The Bucks‘ new owners, Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, along with Peter Feigin, the team’s president, have reinvigorated the franchise and have raised expectations, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today writes. In the near future, just making the playoffs, which seemed to be the ceiling under previous ownership, won’t be the goal, notes Zillgitt, who adds the team doesn’t need to land superstars; they need to sign talented players, similar to the Hawks signing Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver as free agents. With a promising young roster and under the leadership of Jason Kidd, the Bucks won 41 games this season after only winning 15 times last season.
Here’s more from Milwaukee and the Eastern Conference:
- In the same piece, Zillgitt writes that Bucks GM John Hammond said Kidd has been an integral part of the changing culture. “These jobs are all about managing people, and he’s done a great job with that,” Hammond said. “He was a very cool customer the way he played and he coaches the same way. Keeps his emotions in check, pushes the right buttons when necessary. I know at the end of the day the vote did not go this way, but in my book, he’s the coach of the year.” Kidd finished third for the award.
- Speaking of the Bucks’ plans for a better future, the team’s owners and state and local officials did not reach a financing deal for a new $500MM arena during a closed-door meeting last week, writes Scott Bauer of The Associated Press. The team, state and local leaders are trying to come up with a plan to split the costs of the new arena in downtown Milwaukee that would be part of a larger $1 billion entertainment district, as Bauer details. Without a new building by 2017, the NBA has said it will buy back the team and relocate it, according to Bauer.
- Amir Johnson said he hasn’t thought about whether or not Game 4’s elimination loss Sunday was his last game with the Raptors, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun tweets. Johnson, who was linked to trade rumors earlier this season, is set to be an unrestricted free agent.
J.R. Smith has fit in much better with the Cavaliers than many predicted he would when the guard was acquired earlier this season from the Knicks, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes. “For J.R., I think he’s been misunderstood,” LeBron James said. “He had a great column last week about the perception of him before he got here. I think you should read it, it’s pretty great. And he said at the end, it doesn’t matter if he’s playing in New York, or Cleveland or Denver or Timbuktu, all he cares about is winning. For a guy that’s been highly scrutinized throughout his career, saying he’s not a team guy and takes bad shots and he follows around everyone else, I think it’s unfair to him. He comes out every single day and works his tail off to try to get better, to help our team win. He defends at a high level and he’s a great teammate and he’s a great guy.” Smith has a player option worth $6,777,589 that he can opt out of this summer if he wishes to become an unrestricted free agent.
Here’s more from the Central Division:
- Bucks coach Jason Kidd sees a lot of himself in Michael Carter-Williams, and he believes that the change of scenery from the losing culture the Sixers have cultivated will be good for the young guard, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com writes. Kidd also believes that having a healthy offseason can help Carter-Williams improve his outside shooting, which is a glaring weakness in the young point guard’s game, Youngmisuk adds.
- Acquiring Carter-Williams also helped the Bucks‘ salary cap situation, Youngmisuk notes. By swapping Brandon Knight, who is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason, for Carter-Williams, who has two years remaining on his rookie contract, the team can now focus solely on re-signing Khris Middleton, who will also be a restricted free agent this summer, the ESPN scribe adds.
- Kevin Love has seemingly found his niche with the Cavaliers now that the playoffs have begun, and the veteran forward appears to be more at peace with being in Cleveland, Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal writes. “People have focused my whole career on what I couldn’t do rather than what I could do,” Love said. “I know my teammates and coaching staff has my back. I know the organization has my back. I’m sending the love right back to them.”
Knicks team president Phil Jackson has sounded like a defeated man during his end of season press conferences, which isn’t what the organization or its fans need to see at this critical juncture in New York’s rebuilding process, Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post writes. The Zen Master has taken on a somewhat pessimistic attitude when discussing the team’s ability to attract free agents, Vaccaro notes. “The market value is going to be really interesting,” Jackson said. “There’s going to be a zillion guys being chased, and it’s not just us trying to do this. It only takes one individual team that says, ‘We want this guy.’ The prevailing attitude is: Guys get overpaid in this situation. You have do that in free agency to get a player. We know we have a limited amount and have to do some judicious shopping. We’re not going to the dollar store, but we may not be at one of the bigger [stores].”
Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- If Knicks guard Ricky Ledo is still under contract through August 1st, $100K of his minimum salary arrangement for 2015/16 will become guaranteed, with another $100K becoming guaranteed if he begins the season under contract, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets.
- Jorge Gutierrez‘s minimum salary deal for 2015/16 with the Bucks is non-guaranteed, Pincus tweets.
- Will Bynum‘s contract with the Wizards was strictly for the remainder of the 2014/15 campaign, and the guard will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, Pincus notes (Twitter link).
- Commissioner Adam Silver indicated that he still has faith that a deal can be reached on a new arena in Milwaukee for the Bucks, Kami Mattioli of The Sporting News tweets. The franchise is struggling to secure $250MM worth of public financing toward the construction of a $500MM arena.
The Suns could face a situation with Brandon Knight that is similar to the one the team endured with Eric Bledsoe last summer in regards to re-signing the player, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes. The Suns and Bledsoe remained at an impasse for the bulk of last summer while the two sides haggled over the amount of the contract, and Bledsoe didn’t put pen to paper on his deal until the end of September. When Knight was in discussions with the Bucks regarding an extension last offseason, the player was requesting a deal in the range of $12MM per season, while Milwaukee held fast at $9MM per year, Deveney notes.
Knight only made 11 appearances for the Suns after being acquired at the trade deadline from Milwaukee thanks to a foot injury he suffered. The guard is set to become a restricted free agent this summer, provided Phoenix tenders him a qualifying offer of $4,790,680. If the two sides are unable to reach an agreement on a new deal this summer, Knight could simply ink the qualifying offer and play out the 2015/16 season. He would then hit free agency in the summer of 2016 when the salary cap is expected to increase significantly, Deveney adds.
Here’s more out of the Pacific Division:
- Lester Hudson‘s $1,015,421 salary for 2015/16 with the Clippers is non-guaranteed, but if the guard is still on the roster on July 15th his salary becomes fully guaranteed, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders relays (Twitter link).
- The Lakers paid Vander Blue a total of $14,408 for the three days he spent with the team after being inked to a pact that covered the remainder of the 2014/15 campaign, Pincus tweets. Blue can become a restricted free agent this summer if Los Angeles tenders him a qualifying offer worth $1,147,276.
- Jerel McNeal‘s minimum salary arrangement with the Suns for 2015/16 will become fully guaranteed if he is still on Phoenix’s roster past July 21st, Pincus adds (Twitter link).
Bucks president Peter Feigin impressed upon bickering local and state government officials to wrap up a deal within the next 10 days to secure the public’s $250MM share of financing for a $500MM new arena for the team in Milwaukee, reports Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Without an arena, “the Bucks will be gone from the state of Wisconsin,” Feigin warned. Realistically, groundbreaking must take place by early this fall so that the arena remains on schedule to beat an NBA-imposed deadline, as Feigin told Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com for a story this weekend. Sources told Windhorst the NBA would indeed exercise its right to buy the franchise and seek to move it if construction doesn’t begin soon.
Here’s more out of the Eastern Conference:
- Despite the upgrade Tom Thibodeau would provide as coach, the Magic should pass on the longtime Bulls coach if it required the team to surrender its first round draft pick as compensation, Brian Schmitz of The Orlando Sentinel opines. Orlando previously traded for Stan Van Gundy, sending the Heat a second-rounder back in 2007 in return for the coach, Schmitz notes.
- 2014 second-rounder Jerami Grant turned out to be one of the Sixers‘ biggest surprises this season, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. An undersized power forward in college, Grant adapted well when the team moved him to small forward, Pompey adds. “Whatever position they put me at, I think I will be fine with it,” Grant said. “But in the offseason, I’m definitely going to work on a lot of things that a four-man can do and what a three-man can do. I’m just going to work on my overall game.” In 65 games this season Grant averaged 6.3 points and 3.0 rebounds in 21.2 minutes per contest.
- Dwyane Wade isn’t in a rush to make a decision regarding his player option worth $16,125,000, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press writes. The veteran also indicated that the 2015/16 campaign isn’t likely to be his last in the league, Reynolds adds. “I don’t sit on my hands,” Wade said. “Obviously, everything’s about life after [basketball] and seeing what you want to do as well. So this is a perfect time to figure it out. I signed my deal the way I did for a reason … and the organization did it for a reason. It’s my option. I’ll decide when the time is right. Everyone knows I always try to do what’s best for the organization, but I also have to do what’s best for Dwyane Wade as well.” This conflicts with earlier statements from Wade that he intended to opt in for next season.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star looks at each of the soon-to-be free agents on the Pacers, pegging Rodney Stuckey and Lavoy Allen as the most likely among them to return, C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland as unlikely to be back, and Luis Scola and Donald Sloan somewhere in between. President of basketball operations Larry Bird said they’d all like to be back, but Scola, while praising the Pacers organization, doesn’t seem quite ready to commit, as Buckner relays.
“We’ll see what happens. We didn’t have our exit meeting yet. I’m hoping to get some type of feedback there and some type of impression of what they want to do in the future and move on from there,” Scola said last week.
Buckner suggests Stuckey, who drew praise from Bird, wants a multiyear deal with his wedding planned for mid-July. While we wait to see if the Pacers have something picked out for him on his registry, here’s more from around the Central:
- Greg Monroe isn’t ruling out a return to the Pistons, but Reggie Jackson has spoken of communicating with other Pistons over the summer so everyone stays motivated for next season, notes MLive’s David Mayo, pointing to the dichotomy between Detroit’s two main soon-to-be free agents. As for other free agents on the team, the Pistons are unlikely to offer Tayshaun Prince a chance to return, and John Lucas III probably won’t be back with the team next year, Mayo writes.
- Several NBA executives say that they expect Khris Middleton to wind up signing a deal with $8MM annual salaries this summer, reports Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times. That figure is somewhat lower than the $10MM estimate that Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops heard from several GMs and other executives recently. Woelfel points to numbers that don’t suggest much improvement from Middleton this season, though he grants that the Bucks combo forward’s value could escalate with a strong playoff performance.
- Former Bucks center Larry Sanders still doesn’t have a desire to return to the game, Woelfel notes within the same piece.
The playoffs will shed a lot of light on Kevin Love and his future in Cleveland, writes Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report. Love can become a free agent by opting out this summer, and although he has stated his intentions are to remain with the Cavaliers, some around the league wouldn’t be convinced of that unless Cleveland wins the title this year, as Skolnick details. He has become the third option in Cleveland and his usage rate has fallen to 21.7%, the lowest since his rookie season in Minnesota. “Obviously, he went there with LeBron to win a championship,” former Timberwolves assistant Bill Bayno said of the offseason deal that sent Love to Cleveland. “I think he had an idea his role would be a little different, I don’t think he knew it would be this different.”
There’s more from the Central Division:
- LeBron James told Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com that he will take responsibility for giving Love a bigger role in the offense during the postseason. “I think Kevin has not had the season that he’s accustomed to having the past few years,” James said, “but in order for us to win, Kevin Love has to play at a high level, and it’s my job to help him get to that point as well.” Like Love, James can opt out and become a free agent this summer, but there seems to be little chance of him leaving Cleveland.
- The Pistons finally started getting the production they expected from Reggie Jackson toward the end of the season, according to Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. Acquired from the Thunder in a deadline deal, Jackson averaged 20 points, 11 assists and 4.8 rebounds over his final 16 games in Detroit. “If you look at his numbers over the last third of the year, he’s going to be top seven or eight point guard in the league over that time,” said coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy. Jackson will be a free agent this summer, but he is expected to stay in Detroit.
- The Bucks are running short on time to start building their new arena, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. The franchise is under an NBA-imposed deadline to have a new facility completed or near completion by 2017. With government budgets due by the end of June, funding must be secured quickly. “The arena is a two-year process,” said Michael Fascitelli, a member of the Bucks’ ownership group who is leading the arena development. “Every day is critical.”
Soon-to-be restricted free agent Khris Middleton is in line for salaries of around $10MM this summer, several GMs and other executives tell Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops. Middleton said to Scotto that he would love to return to the Bucks but insists he’ll keep his options open. Still, multiple league sources tell Scotto that Middleton won’t be going anywhere, a sign that the Bucks intend to exercise their right to match any offer for him.
Here’s more from the Central Division:
- A new arena in Milwaukee has seemed well on its way, but Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times has some doubt for the first time about whether the project will come to fruition, given the resistance that public funding has met in the Wisconsin state legislature. The NBA has the right to seize control of the Bucks if an arena deal isn’t in place by November 2017.
- The Cavaliers have recalled guard Joe Harris from the Canton Charge, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. Harris has played in three playoff games for the Charge this season, averaging 17.7 points and 8.0 rebounds in 30.0 minutes per game.
- Pau Gasol has enjoyed a career resurgence in his first season with the Bulls, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune writes. “This season has been extremely positive individually,” Gasol said. “I’m just happy that I’m playing at this level and accomplishing things I haven’t done in the past, which is pretty remarkable at this stage of my career. I just want to continue to work and stay focused and extend my level of play as long as I can.“
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
GM David Griffin turned the Cavs into a potential championship contender with his in-season moves and unwavering support of first-year coach David Blatt, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today opines. Cleveland needed those improvements to be a true contender, Zillgitt continues, and his acquisitions of J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov made the desired impact. Griffin also diffused a potentially divisive issue with his public support of Blatt while the team was struggling, Zillgitt adds. Cleveland’s turnaround this season has made Griffin a prime candidate for the league’s Executive of the Year award.
In other news around the Eastern Conference:
- Jason Kidd deserves Coach of the Year consideration after guiding the Bucks to the playoffs one season after they won 15 games, Matt Walks of ESPN.com writes. Kidd had to deal with the season-ending injury losses of Jabari Parker and Kendall Marshall as well as Larry Sanders‘ mental health issues that led him into retirement. Kidd also changed point guards from Brandon Knight to Michael Carter-Williams at the trade deadline, yet the club ranks second in defensive efficiency, Walks points out. The Bucks have a strong young core, provided they retains restricted free agent Khris Middleton, and has the draft choices to add more pieces, Walks concludes.
- Tyler Johnson‘s story offers hope for prospects with seemingly little chance to be drafted, as he went from undrafted to a prominent role in the Heat’s playoff push within a single year, as Shams Charania of RealGM examines. Johnson, who’s averaging 18.4 minutes in 30 appearances, has a non-guaranteed salary for next season that becomes 50% guaranteed if he remains under contract through August 1st.
- The Cavs assigned Joe Harris to their D-League affiliate, the Canton Charge, the team announced on Monday. The guard has played in 50 games for the Cavs this season, averaging 2.7 points in 9.5 minutes per game. Harris was available to play for the Charge in their postseason game on Monday against the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
The Knicks may have cost themselves a few ping-pong balls by beating Orlando Saturday night, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. New York and Minnesota are now tied atop Hoops Rumors’ Reverse Standings with 16-64 records. If they finish deadlocked, they will basically split the ping-pong balls used to determine the lottery order, with a coin flip deciding who gets one extra ball and the No. 1 designation. Each team would have about a 22.5% chance of winning the lottery. Had the Knicks lost last night and their last two games, their odds would have been at 25%. “I don’t believe in trying to lose,’’ Knicks coach Derek Fisher said.
There’s more this morning from the Big Apple:
- Berman reports in a separate story that Alexey Shved would like to remain in New York. The Knicks traded Pablo Prigioni to Houston at the deadline for the Russian guard and two second-round picks. He has been effective since the deal, averaging 14.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists. “My agent will do his work summertime but I want to stay here,” Shved said. “We had a lot of problems and injuries. Everything will change next year and I want to be part of it.’’
- Former Knicks player and current Bucks coach Jason Kidd told Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com that New York could be a major player this summer in free agency. The Knicks will have at least $25MM to spend, along with a high draft pick and the lure of playing with Carmelo Anthony. “Melo is a talented player; he’s a great guy on and off the floor,” Kidd said. “So I wouldn’t see that there would be problems with guys coming in to play [with him].”
- While the team waits for the offseason, a few young players and castoffs from other organizations are trying to make an impact in 2014/15, writes Dan Barry of The New York Times. Langston Galloway, Ricky Ledo, Louis Amundson and Lance Thomas, who all joined the team on 10-day contracts, are trying to establish themselves before the season is over. “I’ve just been waiting to play,” Ledo said. “Coming from the D-League, I’m getting my shot here.”