Milwaukee was one of the more active teams at the trade deadline, heavily engaged in discussions for Josh Smith, and even coming close to making a deal for him before Atlanta reportedly pulled out at the last minute.
With Smith unavailable to them, the Bucks settled on another solid player, and were able to pull off a deal for sharpshooter J.J. Redick.
In both cases, the players Milwaukee was targeting would be finishing out contracts that expire at the end of this season, making them unrestricted free agents this summer. Teams typically don’t like to give up assets in exchange for simply renting guys for less than 30 games, but Bucks GM John Hammond said the team is doing what it can to win now, without worrying too much about next season.
“This comes down to us trying to win, us trying to remain competitive,” Hammond said. “We’re hoping to get an uptick from this. We haven’t been playing quite as well lately and we’re hoping we can at least solidify this eight spot. We’d like to move up, try to get the seven, the six … whatever we can do. This, for us, trying to get a piece like J.J. is about us trying to win games.”
“You do look up and you don’t know what it’s going to look like in a few years. But his is kind of more about trying to win now.”
It’s also about something else.
Milwaukee is not a market that big-name free agents have willingly signed up to play in over the years, which is part of the reason the team is consistently struggling to show substantial improvement over time. By acquiring talent through the draft (like Brandon Jennings), or trading for talent (like Monta Ellis and now Redick), the Bucks as an organization can try to convince guys that playing there isn’t so bad.
Redick will hit free agency this summer, so the Bucks have a brief window to convince him to consider Milwaukee as an option. Jennings is a restricted free agent, and as long as another team doesn’t offer him a max contract, the Bucks will likely match any offers he receives to keep him in town.
This may be about winning now, but the ceiling for Milwaukee isn’t much higher than a sixth or seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and along with it a first round exit. It’s more about giving Redick a chance to see for himself what playing for the Bucks is all about, and perhaps using his time there to convince him to consider re-signing with the team this summer.
Timofey Mozgov with maybe “best” missed dunk of the season (VIDEO)
While the Timberwolves have plenty of question marks around him, but Towns has been exceptional. Coming into Monday night, he was averaging 21.6 points (on 59.9 percent shooting) and 12.7 rebounds a night in his last 10 games.
The summer of 2016 is all about Kevin Durant — and we don’t know what Durant is going to do as a free agent because Durant doesn’t yet know what Durant is going to do as a free agent. Stay in Oklahoma City, bolt to the Bay Area or maybe Washington D.C.? These playoffs, meetings with teams and his advisors, plus personal factors all will play a role in Durant’s decision. Which he will get around to announcing in early July sometime.
But the sense around the league is that while Durant may very well stay in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook was drawn to the bright lights of big markets. If an elite player were to bolt OKC, this was the more likely guy. Westbrook is a free agent in 2017.
The Knicks have a real chance to sell Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2017 – New York and Porzingis have his attention, yes – and Jackson ought to start constructing an elite coaching staff to begin that process with Westbrook and with free agents beyond him.
Come 2017, expect Westbrook to meet with a number of big market teams on both coasts, and then make a decision. The summer of 2017 is a couple of NBA lifetimes away, it’s impossible to say what Westbrook will do (he may well decide to stay in OKC if they win enough), but the big market teams looking for a star will get their turn in the batter’s box.
Which is why I still think Durant signs a 1+1 deal this summer to stay in Oklahoma City for another season — he’s going to give everything another chance to come together for the Thunder, then when the salary cap is at its peak in 2017 (an estimated $108 million) he makes his peak seasons decision. He and Westbrook and Serge Ibaka will all be free agents at the same time, and they can make their calls.
And the Knicks could be involved in all of it.
Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Derek Fisher is out, but is real change coming to Knicks?
My thought of the day: If a 71-year-old white-as-white-can-be guy doesn’t get or like the Super Bowl halftime show, then you’ve done it right. He’s not the future of anything. (Not that I have much use for Coldplay.) Now, on with Monday’s NBA news.
1) Derek Fisher out in New York, but does that mean real change is coming? Phil Jackson decided that the coach he hired with zero coaching experience whatsoever maybe couldn’t coach after all, and Monday the New York Knicks fired Derek Fisher. This was not necessarily a bad move, Fisher was a better coach this season than last — he was learning on the job — but still had a long, long way to go to be good. He’s not a great Xs and Os guy, and also had said that he shouldn’t have to motivate professional athletes — if you’re a coach who isn’t a great tactician or motivator, what exactly are you doing? Fisher was brought in to establish a culture then undercut himself with things such as the bizarre Matt Barnes incident. Him being out is not the worst thing for the Knicks.
But is the next coach going to be a real change?
Early reports have Phil Jackson sticking with his guys — Luke Walton is the guy at the top of the list, with Brian Shaw next in line, according to early reports. Both, at least, have NBA coaching experience, but Walton has only guided an already-built championship team that knew its roles, while Shaw lost the Denver locker room fast. This fits a pattern, Jackson has stacked the Knicks organization with his guys and now is saying that running the triangle remains an important part of the criteria for the next coach. That’s limiting. (There is still a debate as to how well a full-time triangle team, in the style Jackson likes to run that offense, can thrive in today’s NBA.) Someone from outside his coaching family — Tom Thibodeau, Jeff Hornacek — could provide a different view of things, a counterbalance, a new perspective that the best organizations welcome. Internal debate and differing ideas are a good thing if managed well. Golden State does that beautifully. If Jackson just hires a better version of Fisher, is that real change? Is that doing the franchise justice? Walton will have options as a coach once the Warriors’ season ends, likely in June, we’ll see if Jackson will wait that long for him. Or if he wants to go East.
2) Joe Johnson calls bank on Nets game winner. Mike Malone has Denver playing everyone tough lately (that’s how a coach builds a culture, Knicks), having beat the Bulls and Raptors recently, and on the second night of a back-to-back, it looked like they would sweep New York and topple the Nets as well. But Joe Johnson‘s hard sprint from the low block to out past the arc left Danilo Gallinari a step behind, and that gave Johnson room to drain the game winner — which owner Mikhail Prokhorov loved.
3) Bulls struggles continue, they get thumped by Hornets.Derrick Rose was a last-minute scratch for Chicago due to “general body soreness.” The rest of the team apparently felt the same way. Charlotte — a team playing with urgency as they try to climb back into the playoffs — put up 38 points in the first quarter and easily disposed of Chicago 108-91. The Bulls are now 5-12 in their last 17 games and continue to struggle on the defensive end (without Joakim Noah now) while never finding their identity on the offensive end of the court.
Chicago is now the seven seed in the West and just 1.5 games ahead of Charlotte and falling out of the playoffs completely. There are a lot of things that have gotten the Bulls to this point, but the dominoes started to fall last summer when John Paxson and Gar Forman made their move. There is still time for the Bulls to turn things around, it’s just hard to envision this group doing it.
4) Andre Drummond from three-quarter court? Sure He has Stephen Curry range. Andre Drummond is in the Dunk Contest All-Star Saturday night, but apparently he should have been in the Three Point Contest as well.
5) Allen Crabbe (or Gerald Henderson) tip-in forces OT, where Trail Blazers pull away from Grizzlies for the win. After what had been a smart, gutty game by both teams —one Marc Gasol had to leave after 11 minutes with a foot sprain — which had the back-and-forth feel of a playoff game at times, the Portland Trail Blazers were down two with time for one last shot. Everyone in the building knew it was going to be a Damian Lillard isolation. Including Memphis. Lillard got off his shot, but it bounced off the rim — right to C.J. McCollum, who had 21 points on the night, but he missed, and then came the tip. Officially Allen Crabbe was credited with the bucket, but maybe Gerald Henderson got it. Portland didn’t care, they just wanted to get to OT, and they did.
Overtime opened with six straight McCollum points before the Grizzlies even scored, and that was the ballgame.