Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry knows there won't be any shortcuts to making his new team a contender, but that doesn't mean the franchise isn't setting its sights on title contention...sometime this decade.
Speaking at the Bloomberg Business Sports Summit, Lasry reiterated a number of themes we've heard since he and co-owner Wes Edens took control of the franchise at the end of May; you can watch his full interview with Bloomberg TV above, or check out the highlights (and what we might take away from them) below. Among the topics covered in the rapid-fire interview: a timetable for turning the last-place Bucks into a legitimate contender.
"You know I'd love to tell you it's going to take a year, [but] I don't think so. I think it's going to be somewhere around three to five years. I think it will take a while.
"I think right now we have the best team in the NBA that's under 23. So if you sort of look at it, we have a great group of young guys and the question is how well are they going to develop. We think they're going to develop really well, so I think within three years we'll end up being a pretty formidable team."
In other words: The Bucks' quiet July was very much part of the team's long-term plan, which for now is focused on developing talented youngsters like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker rather than throwing heaps of money at veteran free agents. No surprise there. And considering how much money the Bucks have wasted over the past decade on non-impact free agents, there shouldn't be any complaints either.
Lasry also was asked whether he's prepared to invest more than the $100 million he and Edens have already pledged to a new arena project:
"I think we're going to see how we're going to develop that. I think it's got to be a partnership and we've got to do this with the city, so we think over time we'll be able to do this."
In other words: Regardless of how much you think the Bucks *should* be contributing to a new arena, it's probably a good bet that we'll need a site and an actual project proposal before others--the Bucks, other private investors or, yes, taxpayers--start volunteering more money for the cause. And given the project's current timeline, that means this question will probably have to wait until 2015 before it gets a real answer. Sidenote: while the Bucks are hoping to break ground on a project as soon as next year, Don Walker confirmed on Saturday that the Bucks' sale agreement effectively requires that construction begin by expiration of the current Bradley Center lease on October 1, 2017.
Lasry on the role of ownership and the obligation to invest in teams:
"We're pretty competitive guys, we'd like to end up winning an NBA championship. I think you'll see us putting money into the team...
"I think when you look at this you're really a steward of an asset. I'd love to tell you we own it. I think it's really the city owns the team, the fans own the team--we're the ones who are sort of managing it for this period of time. And I think we have a responsibility to do the best we can."
In other words: I'm pretty sure you *do* own the team, Marc...but we appreciate the sentiment.
On the decision to bring Jason Kidd in as coach:
"I've known Jason a while. Part of it is you want guys who have been winners. I mean Jason was one of the best basketball players ever, a hall of fame player. I think you're going to see him become a hall of fame coach."
In other words: Lasry and Edens really, really, really like Jason Kidd.
As for Kidd's reported ambitions beyond coaching?
"I think right now the plan is coach the team and then we'll see how everything develops. So I think for us, for the GM [John Hammond], for Jason, and for us, it's much more of a team approach as opposed to everything being [about] individuals."
In other words: The Bucks didn't go through the painful (and expensive) process of bringing Kidd to Milwaukee in order to freeze him out of the roster-building process, and that's all fine and good. Every organization aspires to have ownership, the front office and the coaching staff on the same page. Still, the circumstances of Kidd's arrival leave a slippery slope; if there is a shakeup at any point in the near future, Kidd's influence will naturally be questioned. But we're not there yet, so...hope for the best, right?
On how Lasry is balancing his Bucks obligations with the day-to-day business of running his hedge fund:
"Well, I'm actually not the person running the team, Wes is. He's the managing partner, so Wes is spending a lot more time on this, mainly because he's the governor. But I think our biggest challenge is you want to build a winning culture, and I don't think Milwaukee, with the Bucks, have had that. So we're going to be doing that."
Takeaway: Each team has one representative on the NBA's Board of Governors and one alternate; for the Bucks Edens would be the regular rep with Lasry technically the alternate (previously it was Herb Kohl with former executive Ron Walter as alternate). Still, I'm not sure we've previously heard Lasry or Edens be quite this blunt about their division of labor in running the team--though if you're an Avenue Capital limited partner you'd probably prefer to hear that Lasry isn't spending all of his time on his new basketball team.