with either of the new acquisitions on the court.

Skiles has been loathe to play Mbah a Moute and Ilyasova together — yet doing so in LA helped lock the Bucks into an aggressive, attacking defense that not even Kobe Bryant could solve.  Chances are that fourth quarter defense would not have happened had Skiles had Gooden or Maggette at his disposal.  And it’s doubtful the Bucks would have exploited Boykins’ hot hand as well as they did given how much Maggette and Gooden demand the ball, sometimes for reasons apparent only to them.  Ersan and Luc played a combined 60:30 — possibly unprecedented — and the Bucks don’t win without them.

8.) The Ersanity Factor. The 11-16 Bucks are now 7-6 when Skiles plays Ersan Ilyasova half the game (24 mins) or more.  Ilyasova played 33 mins in LA.

9) The Lakers. It’s useful to remember that the Lakers were seriously challenged by the Suns in the Western Conference Finals last season, and were more than a little lucky that Artest played the game of his life in Game 7 to beat the Celtics in the Finals (Kendrick Perkins’ injury in Game 6 also duly noted).  Kobe’s Lakers are far from invincible, and never were as good as ESPN — and certainly not Lakers fans — have made them out to be.  Over time — and perhaps as soon as the Christmas Day showdown with the Heat — this loss to the Bucks will look less and less like “a trap game” in which the Lakers “went through the motions,” and more and more like a game in which an up-and-coming young team was tougher — mentally and physically — than a fading champion.

10) The Lakers “deserved to lose.” That’s a post-game quote from Fisher, and I can’t argue with it.  The underrated and shorthanded Bucks, for one night, were the better team.  And 5′-5″ Earl Boykins was better, much better than Derrick Fisher and Steve Blake.

Paint Cleveland Redd ’08: Bucks fans react to trade campaign

Paint it Redd campaign signThe campaign by Cleveland fans to make Michael Redd a Cavalier has, in only its second week, ground its way into the NBA trade mills and hit the rumor boards on ESPN.com and Sports Illustrated’s FanNation. The NBA is on notice: the Bucks are looking to trade.

But what do Bucks fans think of trading leading scorer and one-time All-Star Redd to the Cavaliers?

To be brutally blunt, some of the reaction has been brutal and blunt. In fact, terrible things have been said about Lebron’s supporting cast in Cleveland. I can only imagine what Bucks fans think of players on teams that didn’t play in the 2007 NBA Finals or push the Celtics to seven games in this year’s Eastern Conference semifinals.

Other fans have been supportive, even reasonable, while others are naturally skeptical. If there is any concensus it’s that the Bucks might be able to find a team that can offer more player value in a trade for Redd than Cleveland(say, Dallas and small forward Josh Howard). Generally, Bucks fans are more receptive if the Cavs 25-year-old big man, Anderson Varejao, is part of the deal.

A recurring theme is that Bucks fans are surprisingly difficult traders, given a roster that’s won 54 games in two seasons.

“Cavs fans, we aren’t good trading partners,” signs fan ReddBogutCharlieV to his posts at realgm.com. “Stop trying to make us such.”

Let’s review the anatomy of this Redd-to-Cleveland beast:

The trade centers on two players contracts: Michael Redd’s (3 years/$51 million/$15.8M next year) and veteran G-F Wally Szczerbiak‘s (one-year/$13.2M). Cleveland has other “expiring” contracts that when pieced together work with Redd’s, but let’s be realistic: There is almost no chance the Cavs would pay Redd and Szczerbiak a combined $29 million to suit up next year. Wally would come to the Bucks and his contract would expire at the end of next season, creating some salary cap relief, which the Bucks don’t have a dime of now.

What else do the Cavs have to offer the Bucks? Assuming Bucks GM John Hammond will want players who could at minimum join the Bucks rotation next season, two young players who played key roles in the Cavs run to the 2007 Finals stand out: Varejao and 21-year-old guard Daniel “Boobie” Gibson.

Gibson is a free agent, which would require a sign and trade deal. The Cavs are loathe to trade their sharpshooter, who made his mark during the run to the Finals. Gibson scored 31 points to eliminate Detroit in Game 6 of the conference finals last year. 

Varejao, a relentless 6’10” rebounder and tough defender, will be paid $6 million next year and has a player option for 2009-10, which means he could leave the Bucks in free agency unless Hammond makes the type of commitment Cleveland GM Danny Ferry refused to make. Things got ugly last year during Varejao’s contract negotiations, and Varejao is rumored to be on the trading block.

Varejao’s salary matches Dan Gadzuric’s 3-year/$20M, which the Bucks would love to trade anywhere they could.

Complicated?

Cleveland has the #19 pick in the draft, and that’s simple enough.


Let’s go first to our old friend, Bucks fan Al in Ohio:

“Unless the Bucks decide they really, really want Szczerbiak’s expiring contract (which to me means they decide to kind of write off next year, and look toward 2009-2010), I just don’t see where a Szczerbiak/Gibson/maybe Pavlovic? package makes the Bucks noticeably better. Let’s not forget: Gibson is not much of a PG. He’s a great shooter (although he’s even smaller than Mo) but in terms of PG skills, there’s nothing about him that really stands out.”


Daniel Gibson Detroit Game 6BobBoozerJinx:  Hold up, Al. Gibson’s not a point guard, he’s a shooting guard; and at 6’2″ Boobie’s taller than Mo (who really is kinda short). We’re not off to a very good start here.

RealGM Bucks forum moderator PaulPressey25:

“I have no problem sending Redd to Cleveland if he takes Gadz contract with him and we bring back [Varejao], #19, and Gibson, plus their salary deadweight.”


Bucks fan Europa on the realGM forum:

“It’s my hope that if Hammond can’t find a better deal for Redd than anything the Cavs can offer on their own that he just keeps him. I really don’t like the idea of giving Redd away.”


GlennInTampa on the JSOnline Bucks Blog:

“Gibson and Szczerbiak for Michael Redd? Loserville! Add Varejao and maybe. Maybe.”


jpaul34 on the Sportsbubbler fan forum:

“I don’t think Gibson, Szczerbiak and the 19th is anywhere near enough for Redd. I’d like to see how this group (the Bucks, with a couple of changes) reacts to playing for a new coach with a strong voice. I think the talent is there, but they definitely need direction.”


Jpaul blogs at The Scores Report, where he predicts that the Bucks will “give Redd, Mo, Yi and Bogut a half of a season to gel before making any major moves.”

Frank at Brewhoop:

“If the Bucks pull a salary dump of Redd then I’d have to get more than Wally World and Boobie Gibson — at the very least I’d want to add Varejao and Gadzuric into the mix plus some picks. Even then I’m not sure how compelling it is. Agent Dan Fegan would love having his clients Yi and Varejao battle for minutes, wouldn’t he?”




DAWG 13 On the JSOnline Bucks forum: 

“It’s amazing how many of you guys want to trade Redd. I’ve got nothing against it but lets face it, he’s by far and away our best player. If we trade him we need to get value, not role players as some have suggested. If properly coached Redd can be an allstar again. I’ll bet the people wanting to trade Redd also supported the Ray Allen trade, look how that worked out.”


BBJ:  Nope. The Ray Allen trade was a maniacal ploy by George Karl that, to this day, no one understands.

ReddBogutCharlieV on RealGM:

“Something revolved around Varejao and Gibson plus a pick. Or else we’ll have to get a third team involved.”


Isocleas2 on RealGM

“Bucks trade: Redd, Gadzuric – Cavs trade: Varejao, Wally, #19.  This trade is starting to grow on me. We shed salary, pick up a couple of good players in Varejao and the pick, and Wally’s expiring contract could possibly be used in a deadline trade.”


The Brewtown Beat sportsblog:

“First, I don’t want Boobie Gibson. The Bucks already have Mo Williams, and seem poised to add Eric Gordon with their 8th pick. That’s three undersized shooting guards if you’re counting at home. Sorry, but no thanks. I don’t want Wally Szczerbiak, but I realize we’ll need to bring back a large contract in return. That being said though, Cleveland is going to have to take some of our bad contracts, just as they expect us to do in return.”


BBJ:  That’s not very nice. That Bobby Simmons contract is really bad.

Smooth32, a Cavs fan, weighs in on RealGM:

“Don’t get too high on Boobie guys … The kid isn’t expected to go anywhere this summer. …Varejao is definitely available, as well as the expirings…  Everyone else is pretty much fair game but I think they would like to keep West, Smith and the #19 pick.”


BBJ:  If the Cavs get to keep Boobie, the Bucks get the # 19 pick. You can’t have it both ways Smooth.

Raferfenix on RealGM:

“Varejao will have a lot of value to a team that wants to commit to him long term — I’m not convinced that’s the Bucks as he’ll probably end up being overpaid, and especially considering he’d be a backup here. I don’t think Hammond would do that.”


love hoops on the Sportsbubbler fan forum

“I would hope Mr. Hammond wouldn’t even consider this trade with the Cavs. The only player they got is Lebron. Maybe trading CV to the Cavs, but not Redd; we can get more for him. … If we could get quality for quality, then maybe take a look at trade.”


Johnny Newman on Realgm:

“I say fold this topic up. We got enough bait to land us AK47 and Jermaine O’Neal. While keeping Bogut, Yi, Bell, Session. Good enough core and line up.”


BBJ:  Sorry Johnny, too early in the hand to fold. Did you say Andrei Kirilenko and Jermaine O’Neil?



NotYoAvgNBAFan on RealGM:

“Hogwash! What are you doing!? Redd is your major chip, you don’t trade him to a divisional rival for cow manure of a motley crew such as that!”


BBJ:  Reactions like this are the reason too many expiring contracts do not make for friendly trading. Cleveland’s got some manure, including former Bucks Damon Jones (2003-04) and Joe Smith (who asked to be traded out of Milwaukee in 2007), and Eric Snow (set to retire). “Dung!” barked nuttinbutta Big Dog balla party.

MontanaMan on JSOnline Bucks blog:

“I still would rather see Redd get traded to a team other than the Cavs. It’s too good for the Cavs and for Redd, but may not good enough for the Bucks (as compared to what it can do for the Cavs). … If they included Varejao, Gibson, and a draft pick, and take Gadzuric and his contract away, then I would say it’s very good for the Bucks.


Coolhandluke121 on RealGM:

“West, Varejao, Pavlovic, #19, and some expiring deals have solid value. But for the me the Cavs would have to sweeten the deal by also taking Gadz’s terrible contract and throwing in their 2011 draft pick, which could be top-5 if Lebron leaves. Which he may want to do if the Cavs are paying Redd and Gadz a combined $26 mill starting in 2011. I would give up Redd for a deal like that for the simple reason that Redd is not all that hard to replace. To me, it’s not about whether it’s equal value.”


BBJ:  What it does seem to be about is whether Bucks fans want to trade Redd or not. There are Bucks fans who have not/will not renew their ticket packages if Michael Redd is on the team. Others would trade him for a case of beer and a Bob Boozer Jinx subscription. Still others think he deserves a sixth shot at winning in Milwaukee as a starter.

Bucks fans didn’t just begin talking about trading Redd to Cleveland with the start of the Paint Cleveland Redd ’08 campaign. It came up before the trading deadline this year. During the Cavs 1st round playoff series with the Wizards, I proposed a trade here with that phone call to Lebron (he still hasn’t changed his cell phone number, believe it or not).

About ten days later it came up on RealGM. The Cavs had dropped Game 1 of the East semifinals to Boston. The question on the forum: What could the Cavs offer the Bucks in trades for Mo Williams or Redd?

Paulpressey25:

“Mo for Varejao and Gibson. Redd for Varajao/Gibson/Cav’s 2008 #1/Wally as filler.”


DrugBust:

“Redd for Wally and #19, and a 2010 pick works for me.”


Sigra:

“Varejao, Pavlovic, Smith and their pick for Redd works for me.”


Luke 23:

“I say this in all seriousness that the only player on the Cavs I would actually covet on the Bucks is LeBron. The rest of their roster is just yuck. I can’t even think of a deal for either off the top of my head, considering the Cavs pick 19th, would want a higher pick than that.”


Dow Jones:

“I guess the issue is whether or not you want to get rid of Mo and/or Redd. If you don’t, then there is nothing that the Cavs could do. If you do, I think Cleveland is one of the few teams that would want to make a deal.

“I don’t really see how the Bucks could get much value for Redd or Mo. I know [there is] talk about a [Josh] Howard for Redd swap, but that type of deal doesn’t make sense for Dallas.  What other deals are out there for Redd and Mo that Milwaukee fans would consider?”


Vecsey tabs Terry Porter on head coaches’ list

How short is the list of great coaching candidates in the NBA today?  Very short. Maybe even shorter than the shelf life of a Larry Brown commitment.

After the five big names mentioned by every team in the coaching market – Jeff Van Gundy, Larry Brown, Rick Carlisle, Scott Skiles and Mike Fratello – the first name tossed into the “available” ring by New York Post columnist Peter Vecsey is none other than former Bucks coach Terry Porter.

Seems that Vecsey, like many Bucks fans, thinks Porter was unfairly fired by Kohl back in 2005, and deserves a second chance. In retrospect, maybe Porter doesn’t lose his job at all it had occured to the senator and GM Larry Harris to find out if the coach they wanted, Flip Saunders, would actually come to work for them.

Find the replacement first, then fire the coach. That’s the Detroit way. Joe Dumars and John Hammond had Larry Brown all lined up when they fired Rick Carlisle in 2003. And they had Flip Saunders ready to go shortly after ridding themselves of Brown two years later. I’d be very surprised if Hammond does things differently in Milwaukee, firing Krystkowiak before he’s found his replacement.

However Hammond proceeds, Vecsey offered up Porter’s name as his top suggestion to coach the Memphis Grizzlies, based on speculation that the Grizzlies might not land Larry Brown, whom they’ve been considering as GM/coach. Vecsey figures Brown will seek greener pastures than Memphis and that the other top candidates, Carlisle and Skiles, will be headed for other teams.

How Krystkowiak could keep his job

No, I’m not a contrarian, I’m not. But even as basketball geniuses writing everywhere have begun chiseling epitaphs for Bucks Coach Larry Krystkowiak, there is one characteristic of the NBA today that works in Kristykowiak’s favor. In fact it’s this very same factor that helped Krystkowiak land in the Milwaukee head coach’s chair this season:

The list of great coaches available to take the Bucks job is short. The list of decent, if not good coaches, isn’t too long either. New Bucks GM John Hammond doesn’t have much to choose from, and neither do the Knicks, Bulls or Grizzlies.

Peter Vecsey pointed out yesterday in his New York Post column that the teams in the market for head coaches all have the same names on their short lists: Larry Brown, Scott Skiles, Rick Carlisle, Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Fratello. (Props to BrewHoop for posting the link).

The guy just about every team wants, including his old team, the Houston Rockets, is Jeff Van Gundy. He’s also the toughest to hire – he doesn’t like the travel and has a cush job with ESPN. If Hammond can get Van Gundy, he’s even better at this GM thing than people say he is.

Next up, Larry Brown. A Hall of Fame coach, one of the best there is. But Larry Brown just can’t seem to settle down. Brown’s six years with Iverson in Philly is the longest commitment he’s kept in his coaching career, going all the way back to his ABA days. Hammond’s been through the Brown routine already in Detroit.

Pistons GM Joe Dumars showed Larry the door when Brown began talking to Cleveland about GM moves DURING THE 2006 PLAYOFFS.!!!  No way Hammond hires Brown, not if he’s serious about building the Bucks long term. Besides, Brown has expressed interest in the Bulls coaching job, and other recent speculation has him dabbling in Atlanta’s coaching/GM drama. Doesn’t Brown work for the Sixers?

Mike Fratello? Not the defensive-minded coach Hammond and the Bucks need, but an interesting idea. He coached the Grizzlies to the playoffs twice and was summarily canned by Jerry West the following season when, due to injuries, the team started slowly.

Fratello’s not on Hammond’s short list according to any report I’ve seen, but is a more experienced coach than the two who reportedly are on the list: Carlisle and Skiles.

Rick Carlisle is a demanding, by most accounts unpleasant coach who had a rough time in Indiana with a team that couldn’t control its nastiness, after being fired by Dumars and Hammond in Detroit. If a young coach in Indiana can communicate at all with a goon like Ron Artest and get him to help you win 71 games including playoffs (which Carlisle did in 2004), he’s better than a good coach. That’s the rub working against Hammond with Carlisle – he’s in demand. Chicago definitely wants him; Carlisle’s on New York’s short list too; a couple of other jobs could be Carlisle’s for the taking as the dregs of the NBA head into the offseason.

“Should Carlisle get hired by the Bulls that almost certainly would mean Skiles would wind up with Milwaukee,” writes Vecsey. That’s a strong statement. Somehow I don’t see Skiles moving up I-94 to coach in Milwaukee. 

Why? Scott Skiles began this season with high expectations and a Chicago Bulls team loaded with talent. By early season he begged off the job because he didn’t feel that he was getting through to his players. Kirk Hinrich and Big Ben Wallace have never struck me as guys who are unresponsive to coaching, so one has to wonder what really happened in Chicago? Milwaukee players – four of them in particular – don’t respond to their coach either. Is Skiles really a better option than Krystkowiak? Probably not.

There is one other factor working in Krystkowiak’s favor: Larry Krystkowiak. 

Hammond does not strike me as someone who makes a move without all of his ducks in a row. In this case, that means he’s not likely to fire Krystkowiak until he’s got an in-depth account of what happened in the Bucks locker room this season, which players balked at the team plan and why, and has a replacement lined up. If Hammond can’t work something out with Carlisle, and Krystkowiak makes a strong case to Hammond, the new GM might give him one more year and begin moving some players.

It could happen. I’m not saying it will happen, but, given Krystkowiak’s integrity and willingness to accept responsibility, to admit mistakes and perhaps learn from them, he’s a guy you want to keep around moreso than some of his players.

Don Nelson didn’t become a great coach overnight. He became great in Milwaukee because owner Jim Fitzgerald stuck with him despite a five-year drought between playoff series wins. Alright, alright, we had first round byes three of those years, but, still, we couldn’t get to the conference finals until 1983, Nellie’s sixth year.

Krystkowiak may yet grow to become the great coach Hammond and Bucks fans want. Stranger things have happened at Milwaukee Bucks Inc. 

Take for example, Michael Redd’s contract, which this season pays Redd more than Lebron James.

Hammond Hiring a Good News Shock for Bucks Fans

John HammondJust when you thought Bucks owner Herb Kohl had become desperate in his search for a new GM as even the most loyal Bucks fans flirted with apathy, Kohl has stunned us all with what appears to be one of the smartest moves possible: Detroit Pistons vice president of basketball operations John Hammond.

Hammond, Pistons GM Joe Dumars right-hand man since 2001, helped build the decade of Eastern Conference dominance they’re still enjoying in Detroit, and manages the Pistons basketball operations. But Hammond is much more than an able administrator: he served two seperate sentences coaching in the gulog of NBA futility gulog that is the Los Angeles Cippers (the first stint as an assistant to Larry Brown) and coached in Detroit under Doug Collins during the Grant Hill years. 

In running the Pistons, if Hall of Famer Dumars looked at things from a players’ perspective, Hammond gave the coaches’ perspective. However the Dumars-Hammond relationship worked, it has worked, and transforming the style of Eastern Conference basketball to the tough, defense oriented, “it takes five” approach we see today. As dominant as Lebron James can be on the offensive end, the East is still the half of the NBA where defense is king.

Hammond’s hiring is a big surprise because the initial reaction to the Bucks request to the Pistons for permission to talk to Hammond was rejected.  

Fortune and Hammond then had a change of heart, just when it seemed Kohl was at wits end in his GM search and even the ever-churning NBA rumor mill had ground to a halt — after spitting out for consideration nearly every right-hand-man, vice president of operations in the league. Kohl had competed with the Knicks for Donnie Walsh and lost (did Kohl really believe he could could compete with Madison Square Garden, still considered by many to be the greatest basketball stage on the planet?). Broadcast analyst Doug Collins, Hammond’s former employer, had again rejected Herb’s advances. Even some of those second-line candidates, such as Phoenix VP David Griffin, had backed away after being interviewed by the Bucks.

The hour did indeed become desperate for Kohl, as he considered interviewing the right-hand-man at one of his favorite supper spots, Ma Fischer’s Restaurant on the East Side. My inside sources tell me that Herb decided against the interview when the restaurant operations guy suggested that, ideally, he would want free reign to make the changes, and thought dangling Michael Redd out on the trade wire might not be such a bad idea. Kohl wasn’t too comfortable with this manager’s attitude but didn’t formally nix the interview until learning his name was Larry.

When fired Sixer GM Billy King, the man Allen Iverson made infamous, surfaced as a candidate this week, Kohl appeared to be at wits end in his search. Bucks fans feared the worst. But then Hammond came out of nowhere and changed his mind.

How and why this happened we’ll soon learn, but it’s very unlikely Hammond took the job without assurances that he would indeed get to make Bucks basketball decisions free of interference from the owner. Maybe the senator convinced him that what NBA wags like ESPN’s Stein call Kohl’s “growing reputation for meddling” is unfair and unearned. Maybe he told Hammond it was fair and earned but promised to change his ways.

Whatever the case, Hammond, who’s had other offers, probably doesn’t take the job without a guarantee that he’ll be in control of the coaching and player personel decisions. If Rick Carlisle’s his man as head coach, as ESPN sources say he is, the Bucks get a winning coach who was right there in Detroit with Dumars and Hammond in 2001 as they began building a contender.

That’s probably bad news for any number of players notorious for their soft defense, including Michael Redd, but that’s best left to a post of its own.