Just eighteen months into their tenure as NBA owners, Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan can already claim a laundry list of accomplishments. Most notably, approval of a new downtown arena promises to keep the team in Milwaukee for the long haul, while on the court a promising young core sparked a 26-win turnaround in their first season in the ownership suite.
Those are the bookends of what has amounted to a complete brand makeover over the past year, one that has touched seemingly every aspect of the organization -- from sharp new jerseys on the court to a shiny new office space off it. But for all the good vibrations created by last year's surprising season, the three remain realistic about the challenge of their real goal: bringing an NBA championship back to Milwaukee. They met the media together at the Bucks practice facility on Monday to discuss the franchise's recent success and the long path that remains.
On expectations for this season:
Marc Lasry: Can we get up to Cleveland's level? I sure hope so. When we were here last year, one of the things we talked about was how much better we thought we were going to be and I think we surprised a number of folks. And hopefully we're going to do the same thing this year.
Wes Edens: It was a great experience getting into the playoffs and playing a competitive series against the Bulls. That's great, but that's obviously not the objective. We're trying to build a team that can compete to the Eastern Conference Finals and the championship. It doesn't happen overnight. The team is still very young and it will be very interesting to see how they start the year with a bunch of new guys on the team. We think the team is better because they're a year older and it's better because of the people we brought in. We feel like we're a lot better team this year.
Jamie Dinan: One of the things that John and Jason really focused on was building a team that really plays well together. We're really viewing this core nucleus as a team we're going to have for many years and the players' compatibility with each other was really as important as the talent and I think we nailed it this offseason.
On John Hammond's extension:
Marc: We thought it was important to get John and Jason on the same cycle. Jason has a couple years left, so we extended John, so that they're on the same cycle. They did a terrific job last year -- Jason on the court and John off the court. We're very excited about the chemistry and the makeup of the team. We just thought it was the right thing to do. It was not a difficult decision.
On the process of getting the arena deal approved:
Wes: It happened in quite rapid order. From the time we started dealing with the state in January to having the mayor sign it and the city council approve it just a couple weeks ago, Adam Silver told me he thought it was a record for the league to get an arena approved. So, that process was great.
On this being the last media day in the current practice facility:
Wes: We're pretty optimistic guys, but I don't think you can build something in the next 12 months. I think two years is probably a reasonable amount of time to get it done. So, probably one more media day in this building.
On the new practice facility:
Wes: We've gone around and looked at a bunch of different facilities to find some of the best ideas. We spent a bunch of time at the Bulls facility with the Reinsdorfs. That's a terrific facility. We saw the Blazers', the Clippers', and the Cavaliers'. Ours will probably be a similar size facility. If anything, ours will be a little bigger since we allocated space to the sports science center with the emphasis on Troy Flanagan, Suki Hobson, and the rest of the gang here. A lot of the other stuff though, we took some of the better aspects of their designs and it will be right next to the facility downtown.
On surprises in owning the team:
Jamie: I would say one thing I realized is how important the health of the athletes is. I think with having Troy Flanagan here our number one focus is to have the best conditioned and healthiest athletes in the NBA. We're really looking to reduce their risk of any kind of injury or missing playing time. I think that was one thing you don't realize about the NBA. Just how tough the sport is at the NBA level or how easy it is to get a little tweak here or there and miss games. So, that's a big, big focus. As Wes mentioned, when we were going over the plans for the new training facility, I think our biggest focus was on the fitness of the athletes as opposed to all the other auxiliary areas of the facility.
On the competitiveness of small-market teams like Milwaukee:
Marc: It's amazing the reputation Milwaukee has outside of Milwaukee. When you live in Milwaukee, you might look at it a little differently. Outside (of Milwaukee), everybody thinks it's a phenomenal place. Everyone is super friendly. I think Wes is right. In today's day and age, you look at, "where am I going to be that I have the potential to succeed?" And if I succeed, what I can accomplish is so much greater than if I was just in New York or L.A. That's been the biggest difference. You're seeing small market teams start to have an edge because players want to go there. Players are starting to realize that they're only going to do well if their team wins. The focus has become, "How do I win? And how do I increase the likelihood of winning?"
Eric Nehm's Takeaways: It's quite clear that the Bucks owners are expecting quite a bit from the franchise in the coming years, but have a clear understanding that winning a championship doesn't happen overnight. They also seem completely committed to making the Bucks a world-class organization with state of the art facilities and industry-leading sports science programs.