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Crossroads 2017: The Concept of “We”

One name now stands above the others for the Milwaukee Bucks. Is that a problem?

NBA: Orlando Magic at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

“There is no ‘i’ in team,” they say. So what happens when it gets forced in there?

This summer carries a level of importance to the future of the franchise beyond any summer in recent memory. With the announcement of Jon Horst’s promotion to the Milwaukee Bucks’ general manager position, that future also carries a significantly higher degree of uncertainty than it did last week.

To briefly summarize (what has already been summarized to death), the Bucks started the task of replacing former GM John Hammond with one internal candidate, (former) assistant GM Justin Zanik. Then they conducted an extensive search for external candidates, and decided on hiring another internal candidate who was never reported to have applied for the job. It would appear that the original candidate never had a chance, for one reason or another.

This much is certain: Wes Edens got his man, as long as “his man” is defined as “literally anybody other than Justin Zanik.” But wait...why do we say just “Wes Edens,” and not “the ownership group,” you ask? Well...

Again, the team started with a highly-regarded internal candidate who was widely-thought to be ready to take the next step and become an official NBA general manager. Someone stepped in and prevented that from happening in Milwaukee.

It appears that, if Woj’s report is correct (as it often is), two of the Bucks’ three main owners were in Zanik’s corner. Marc Lasry is explicitly named, and “another top minority owner” is explicitly unnamed. However, Lasry and Wes Edens both purchased the team together back in 2014, making it conspicuous that, as a co-owner, Edens’ name does not appear next to Lasry’s.

While unconfirmed, many fans have concluded that Jamie Dinan is the unnamed “top minority owner,” and that Wes Edens is the member of the ownership group who held out and prevented a “full consensus” from being reached on hiring Zanik. We don’t know if this is the truth, and we may never know.

But that fact, if true, would hold major implications for the franchise going forward. For your consideration, here are three tweets that will set the stage for the major point I think needs to be discussed:

I mentioned this the other day on Twitter, but it bears repeating: Jon Horst did not have any control over the circumstances of his hiring, appears to have the right approach to the job, and very well may be a good (or better!) NBA general manager. He deserves none of our scorn and all of our support.

But the Milwaukee ownership group has come under fire (and not without cause) for how this process was handled. And based on what we know about the process (which was sloppy as all get out, if we’re being generous), and what we’re assuming about what happened behind the scenes, Wes Edens deserves the bulk of that scrutiny. Maybe things work out, and maybe they don’t. Honestly, it doesn’t matter, because the damage is done, and here’s why:

The concept of “we” has been damaged in Milwaukee, and it’s unclear if it can be repaired.

When one of the ownership triumvirate says “We really want to keep you here,” or “We think you could add what we need,” or “We’ll keep this under-wraps for now,” can they be trusted? As partners, none of Lasry, Dinan, or Edens should work unilaterally, but it doesn’t appear that the three of them exist in a true partnership. It now appears that even in the face of a united front, one member of that group is able to stand against the rest and force things in a different direction. Wes Edens, at least in this case, is able to override a 2-1 vote. That sounds like a special level of authority that doesn’t exist in a partnership.

There is already too little margin for error in the NBA, and excessive cooks in the proverbial kitchen only shrinks that precious margin even further. In a way, maybe it’s a blessing (in disguise) to see Wes Edens take the lead role amongst the other owners, if only for clarity and efficiency. So, if Wes Edens has truly become the Bucks’ final decision-maker?

Let’s all agree that the “results” are going to be a major focus going forward.