Milwaukee Bucks

Bucks Arena Plan Clears Major Hurdle

2:24pm: Walker said today that he’d sign the bill, note Stein and Journal Sentinel colleague Patrick Marley. Feigen expressed measured confidence and said it’s possible for the funding to be secured in time for an autumn groundbreaking.

12:48pm: The public funding plan for a new Bucks arena in Milwaukee has received approval from the Wisconsin State Assembly by a 52-34 vote, reports Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). The measure passed the state senate two weeks ago and now heads to Governor Scott Walker for his signature. Walker has consistently supported the idea of a new building that would keep the team from leaving town.

Should Walker sign the bill, which seems a likely proposition, Milwaukee County must authorize the purchase of the land for the building and the City of Milwaukee must negotiate a lease, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. State, county and city leaders have been under pressure from the league to make sure an arena is ready by the start of the 2017/18 season, with the NBA having threatened to take the team away from owners Marc Lasry, Wesley Edens and Jamie Dinan and sell it to others who would move the team. The public is on the hook for half of the arena’s expected $500MM cost.

Bucks president Peter Feigin released a statement hailing today’s vote. Still, progress toward the arena has been somewhat slow-going, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com wrote in April that the Bucks and civic leaders faced a realistic deadline of June to secure funding. The legislature separated the arena bill from the state budget package last month, a move that bought more time. Windhorst nonetheless indicated that groundbreaking must take place this fall for the plan to remain on schedule.

And-Ones: Bucks Arena, Mavs, Huestis

The $500MM plan to fund a new Bucks arena has enough votes to pass the Wisconsin State Assembly on Tuesday, Republican Majority Leader Jim Steineke said, according to Scott Bauer of the Associated Press. Under the proposal, half of the cost would initially be paid by state and local taxpayers and the other $250MM would come from current and former Bucks owners, Bauer continues. If approved without any changes by the Assembly, the bill would then head to Governor Scott Walker for his consideration, Bauer adds.

In other news around the league:

  • The Mavericks have renounced their rights to Bernard James, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. Pincus notes the Mavs did the same thing last summer, then re-signed him. James’ cap hold was $947,276.
  • The Spurs’ contract with Reggie Williams is not guaranteed, Pincus reports in a separate tweet. Williams would make approximately $1.186MM this upcoming season if he gets paid the full amount.
  • The Thunder are saving their final open roster spot for Josh Huestis, Marc Stein of ESPN.com hears (Twitter link). Oklahoma City selected the 6’7” forward with the 29th overall pick in 2014 but he spent last season with the Oklahoma City Blue of the D-League.
  • The Warriors will hire from within regarding their coaching moves and promote Luke Walton and Jarron Collins, Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com tweets.

Eastern Notes: Larkin, Stuckey, Copeland

The Nets believe that the right system can bring out the potential that made Shane Larkin a first round pick back in 2013, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com writes. “I talked to [GM] Billy [King] and Lionel [Hollins] as soon as free agency started, and they told me they wanted me to come in and just play my game,” Larkin said. “I’m more of a pick-and-roll guy, up and down. “And that’s the thing they told me they wanted me to come in and do. For them to tell me they wanted me to come in push the tempo, bring some energy to the team, that was everything I wanted to hear.

Larkin admits to having been uncomfortable playing in the Knicks‘ triangle offense last season, Youngmisuk adds. “I mean the triangle is a good offense if you have the type of players that fit within that offense,” Larkin said. “And I don’t feel like it was the best offense for me. I’m not talking bad about it. It’s a great offense. I wish them nothing but the best.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The presence of former teammate Jason Kidd as coach was a major factor for Chris Copeland‘s decision to sign with the Bucks, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports writes. “The biggest hook for me was Jason Kidd, by far,” Copeland said. “Obviously, he was a friend of mine before all this. He was a great mentor for me in New York and someone I continue to grow under. An incredible mind on and off the floor.
  • The final season of Jordan Mickey‘s four-year pact with the Celtics is a non-guaranteed team option, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets.
  • Brazilian big man Cristiano Felicio‘s contract with the Bulls is a two-year deal, and he will earn $525,093 in 2015/16 and $874,636 the following season, with both years non-guaranteed, Pincus relays (Twitter link).
  • Rodney Stuckey‘s three-year contract with the Pacers will see him earn $7MM each season, and includes a player option for the final year, Pincus relays (on Twitter).

Bucks Nearing Deal With Chris Copeland?

9:13pm: Copeland had a strong workout with the Bucks today, but the Spurs and Thunder are still in the mix for his services, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports tweets.

7:30pm: The Bucks and Copeland are working to finalize a deal, and it is expected to be completed sometime this week, Marc Stein of ESPN.com tweets.

JULY 21ST, 12:22pm: Copeland has traveled to Milwaukee for a meeting with the Bucks and perhaps to take a physical, Woelfel tweets.

JULY 17TH, 2:09pm: Some higher-ups from around the league think the Bucks have become the front-runners for Copeland, Woelfel reports (Twitter link).

JULY 14TH, 11:42am: The Bucks are interested in Chris Copeland, but they have yet to make an offer to the unrestricted free agent forward, reports Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times (Twitter link). Milwaukee is still looking to replace the perimeter shooting it gave up in the Ersan Ilyasova trade, Woelfel notes, pointing to Copeland’s career 37.3% three-point shooting.

That three-point shooting percentage was above 40% before this past season, when he nailed only 31.1% and dropped out of the Pacers rotation in the second half as many of Indiana’s regulars returned to health. His season ended prematurely when he was stabbed and suffered a broken elbow in April outside a New York nightclub.

Milwaukee is among four teams on Copeland’s radar, and the 31-year-old is expected to decide between them in the next couple of days, Woelfel tweets. The Wizards were linked to the John Spencer client early in free agency.

Copeland signed a two-year, $6.135MM deal with Indiana two years ago, when he was coming off a surprisingly successful rookie season with the Knicks, with whom he made his NBA debut six years after going undrafted out of Colorado. He wasn’t able to duplicate that performance with the Pacers, who declined their chance to match competing bids for him this summer when they elected not to make a qualifying offer that would have been worth nearly $3.919MM.

Central Notes: Smith, Antetokounmpo, Granger

J.R. Smith will probably regret turning down his $6.4MM option for next season, writes Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer, although the free agent guard could still rejoin the Cavaliers at a lesser rate. The team was unhappy with Smith’s decision and started looking for a replacement, Pluto reports. Although Smith is still trying to find a better deal, most free agents have been signed and the list of teams with cap space is dwindling. Pluto notes that Cleveland would like to bring Smith back, but only on a “modest” one-year contract.

There’s more tonight from the Central Division:

  • The Cavs‘ “immediate need” for “championship caliber” players may keep Rakeem Christmas and Sir’Dominic Pointer from making the roster, according to Joe Vardon of The Northeast Ohio Media Group. The second-round picks were acquired from the Wolves in a draft-day deal that sent Tyus Jones to Minnesota, and although the Cavaliers like both players there may not be room on the roster for them to sit and learn the NBA game. “We’re in a really unique situation roster-spot wise, where both of them could be affected by that,” said Cavs GM David Griffin. “What we need are guys that can compete in championship caliber games. We ended up in a situation where we ran out of bodies in the Finals and guys that were ready to play significant minutes.”
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo would like to spend his entire career with the Bucks, the 20-year-old Greek star wrote on his blog. Antetokounmpo expressed gratitude to the Milwaukee front office for drafting him and making him a team leader at such a young age, though he did include a qualifier that could make Bucks fans nervous: “Okay, if LeBron [James] said to me ‘Come to my team and play with me,’ I’d think about it! [laughs] He’s the best player in the world and a member of that exclusive group of the best that have ever played the game. Still, though, the Milwaukee Bucks would come first. They will always be the team that gave me my chance and opened up the doors to paradise.”
  • Veteran Danny Granger will be among five players battling for the last two roster spots with the Pistons, according to Vince Ellis of USA Today. The others in contention, according to Ellis, are second-round pick Darrun Hilliard, Reggie Bullock, Cartier Martin and Adonis Thomas.

Bucks Sign First-Rounder Rashad Vaughn

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

The Bucks have officially signed Rashad Vaughn to a rookie scale contract, the team has announced. The guard out of UNLV was the No. 17 overall selection in this year’s NBA Draft. Vaughn was the Mountain West Conference’s Freshman of the Year for the 2014/15 season.

Vaughn will earn more than $1.733MM this coming season in the first year of a four-year deal, presuming he receives the standard 120% of the rookie scale, which is most likely the case. The player can expect to take home $1,811,040 in 2016/17, $1,889,040 in 2017/18, and $2,901,565 in the contract’s final year.

The 18-year-old spent one season with the Runnin’ Rebels, appearing in 23 games and averaging 17.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. His shooting numbers were .439/.383/.694. He was the No. 38 overall ranked player in this year’s draft according to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress, while Chad Ford of ESPN.com rated Vaughn as a first round pick, slotting him at No. 22 overall.

Latest On Bucks’ New Arena

WEDNESDAY, 6:18pm: The Milwaukee State Senate passed the arena funding bill by a vote of 21-10, and now the proposal will go before the State Assembly for ratification, Jason Stein and Patrick Marley of The Journal Sentinel report. “This deal has taken a lot of work but the Bucks are big bucks for Wisconsin,” said Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), who voted for the plan. “It’s not been easy. It’s not been pretty. But finally we’ve all been at the table.” Bucks team president Peter Feigin released this statement on behalf of the team: “Today’s vote is a significant step forward in our collective effort to build a new sports and entertainment district in Wisconsin. We appreciate the bipartisan leadership in Madison for bringing this transformative partnership one step closer to reality. We’re optimistic that this financing package will receive support in the Assembly and look forward to working with state, county and city officials.

MONDAY, 10:55pm: Plans for a new Bucks arena in Milwaukee face another key hurdle, with the Wisconsin State Senate poised to vote as early as this week on whether to approve the latest public funding proposal, TNT’s David Aldridge writes as part of his Morning Tip column for NBA.com The league previously received a commitment from new owners Wes Edens, Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan, as part of the Bucks’ 2013 sale agreement, that they would work out a deal with the city and state to build a new arena in Milwaukee by 2017, and the league remains committed to the deadline, Aldridge notes. If a new arena is not ready by opening night of the 2017/18 season or doesn’t appear to be on track to meet that goal, the league has the right to buy back the team and put it on the open market, which would presumably include buyers who would move the team out of Milwaukee.

The current ownership group has combined to pledge $150MM toward the construction of the building and former owner Herb Kohl has pledged $100MM toward it. Those totals represent roughly half of what a new arena will cost, so funding remains an obstacle.

The state legislature removed the arena bill, which called for $250MM in public funds to be used toward construction of the arena, from the state’s budget process last week, Aldridge notes. The budget was passed, but the funding of a new building for the Bucks was not addressed, as Aldridge details.

Bucks President Peter Feigin told the state assembly last week that if there is no agreement with the city and state in place over the next few months, the likelihood of the team ultimately moving out of Milwaukee is strong, Aldridge notes.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who officially entered the 2016 presidential race earlier today, several weeks ago announced the latest plan, which would use various public funding mechanisms to help foot the cost of the arena on a site north of the team’s current arena, according to Aldridge. Getting a deal done was always a goal of Walker’s. With his hat in the ring for the GOP nomination, keeping the team in Milwaukee, along with the good press that it would bring, may be an even greater priority for him, although that is simply my speculation.

The proposal would have the city of Milwaukee kicking in $47MM, with Milwaukee County kicking in another $55MM, Aldridge notes. The bulk of the remaining funding would come through new debt issuance by the Wisconsin Center District, a governmental body in charge of several downtown Milwaukee venues, Aldridge explains. That Center District funding is estimated to be $93MM, Aldridge writes.

The majority of the Republican-controlled state legislature supports the arena measure, Aldridge adds, but the bill will need the support of several Democratic state senators. Among their concerns is the new debt that would be assumed by the Center District, Aldridge notes.

Potential buyers of the Bucks, should the team be put on the open market, are keeping a close eye on the situation, as Aldridge points out. Hedge fund billionaire Chris Hansen, who led the group in 2013 that nearly bought the Kings and relocated them to Seattle, is working to bring an NHL team to Seattle. Hansen’s hope is that if he can get a new arena built to house the NHL team, it would help the city bring an NBA team back to town.

The Bucks understand the deadline that the NBA set is fast approaching.

“I don’t think this is a well-kept secret in the state of Wisconsin,” Feigin told Aldridge. “…The NBA, as part of the purchase agreement, put language in to make us build a new arena within a set time frame. That is not new news. We’ve been up front about that. I think the timing of it, and the reality of it when it’s the ninth inning, that people might misconstrue that as leverage or threatening. It’s not. It’s just the fact that for the Bucks to stay in the state of Wisconsin, we will need to construct a new arena.”

The Bucks have taken huge strides in becoming a legitimate contender. Every day that goes by without a funding deal for a new arena in Milwaukee increases the likelihood that this up-and-coming team will reach its peak in a different city.

And-Ones: Labor, Moratorium, Max Salaries

Commissioner Adam Silver struck an optimistic tone about labor negotiations with a December 15th, 2016 deadline looming for owners and players to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement, writes Sam Amick of USA Today.

“You know, I’m not sure if the players association is going to opt out,” Silver said as he addressed media Tuesday. “[Union executive director] Michele [Roberts] made some early remarks suggesting maybe they were leaning that direction, but she hasn’t told me that she plans to opt out. And I know that in discussions that she and I have had and I’ve had with players association representatives, it’s clear the goal on both sides is to avoid any sort of work stoppage whatsoever and maybe even to avoid the opt out.”

Still, Silver claims a “significant number of teams” are losing money, Amick notes. The commissioner said the league projects that it’ll need to issue a $500MM check to the players after the 2016/17 season because total salaries aren’t expected to add up to the required 50-51% of basketball related income, even as the salary cap surges, as Ken Berger of CBSSports.com observes. Berger sees a strong chance that the owners opt out, in spite of Silver’s seeming confidence that such can be avoided. Here’s more from around the league:

  • Owners discussed the idea of changing the July Moratorium to avoid sagas like the one that surrounded DeAndre Jordan as he decommitted to the Mavs to return to the Clippers, but none of the owners could come up with an appealing solution, Silver said, according to Berger.
  • The projected maximum salaries for next season are $20.4MM for players with fewer than seven years of experience, $24.9MM for those with seven to nine years in the league, and $29.3MM for veterans of 10 or more years, tweets former Nets executive Bobby Marks. See this year’s max salaries right here.
  • The union continues to consider a get-tough stance on agencies that represent both players and coaches, but the most likely outcome is a continuance of the same policies, despite the conflict of interest, Grantland’s Zach Lowe reports. Agencies are allowed to represent both as long as they create separate divisions, with separate agents, to handle player and management clients, as Lowe explains. Still, not all are pleased with arrangement, and when the Bucks, who have close ties to Excel, drafted Excel client Rashad Vaughn last month, some people around the league found it untoward, Lowe writes.
  • The Nets once more led luxury taxpayers for this past season, though it wasn’t the record amount of some $90MM from a year ago. This time, they paid $19.98MM, followed by the Cavs with $6.96MM, the Clippers at $4.8MM, and the Thunder at $2.79MM, salary cap expert Larry Coon tweets. Teams that didn’t pay the tax saw $830K each as a result.
  • The second-round pick that the Celtics are sending to the Thunder as part of the Perry Jones III trade is Boston’s own 2018 second-rounder, but if it falls within the top 55 picks that year, the Celtics’ debt to Oklahoma City is extinguished, according to RealGM.

Southeast Notes: Lin, Dragic, Dudley

Goran Dragic is thrilled that the Heat re-signed Dwyane Wade this offseason, but also notes that he would have returned to Miami regardless of Wade’s decision, as he said in a recent appearance on The Dan Le Batard Show on ESPN Radio (audio link), and as Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post transcribes. When Dragic was asked if he had been nervous about Wade returning, he said, “I was, a little bit. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was back in Europe and I read all the media reports. In the end, I’m really glad we signed him.

Dragic also noted that he didn’t speak with any other teams during the free agent signing period. “No, because Miami was the first team that called me,” Dragic said. “The last three months of last season, I was really satisfied with the organization and the people around me and the players. I was considering Miami the first option… Miami Heat is the right organization for me. I want to win something. I could go somewhere else, but I was really happy the last couple of months here. That was the right decision for me… Basically Miami Heat was the first option. Then they called me first. [Team president] Pat [Riley] was talking and saying what kind of team it was going to be… and I said I need to be on this wagon.

Here’s more out of the NBA’s Southeast Division:

  • Jeremy Lin said that the Hornets entered the picture late in the free agent process, but he added that the team appeared to be sincere in its presentation and plan for him, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer tweets. The point guard inked a two-year pact with the franchise last week.
  • Charlotte’s signing of Lin using its biannual exception means that the Hornets have triggered the hard cap, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. If a team is hard-capped, it cannot exceed the tax apron under any circumstance. A team that has spent up to its hard cap can still ink players to non-guaranteed contracts for training camp or the regular season, but it must rid itself of such players before their salaries become guaranteed. The deal is worth the full value of the biannual exception, a total of $4,374,255 over two years, and it includes a player option, as Pincus shows on his Hornets salary page.
  • Jared Dudley said that the Wizards were one of the teams he considered signing with before he opted in for 2015/16 with the Bucks, and he’s thrilled with the trade that sent him to Washington, The Associated Press relays. “I liked my situation in Milwaukee, but if they told me I was going to opt in and go to Washington, I would have opted in the first day because I can’t see a [situation] that’s better for me right now,” Dudley said.

Central Notes: Shumpert, LeBron, Monroe

Six teams offered a first-round pick to the Cavaliers for Iman Shumpert at the trade deadline this past February, and three of them had max-level cap flexibility this summer, reports Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. That made Cleveland’s front office “incredibly nervous” as it sought to re-sign the swingman in restricted free agency, despite its ability to match competing offers for him. The Kings were one of the teams that thought about an offer before Shumpert, who’d made it a priority to remain with the Cavs, did just that and signed a new deal.

“We were thinking about it,” Kings Vice President of Basketball Operations Vlade Divac told Haynes, “but we had some other options that came up better for us.”

Haynes wonders just what those better options could have been, but the upshot is that Shumpert is staying put. Here’s more from around the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers certainly aren’t trading LeBron James, but if they did, they’d have to pay a 15% trade kicker as part of his new contract, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter link). The bonus would only take effect if he were to opt in for next season.
  • The precise value of Mo Williamstwo-year deal with the Cavs is $4,294,500, with $2.1MM coming this season and the rest set aside for the player option year in 2016/17, as Pincus shows on Basketball Insiders (Twitter link).
  • The Bucks had been trying to trade Zaza Pachulia in the days after they struck a deal with Greg Monroe, sources told Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Milwaukee swapped Pachulia to the Mavs last week.
  • Monroe told Scoop Jackson of ESPN.com that if the Pistons had put on the same sort of hard push that the Clippers made to convince DeAndre Jordan to renege on his deal with the Mavs, he might have stuck with Detroit. “I can’t lie, it probably would have made me think, maybe affected my decision a bit,” said Monroe, whose deal with the Bucks is official, so there’s no going back now. “I mean, I was there for five years, my whole NBA career to this point. I knew the people in the organization, I loved my teammates, so I mean, I can’t lie. I’m not saying if that had happened, I would have changed my mind, but I know that would have affected me, and I probably would have had to ponder a little bit more.” 

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