The Journal-Sentinel has a long story on Bobby Simmons' comeback. Simmons' injuries last year were so poorly communicated by the Bucks that it's not surprising many of us are wary of penciling Bobby into the starting lineup, even with Larry Harris claiming he expects Simmons to be ready by training camp. While his first season as a Buck was slightly disappointing, even that level of production would be a huge addition for a Bucks team that by all accounts is not bringing Ruben Patterson back and played much of last year with a three guard (Mo/Bell/Redd) starting lineup.
Unfortunately the Bucks have had a habit for being very unclear about the status of their players' injuries, whether intentional or not. No one really had any idea what the deal was with TJ Ford for over a year, in part because it was such a unique injury. Even so, confusion over the likelihood of a recurrence continues to this day in spite of his doctors' suggestion that the success of his fusion surgery makes him no more at risk than any other player. Simmons meanwhile was supposedly healthy in training camp last year before he was shelved for the year. Then you had the mysterious injuries of the late season tanking last year (Brian Skinner's ebola-strength earaches, anyone?), which are in a whole different category. So while I appreciate the tentative optimism about Simmons' return, I won't be holding my breath either.
Thanks to our resident cap/salary info extraordinaire, we now know the structure of Mo Williams' contract:
11-12 $8,500,000 (ETO)
12-13 $8,500,000 (PO)
Total: $51.263 mil
The relatively low salaries in the back end will make his opt-out virtually assured, provided he stays healthy and doesn't inexplicably become an awful player. As a result, the deal is more likely to end up being a four-year deal for $34.263 million or a shade over $8.5 million per year. More importantly, he'll be able to negotiate a new long-term deal (likely for more money) while he's still only 28. Not exactly the ideal structure for the Bucks. Assuming he opts out after four years, Mo's and Redd's deals will be expiring at the same time, meaning their peak salaries will also coincide. In other words, the deal isn't structured to give the Bucks possible luxury tax relef in 2009 either, when Bogut and Villanueva will be getting at least qualifying offers (and possibly starting longer extensions) at the same time that Gadzuric and Simmons are still being overpaid.
Bucks.com has a misty-eyed feature on Bucks scout Scott Howard's experiences scouting Yi Jianlian.
“I remember the very first report I wrote on the kid four years ago,” Howard said. “It said, ‘This kid’s gonna be a star.’
“It’s fun and interesting to see when your first impressions are accurate and they come true.”
Whoa Scott, don't get ahead of yourself.
He had exhibited impressive instincts from the very first time he appeared in the U.S., during the 2002 adidas ABCD Camp, but he was also learning and mastering a lot of intangibles.
“He was always a very aware kid with terrific court awareness and reaction time,” said Howard. “I always like that in a player. He’d had a lot of different coaches, including Del Harris (the father of Bucks General Manager Larry Harris), who coached his national team at one time, and a Lithuanian coach who’s coaching his national team now. Because he’d been exposed to so much internationally, that’a a great asset for him.”
“And he’s a team player. There’s no question he’s a team player.”
Howard, who had left the Wizards to become Director of International Player Personnel with the Toronto Raptors for two years, joined the Bucks’ scouting staff in March of 2006. From that point on, he and his colleagues continued following Yi collectively.
“Dave Babcock (the Bucks’ Director of Player Personnel) saw him play in China, and Larry Harris saw him play in Japan and in the Olympics in Athens,” Howard said. “I’ve probably seen him play 30 games in four years.”
In other words, we scouted the hell out of him. Take that, Ric Bucher.
“I always file reports,” he said. “Once there, I filed mine. Everyone (on the Bucks management team) reads that. We had tape of that tournament, and Larry (Harris), Dave (Babcock) and (scout) Scott Roth watched that. We watched Yi play in the Chinese Championships on NBA TV. We had film from the World Championships of him playing against the U.S. 'Dream Team.'”
“The more you saw, the more you were impressed. All of our evaluations said, ‘We’d better start to look real hard at this guy.’”
The members of the Bucks basketball staff continued to keep their eyes and ears open. With the 2007 NBA Draft approaching and Milwaukee slated to pick sixth, the sights and sounds around the league indicated that Yi could very well be on the board when their turn came up.
“We were down to two or three players for our lottery pick,” Howard said. “We all did our research and tried to determine who’d be gone by the time we picked. We figured (Greg) Oden, (Kevin) Durant and probably (Al) Horford would be gone. Then we heard that Mike Conley would probably go to Memphis, which he did. We thought there was a chance Yi might go to Boston, but that didn’t happen.”
By committee, the wheels kept turning.
“We made more phone calls to see if Yi was a worthwhile pick for us, and to see if he wanted to play in the NBA,” Howard said. “From everything we gathered, the pick was a no-brainer.
“Dave (Babcock) had been to China four years ago to talk with Yi’s coach. Larry’s dad had coached him. I know people who know Yi intimately. So we gathered a lot of information on him. At the end of the day, you figure out how to get it done.”
Yi Jianlian will be playing for the Chinese National Team in the Stankovic Cup beginning on July 28th. Meanwhile, the Chinese B Team will be headed to the Asian Basketball Championships, which tells you a lot about the quality of Asian hoops. Among the teams China will face is a D-League "ambassador" team including UWM grad Clay Tucker.
Yi and his Chinese colleagues will play five games in five days. If you want to watch these games they should be shown on sopcast--keep an eye on the schedule here.
July 28, Guangzhou
3:30 p.m.: Angola vs. New Zealand
7 p.m.: China vs. Venezuela
9 p.m.: Slovenia vs. D-League Ambassadors
July 29, Guangzhou
3:30 p.m.: Venezuela vs. Angola
7 p.m.: China vs. Slovenia
9 p.m.: New Zealand vs. D-League Ambassadors
July 31, Macao
4 p.m.: D-League Ambassadors vs. Venezuela
7:30 p.m.: Angola vs. China
9:30 p.m.: Slovenia vs. New Zealand
Aug 1, Macao
4 p.m.: D-League Ambassadors vs. Angola
7:30 p.m.: New Zealand vs. China
9:30 p.m.: Venezuela vs. Slovenia
Aug 2, Macao
4 p.m.: Venezuela vs. New Zealand
7:30 p.m.: China vs. D-League Ambassadors
9:30 p.m.: Angola vs. Slovenia