The Bucks borrowed $55 million from the NBA… last year

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The Milwaukee Bucks are a pretty good example of the market struggles facing smaller-market owners in the NBA. It’s not like owner Herb Kohl hasn’t hired good people. John Hammond and Scott Skiles are both very good at their respective positions. And it’s not like Kohl hasn’t spent money on players. From Michael Redd to John Salmons to Drew Gooden to Andrew Bogut, the Bucks have kept the purse strings loose to try and build a winner. But the market simply hasn’t been great without the ability to convince fans they can compete for a championship (with good reason). And as a result, the Bucks have lost quite a bit of money. And it would appear the Bucks have tapped the league for quite a bit of help to cover themselves for the red line present and future.

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, borrowed at least $55 million last year from the NBA’s credit facility, according to his Senate financial disclosure form.

Disclosure rules in the Senate do not require senators to disclose the exact amount of their investments, assets and liabilities. But the records indicate that Kohl borrowed at least $55 million in three separate loans in behalf of the Bucks.

The records also indicate that Kohl used some of the proceeds for investments by two of his trusts. That is allowable under NBA rules for those borrowing from the $2 billion credit facility.

via Kohl borrowed from NBA – JSOnline.

The Journal notes that taking the loan doesn’t necessarily mean that the team lost money. But considering Kohl has openly said the Bucks have lost money and their status in Forbes’ franchise-value list, it’s a pretty good bet. That’s quite a bit of cash for one franchise, and with Kohl deciding not to run for re-election in 2012, you have to wonder if eventually Kohl won’t be the one writing checks, or applying for loans on behalf of the Bucks.

It’s probable that Kohl would look to sell the team to a local ownership group to keep the team in Milwaukee, but considering that kind of red ink on the books, it might be difficult. Meanwhile, expect ownership to use this kind of information to squeeze the players, using it as evidence of their enormous losses over the past several years while the players continue to respond in saying that revenue sharing and other venues will solve the problem and no one really having a conversation about it.

It’s hard to pinpoint anything Kohl’s done to put himself in this situation. The Bucks have made their fair share of poor moves, player-wise, management-wise, coaching-wise over the past few years, but they’ve been respectable. Everyone points to the Knicks’ failures to win a title as evidence the system doesn’t favor big market teams, but a look at the larger markets’ black ink compared to cases like this shows there’s enough there to support the idea of the system being broken.

Only question is how long it will take to fix it.

(HT: IamaGM.com)

Lamar Odom opens up about cocaine addiction

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Lamar Odom has discussed his cocaine addiction before – how it derailed his NBA career, marriage to Kim Kardashian, his life. Never detailed like this, though.

Odom in The Players’ Tribune:

With cocaine especially, there’s a high, and then an emotional low. So it’s like a roller coaster. You go high, and then you go low. High, low, high, low. After you do it, you feel shame. You think about all the reasons why you shouldn’t have done it. Then the cycle starts again.

That’s the thing people don’t understand. Anybody who’s lived a complicated, drug-infused life like I’ve lived knows the cycle — with women, cheating on my wife, shit like that. Nights when I should have been asleep. Nights when I stayed up sniffing coke. Lot of those nights. When your heart is beating fast. When you should know better. When you’re just riding that roller coaster, man.

You think I wasn’t feeling shame? You think I was blind to what I was doing?

Nah, I wasn’t blind to it. Shame … pain. It’s part of the whole cycle. My brain was broken. As the years went on, and I got into my 30s, my career was winding down, and things just got out of control.

When I was like 32, 33 … I just wanted to get high all the time. That’s it, just get high. And things got dark as hell.

One of the darkest places I’ve ever been was when I was in a motel room, getting high with this chick, and my wife (at the time) walked in. That probably was like rock bottom.

I recommend reading all of Odom’s powerful essay, in which he explains the personal struggles that contributed to his drug use.

Report: Kyrie Irving not speaking with Cavaliers

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Former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin smoothed over Kyrie Irving‘s discontentment for years.

As new general manager Koby Altman tries to project stability, it seems there’s plenty of disarray behind the scenes in the wake of Irving’s trade request.

Jason Lloyd of The Athletic, via Chris Fillar of 92.3 The Fan:

Whatever are or aren’t the problems between Irving and LeBron James, this makes it far less likely they’ll reconcile. It already seemed LeBron wouldn’t be proactive in mending the relationship, and this saga has only generated more distrust.

Irving appears increasingly likely to get his wish, with Cleveland moving toward trading him. He’s just upping the odds by furthering the divide.

DeMar DeRozan: Talk of Raptors’ changes overblown

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Raptors president Masai Ujiri called for a “culture reset,” alluding to an offense less reliant on Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan isolations.

DeMarre Carroll, traded from Toronto to the Nets, doubts the Raptors will change much.

Know who agrees with him? DeRozan.

DeRozan, via Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun:

“I think the media kind of blow it out of proportion like it’s going to be something dramatic, like a complete dramatic 180-degree change,” DeRozan said, who was back in Toronto helping out with the Raptors’ Basketball Academy at Humber College on Monday. “It’s not that at all. It’s just moreso locking in and understanding what it takes to win from every single position. Everyone just know from our failures, guys stepping up and being better leaders, not just me and Kyle but everybody. I think once we lock in and everyone holds themselves accountable, everything else will come around perfect. That’s all it is.”

DeRozan didn’t disagree when it was suggested more ball movement might be demanded this season, but he did say the anticipated level of change by many outside the team is completely out of whack with the reality. The offence is still going to run through himself and Kyle Lowry.

This is shaping up to be a problem. Ujiri made this grand proclamation then brought back the same core – Lowry, DeRozan and coach Dwane Casey. This was the danger, that they were too comfortable with the status quo.

We’ll see how it actually plays out. DeRozan has a strong track record of improvement, and the Raptors might be forcing him to see the game differently by playing him at point guard.

But there at least appears to be a disconnect somewhere between the front office and players.

Rumor: Cavaliers trying to dump salary in Kyrie Irving trade

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The Cavaliers are reportedly prioritizing youth in a Kyrie Irving trade.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

Another stated goal is to dump off some salary and reduce the luxury tax bill.

The Cavs – who reportedly lost more than $40 million last season – are on track to become the first team in NBA history to pay the luxury-tax repeater rate. They’ve led the league in payroll, racking up big luxury-tax bills, the last two seasons. They even pulled the rare feat of carving out max cap space (used on LeBron James) then getting about the luxury-tax line in the same season three years ago, finishing second to the Nets in spending that season.

Cleveland now faces a luxury-tax bill north of $78 million – which would eclipse its 2015-16 mark ($54 million) as the second highest tax payment ever, trailing just 2013-14 Brooklyn (nearly $91 million).

Most teams would never spend as much as the Cavaliers have the previous three seasons. Most teams would never approach Cleveland’s costs this year, which include $142 million in player salaries.

But most teams don’t have LeBron.

Remember, the Heat cutting corners on spending contributed to LeBron leaving Miami. And Cavs owner Dan Gilbert reportedly promised to spend unconditionally when LeBron returned to Cleveland in 2014.

Is cutting costs the message the Cavaliers want to send as LeBron enters a contract year?

If so, they have a few candidates for shedding:

  • Tristan Thompson – three years, $52,408,695 remaining
  • J.R. Smith – three years, $44,160,000 remaining (just $3.87 million of $15.68 million guaranteed final year)
  • Iman Shumpert – two years, $21,348,313 remaining
  • Channing Frye – one year, $7,420,912 remaining

All those players, roughly in order of salary, contribute to winning.

The Cavs should have little trouble unloading those contracts in an Irving trade. He’s so valuable, teams will incur a lopsided financial deal to get him. They’ll just send Cleveland less talent to compensate.

It’s the classic dilemma – money vs. on-court success. Teams evaluate this tradeoff every day.

For the Cavaliers, there’s just the additional pressure of LeBron’s looming free agency.