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AUDIO | Marc Lasry and Wes Edens continue Milwaukee media blitz, confirm that they'll have final decision on #2 pick

The Bucks new owners shed further light on a wide range of topics on Friday, most notably the decision-making process going into the all-important draft.

After an action-packed Thursday, new owners Wes Edens and Marc Lasry continued their media blitz on Friday with a number of radio and TV appearances that touched on all the critical topics you'd expect: the futures of John Hammond and Larry Drew (stay tuned), how they'll make the #2 pick in the 2014 draft, which prospect has the most upside (Joel Embiid?), progress on a new arena (100% confidence!), and much, much, much more.

Perhaps most notably, it became clear throughout the interviews that Lasry and Edens will ultimately make the final call on draft night, though they are relying on the front office to get them up to speed and make final recommendations. All of which highlights the delicate balancing act required over the next few weeks: while Lasry and Edens don't pretend to be basketball operations guys themselves, it's very much their job to figure out if the organization they inherited is in good hands for the long term--and they don't intend to let the front office pick a guy if they don't agree with the rationale.

"We're depending on him [Hammond] to give us the information to make an incredibly importance decision. I think for Wes and I, I don't think we have the tools right now to sort of get all the information. I think John and the team there does, and I think they're going to give us their recommendations, and then I think Wes and I are going to sit down and...then we'll agree or disagree with that.

"I think one of the things, right or wrong, that Wes and I get to do a lot in our businesses is we listen to our team, but ultimately it ends up being our final decision."

Taking everything at face value, you certainly get a "trust but verify (and maybe disagree with)"-type of vibe from the new bosses, which is only fair given the circumstances. After all, they've had less than two weeks to familiarize themselves with the team, but the pick they make on June 26 could impact the franchise for the next decade. No pressure.

For your convenience, here's a summary of their appearances on the three major sports radio stations in addition to their video interview above:

Big 920 (Mike Heller Show)
Lasry didn't make any long-term commitments when asked about the futures of John Hammond and Larry Drew, instead underscoring the importance of the next 30 days leading up to the draft. In terms of the team's long-term vision, Lasry made it clear that he viewed it as 3-5 year project while emphasizing that the team's foundation would have to be built through the draft in coming seasons. On the topic of a new arena, Lasry highlighted the three other arenas currently being built (Sacramento, San Francisco, Las Vegas) as models for what the ownership would be looking at for inspiration.

1250 WSSP (Big Show)
Lasry hit most of the same talking points in his 1250 interview, though the vibe was generally a bit looser and I thought Sparky Fifer asked some pretty good questions--especially about how an outsider evaluates a GM and how the Bucks can become more of a state-wide brand. Lasry admitted he was mostly concerned with not getting stuck at #4 on lotto night, and there were some mixed signals throughout the day as to whether the Dynamic Duo considers it to be a top-four or top-three draft. If I had to guess, I'd hazard that Lasry and Edens aren't driving the Dante Exum bandwagon at this point--which would be understandable since guys who manage billions in assets probably didn't spend the last year watching FIBA U19 games on YouTube. It's not to say Exum won't be brought in for a workout or otherwise considered, but his lack of brand equity is unlikely to earn him point with the owners.

Lasry also reiterated their push for local investors and expressed hope that an announcement could be made about new investors by draft night, while admitting that the $100 million already pledged to the new project was a big number for them--and that a new arena should cost between $350 and $450 million. In terms of how things progress from here, Lasry alluded to the team requesting design proposals and pushing the ball forward on what the project might actually look. And as for timing?

"We'd like to have a shovel in the ground, if we could, sometime by June or September of next year."

Lasry then touched on his and Edens' involvement with the team, hinting that they'd be somewhere between the extremes of owners who are hyper-involved (specifically Mark Cuban) and completely hands-off owners:

"I love the game, I want to be involved. I want to be involved in decisions, I'd like to know what's going on. You're a fan, the thing we've gotta be careful of is that we are fans and we're not professionals. But we are going to end up trying to get involved and get active."

On the team's long-term plan, Lasry reasserted that the process would take time, all while starting it off with a killer rebuttal of the old "8th seed or bust" criticism that accompanied the Herb Kohl era:

"I didn't build my business trying to be mediocre, and I don't think anyone should."

You had us at hello, Marc!

OK, keep talking...

"I think it's going to be [at least] a three year process, it's going to be through the draft. You're going to get the players, and as we get those players you're going to bring in other players [through free agency and trades]. Look, we're happy to spend the money, but I want to spend the money building a championship team not an eighth seed team."

[Slow clap]

Lastly, Lasry got a bit fired up about Bucks' merchandise, acknowledging that they were exploring new team colors/jerseys as well as how to better get Bucks' stuff in people's hands:

"I can say we're definitely looking at doing that [laughter].  I don't think people are off. I think it does need a little bit of help. I think the biggest issue, which has utterly pissed me off, is that there's no the Bradley Center it's actually really nice, but if you go to the NBA can't get anything."

I have to agree on this--as someone who doesn't live in Wisconsin anymore, there's nothing quite as annoying as coming home and seeing how little Bucks' stuff is in every sporting goods stores. That's obviously more of a demand problem than a supply issue, but it's a telling proxy for where the Bucks' brand currently stands. Winning is always the best medicine, but everything that's happening right now--the energy, the positivity, and hopefully some fresh ideas--will help.

ESPN 540 (Homer & Gabe)
Edens appeared on ESPN 540 and not surprisingly echoed most of the same ideas before Lasry joined about midway through. The obvious difference between this interview and the other two was Steve True's needling about John Hammond's lack of success, though neither Lasry nor Edens really went for the bait. However, they were much more explicit about the decision-making process that will go into the draft, making it clear that they'll have the final word on which name gets called second on June 26. Some highlights:

On the league's option to buy the team back if a new arena isn't built:

"Shovel in the ground, 2017. That's actually how the contract works. The league wants to keep the team in Milwaukee, they want the team to be competitive and they think it needs a new venue to do so, and we agree with that."

"Everyone asks us what's our backup plan is, and I tell them there is no backup plan."

On why they were willing to agree to those terms:

"We told them early on we didn't want to be the guys that moved a sports franchise."

Homer subsequently pressed Edens on why any public money should be needed given the wealth in the new ownership suite, but Edens handled it rather calmly, noting that it will be a public asset whose benefits accrue far beyond the Bucks. Lasry then joined in the studio and assured their 100% confidence that a deal would ultimately get done. By the way, can I say that I love that these guys aren't even allowing discussion of failure?

Things got even more interesting on the topic of whom the Bucks like in the draft, as Lasry conceded that Joel Embiid was likely to go #1 without explicitly saying which direction he expects the Bucks to go.

"I'm biased towards a few people."

"It depends on who Cleveland takes. Cleveland's going to make an argument either way. Cleveland's going to take Embiid because I think right now he's probably the guy with the got the most upside, and is actually one of the most talented people. But everybody's also worried about his back. So if they don't take Embiid it's because they're worried about his back, and they'll take Parker or they'll take Wiggins. So it's all going to depend on what Cleveland does."

Homer then pressed on why Lasry and Edens would defer such an important decision to Hammond, at which point Lasry opened up a bit (as noted above) about how they expect the decision-making process to go:

"We're depending on him [Hammond] to give us the information to make an incredibly importance decision. I think for Wes and I, I don't think we have the tools right now to sort of get all the information. I think John and the team there does, and I think they're going to give us their recommendations, and then I think Wes and I are going to sit down and...then we'll agree or disagree with that.

"I think one of the things, right or wrong, that Wes and I get to do a lot in our businesses is we listen to our team, but ultimately it always ends up being our final decision."

By the way, if you're wondering what the difference is between Herb Kohl's "meddling" and what Lasry and Edens are doing now, that's really simple: winning. Kohl never did. We still have hope that Lasry and Edens will.

Given these comments and everything we've been hearing in the last week, my best guess at this point--emphasis on guess--is that Jabari Parker ultimately ends up pulling on a Bucks hat on draft night. Partly because Embiid looks increasingly likely to end up in Cleveland, and partly because Parker has the broadest set of arguments in his favor once Embiid is off the board. His primary skill (efficient scoring) is arguably the hardest and most expensive skill to acquire in the NBA, he's already an alpha-type on the court and strong character kid off it, and most every analytical model prefers him over Wiggins. Plenty of people will of course disagree--mainly due to Wiggins' athleticism and Parker's defensive concerns--and there's plenty of time for things to change over the next few weeks. But if I was putting money on it right now that's my guess.

Edens then clarified that neither he nor Lasry would be president of the team (due to living in NYC), though he expressed confidence that their business experience would help them build a top-class organization. Still, he also underscored that both sides of the organization--basketball and business--would be "tied at the hip."

"When you look at the organization that have been successful, it's a two-person job at the top. There's a GM and basketball operations, and there's a president and the business side and they really do work hand in hand."

And in terms of favorite players? Edens tabbed Kevin Durant while noting (as a former Knick fan) his appreciation for Carmelo Anthony; Lasry went the safe route and opted for LeBron James.