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)

Rudy Gobert re-energized ahead of Jazz at Thunder

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Rudy Gobert didn’t hide his disappointment at not making the NBA All-Star Game for the first time despite averaging 15.2 points and 12.9 rebounds while leading the league in field-goal percentage.

But coming off the 10-day break, the Utah Jazz center says he’s re-energized heading into Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Just recharge, completely — mentally, physically,” Gobert said. “For me, I was able to get a little bit of sun and feel a lot better when I get back.

“The next two months, I feel like, will be a lot better.”

The Jazz, who have won 13 of their last 16 games, come out of the break sixth in the Western Conference but with one of the NBA’s easiest schedules down the stretch.

Utah plays just eight of its final 25 games against teams that are above .500.

One of those, though, is Friday night’s game in Oklahoma City, which sits third in the West after winning 11 of 13 before the break.

The Thunder, on the other hand, have one of the league’s most challenging schedules moving forward. Oklahoma City plays 17 of its remaining 25 games against teams above .500 including each of the first five out of the break.

The Thunder have won the first two meetings between the teams, including a 122-113 win on Dec. 10 in Oklahoma City.

An Oklahoma City win would clinch the season series for the Thunder after Utah eliminated Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs last season.

The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook has a streak of 10 consecutive triple-doubles. During that stretch, he’s averaged 21.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 13.5 assists.

Utah is hopeful backup point guard Dante Exum, who has missed the last 17 games with a left ankle sprain, will be able to return against the Thunder.

“I think when he’s playing well, he can have a big impact for us and having him back soon is going to help us a lot,” Gobert said.

The Thunder could have forward Markieff Morris available for the first time. Morris signed with Oklahoma City over the All-Star break after being waived by New Orleans following his trade from Washington on Feb. 7.

Morris was averaging 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds for the Wizards this season before suffering a neck injury in late December that has kept him out since. Morris was cleared to play two weeks ago.

“We got a big piece in Markieff that we’re excited for, and we’re going to be ready for the second half after this break,” Oklahoma City’s Paul George said.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan said, “We’ll see,” when asked Thursday if Morris would play against the Jazz.

The Thunder also figure to have both starting forward Jerami Grant and backup point guard Dennis Schroder back after each missed the last two games before the break, Grant with an ankle injury and Schroder after the birth of his child.

Friday’s game is the start of a back-to-back for both teams, with the Jazz hosting Dallas on Saturday and Oklahoma City hosting Sacramento.

 

Raptors fans welcome DeMar DeRozan back with loud, standing ovation

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DeMar DeRozan was the greatest Raptor ever. He was an All-Star, he presided over the best seasons in franchise history, and he’s the one guy who re-signed and stood up for a city that has an inferiority complex around its basketball team.

Toronto fans understood the trade that brought Kawhi Leonard to the team — it’s an upgrade on the court — but their love for DeRozan is real.

They showed that on Friday night when DeRozan returned to Toronto for the first time as a member of the Spurs — he got a raucous ovation upon his introduction.

Early in the game he gave them a taste of what he did for them for years, getting the and-1 bucket on the drive.

Marcus Smart hits halfcourt shot at practice, celebrates with a back flip

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The celebration is more impressive than the shot.

After a tough loss to Milwaukee on Thursday, the Celtics traveled to Chicago to take on the Bulls on Saturday. Friday they had a practice in the Northwestern University facility.

It’s there Marcus Smart drains a halfcourt shot. Impressive. But not nearly as impressive as the backflip celebration.

I did not know Smart had that in him.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer reportedly tells organization he still wants playoff push

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When the Clippers traded their best player — Tobias Harris — right before the trade deadline, it was a move generally seen as throwing in the towel on this season’s playoffs, but it was applauded around the league because of the haul it brought back to L.A. It set the Clippers up with one max cap slot this summer and a reasonable path to a second one, plus the Clippers landed rookie shooting guard Landry Shamet, Philadelphia’s 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected) and the Miami Heat’s 2021 first-round pick unprotected.

Except then the Clippers not long after traded for Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green — boosting the roster’s depth in needed spots. Not a move a team looking to fall out of the playoffs makes.

That’s because owner Steve Ballmer doesn’t want them to fall out of the playoffs, reports Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Sources say Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has let it be known throughout the organization that he wants to keep making this playoff push. Never mind that such an accomplishment would cost them their first-round pick this season.

The coach and players should never be told to lose games, they need to go all-out every time they are on the court. That goes to the culture of an organization. If a decision is made to focus on the future, then it’s about roster decisions at the GM level. That is what the Clippers did, and there is nothing wrong — or even strange — about the owner telling them to push and try to make the playoffs.

Either way, it works for Los Angeles.

Make the playoffs as the eight seed and the Clippers are likely just the first-round appetizer for the Warriors as they chase a three-peat, but it shows potential free agents the role players on the team have grit and just need a star and leader. Their young stars would gain a little playoff experience. While the Clippers would lose this year’s first-round pick, giving up a late teens pick in what is considered a down draft (especially after No. 1) is not that painful a loss. It’s one less asset to throw in a potential trade (Anthony Davis anyone?), but it’s not devastating.

Miss the playoffs and they get a late-lottery pick and things go as expected.

Make or miss the playoffs, the Clippers are focused on July 1 and landing a couple of free agents, with Kawhi Leonard at the top of the list (and a lot of sources around the league think that’s where they are headed).