Just five more days before we see Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker sharing a court for the first time, but to tide you over until then you'll have to settle for the above footage of Parker doing his thing at a Chi City League pro-am this weekend. Consider it some last-minute cramming before the Bucks' summer league squad heads to Vegas to prepare for Friday night's opener against Andrew Wiggins and the Cavaliers. [h/t Golden State of Mind]
Speaking of Vegas, Jason Kidd will be there getting familiar with his new team, and in the meantime his campaign to smooth over his rocky entrance continues.
Missed this earlier. Kidd, on Milwaukee: "No place I'd rather be." pic.twitter.com/Xf4gQs4NDz— Eric Buenning (@ericbuenning) July 7, 2014
Save Our Bucks: Four Thoughts on Jason Kidd
And speaking of Kidd, be sure to check out Save Our Bucks' latest on the Kidd hiring. Some very good historical perspective on why the loud noises surrounding Kidd's arrival don't matter nearly as much as the organization's ability to effectively and coherently move forward.
My view: As much as Kidd's clumsy entrance left the door open for media moralizing--#HOTTAKES FOR EVERYONE!--I can't imagine the half life on any Larry Drew-inspired rage to be particularly long. And while last week's introductory presser wasn't particularly satisfying, we never really should have expected to learn anything new in the first place. Marc Lasry and Wes Edens correctly admitted fault in how the hiring was handled--both with Drew's firing and John Hammond not being involved initially--while Kidd predictably dodged questions related to his purported power-play in Brooklyn. What, you expected dirty laundry to be aired? Kidd could have had more finesse in how he evaded questions, but that's more a matter of style than substance.
And substance is how all of this will ultimately be judged. Great introductory press conference didn't help Drew or Larry Krystkowiak avoid quick hooks, and if Kidd flops or becomes the origin of broader organizational dysfunction, both the new coach and the owners who wanted him will look bad. Full stop. If everyone gets along, the young guys develop, and the Bucks eventually build a winner (and a new arena) then everyone looks great. Everyone should understand that at this point.
So the focus now has to be on avoiding further missteps or deviation from the rebuilding project that had everyone so excited two weeks ago. A clear move in the right direction--i.e. a trade or signing that nets the Bucks future assets or young players--would certainly help, as would a great week in Vegas from Jabari and Giannis. The team might have lost some goodwill over the past week, but they have the chance to earn it back in short order.
JS: Bucks consider free agent point guards
Bucks fans know that the Journal-Sentinel doesn't have a history of running random trade or free agency rumors, which is what made it all the more interesting to see Charles Gardner write over the weekend about the Bucks' reported interest in Eric Bledsoe, Greivis Vasquez and Jeremy Lin. We might presume then there is at least some substance to Marc Stein's reports involving that trio on Saturday, though we should caution against assuming anything is imminent. Both Gardner and Yahoo's Marc Spears have hinted that the $15 million owed Lin this season could on its own be a deal-breaker, and the Rockets' motivation for dumping Lin in the first place--to clear max salary room for Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh--is far from a sure thing in the first place. Add in the fact that Daryl Morey's old protege Sam Hinkie also has interest in a Lin salary dump and it would seem like the odds are stacked against the Bucks and Rockets striking a deal.
Bledsoe is similarly a long-shot, though for very different reasons. The Bucks would need to somehow convince Bledsoe to want to sign an offer sheet first, and then the Suns would have to either not match it or agree to a sign-and-trade deal before it happens (note: technically you can't sign-and-trade a guy once he actually signs an offer sheet). The former would almost certainly require a maximum four-year, $60+ million offer sheet, while the latter would likely require multiple assets in order to convince Phoenix to move on. And as much as I consider Bledsoe the only big free agent who is both vaguely attainable and worthy of accelerating the Bucks' rebuild, giving up multiple future assets for the privilege of paying Bledsoe a max contract isn't a no-brainer.
In terms of mechanics, the Bucks could clear close to max room by waiving Chris Wright (to get to around $13 million in cap room) and finding a team to absorb Miroslav Raduljica's $1.5 million salary (to get to $14.5 million in space), but at this point I'd be surprised if Phoenix doesn't retain Bledsoe one way or another. With over $20 million in cap space, a 48-win season under their belt and an up-and-coming roster, Phoenix would presumably have to seriously bungle their negotiations to have Bledsoe want out. But hey, it's worth asking, right?
That leaves Vasquez, who as I mentioned over the weekend just seems too much like "future Nate Wolters" to get really hot and bothered about. He's a good player who can make other players better while keeping defenses honest from deep, so something around the MLE wouldn't be ridiculous. But he's not going to be throwing out the first pitch at Brewer games either.
In terms of other options, the Cavaliers are reportedly shopping Jarrett Jack (two years, $12.6 million guaranteed left) with sweeteners (future first, Sergey Karasev...something like that) in order to clear room for a potential LeBron signing, a situation somewhat similar to Lin's in Houston. The 30-year-old Jack is a respected veteran who can play both backcourt spots, though he's also coming off a majorly disappointing season in Cleveland after two strong campaigns in New Orleans and Golden State.
Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted on Sunday that the Nets are willing to take Jack if a third team will absorb Brooklyn's Marcus Thornton (expiring $8.6 million deal) along with Cleveland's future assets, so we might guess that the Bucks have already passed on a possible Jack deal. Keep in mind that the league has prohibited the Bucks and Nets from making any deals for the next year after the Jason Kidd swap, so Milwaukee would have to deal with Cleveland directly in order to be involved.
Revising the Kidd deal--why compensate the Nets at all?
Among the secondary criticisms of the agreement that sealed Kidd's arrival in Milwaukee: Once it became apparent that Kidd wasn't returning to the Nets' bench, why agree to ship Brooklyn two future second round picks?
It's a good question, but I think it understates both the urgency the Bucks had to get a deal done and some of the more punitive actions the Nets could have taken to further drag the process out. From a PR standpoint, a longer standoff with the Nets would have made an ugly situation even uglier, which isn't a trivial matter given both Kidd and the Bucks were getting thrashed in the media once the story broke. At that point it became critical for the Bucks to give their side of the story and shift attention to the future, which was only going to happen once a deal was concluded. The Nets' ambitions in free agency were also never going to be helped by a protracted coaching dispute, and the Bucks needed to stop the bleeding, get their staff ready ahead of summer league, and try to salvage the momentum that they had been gaining up through the draft.
We also don't know what the Nets would have done if Milwaukee had stood firm and refused to offer compensation. While the Bucks have maintained that they only contacted Kidd after his agent arranged permission with the Nets, Brooklyn could have attempted to pursue tampering charges alleging that some contact might have taken place before then. It's highly unlikely that anything would have come of it, but it certainly wouldn't have accelerated closure.
Moreover, it's not necessarily true that the Nets had to fire Kidd and release him from his contract in order to pursue a new coach. Could Billy King have reassigned Kidd to a desk job writing reports next to Lawrence Frank? Could they have told him to go home and collect his pay check without allowing him to take another job? There are all sorts of scenarios we could imagine the Nets pursuing out of spite towards Kidd, and none of them would have had pleasant outcomes for Milwaukee. So while the Bucks can justifiably be criticized for getting themselves into a media circus, once the news broke they didn't have all the leverage either. Whether the Bucks could have gotten away with offering less is a valid question, but ultimately it shouldn't be surprising that they gave up something.