Khris Middleton

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Watch Khris Middleton throw a basketball at Steven Adams (VIDEO)

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Ah yes, NBA “fights”. Where the swings are made up and the techs don’t matter. At least, that’s how it feels anyway.

On Tuesday night in Milwaukee, Bucks PG Khris Middleton got tangled up late in the second quarter with Oklahoma City Thunder big man Steven Adams. The two squared off, and Middleton eventually threw the ball at Adams’ chest.

Then the fun began.

Via Twitter:

By my count, here’s what happened:

1. Adams held Middleton on a rebound, which is what NBA big men do basically every play.
2. Middleton didn’t like that so he gave him a little karate chop.
3. Adams flipped the ball to Middleton.
4. Middleton executed the eponymous chest pass, as it were.

The two came together and had to be separated by officials. Middleton got a technical foul for initiating the scrum, and Adams earned himself a tech presumably for not ducking.

Report: Bucks “serious suitor” for soon-to-be free agent Richard Jefferson

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The trade officially went down on Saturday: Richard Jefferson was traded from Cleveland to Atlanta, along with Kay Felder, for a couple of second-round picks in what was a salary dump move by the Cavaliers.

As soon as the Hawks got Jefferson, they waived him and ate his $2.5 million contract. That will make Jefferson an unrestricted free agent when he clears waivers.

The young Milwaukee Bucks look like a team who want to add a veteran to their locker room and are making a big push for Jefferson, reports Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

The Milwaukee Bucks have emerged as a serious suitor in the pursuit of forward Richard Jefferson, league sources told ESPN.com.

No agreement has been reached, but the Bucks and Jefferson, 37, share a mutual interest on a possible deal once he clears waivers on Monday, league sources said.

Several other teams have expressed interest in Jefferson too, league sources told ESPN.

Earlier in the day, Saturday the Bucks released Gerald Green, which opens up a roster spot.

Jefferson played 20 minutes a game for the Cavaliers last season, and at age 37 he could give the Bucks solid minutes behind Khris Middleton and Mirza Teletovic at the three. Jefferson is no longer efficient as a scorer, but he plays within himself, and coach Tyronn Lue leaned him more in the Finals because of the need for wing defenders against the Warriors.

For Milwaukee, however, it’s less about the minutes and more about having a great veteran mentor in the locker room on a team with young stars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Thon Maker, Malcolm Brogdon, Jabari Parker, and Tony Snell.

Also, don’t be shocked to see the Bucks make a salary dump trade in the coming weeks (or at least by the trade deadline), they are flirting with the luxury tax, something ownership may not want to pay for a team not going to contend.

If Kyrie Irving bidding reopens, Bucks have offer with Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton

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Most likely the deal between the Cavaliers and Celtics for Kyrie Irving gets finalized today (Wednesday). The Cavaliers are already getting Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the highly-coveted Brooklyn first-round draft pick this year. The Cleveland doctors think that the healing timeline/re-injury risk with Thomas is longer than they thought and they want more compensation, and Boston likely throws in a second rounder.

If the trade falls apart, there are other teams hanging around wanting to get in on the Irving bidding, reports Zach Lowe at ESPN. But none of them have a deal near as good as the Celtics gave up.

The Milwaukee Bucks lurk on the fringes of the Irving bidding with an offer centered around Malcolm Brogdon, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, and Khris Middleton, sources say. The Bucks have not yet put a first-round pick on the table, sources say, but the bet here is that they would to get the deal done — or if Irving showed any interest in staying in Milwaukee long-term.

The problem is, that pick from the Bucks is middle of the draft at best, not nearly high enough to get a star the Cavs can count on. Middleton helps now, but while Brogdon won Rookie of the Year in a down season, he is not a blue-chip star player (like they likely land with the Brooklyn pick).

The Suns would have the kind of pick the Cavs want, but…

An unprotected pick from Phoenix would, but bad teams a half-decade away from relevance don’t deal picks for stars who make them slightly less bad before bolting in free agency. Other likely lottery teams — Sacramento, Atlanta, Indiana, Chicago — don’t appear to have made offers.

Denver’s name comes up from fans speculating on a deal.

Denver was the one team in the sweet spot to go all-in with an offer of Wilson Chandler, Jamal Murray (the blue-chipper), and at least one first-round pick. They are at little risk of coughing up a top-10 pick, with a need at point guard and a roster that generally fits Irving’s aging curve. Denver never ventured nearly that far. There are obvious reasons for their reluctance: Irving’s free agency in 2019, the Warriors, the challenge of building a defense book-ended by Irving and Nikola Jokic, the expense of an Irving-Jokic-Gary Harris core.

The big one there: Denver is building a team on a curve to be potentially very good in a few years, right when the juggernaut in Golden State starts to show cracks in the foundation (at least the rest of the league hopes so). Trade for Irving and they are full-on win now at the same time the Warriors’ powers are at their peak. Patience is a virtue.

Boston wants Irving — he’s younger than Thomas, may be better now but certainly will be better in three years — and they have a real chance to keep him in 2019 free agency. Cleveland wants that Brooklyn pick, and there are no options as good as the one on the table.

Which is why the already agreed to Cavaliers/Celtics swap will get done.

Young new head of Bucks basketball says he has final say, not Jason Kidd

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Jason Kidd ended up in Milwaukee when his power play in Brooklyn to get front office power failed. With the Bucks, he has had influence on player personnel moves and has reportedly pushed for more.

So when Milwaukee ownership hired 34-year-old Jon Horst as the new head of basketball operations, there were questions about who is running the show. Horst, in a Q&A on NBA.com, left no doubt he is the man in charge.

NBA.com: With all due respect, people will be watching to see if you have the heft to say “no” to Jason Kidd or to the owners who are signing your paycheck. How you address those concerns?

JH: Obviously, ownership is ownership. Jason Kidd is our coach. They’re going to be involved in everything we do. But in taking this job, we talked about these things. Ultimately, I’ve been hired to run the basketball operations for the Milwaukee Bucks, to have the final say and to make the final decisions. I’m going to operate as such, and I have their support in doing that. The only way you can really set aside those concerns is by living it every day and watching the transactions unfold.

We will see how it unfolds, because the step from potentially a great team to becoming a contender are the hardest ones.

Horst has some tough decisions ahead to take those steps. They have the young superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo, quality role players around him such as Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Tony Snell, and Malcolm Brogdon. The questions now are how well all they can all fit together, how many more long strides can the Greek Freak take forward, how can this gambling defensive team become more solid on that end, and what changes are needed for this team to move forward from 42 wins?

There are going to need to be players shifted and brought in to fit around Antetokounmpo. Horst — consulting with Kidd — has some serious work to do in the coming years.

Giannis Antetokounmpo gives views on loyalty while explaining Kevin Durant’s move

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As questions swirled about his future with the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo tweeted that loyalty was in his DNA.

But Kevin Durant also said he was loyal to the Thunder before leaving for the Warriors.

Durant explained the appearance of a contradiction by saying he showed his loyalty by signing a contract extension without options and playing hard every night. Durant was fully loyal to Oklahoma City while he was there. To him, it didn’t mean he pledged to stay forever.

What does loyalty mean to Antetokounmpo, who once said he wanted to play in Milwaukee forever? He provided insight when asked to compare his tweet to Durant’s sentiments.

Antetokounmpo:

A lot of people say they’re go to stay on a team, and they decide to move to a different team. But you guys always got to remember that a guy might want to stay on the team, but the team doesn’t do the right things and the right moves for the player to become great. Because K.D., the reason he wanted to stay in OKC was to be the champs, right? So, did they win a championship? That’s why he decided to leave. He did win a championship down in Golden State.

This is a very rational response, one that indicates his outlook is similar to Durant’s. Nobody would question Antetokounmpo’s devotion to Milwaukee right now. But that doesn’t mean he’ll feel this way indefinitely.

The Bucks have to reciprocate by doing well for Antetokounmpo.

So far, the results have been mixed. They’ve built a solid young nucleus that includes by Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, Thon Maker and Tony Snell. Jabari Parker would’ve counted if not for multiple ACL tears, which can derail a career. Luck can factor. So, it’s on Milwaukee to nail what it can control – like running the franchise without the disarray shown during its general-manager search.

Unlike the Thunder with Durant, the Bucks might be able to buy loyalty with a designated-veteran-player extension before Antetokounmpo’s contract expires in 2021. Those super-max deals didn’t exist under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, when Durant left for Golden State.

The salary cap is also stagnating, leaving it far less likely a team can duplicate the situation the Warriors’ presented Durant – a ready-made championship contender with max cap space. Relatively, the Bucks probably won’t have to look quite as appealing to be Antetokounmpo’s best option.

But they’ll still have to create some allure.

It sounds as if Antetokounmpo’s loyalty to the Bucks is, quite reasonably, conditional.