The Milwaukee Bucks' 2014-15 season was never supposed to be judged on wins and losses, but the wins keep coming -- despite losing a series of key rotation players up front.
That latter point would be the obvious justification for Jason Kidd having a pow-wow with former teammate and current 37-year-old free agent Kenyon Martin in Cleveland on Tuesday, a day before the Bucks face the Cavaliers on New Year's Eve. Let's go to the source material:
The Bucks have not offered Kenyon Martin a contract. Free agents cannot be signed to 10-day contracts until Jan. 5.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) December 30, 2014
Source confirms Bucks coach Jason Kidd to meet with NBA vet Kenyon Martin in Cleveland. Preliminary discussions but Bucks thin up front.— cfgardner (@cf_gardner) December 30, 2014
Charles Gardner termed Martin's workout in Cleveland as "preliminary," and Spears' allusion to 10-day contracts suggests any move would be unlikely before January 5 at the earliest -- if at all. This might just be a courtesy call between Kidd and his old friend, or maybe something could eventually come of it. At this point it's a bit unclear, though Martin has also worked out for the Rockets and Grizzlies, with Cleveland also a purported potential landing spot. So if you're not interested in Kenyon Martin as a Milwaukee Buck -- which probably covers the vast majority of you reading this -- then you likely still have time to stomp your feet, write your congressman and yell "NO!" repeatedly at your neighbor's dog in the interim. And after all that, there's a good chance nothing comes of this anyway.
For their part, the Bucks would also need an extra roster spot in order to accommodate Martin or any other free agent, which in itself asks its own set of questions about what the Bucks may or may not be looking to do ahead of the February 19 deadline. With 15 guys on the roster and Jabari Parker and Damien Inglis already out, the Bucks could seek a hardship waiver from the league if Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders continue to miss time as well, but so far no news on that front. The Bucks could also apply for a disabled player exception for 50% of Jabari Parker's $4.93 million salary, though given their existing cap flexibility I don't see it making much of any difference in financial terms.
Whether Martin is still capable of helping an NBA team is something of a separate question. He's a year removed from a serviceable 32-game stint with the Knicks, but most fan opinion on Martin won't really be about Martin at all. Really this is about what the Bucks do next in the broader scheme of their roster, a philosophical referendum of sorts that Jeremy Schmidt already covered extensively earlier today and which Save Our Bucks discussed in depth last week.
By now you know what this is getting at, but we'll ask the ask question anyway. With Kidd steering the team to an unexpected turnaround on the court, might the Bucks give in to the temptation to add vets as a means of maximizing their near-term competitiveness? Or would they be willing to stick with their stated long-term plan and cash in one or more of their rejuvenated vets -- both to add future assets and clear playing time for young guys -- even if it hurts them on the court this year?
At this point we might hope the former question has been relegated to something of a straw man; the Bucks' owners may be new, but no one is oblivious to the scabs of Tobias Harris or the Herb Kohl Fatigue that they've fought so hard to distance themselves from. So for me the concept of "win now" seems more of a surrogate for "stand pat," with a J.J. Redick-style mortgage play presumably (hopefully?) out of the question. John Hammond suggested as much following Parker's injury, noting that the Bucks wouldn't seek to "expedite" their rebuilding process as a result of the team's early season success. Most of us are hoping Kidd shares the same level of enthusiasm for the long view, though a possible Martin reunion -- however minor it might be in the grand scheme -- would likely be propped up as evidence against it.
All of which would leave us trafficking in shades of gray. Do the Bucks inch further towards the future by swapping Jared Dudley or Ersan Ilyasova for some future assets (2nd rounders? Marginal prospects?)? Do they find a way to add a veteran like Martin at the expense of more playing time for John Henson and Johnny O'Bryant? Or could a Martin signing eventually come as the postscript to a bigger deal? Whatever happens or doesn't happen, all of it figures to be just details compared to more important things like Giannis Antetokounmpo's jumpshot and the health of Jabari Parker's knee. But those details may also tell us plenty about the Bucks' bigger picture thinking.