Marc Lasry

Central Notes: Bucks, Oladipo, Valentine, Young

The Bucks currently have a 41-6 record, which nearly puts them on a 72-win pace. Only two teams in NBA history have ever won that many games in a single season — the 2015/16 Warriors (73-9) and the 1995/96 Bulls (72-10).

As Eric Woodyard of ESPN.com details, Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry recently got to speak to a key player from one of those two teams, touching base with Hornets owner Michael Jordan when Milwaukee and Charlotte made their trip to Paris last week. According to Lasry, he asked Jordan what he thought of the Bucks’ chances to win 70 games – or perhaps even 72 like Jordan’s Bulls – this season.

“And he goes, ‘Look, my advice to you is don’t focus on beating our record, focus on winning a championship,'” Lasry said, recalling the conversation. “And I said, ‘Wow, that’s great. Thank you for that. Just so you know, we’re going to focus on beating your record and winning a championship.’ I think we should do everything, but that’s me.”

Whether or not the Bucks maintain their current pace for the entire season, Lasry’s belief in the team is real, as Woodyard relays.

“We have all these capabilities, and what’s actually unique about our team is how much it’s a team,” Lasry said of the Bucks. “If you sort of think about it, everybody looks out for each other, and everybody sacrifices for the other player. You don’t see that with a lot of NBA teams.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Scott Agness of The Athletic takes a look at what to expect from Victor Oladipo when he returns to the court for the Pacers on Wednesday. “We’re going to be slow with him, be patient with him,” head coach Nate McMillan said on Tuesday. “Is he close to the old Vic? There’s no way he could be there after being off for a season, so you have to be patient. We’ll give him some minutes (Wednesday), allow him to get out there and get his feet wet and get out on the floor in a competitive game.”
  • As Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago points out, Denzel Valentine‘s Bulls teammates had nothing but praise and support for the swingman after a strong performance on Monday, even as their comments seemed to hint at the possibility that Valentine could be traded.
  • Thaddeus Young, another one of the Bulls‘ veteran trade candidates, has taken on an expanded role in the offense with Wendell Carter and Lauri Markkanen sidelined, writes Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago. Schanowski suggests that the Bulls’ injury-depleted frontcourt and their proximity to the No. 8 seed (they’re two games back) likely diminish the odds of Young being dealt.

Bucks Co-Owner Discusses Team’s “Lack Of Drama”

In a conversation with Sam Amick of The Athletic, Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry admitted that he was “very pissed off” after his team fell to the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals last spring. Lasry said he fully believed Milwaukee was headed for the NBA Finals after the club took a 2-0 lead in the series and was “pretty upset” when the Raptors won the next four straight games.

“We had a lot of meetings with (GM) Jon (Horst) and with Bud (head coach Mike Budenholzer), and it’s, ‘OK, what happened?'” Lasry said. “And you know, you sort of look at how they shot lights out. I mean (Fred) VanVleet shot – what was it? – 60 or 70 percent from 3-point land? You (had) guys who weren’t supposed to make those shots, or at least shoot their average – not double the average.”

While it took Lasry some time to get over that loss, the Bucks’ hot start to the 2019/20 season has certainly helped the club and its owners move on. It has also limited speculation about the future of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is under contract through next season. If the Bucks had struggled out of the gate, we might be hearing a lot more whispers about Antetokounmpo’s next contract right now.

In his discussion with Amick, Lasry addressed that topic and a handful of others. Here are some of the highlights from the Q&A:

On the fact that there hasn’t been constant speculation from fans and media about the Bucks’ future:

“People want issues, and we don’t have any issues. And you know what, we didn’t have any issues last year either. If you think about it, we had four free agents (from last season). You had Khris Middleton, you had (Eric) Bledsoe, you had Brook Lopez, and then you had Malcolm (Brogdon). And you know, we re-signed who we needed to re-sign. So I think the great thing about the Bucks, good or bad, is that there’s very little drama. And I think we have surprised people with the lack of drama, and how good we are.”

On whether Bucks ownership has sought advice on retaining Antetokounmpo from others who have been in similar situations:

“No. No. I think the approach is that you have a relationship, and you rely on that relationship. So, you know, at the end of the day, my view is that people are going to do what they think is in their best interests. And I hope their view ends up being the same as our view, right? We’re going to do whatever we can. Others will do whatever they can. It’s fine.”

On not getting caught up in rumors about other teams eyeing Antetokounmpo:

“Whether it sounds dumb or not, I’m very comfortable with the relationship that we have with everybody on this team. And I think at the end of the day, what players want is stable ownership. They want a culture which is focused on winning. They want a coach who they respect. They want to play in a city that they love. It’s what we all want. Let’s be serious. You just want consistency, and you want to know that what you’re being told is reality. So I think as long as we do what we’re supposed to do, everything is going to be fine.”

NBA Conducting Investigation Of Tampering

In response to tampering complaints, the NBA is investigating some of the earliest agreements reached in free agency, according to Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst of ESPN. The process will include interviews with players and possibly agents and team employees as well.

Suspicions were raised as some free agent deals were announced immediately upon the arrival of the negotiating period, which began at 6:00pm Eastern Time on June 30. A few agreements were leaked ahead of that hour, prompting questions about the legality of the process.

The announcement of the investigation came after a “tense” owners meeting in Las Vegas in which everyone present was encouraged to express their grievances. Hornets owner Michael Jordan, who lost Kemba Walker to a quickly-announced deal with the Celtics, suggested the need to alter the way free agency is conducted in the next collective bargaining agreement. Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, who could have the top free agent in 2021 when Giannis Antetokounmpo hits the market, discussed “gray areas” of the current rules against tampering.

NBA general counsel Rick Buchanan reminded teams that they are all expected to abide by the rules and promised a revised set of regulations that will be strictly enforced. He mentioned “seizing servers and cellphones” to track any illegal contact that teams might make.

Other possible solutions being considered by the league include:

  • Allowing teams to negotiate with their own free agents after the Finals have concluded. Some executives and agents admit that the free agent process now unofficially begins at the draft combine in May when meetings over potential picks expand into talk about free agent clients.
  • Holding free agency before the draft. The Rockets submitted a formal proposal to enact this change last year, but only got support from 10 teams, sources tell Lowe and Windhorst.
  • Cutting back the moratorium, which extended this year from June 30 to July 6. It exists to give the league time to account for all its revenue from the previous season and set an accurate salary cap.
  • Granting teams more time and more freedom to talk with free agents before they officially reach the market.

Several teams also complained about the new trend toward family members serving as virtual agents and making requests not covered by the CBA. Some used Kawhi Leonard‘s uncle, Dennis Robertson, as an example, but the authors point out that there have been many other similar cases. Commissioner Adam Silver admitted that “things are being discussed that don’t fall squarely within the collective bargaining agreement.” There was sentiment at the meeting to require family members who assume that role to go through the union’s agent certification process.

Bucks Co-Owner Fined For Anthony Davis Comments

Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry has been fined $25K by the NBA for recent comments about Anthony Davis, league sources tell Malika Andrews of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

After Milwaukee showed up on Davis’ alleged four-team list of preferred destinations, Lasry spoke to Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News about it, mentioning the Pelicans‘ All-Star big man by name.

“I saw that report, and I think it’s great,” Lasry said at the time, referring to Davis’ wish list. “It’s a little bit of what we want. We want players to come and play in Milwaukee. And part of it is, when you’re winning and you’re setting a standard for excellence, people see that. People want to win. It doesn’t make a difference if you’re in Milwaukee, New York or L.A. The whole goal is winning. So we hope it would be players like Anthony Davis and others who want to come to Milwaukee.”

Lasry also acknowledged to Lawrence that it would have been difficult for the Bucks to put together a trade package for a player like Davis at the deadline, since most of their best players are on expiring contracts and they’ve traded away multiple first-round picks.

While Lasry’s comments were fairly innocuous, I noted last week that he might have crossed over into tampering territory by mentioning Davis by name, which is frowned upon by the league. While the NBA apparently agreed, a $25K fine isn’t a massive anti-tampering penalty. By comparison, the Lakers were fined $500K in 2017 for tampering related to Paul George and were hit with a $50K fine last year when Magic Johnson raved about Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Lawrence’s Latest: Bucks, Mirotic, Sixers, Gasol

No one seems convinced that the Bucks are a viable suitor for Anthony Davis, given their dearth of first-round picks and the fact that most of their best players are on expiring contracts. However, co-owner Marc Lasry is still encouraged by the fact that Davis’ four-team list of preferred destinations includes Milwaukee, as he tells Sporting News’ Mitch Lawrence.

“I saw that report, and I think it’s great,” Lasry said. “It’s a little bit of what we want. We want players to come and play in Milwaukee. And part of it is, when you’re winning and you’re setting a standard for excellence, people see that. People want to win. It doesn’t make a difference if you’re in Milwaukee, New York or L.A. The whole goal is winning. So we hope it would be players like Anthony Davis and others who want to come to Milwaukee.”

Lasry, who may be bordering on tampering territory with his comments to Lawrence, acknowledged that it would be tricky for the Bucks to make a deal for Davis using the club’s current assets.

Here’s more from Lawrence:

  • The Bucks are working on a smaller trade or two, according to Lawrence, who identifies Pelicans forward Nikola Mirotic as one potential target for Milwaukee. “He’d be the perfect fit for the Bucks,” an Eastern Conference general manager said of Mirotic. “Another guy who can knock down threes would make them even more dangerous.”
  • The Sixers are another team interested in Mirotic and have offered the Pelicans a pair of second-round picks for him, per Lawrence. For salary-matching purposes, Wilson Chandler would likely have to be involved in any 76ers deal for Mirotic. Philadelphia has also looked at Terrence Ross (Magic) and Wesley Matthews (Knicks), Lawrence notes.
  • An Eastern Conference GM tells Lawrence that the Spurs are making an effort to move Pau Gasol. Gasol is on a pseudo-expiring contract, as only $6.7MM of his 2019/20 salary is guaranteed.
  • Lawrence suggests that the trade market for Grizzlies big man Marc Gasol may be negatively impacted by Gasol’s desire to get a contract extension this summer. If he doesn’t feel as if he’ll get a lucrative multiyear deal in the offseason, the 34-year-old could pick up his $25.6MM player option.

Central Notes, Bullock, I. Smith, Bucks, Leaf

Reggie Bullock and Ish Smith have been solid this season for the Pistons and would have some value on the trade market, given their modest salaries and expiring contracts. However, the club would like to re-sign both players during the 2019 offseason, if possible, tweets Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. That would throw a wrench into the idea of trading either player during the season.

Ellis notes that Bullock, in particular, is generating “strong” interest on the trade market. The sixth-year wing is having another excellent shooting season for the Pistons, making 39.8% of his three-point attempts. That’s nearly right in line with his 40.2% career rate, and would appeal to a ton of contenders — especially given his $2.5MM salary.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Frank Isola takes an in-depth look at Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry in an interesting piece for The Athletic. Within the story, Lasry confirms that Milwaukee made an effort to acquire Kyle Korver from Cleveland before the Cavs traded him to Utah earlier this season. A December report had suggested that the Bucks came close to trading for both Korver and George Hill before working out a separate deal for Hill.
  • T.J. Leaf, who has had a chance to play regular minutes with Myles Turner sidelined, may stick in the Pacers‘ rotation even after Turner returns, head coach Nate McMillan said this week. Mark Montieth of Pacers.com has the story, along with the quotes from McMillan.
  • Kris Dunn has been something of an enigma in his first season and a half with the Bulls, according to Sam Smith of Bulls.com, who explores whether the former fifth overall pick can still be Chicago’s point guard of the future.

Bucks Notes: Horst, Ownership, Zanik, Ferry

The Bucks’ general manager search, conducted after John Hammond‘s departure for Orlando, appeared to take some unexpected twists and turns throughout the process — the club reportedly narrowed its options to three candidates, then opted to promote Jon Horst, who hadn’t been one of those three finalists.

In an interesting piece for ESPN.com, Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe detail the machinations behind Horst’s promotion, which caught even Horst himself off guard. Sources tell Windhorst and Lowe that the GM job was already earmarked for him when he was called to New York to meet with team ownership, even before he knew he was viewed as a candidate. The Bucks then began planning Horst’s introductory news conference before he signed his deal.

Here are more of the highlights from ESPN’s report on the Bucks’ unique search:

  • Bucks assistant GM Justin Zanik, who has since left the organization, was considered Hammond’s successor when he joined the franchise and had built a good relationship with head coach Jason Kidd. Although his contract didn’t explicitly state he’d replace Hammond, his annual salary reflected an anticipated increase in his decision-making power, per ESPN. However, only two of Milwaukee’s three co-owners were on board with a promotion for Zanik — Wes Edens was the holdout, and wanted to conduct a full-fledged search, according to Windhorst and Lowe.
  • After going through their search process, Edens still wasn’t sold on Zanik. He was outnumbered 2-1 by co-owners Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan, but Edens is technically the Bucks’ designated governor, which gives him unilateral power on all basketball-related decisions if he chooses to wield it, per ESPN.
  • The three co-owners had previously agreed to settle all decisions with a vote, but this situation revealed that Edens ultimately could have the final say, even if he was outnumbered. In two years, that will change, however — the Bucks’ ownership agreement calls for the governorship role to alternate between Edens and Lasry every five years, per ESPN.
  • With the search for a new GM having stalled, commissioner Adam Silver suggested the Bucks ought to consider Danny Ferry for the opening, according to ESPN. Milwaukee reached out to Ferry, but the two sides never had a formal meeting, with the Bucks’ co-owners opting instead to reach a compromise — they all liked and respected Horst, and brokered an agreement to promote him for the role.
  • Horst will be inexpensive compared to other general managers around the NBA. According to Windhorst and Lowe, his three-year deal starts at just $500K.
  • The Bucks continue to seek a veteran executive to complement Horst in the front office, though the three co-owners will likely all have to agree to move forward with a hire.

Bucks Ready To Start GM Interviews

The Bucks are finalizing their list of GM candidates with interviews expected to start Monday, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

Assistant GM Justin Zanik remains a strong candidate to replace John Hammond, who left to become GM of the Magic. Sources tell Wojnarowski that Zanik has strong support inside and outside the Bucks organization.

Others expected to interview for the position are Minnesota assistant GM Noah Croom, Indiana vice president of basketball operations Peter Dinwiddie, Detroit assistant GM Pat Garrity, Denver assistant GM Arturas Karnisovas and Memphis VP of player personnel Ed Stefanski. Many of the names were already known, but Croom is a new addition, Wojnarowski tweets.

Sources indicate that Bucks owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens will participate in the interviews. An original list of candidates was trimmed by a search firm.

Central Notes: Bucks, Pistons, Rondo, Wade

While players from many teams around the NBA will be watching today’s U.S. election results closely, the voting results could have an even more significant impact on the Bucks. According to Gery Woelfel of The Racine Journal Times, many league observers believe that one of the Bucks’ three majority owners, Marc Lasry, may give up some or all of his duties with the franchise to take on a government position if Hillary Clinton wins. Lasry is a Democrat and a strong supporter of Clinton. Of course, the results aren’t in yet, and the possibility of Lasry’s departure appears to be informed speculation at this point, but it’s worth keeping an eye on if Clinton becomes the next president.

Here’s more from around the NBA’s Central division:

  • Pistons owner Tom Gores reiterated on Monday that his team is “making progress” on negotiations to team up with the NHL’s Red Wings and move his franchise to downtown Detroit. “In the next few weeks, we’ll know for sure,” Gores said, per Rod Beard of The Detroit News.
  • As Keith Langlois of Pistons.com details, Gores has also been pleased with the way the Pistons have been able to better the community during the five years he has owned the team, suggesting that the franchise’s ability to have a local impact has exceeded his expectations. “Our ability to impact the community has been more than I ever thought in my life,” Gores said. “As much as I would like to win a championship, the real championship is to affect the city and impact the city. It’s beyond anything I could have expected, to be honest.”
  • Rajon Rondo‘s “occasional surliness may have irritated superiors” in the past, as Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe writes, but the veteran point guard has meshed well in Chicago with Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg and former adversary Dwyane Wade so far, per Washburn. “We had battles, but I had battles with a lot of guys,” Wade said of Rondo. “When the opportunity presents itself, you always want to play with people that you respect, people that you feel are competitors and you know what they’re going to bring on a nightly basis. Rondo signing here was another eye-opener for me.”

Coaching Rumors: Scott, Thibodeau, Kidd, Brooks

A strong belief exists within the Lakers organization that the team will keep Byron Scott, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, nonetheless revealing that next season is a team option on Scott’s contract. Still, too much discord exists within Lakers ownership for a consensus to form on a coaching change, sources tell Wojnarowski. Primary owner Jeanie Buss is advocating for Scott behind the scenes, and Scott has a “major chance” to remain in his job, one source told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.

See more coaching rumors around the NBA with the regular season having come to a close:

  • Carmelo Anthony would prefer the Knicks hire Tom Thibodeau as coach, a source close to Anthony insisted to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. Team president Phil Jackson doesn’t seem to have any interest in Thibodeau, as Isola points out, and strong indications exist that Thibodeau is looking for player personnel power as he seeks a coaching job, sources tell Chris Mannix of The Vertical (Twitter link).
  • Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry publicly backed coach Jason Kidd on Wednesday in the wake of rumors that Kidd is on shaky ground with the team, as Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel relays. Lasry said it’s reasonable to assume the team will give Kidd an extension on the three-year, $15MM contract that expires after next season, Gardner notes. Lasry has long been close to Kidd, and it’s the other owners to whom Kidd hasn’t endeared himself, as Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times wrote this week, but Gardner indicates that fellow primary owners Wesley Edens and Jamie Dinan made it clear Wednesday that they also want Kidd to stay. “At the end of the day, Jason is our coach,” Lasry said. “I know there’s been a bunch of articles. We think he’s done a great job. He’s our guy. Everybody who keeps talking about it, it’s a non-issue. I never understand why in this league you have these issues.”
  • Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff and Nets interim coach Tony Brown are unlikely to have their interim tags removed, barring unforeseen events, according to Berger. Rockets candidate Scott Brooks is wary of the uncertainty about whether Dwight Howard will opt out, Berger writes, which suggests that it’s not an open-and-shut case that Howard will opt out as he’s long been expected to do.