On Friday morning, Milwaukee Bucks owner Sen. Herb Kohl and general manager John Hammond addressed media at the team's training center in St. Francis regarding a number of compelling issues.
Topics of conversation ranged from the contract status of head coach Scott Skiles, to a potential contract extension for Brandon Jennings, to the quest for a "quality big man," to the need for a new basketball arena in the near future. In other words, pretty much everything was on the table, leaving fans plenty of material to work through as we enter what could be another very busy summer.
On the other side of the jump I've assembled a brief summary of the most important points, and all the most relevant quotes. Moreover, we have the full 55 minutes of video and audio for you to check out for yourself. Let's get to it...
The press conference last nearly an hour and can be listened to at WSSP or viewed on the Journal-Sentinel's youtube page, so if you have time to burn it's worth investing part of your weekend. Bucks.com also has a few minutes of the high points, as well as a separate video on the new arena discussion specifically.
Video can be viewed below, with highlights transcribed with our commentary below.
Hammond On Skiles Returning: "In regards to Scott and that situation, we're very excited to have him back as coach. He's a quality coach and I think one of the better coaches in the NBA, one of the top coaches in NBA, and to have someone of that caliber coaching our team is the best decision for us. He's excited and I know he's ready to go to work and is anticipating a good season next year."
Kohl On Skiles: "We had productive discussions when the season ended to make sure that we are all on same path. They were very spirited discussions and everybody had a chance to express themselves in a very open way...Scott is eager and excited to come back. To improve upon where we are now, because we didn't get to the playoffs so we're not satisfied. If you're not in the playoffs, at a minimum, you can't be satisfied. We're not satisfied."
Kohl On Hammond And Skiles: "This is a results kind of a business that we're in, and we measure ourselves by results, and we were supposed to be in the playoffs. We didn't get there. We should still be playing. We are not still playing. If you want to know whether of not we are happy, no. We are not happy. Why should we be happy?"
Kohl On The Contract Status Of Hammond And Skiles: "John [Hammond] is contracted to be with us this coming year. [Scott] Skiles is contracted to be with us this coming year. We are looking for good and great results, and a long and happy relationship. It's on that basis that we are going forward... We all work from day-to-day and week-to-week and year-to-year, and we all understand that's life. John is a very high-quality executive in the NBA. Scott is a high-quality coach in the NBA. So I'm very grateful to have both of them with us." He also confirmed there are no talk about a contract extension for Skiles or Hammond at this point.
Steve's note: Hammond's body language and thousand-yard stare are kind of fun to watch. It''s likely just the by-product of his focus on Kohl's words, but it's fun nevertheless.
Frank's note: It's all fine and good for Kohl to say he'll let Hammond and Skiles earn it this year, but I also worry what it says about the franchise when the owner is on-board with an incentive system that basically focuses purely on making the playoffs in 12/13. In most scenarios, an owner would have to be concerned that a GM on a one-year contract would be willing to mortgage the future to save the present, but--and here's what feels frustrating if you're a fan of this team--you get the feeling that Kohl is on board with that. I'm not suggesting the Bucks are going to ship out all their young players and picks for 32-year-olds, but clearly it has an effect.
Hammond On The Direction Of The Team: "I look at this past season and I don't look at our team and say it's broke [sic]. We have good players. Do we have some holes that need to be filled? No question about that, we do. But we went through a tough season this past year. We started out the season 2-1, we headed out West and played at Denver and lost that game. We were 2-2. Andrew Bogut has a personal issue and that he had to take care of, he misses the next five games. He came back and played eight, I think, and then was out for the remained of the season. That was a tough blow...you look around the NBA, ala the Orlando Magic and the Chicago Bulls without Derrick Rose: it's not easy. For the Milwaukee Bucks to play without Andrew Bogut? Not easy."
"And we regrouped. We found a way to kinda be competitive again, headed in the right direction. We made the trade, and that helped us. I think we ended up the second half of the season 18-15, and you know it's a conversation...if we had that team the entire season, the team we played with the second half of the year, would we have been a +.500 team? Could we have been a winning team? Could we have made the playoffs? A lot of would haves, could haves, should haves, but I think that's a possibility for us. So when you talk about what we're going to do, I think continuity is an issue for us."
Frank's note: How you interpret this line of reasoning is a good litmus test for where you stand on the Bucks and Hammond, because this one hit all the major pain points that many people have over the current regime. You can certainly question the logic behind basically equating Bogut's loss with other teams losing superstars, and beyond wonder why Hammond would make that kind of statement about a guy who was traded.
Moreover, the talk about getting back over .500 and into the playoffs, and the importance of having more continuity, will likely cause a lot of heartburn for anyone who wants the team to eschew its short-term focus and look longer term--ie developing young talent and talking (however vaguely) about contending for a championship. Let's make no mistake: the Bucks clearly believe in an incremental approach to building a team--think Memphis or Indiana--and they're not even entertaining contention right now. I can't recall anyone referencing championships or even championship contention yesterday, though maybe I'm missing something. Does that make them short-sighted, realistic...or both?
Hammond On The Offseason Plan: "We sure don't have any idea what's going to happen, but each year that we've been here we've made a major change at the draft, a major trade, and come back with significant amount of new players each season. We are hoping that doesn't occur. We have no idea what could occur, something could be the right move for us...but I think continuity is important for us... we're bringing back a team that we think can be competitive. We know it can't come back as-is. We've got a draft pick...we have a starting point, we just need to get better."
Kohl On Next Season: "When you look at our team today, if you imagine this team coming back next year with a dominant inside player, you'd feel really good about where we are. At least I would. If you look at this team with say Bogut coming back or mention any others you might think about, you'd say all the other pieces are pretty well in place to be not just a playoff team, but maybe a very good team. The 1-2-3-4 positions (PG, SG, SF, PF) are pretty well covered, and we have a good bench...We're not playing right now (in the NBA Playoffs), so it's certainly not good enough. But when you look to where we want to improve for next year, we want a real quality big man. This is not to downplay the big people we have right now. There's some real promise there. Ekpe has a very good future. Larry Sanders showed that he has a huge upside, so we feel pretty good about where we are. But we know where we need to get better and I anticipate we will get better."
Steve's note: Pro Tip: It's probably not a great idea to mention that a player like Andrew Bogut is your biggest need in the offseason after you just willingly traded him away at the deadline.
Hammond On The Trade For Monta Ellis: "Obviously we changed our team when we traded Andrew, and we changed our team in adding Monta [Ellis] in particular. We've always had questions since we've been here about how we are going to score the ball. That's been our Achilles, and that's no longer our Achilles..."
Steve's note: Hammond relayed a story from Carlos Delfino from his time with the Detroit Pistons, where he was taught by veterans like Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups to push his offense of counterpart towards Ben Wallace if all else failed. Similarly, Delfino told Hammond he coached up young players for the Bucks by telling them to push their man towards Andrew Bogut. In other news, I miss Andrew Bogut.
Frank's note: It definitely was a bit strange that Bogut was mentioned as much as he was and in the way he was during the presser, both by Kohl and Hammond. Almost seemed like they were subtly implying they didn't want to trade him in the first place.
Hammond On The Identity Of The Team"We can find a way to defend. Maybe it's going to take a little more energy. Maybe it's going to take a little more effort...The two factors, you say we are not as good of a defending team and we are not as good of the rebounding team. But when you start talking about those points, what's the most important aspect in being a good defensive team rebounding team? Well you can say we need the size, but most of all what you need is the ultimate effort and guys that say 'you know what, I'm committed to defending and I'm committing to rebounding the ball.' So we have to have that kind of mindset."
Steve's note: That sounds a whole lot the like Bucks are going to be competitive bidders for Ersan Ilyasova's services this summer...he's definitely one of those effort guys. Also, the company tag line is apparently "everybody needs to do their job just a little bit better." Hammond said it four of five times around the 13-minute mark.
Hammond Responding To Why The Bucks Will Be Different Than The Golden State Warriors With Two Small Guards And No Legitimate Center: "Well, every team is a little different. We are not exacty the Golden State Warriors. They are not exactly us. There are some undersized teams that are effective in the NBA...of the 30 teams in the NBA there are maybe 13 centers...We always want size in this league, but if we don't have it, and there are a lot of teams that don't have it, you can find a way to survive. You just have to be a little better and a little more committed, and we are going to try to add some size along the way, too."
Steve's note: Hammond mentions the Atlanta Hawks normally starting Al Horford at center and the Utah Jazz going with Al Jefferson as examples of teams getting away from the traditional center model. I am not impressed, considering the Bucks have neither of those players.
Frank's note: A very valid question from WSSP's Sparky Fifer, and there was definitely some hand-waving here. See Monta discussion below.
On Monta Ellis' Position: He's a little bigger than you think...He's a legitimate 6-foot-3, so he's not a little as you'd think. But he's a two-guard [SG], first and foremost, because he can score the ball at the rate that he can. He's just an under-sized two."
Steve's note: I agree, Monta can "score the ball at the rate that he can." I disagree that the noted rate qualifies him as a SG. Either that, or there are TONS of shooting guards out there. Hammond specifically quoted Ellis' 20 ppg scoring average as evidence. Excuse me while I light myself on fire (again).
Frank's note: It'd be silly for Hammond to undersell anyone on his roster at this point, so I'll hold off on assuming the Bucks are married to Monta. But certainly nothing discussed today would suggest the Bucks are desperately shopping him--which begs the question, what would the Bucks accept in a trade for Ellis?
Kohl On Working For A New Arena In Milwaukee: "We think it's important for our community, for our state, for Milwaukee to be represented in the NBA. Now in order for that to continue, we have to have a new facility. There isn't anybody that doesn't recognize that and understand that it has to happen. And we are no longer talking about it as some point in the future, we are talking about beginning to make plans to get it done. We've had some conversations with the NBA about it, we are looking to extend our lease for a relatively short time at the Bradley Center...so what we are looking to do is sign a rather short-term extension while we get busy right now on planning for a new facility. So we are not just talking about it, we are actively working on it and we'll get into high gear, I hope, soon on trying to accomplish our goal."
Kohl On If He Will Make a Personal Financial Commitment To A New Arena: "I'm sure I will at some time."
"Recognizing how hard it is to get financing for any sports facility in America today, nevertheless I believe we are going to have a shot at getting it done. The maximum effort will be put forth not just by the Bucks, because we couldn't get it done alone, but by the business sector and the public sector and hopefully the media all recognizing that it's not a wish thing, it's a must thing for us to continue as a member in the NBA."
Steve's note: Pretty good news here. Kohl's potential commitment of cash would do wonders in any public push for a new arena, and the distinguished Senator sounded as firm as ever about wanting to keep NBA basketball in Milwaukee, WI, so it all sounds encouraging at this point.
Kohl On Whether He Wants An Arena Built Before He Sells The Team: "Well, I don't know how long I'll own the team. You know it's not forever. So I don't coincide one with the other. But it's important to get it done and obviously you'd like to get it done as soon as you can, but that's not going to be tomorrow."
Frank's note: Keep in mind that a huge chunk of Kohl's personal wealth is tied up in the value of the team itself, so in that sense selling the team would enable him to make a much larger contribution. Similarly, getting a new arena lined up would make the team much more valuable to any suitors who want to keep the team local--both in terms of economic value as well as getting a huge hassle/uncertainty out of the way. So there's an interesting parallel path that could emerge--might Kohl set up a scenario where he sells the team (or a large part of it) on the condition that he and local business/public dollars are also pitching in for a new arena. It will not doubt be a tough chess game to pull off, but might be the most appealing to everyone involved.
Kohl On Whether The NBA Is Offering Support: "The league is cooperating with us. They are happy to see that we want to make the effort. They support that. They (wanted) to see us get it done. And I think that's good and sufficient. They don't oppose our desire and wish to make the effort to stay in Milwaukee...They probably would say, if they were sitting here, that without a new facility, Milwaukee's chances of remaining a part of the NBA are not robust. So yeah, we are on the same page with the NBA."
Hammond On The No. 12 Pick: "You look at a late-lottery pick...for the most part what you're hoping is to get a strong rotation player at a pick like that."
Steve's note: That's a very reasonable way to assess their draft slot. I still think Hammond has a good handle on this aspect of the job, Joe Alexander notwithstanding.
Frank's note: He also talked about multiple tiers in the draft, with a 2-6 pick range after the first overall pick and then the next tier running perhaps as far down as 18. He said they'd be open to trading down in that scenario, but then also gave lip service to trading up as well. Basically, anything can happen.
Hammond On Whether The Bucks Have Made Decisions On Any FAs NOT Coming Back: "We're talking about continuity and for the most part our roster is in tact. We have a couple free agents in Ersan and Carlos, but we have an interest in both those guys and both those guys returning of course. We've done our evaluations, we think we know what our strengths are and what our weaknesses are and what we need to address."
Steve's note: Hammond is playing his cards right at this point in the process, and basically said he doesn't feel like they need to overpay to keep Jennings, so that's a good thing. He's a tough player to value and monetize, so the process of initial negotiations should be interesting. Just make sure Jennings' team doesn't read Hammond's comments about Monta and his value because he's a 20 ppg scorer...
Hammond on Ersan Ilyasova: "Ersan had a great season and you know one thing about Ersan is that you know the one thing you're going to get out of him every single night is effort. He can't help himself, he's going to play as hard as he possibly can every singly night and you can live with that for sure. What he did this year was he just shot the ball so much better than he has in the past, especially from three, and he turned out to be a real stretch power forward, and those guys are so valuable to have on your team, and that's what I think created some value for him around the league, too. It's not going to be easy for us to re-sign him and we know that. But he did have a great year and we're happy for him, and hopefully he'll be right back with us."
Steve's note: It's nice that Hammond specifically mentioned Ersan's spike in three-point shooting (I will have a more thorough breakdown of Ersan's big season on Monday), so maybe the team will set a reasonable high point in negotiations this summer. Here's to hoping.
On Whether They'd Amnesty Gooden To Bring Back Ersan: "No. I don't think we'd look at that."
Steve's note: Do you know who had the second-highest PER for the Bucks in 2011-12? That's right, Drew Gooden. Take that, haters!
Frank's note: Not surprising in the sense that if they didn't amnesty him last year, then they probably wouldn't do it after a season in which he played about as well as could be expected (insert disclaimer here). That said, I'm still hoping they look for ways to dump him via trade, since that might actually be vaguely possible at this point. Because signing Ersan to a new deal over the mid-level AND owing Gooden $20 million? Not my idea of roster optimization.
Want more on the Bucks? Take a listen to our latest podcast: