Marc Lasry

Bucks Co-Owner Lasry Talks Budenholzer, Jrue, Tax, More

After watching the Bucks win a championship for the first time in 50 years during the 2020/21 season, co-owner Marc Lasry is confident that the team will remain in the mix for a title again in ’21/22. Lasry told Sam Amick and Anthony Slater of The Athletic that he views the Bucks and Nets as the top two teams in the East entering the fall.

Asked if the Heat – who eliminated the Bucks from the playoffs in 2020 – are in that top tier alongside Milwaukee and Brooklyn, Lasry praised Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, and P.J. Tucker, calling Miami a “really good” team. However, he said he believes the Bucks are better.

“Ultimately at the end of the day I’d rather have our team,” Lasry said. “… If we’re healthy, you know we should go pretty far.

“But I would say the same thing (about other teams). If the Nets are healthy, they should go pretty far. It’s who’s going to be the healthiest when you get there. And it’s been interesting trying to figure out (that part) because I bet you there’s going to be a lot of gaming of this… You want to be the No. 1 seed, but do you want to be the No. 1 seed, or do you want to make sure you’re the healthiest going into the playoffs?”

Lasry’s appearance on The Athletic’s Tampering podcast touched on several other topics of note. The discussion is worth checking out in full, but here are a few highlights from the Bucks’ co-owner, via Amick and Slater:

On head coach Mike Budenholzer getting a contract extension after being on the hot seat:

“Bud is really good. I mean, he is. He does have that quiet confidence, which is nice. So I think you go through all of this, and one of the things that I saw — and I told this to Bud — was I said, ‘Look, there was a huge amount of pressure on us, on him, on all of us, because everybody expects you to win.’ And what he showed us during that time is how well he handled the pressure, how well he prepared the team, and what a great job he did, so that after we won, we were like, ‘Look, it’s not like we want to reward you; we want to keep you.'”

On the 2020 acquisition of Jrue Holiday and how it influenced Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s decision to sign a long-term extension with the Bucks:

“(General manager) Jon Horst felt that (Holiday) was going to be the missing piece, and he was dead right. You know, I remember the first practice and Jrue is covering Giannis. And same thing — Giannis knew Jrue by reputation. After practice that day, Jon says to me, ‘Yeah, Giannis now knows how good he is. (Holiday’s) covering him. He’s good.’ It was actually great. It was. And I think 100 percent it was a huge factor in Giannis re-signing because he saw what we were willing to do.”

On the Bucks becoming a taxpayer in 2020/21 and going further into the tax in ’21/22:

“Look, (the tax) is a big part. I’m not going to tell you it’s not. I mean, it’s just — if you sign somebody for $5MM, you’re not signing him for $5MM, you’re signing him for $25MM, $20MM. You sort of look at that, and you’re trying to figure out, ‘Alright, look, if we’re going to do that, OK, there is a cost to it. Yeah, we want him, but that’s going to cost us $25MM or that’ll cost us $35MM.’ I mean, whatever the numbers are. And I think we’re very focused on that.

“Look, we’re a small-market team. It’s expensive. I mean, for us, this year we’re going to lose quite a bit of money. … But at the end of the day, the goal is that you want to keep winning a championship, so you’re going to spend the money.”

And-Ones: Social Justice Board, Boatright, Jazz, Moore

Carmelo Anthony, Avery Bradley, Sterling Brown, Donovan Mitchell and Karl-Anthony Towns are the players chosen to serve on the league’s Social Justice Coalition Board, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania (Twitter links).

The NBA and NBPA agreed to create the group to advance equality and social justice after teams walked out of games in late August to protest a police shooting. Commissioner Adam Silver, deputy commissioner Mark Tatum and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts, as well as owners Micky Arison, Steve Ballmer, Clay Bennett, Marc Lasry and Vivek Randadive and coaches Lloyd Pierce and Doc Rivers.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Ryan Boatright has signed with Lithuanian club team BC Rytas Vilnius, the team tweets. Boatright, 28, played in Europe last season after spending time in the G League during the 2018/19 season. The former University of Connecticut guard also played in Italy, China and Turkey.
  • The sale price of the Jazz bodes well for the league’s franchise valuations, Bill Shea of The Athletic notes. The team, along with an arena and a couple of minor-league teams, were sold to Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith for $1.66 billion, and the league’s owners are expected to approve the sale. The valuation falls in line with expectations and doesn’t reflect any pandemic discount, Shea continues. It also reinforces the notion that team values keep going up.
  • Former Pacers forward Ben Moore has signed with South East Melbourne Phoenix of Australia’s NBL, according to the team. Moore is expected to join the club for preseason training next month. Moore, who also spent time in the Spurs organization, logged two games with Indiana during the 2017/18 season.

Details On Giannis’ Meeting With Marc Lasry

After Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported over the weekend that Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo met with franchise co-owner Marc Lasry to discuss the direction of the franchise, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has provided a few details on that meeting.

According to Wojnarowski, the three-hour lunch meeting covered both the 2019/20 season and how the Bucks can improve their roster going forward, with the two men brainstorming personnel moves that might be possible this offseason. Lasry confirmed to Antetokounmpo that the Bucks are willing to spend into the luxury tax to make upgrades, Woj notes.

The Bucks’ approach to Malcolm Brogdon‘s free agency last offseason would seem to contradict the assertion that the team is ready and willing to cross the tax threshold, but Milwaukee was known to have some long-term health concerns about Brogdon. Team ownership may also be more comfortable paying an annual tax bill once Giannis has been locked up long-term.

According to Wojnarowski, Antetokounmpo and Lasry agreed to talk again after the reigning MVP returns from vacation.

While speculation figures to run rampant this offseason about Antetokounmpo’s future and the possibility of him changing teams, he said at season’s end that he has no intention of asking to be traded. The Bucks will also retain the ability to pay him significantly more on a long-term deal than any other team can, regardless of exactly how much their super-max extension offer ends up being worth.

Giannis’ current contract runs through the 2020/21 season.

Bucks Co-Owner: Vote On NBA Return May Happen “Early Next Week”

A frequent guest on CNBC, Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry appeared on the network’s ‘Halftime’ show on Thursday and was asked about the next steps for the NBA’s potential return, as Jabari Young of CNBC details. According to Lasry, the expectation is that commissioner Adam Silver will present the NBA’s Board of Governors with potential formats for a return to play on Friday’s conference call, with a decision potentially coming next week.

[RELATED: Board of Governors meeting unlikely to yield final plan]

“I think that will happen tomorrow is that Adam’s going to recommend to the board the different options that we’re going to have about reopening,” Lasry said. “And I think the board will think about it over the weekend and then hopefully have another meeting early next week to vote on what we all feel will be the reopening of the NBA.”

As Lasry acknowledged during the interview, the NBA seems to be zeroing in on Walt Disney World in Florida as the lone host for the resumption of the season. However, there’s still plenty of uncertainty about what form the league’s return will take.

“I think at the end of the day, we’ll be in Orlando at Disney,” Lasry said. “The question is going to be: Will we have all 30 teams there? Will we have 24? Whatever the number will end up being. But hopefully, by the middle of July, we start playing again.”

Of course, even if the NBA’s Board of Governors votes in favor of a certain format, that plan would also need to be approved by the National Basketball Players Association before the league can move forward. All sides have been working closely together throughout the coronavirus pandemic, so while some negotiations may be required, they’re unlikely to get as contentious as the talks between Major League Baseball teams and players.

Bucks Co-Owner: NBA Could Resume Play Within 6-8 Weeks

Appearing today on CNBC, Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry said he thinks the NBA is getting “a lot closer” to a potential return, adding that he believes games could resume sometime in early-to-mid July.

“I think we’ll have something, hopefully within the next six-to-eight weeks, we should be playing,” Lasry said on ‘Halftime Report,’ per Jabari Young of CNBC.

A report from Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic on Wednesday suggested the most popular scenario discussed by the NBA as of late would see the 2019/20 season resume in mid-July. Lasry’s projected timeline matches up with that report — eight weeks from today would be July 16.

Adding fuel to that fire, Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie tweeted this afternoon that he’s heard rumblings about a July 15 resumption, with Marc Stein of The New York Times noting (via Twitter) that many people around the league are “buzzing about the same rough time frame.”

Charania and Amick also said on Wednesday that Orlando has emerged as the “clear frontrunner” to host the NBA’s return. Lasry didn’t dispute that, though he indicated that he thinks the NBA might opt for a two-site approach, with Eastern teams playing in Orlando and Western teams in Las Vegas.

The NBA itself hasn’t made any announcements on potential plans, but there have been signals within the last couple days that momentum is building toward a formal update from the league within the next week or two. According to Young, Lasry noted today that the NBA has a Board of Governors call scheduled for next Friday.

“I’m sure we’ll be talking about it then,” the Bucks’ co-owner said.

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.