I caught up with John Hammond this afternoon and he was fairly tight-lipped on the progress of negotiations with restricted free agents Ersan Ilyasova and Ramon Sessions. Contrary to reports we've been regularly seeing in Spain, an Ilyasova signing hasn't been finalized--but that's not to say it won't get done at some point in the near future. Meanwhile, the Bucks had a conference call with Sessions on Thursday.
"Ersan might be in a little different position than Ramon. We're probably a little further along in our discussions with Ersan. But the discussions with Ramon have been positive and on-going."
When asked whether Sessions had been offered a longer term contract aside from the one year qualifying offer (about $1 million), Hammond said the Bucks were "still letting the process play itself out."
Especially now that Charlie Villanueva has taken his jumper to Detroit, the Bucks clearly value what Ilyasova could add as a perimeter-oriented power forward. Much has been made of Ilyasova's interest in returning to Milwaukee and the NBA, even if it's at a discount to the multi-millions he can earn in Europe tax free, and Hammond certainly sounds hopeful of making that a reality.
"He's gotten strong--he's very big, very thick right now, and kind of changed his game. I remember seeing him when he was 16- or 17-years old in Turkey, and he was this long, lean guy that people said might be a Kirilenko-type player.
"Now he really has the ability to stretch the defense, whether in half court or transition. When he's back behind the three point line you have to either stand with him or run at him. And he can handle and shoot the ball well enough that when he pump fakes they have to respect it, and he can put the ball on the floor, make a shot there or find open people."
Of course, we know that scoring ability wasn't why the Bucks chose to focus their attention on Ilyasova and let Villanueva walk. And while there's little doubt that Villanueva will put up better-lookng stats than Ilyasova this year, it's evident the Bucks prefer the idea of paying Ilyasova less to get a more well-rounded player. Try reading between the lines:
"He's a guy who's going to give you an honest effort in everything that he does. He's smart enough, he's got good basketball savvy and he's going to fit into the system both offensively and defensively."
Sessions' return still seems more up in the air. Though RFAs Paul Millsap and Jarrett Jack both agreed to offer sheets this weekend, the Bucks don't seem in a hurry to lock up Sessions preemptively and are well aware that an offer could come from elsewhere.
"We've had hypothetical discussions about whether or not we'd be comfortable with a number. But we'll just wait and see and respond accordingly."
Depending on your point of view, Toronto's reported MLE offer to Jack either totally inflates the going rate for younger PGs, or it removes another overeager potential competitor for Sessions' services. For that same reason, Bucks fans should be rooting for the Jazz not to match Portland's offer to Millsap, since that would eliminate Portland from competing for Sessions' services.
The Bucks are also still interested in Josh Childress, though his situation is complicated by both his lucrative deal with Olympiacos and the Hawks' ability to match any NBA offer sheet he receives.
"We had a good visit and we enjoyed having him spend time with us. We've talked about some kind of range that he could be comfortable with, but he has a lot of variables that he has to work through, not just with us but potentially with Atlanta. That is more of a wait and see situation."