Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thursday Bucks Notes

  • Charlie Gardner talked to Charlie Villanueva about the Bucks chances this season, and CV likes being the sleeper:
    "The East is going to be tough, but I think we're going to be right in the mix with a bunch of teams," Villanueva said. "Not a lot of people are talking about the Bucks; nobody is talking about the Bucks.

    "But that's the way we want it to be. We're the sleepers. I don't mind being the sleeper - coming up and get you."

  • Check out the full Bucks broadcast schedule here. There are unfortunately 11 games that aren't being covered by either FSN or ESPN/NBATV, which is totally unacceptable, especially when you consider that last year the combined UPN/FSN coverage had 75 games. I can understand some home games not being carried since people could actually go to those instead--heck, I remember being shocked when they started showing Bucks home games at all in the late '90s. But not showing four away games? Come on. I on the other hand have some hope since I live in Boston and rely on NBA League Pass for my Bucks games--if I can't get Paschke and Jonny Mac, at least I can get Mike Breen and Clyde Frazier for the two Knicks games. Here are the games you probably won't be seeing:
    • Fri, 11/30 @Knicks
    • Wed, 12/19 vs. Kings
    • Mon, 12/31 vs. Pistons
    • Wed, 1/16 vs. Hawks
    • Mon, 1/21 @Hornets
    • Thu, 1/24 vs. Pacers
    • Sun, 1/27 vs. Wizards
    • Thu, 2/28 @Nets
    • Tue, 4/1 vs. Knicks
    • Fri, 4/4 vs. Pacers
    • Wed, 4/9 @Raptors

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wednesday Bucks Notes

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bucks sign Walker; Greer Getting Respect

  • The Bucks signed vetern PF/C Samaki Walker, who last had a cup of coffee with the Pacers in 05/06. His last significant contributions came for the Lakers' 01/02 championship team, when he averaged 6.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 1.3 bpg in 24 mpg. He was a pretty serviceable big in his day, and at 31 he shouldn't be totally washed up, but let's remember he didn't play at all last season. At this point he looks like a (luke)warm body for camp, battling Angelo Reyes and Michael Ruffin for a chance to be on the end of the bench. My guess is Ruffin wins that battle, purely because he's actually played in the NBA semi-recently.
  • TrueHoop talks a bit about the Lynn Greer signing today, linking to the very cool Ball in Europe which predicts Greer will be better than Jasikevicius next year.

Tuesday Bucks Notes

  • Charles Gardner caught up with Andrew Bogut at the Bucks' annual golf outing. He's gotten rid of his controversial haircut, and also talks about how he spent his summer, his new house, the adjustments Yi faces, and the Charlie Bell situation.

    "I think [Yi] has a chance to be very, very good," Bogut said. "I've played against him a couple of times and he's just very quick and mobile for a big guy. It's going to take time to adjust. He's probably going to come out and play well and then have an adjustment, especially coming from China.

    "I think it was a great pick. A lot of people knocked it, and I applaud Larry Harris for sticking to his guns."

    Bogut said he liked the way the team was shaping up, including the signings of guards Mo Williams and Charlie Bell, both of whom were offered contracts by the Miami Heat. The Bucks matched Miami's five-year, $18 million offer to Bell last week.

    "Mo was probably the big one, and that kind of hurt us in the Charlie sweepstakes," Bogut said. "You've got to feel for what he (Bell) went through.

    "I'm just glad we have Charlie back. I think he's an integral part of our team."

  • Gardner also writes about the preparations Milwaukee's Chinese community is making for Yi's arrival.
    Li said a welcome party for Yi is being planned, with the help of Mayor Tom Barrett's office and the Chinese consulate in Chicago. Fans from Milwaukee, Chicago, Appleton and Madison are expected to attend the event.

    And there's no doubt that Yi's progress with the Bucks will be eagerly watched in China. Kenneth Chang of the Ascent Sports Group will provide analysis and color for a Guangzhou sports channel that will televise a number of Bucks games this season.

    Most of the games will be Friday night games here, airing live on Saturday morning in China. Chang, who attended the Bucks golf outing on Monday, said stations in about 20 Chinese cities are purchasing those rights from NBATV, for games involving the Bucks and Yao Ming's Houston Rockets.

    "The Chinese people are excited that another great player can come out to play in the NBA," Chang said. "It's very significant for the (Chinese) national team, that Yi can have at least one full season in the NBA training and playing. He will have more physical contact and more experience, like Yao, so they can team up together when they play in the (2008 Beijing) Olympics."
  • As alluded to yesterday, Brian Skinner officially signed with the Suns. After the Bucks didn't pick up his $5.85 million option, Skinner turned down a smaller but still guaranteed multimillion dollar offer from the Bucks, thinking he could do better. The Bucks in turn signed Jake Voskuhl for $3 million, a number Jake probably feels pretty good about right now. Skinner will get only the veteran's minimum of $1.1 million with the Suns, only half of which is guaranteed. Obviously everyone would rather play for the Suns than Bucks, but it's pretty rare for role players to take notable pay cuts to play for a winner. So let's bid Brian good luck and hope his agent is a better judge of the market next year.
  • And not to rip on Gardner--he's the only one writing anything about the Bucks right now--but it seems odd that he wrote both a Bucks blog item and a note at the end of the Bogut article about Greer being released, yet nowhere does he mention that the impetus for releasing Greer was so that he could sign a much more lucrative deal with Olympiacos. Not that the Bucks were desperate to keep him, but it's also not exactly the Damir Markota situation.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Lynn Greer Heading to Greece

In a somewhat surprising move the Bucks waived backup PG Lynn Greer this afternoon. But don't feel bad for Greer, because in place of playing another year at the NBA minimum he's signing with Greek club Olympiacos for a reported $7 million for two years. After Olympiacos missed out on Sarunas Jasikevicius and Charlie Bell, they were able to negotiate a deal with Greer, who the Bucks were happy to part ways with given their crowded backcourt. So Greer gets a hefty raise and it appears the Bucks don't have to eat his 07/08 salary (ETA: confirmed, the standard contract offset provision in the CBA means the Bucks won't owe Greer anything because of the Olympiacos deal).

A smallish, scoring PG, Greer didn't sniff the floor while the Bucks were healthy last year but had a few nice games during the latter half of the season, averaging 4.1 ppg and 1.3 apg in 41 games. Still, it's probably not a coincidence that the Bucks have three bigger, defensive-oriented guys backing up Mo Williams at the point. If you're keeping score, here's how the Bucks point guard soap opera played out this summer:

July 14: Miami goes after Mo Williams, but Bucks re-sign him at a hefty premium.
September 7: Olympiacos offers Charlie Bell a two-year deal after he's unable to get a better deal from the Bucks or a major offer sheet from anyone else. The Bucks up their offer, but negotiations with Bell break down.
September 11: The Bucks sign second rounder Ramon Sessions
September 17: Bell signs an offer sheet with the Heat, still desperate to shore up their backcourt after not getting Mo Williams.
September 18: Bucks sign former Hawks PG Royal Ivey, claiming it's unrelated to the Bell situation
September 20: Bucks match the Bell offer sheet, making everyone feel awkward
September 24: Bucks release Lynn Greer so he can sign with Olympiacos.

So the Bucks and Olympiacos end up happy, and Miami ends up with Smush Parker. I was concerned Sessions might be the odd man out given he was the only one without a guaranteed contract, but instead Sessions will likely play in the D-League while Ivey is kept as a warm body in Milwaukee. I can only assume this makes Charlie Bell the full-time backup PG given Ivey was never able to find much PT even in Atlanta. Keep in mind Bell's spent most of the past two years at the shooting guard spot, so he's likely to see time there as well while Redd is resting or with Redd at the 3. Ivey's ability to get on the court will thus depend mostly on how Bell is used. Either way the Bucks' backcourt is fairly flexible, as Mo, Bell and Ivey all have experience playing both guard spots.

This also brings the Bucks back down to 16 roster spots, meaning camp invite Angelo Reyes is the most likely cut, followed by Michael Ruffin. Still not sure if Ruffin's deal is guaranteed, but with the Bucks' clear emphasis on stockpiling defenders at the end of the bench Ruffin does seem to fit the profile. I'd throw Awvee Storey into the possible cut discussion, but he was just given a guaranteed contract for whatever reason. If Ruffin is NG'ed it's still possible the Bucks take only 14 into the regular season like last year and wait for an injury before adding another contract. Either way expect a couple more camp invites before all is said and done.

Tragedy struck Greer earlier this year when his fiancee Jillian passed away due to a brain tumor. The mother of Greer's son Lynn III, she had been with Greer since his college days at Temple. Best of luck in Europe, Lynn.

More Monday Notes

  • Charlie Bell answered a bunch of questions from RealGM posters on his MySpace blog. The questions come from here, so it's a little hard to match them up, but it's funny how CB has become a man of the people these past few weeks. He's also got some interesting responses and has pledged to answer questions once a month or so:
    • On the rumors that the front office had a very specific reason for not re-signing Ruben Patterson: "I'd like to know too, he was my partner on D"
    • On who makes the front office decisions, Larry Harris or "Kohl and his Cronies": "Cronies"
  • Michael Redd sounds confident in today's Boston Globe. Asked about the Celtics' acquisition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, Redd was PC but not overly so.

    "Any time you get a chance to get three future Hall of Famers, you got to take that opportunity. It's a great move. At the same time, I don't think anyone's intimidated by that team in the East. But it's a terrific move for Boston. They need to win right now."
    They also asked him who he's picking this season.

    "Milwaukee Bucks," he said. "If we get healthy, we got a chance to do great things. We're under the radar, which is cool."
  • Brian Skinner might be close to signing with Phoenix. Meanwhile, Earl Boykins is probably wondering why he turned down his $3 million player option with the Bucks. He has been mentioned as a possibility in Cleveland and Boston, but even coming off a career year all signs point to him taking a pay cut next season.

Monday Bucks Notes

Yi vs. the Brisbane Bullets, take three

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday Bucks Notes

Yi vs. the Brisbane Bullets

  • Yi Jianlian led China past the Australian NBL's Brisbane Bullets 82-67 with 20 points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes. Check out Yi's video highlights above or here.
  • Just because Charlie Bell has signed his contract doesn't mean he's not keeping things interesting. First off, on his MySpace blog his headline is a shout out to RealGM poster Sigra, the Bucks' biggest (and perhaps only) fan in Bosnia. Otherwise he hasn't exactly done a 180 since the Bucks matched his offer:
    What I've learned from this whole experience???... "IT'S A BUSINESS"

    I've always looked at my team and it's staff as an extension of my family. This is the culture I learned playing in Europe and in college. This summer has taught me a lot. It's very different here, at least from my experiences. AFTER you sign with a team, you hear things like, we love you and need you and your special to us. It's just business, don't get emotions involved. But BEFORE you sign you hear things like, this is what you're worth, take it or leave it, we'll just have to replace you tomorrow then. Which one do you believe?

    That's why I was confused for awhile. People say I needed a thicker skin, I have one now, but I'm not quite sure if it's for the better. Maybe you guys can tell me. It has made me realize that when it comes to big business anywhere and in any profession, there's no real place for such words as "family" or "loyalty". Like they said in the paper, "Charlie's offer from us did not equal his production or value to the team. It's just how you treat restricted players." IT'S A BUSINESS. Dont' take it personal. Exactly right, and now I have learned that as well. So I'm happy now to be in the NBA and my goal is to get as many wins as possible.

    Oh BTW I like the city of Milwaukee and I Love the fans, always have and always will, I've never had a problem with the city or the fans. But that's sentiment right? No room for that stuff around here...LOL. Keep it together Charlie! It's a business! I also learned that I have to focus on the best opportunities for me at any given time, sentiment aside, because you never know when or if you'll ever get that chance again.

    Anyway, I look forward to having a great season this year, playing the best I can, and winning as many games as we can. As most people know, I am an MSU Spartan, so in the words of 300, "SPARTANNNS, what is your profession? Aooo! Aooo! Aooo! Let's get the season rolling baby!
    You can overanalyze the situation to death (as we already have), and at this point I'm not sure there's much reason to waste any more time with it. Charlie's a Buck and we can only assume he will continue to give his best on the court next season. Bell also stated that he left Milwaukee immediately after signing to be with a sick family member, which was the reason they will have to wait until camp begins to have a press conference.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bucks Sign Ruffin

The Bucks have signed vetern forward Michael Ruffin to a one-year deal. The 30-year old Ruffin played the past three seasons in Washington, where he was a defensive specialist playing mostly as a PF. Larry Harris told the JS this week the team was serious about paying more than just "lip service" to defense this year, and the Bucks last three signings--Royal Ivey, Charlie Bell, and Ruffin--all reflect that. But while Bell is also good enough on the offensive end to justify rotation minutes, Ivey and Ruffin will face more of an uphill battle. Both players are well below average offensively, and John Hollinger points out Ruffin might actually the be the worst offensive player in the NBA.

There's really no overstating how useless Ruffin is offensively -- he won't score unless he's wide open for a dunk, and even then you're crossing your fingers. But he does manage to contribute in other ways. Ruffin is a physical and quick defender who can play both frontcourt positions. However, center is a stretch for him at 6-8 because his size becomes such a liability against big post players. Because he's not a scoring threat, he also works very hard on the offensive glass and earns nearly half his boards at that end. The rare occasions when he catches a rebound above the rim and dunks it account for a big chunk of his scoring.
At the moment the Bucks' camp roster stands at 17, meaning they'll have to cut at least two players before the regular season starts, assuming they don't sign anyone else. Angelo Reyes is a camp invitee without a guaranteed contract, so unless Ruffin is also NG'ed AND Reyes outplays Ruffin in camp, it seems unlikely that Reyes would stick. Gery Woelfel mentioned on Friday Ivey's contract is guaranteed while second round pick Ramon Sessions' is not, so as of now Sessions will be battling for a roster spot. Personally I'd probably prefer to hang on to the younger Sessions rather than Ivey, who's already had a few seasons to prove himself. Sessions is also eligible to play in the D-League, whereas Ivey is not.

Last season the Bucks started the regular season with 14 players, but it seems like 15 is a better bet this year given the number of guaranteed contracts. Here's a very loose depth chart going into camp, assuming every player has to be pegged to only one position:

PG: Mo Williams, Lynn Greer, Royal Ivey, Ramon Sessions
SG: Michael Redd, Charlie Bell, Awvee Storey
SF: Bobby Simmons, Desmond Mason, David Noel
PF: Charlie Villanueva, Yi Jianlian, Michael Ruffin, Angelo Reyes
C: Andrew Bogut, Dan Gadzuric, Jake Voskuhl

Friday, September 21, 2007

Saturday Notes

  • Charles Gardner scraped together some more quotes from Larry Harris on the Bell situation. LH really wants us to believe the Bucks will be better defensively, though in fairness it'd be hard for the Bucks to be worse defensively than they were in 06/07. It sounds as though the Bucks are placing a high (and perhaps misplaced) value on Desmond Mason's defensive abilities, given the team otherwise really didn't do much to improve its defense. Either that or they think Larry Krystkowiak can simply get them to play much harder than previously.
    "He got an offer sheet, and we matched it," Harris said at a news conference at the Cousins Center. "That's the way restricted free agency works.

    "We never devalued what he did as a player. Never equate what we thought his production was by the amount of money we offered him. It's just the way the business is done today.

    "There was another team that said, 'Hey, he's valuable to us.' We always felt we were going to match (an offer). You get into a war of words, and that's not uncommon. It's something we can move forward from."

    "We have a lot of versatility," Harris said. "We can score, but now we have some defensive components that we didn't have last year

    I know there's a little skepticism, 'We've heard the story about defense the last three or four years, and are we going to see it?' I truly do believe it; it's not lip service."

  • Gardner also reports Yi is scheduled to arrive in Milwaukee October 4th. However, Larry Harris is hoping it might be possible for him to skip the Chinese national team's end of September games in order to arrive in Milwaukee in time for the opening of training camp October 2nd.
  • Yi had a quiet, foul-plagued night in the Chinese national team's 93-92 exhibition loss to the Australian Brisbane Bullets yesterday. He scored just 9 points along with three rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes. Yao Ming had 28 to lead China.
  • Marc Stein ranks the Bucks' offseason as the fourth-best in the East.

    Yet you can understand why the Bucks feel victorious no matter what skeptics say. For awhile there, it looked as though they were going to get neither of their top two offseason targets, with Williams threatening to bolt for Miami because the Bucks' initial offer wasn't close to where it ended up ... and with Yi seemingly determined to hold out well into the season in an attempt to force Milwaukee to trade him.

    To have secured both signatures by Sept. 1? A dream double for Milwaukee.

    I think it's been a solid offseason: we re-signed our own key guys, got the best player available at six in the draft, but mostly tread water in free agency, opting to let Patterson, Skinner and Ilyasova go while replacing them with Mason and Voskuhl. Not that I was expecting the Bucks to throw a ton of money at one of the big free agent names, but they could have. Still the biggest plus of the offseason has been the encouraging injury news on Charlie Villanueva and Bobby Simmons, which didn't require any effort from the front office. Alex at Boeder Bucks weighs in as well.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Friday Bucks Notes

  • The Bucks are the least interesting team in the NBA. Well, at least according to Wages of Wins author Professor Dave Berri, who looked at team performance relative to mean over the past twenty years:
    At the other end of the spectrum we see four teams. Milwaukee, Boston, Cleveland, and Houston have each been the anti-Spurs. Each of these teams has been within one standard deviation of 41 wins for 16 seasons. In other words, these franchises have each only been interesting four times. I think one would argue that contending for a title is more interesting than contending for the number one pick. And of these four, Milwaukee is the only one never to contend for the title in the past twenty years (although they did consistently contend prior to this time period). Consequently, I am giving the title of “least interesting team” to the Milwaukee Bucks.
    The good news is we're on the upswing, right? Well, uh, maybe not.

    When we look at the rest of the roster we see three above average players: Andrew Bogut, Williams, and Redd. None of these players managed to post a WP48 (Wins Produced per 48 minutes) of 0.150 or higher in either 05-6 or 06-07. As noted in the discussing the Pareto Principle, 20% of the Association players produced 80% of the wins. From a team’s perspective, this means that your best three players tend to produce the majority of your victories.

    For the Bucks this tendency is bad news. Milwaukee’s best three players are not that great. Consequently, it’s hard to see this team becoming “interesting” in a good way in 07-08.

  • Charlie Villanueva spoke yesterday to Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype. The most important part:
    How's the shoulder feeling?

    Charlie Villanueva: It's feeling great now. It's 100 percent ready. I have been playing in Milwaukee for two weeks already and it's feeling good and I'm ready to go.

  • Turns out the Bucks bought out Damir Markota's contract for $385k. Without it Markota would have been owed about $687k, the minimum for a second-year player.

Bucks Want Bell, Whether or Not He Wants Them

It's only fitting isn't it? This summer saw the Bucks draft a player who refused to even acknowledge the Bucks' existence and sign a player who once called Larry Harris a snake in the grass, so the Bucks' decision on Thursday to ignore Charlie Bell's pleas and match Miami's five-year, $18.5 million offer sheet can't be THAT surprising, can it? The hard part now is acting like Charlie didn't threaten to sabotage the team less than a week ago. Don't worry, agent Mark Bartelstein tells Gery Woelfel:
“The Bucks have matched the offer,’’ Mark Bartelstein, Bell’s agent, said Thursday afternoon. “The rule of being a restricted free agency made this a long, arduous and difficult process.

“But Charlie is a professional. This (free agency) waa a roller-coaster for him. But Charlie’s ready to go.’’

Over at the Journal-Sentinel, Charles Gardner has some more spin from Bartelstein:
Bell's agent, Mark Bartelstein, said he talked with Bell today and that the 6-foot-3 guard was "kind of digesting it."

"This is all part of the business," Bartelstein said. "They (the Bucks) realize Charlie Bell is a heck of a player, a huge piece of their present and future. They decided they wanted and needed to have Charlie with them."

"Restricted free agency is a very difficult process," Bartelstein said. "You go through an emotional roller coaster. There's going to be a little bit of a healing process."

Bartelstein said he was highly appreciative of the Heat's offer to Bell. "They treasured him and wanted him," Bartelstein said.

So don't worry about Charlie's heart not being in it, because now he's back to being a professional and ready to go--and there's a healing process that's about to start, so hopefully that helps. Thanks, Mark. After the Royal Ivey signing on Tuesday and Bell's continued embittered rhetoric, I was beginning to think the Bucks were preparing to let Bell walk. But in the end the Bucks decided Bell's price tag was too low and his short term value too high to allow an Eastern Conference rival to poach him for nothing. Are the Bucks a better team, more capable of seriously challenging for a playoff spot? Absolutely. Are they really closer to becoming a legit title contender. Not really. And that's what this decision really came down to: the need to build a more respectable, functional team (ie get at least one guy who shows some interest in defense) in the short term, even if Bell isn't a game-changer and you have him for longer than you'd ideally want him.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bogut Speaks

Andrew Bogut: Remember him?

Amid the Yi Jianlian soap opera, Mo Williams signing and Charlie Bell squabbles, you can almost forget that Andrew Bogut managed to offend some people with both his mouth and his hair this summer. Entering a pivotal third season, the former first overall pick is coming off an uneven sophomore campaign, improving statistically but lacking consistency before a foot injury shelved him for the final 16 games of the season. Over at RealGM one of the Aussie posters was kind enough to transcribe an interview Andrew Bogut did for Handle, an Australian basketball magazine. There's no online version of the mag, but you can see a picture of the most recent Bogut cover here (as a sidenote, is Bogut on the cover of every other issue?). It's a pretty wide-ranging discussion, so here are some highlights:

Q). At the All-Star weekend, you told me you were looking forward to working on your game this off season. What is it that you’ve been doing?

A). I needed to get back into the weight room. I haven’t really had an off season where I could lift, and I’ve felt my body getting stronger, especially my legs. When you’re playing 12 months a year, you can’t lift much in the legs because you’re body wont take it, and now I’m on the court every day, but I’m not overworking - certain days I just shoot for an hour and that's it. My trainer keeps me on my toes, and he never lets me know what we’ll be doing, so I never know what to expect. The best thing about basketball is you can never be perfect. No one has ever been perfect, and you can always get better, change something and improve. I’m looking to improve every facet of my game. The game gives you so much back. If you’re willing to do the work, you respect what it takes to be on an elite level.
Larry Krystkowiak reportedly told season ticketholders last week that Bogut weighed in at a fit 270 pounds when he came back from Australia, a figure that I did a double-take at. Remember last year Bogut showed up at around 255 pounds to start the season (he's been listed at 245), but looked a step slow and easily winded early on, later admitting it was too much. The bulk was mainly in his upper body when he probably needed it more in his base, so it's encouraging to hear his new regiment was focused there. I'm definitely to curious to see if a) Bogut is really 270 and b) he can carry that much weight effectively, but at this point he sounds like a guy who might be on the verge of having a breakout season.
Q). How did the coaching change affect you last year?

A). The fact Terry Stotts was fired was a reflection of our team losing games. In any sport today the coach can be a scapegoat - look at Kevin Sheedy in Essondon - and, unfortunately, that’s the nature of the business. Stotts felt like he was in the hot seat early on, and he told us so in a couple of team meetings. He wanted to continue to coach the way that had made him successful, and you have to respect that about the guy. He was unlucky, in a way, because in January we went on a roll with six straight wins before Michael Redd and Mo Williams went down, which twisted his fate. Larry Krystkowiak is a great acquisition; he’s a hard nosed coach and I think it was a positive move for the organisation, but I do think Stotts was a great coach for whom the pieces just didn't fall into place.
Bogut's ambivalence for Stotts was never much of a secret, but you at least need to give Bogut credit for saying polite things about Stotts since the switch. Some have used Stotts as a scapegoat for Bogut's inconsistency, but at some point you have to grow up--certainly if Krystkowiak can't get the best out of Bogut he'll be out of excuses.
Q). Is it reassuring to know that you’ll be with the Bucks for more seasons?

A). It’s nice, but the NBA is a business first and foremost: you don’t know what will happen. They re-sign me today, but can trade me tomorrow if they can bring in a player of a higher calibre, or who is a better fit. If Miami packages Shaq and Wade up for me, Redd and another player, the Bucks would make the move - who wouldn’t? You just never know what might happen in the NBA, but I’m very happy to be in Milwaukee, and I always have been. I love the people there, and they’ve been very helpful since I arrived. It’s a small city, so getting around isn’t a problem, and I just brought a house, so I’m finally going to get out of my apartment. I think a large part of my growing pains for these first two years was the fact that I went from living in an apartment to spending all my time in a hotel on the road, so there wasn’t any change up. Now when I get home after a road trip, I’ll have a little serenity and a backyard to relax in.
Ah, say all the right things, Drew. We love it! No, seriously, we do. He apparently moved to Mequon, so now he's really made it.
Q). Ever feel that you will be ostracised for your comments?

A). The toughest thing is always what your team-mates think. I spoke to a couple of our players to get my point of view across and explain myself to them. They knew from day one that I wasn’t the kind of guy who was in the NBA for the fame and the lifestyle that comes with that, and they’ve respected me for that. The way The Age article came out it makes it seem like I was calling them out, which I wasn’t. If it was worded in a different way , things wouldn’t have blown up, and I know that’s my own fault. I’m sure I’ll cop it from other players in the league, but I’m not afraid of going back to the US because of that, and I look forward to the challenge. I think in my first two seasons in the NBA, I might have taken a step back and have only just gotten my feet wet. I’m comfortable with where I’m at, and my team-mates are comfortable with me. I’m not looking to take crap from anybody, but I definitely respect Etan Thomas’ point of view. He has a right to say what he did, not just because he’s an American guy, but because he was making a point that was correct. I’m surprised that there weren’t more responses like that. If someone said something like that about Australia, they’d cop it from all angles. I’m definitely outspoken at times, and I should be able to keep quieter at times but, saying that, I definitely don’t want to be someone’s puppet.
The Thomas/Bogut thing seems pretty much done and dusted, at least in part because Bogut isn't a high profile player and Milwaukee isn't a high-profile team. So we likely won't hear much about this story once the season starts, but it'd certainly be interesting to see if Bogut and Thomas have a chat the next time the Bucks play the Wiz.

Woelfel Rips Bucks for Bell Situation

Gery Woelfel is going after the Bucks management for the handling of the Charlie Bell situation.

For more than two months, Bucks negotiators didn’t seem compelled to present Bell with at least a legitimate contract offer or attempt to quickly seal the deal on what should have been a relatively-simplistic contract.

It wasn’t until Bell and his wife recently traveled to Greece and received a two-year, $8 million offer from Olympiacos officials that the Bucks’ negotiating team finally woke up and made Bell a sound offer of three years for $9M.

But by that time, the damage had been done. They had thoroughly alienated Bell, who has been nothing but a model employee the last two seasons.

Until Charles Gardner at the JS started covering the Bucks more closely this summer, Woelfel's been easily the most informative mainstream media source for the Bucks, and because he has free rein at the Journal Time he actually can be opinionated from time to time, which is a nice contrast to Gardner's just-the-facts style. Still, it's times like these where Woelfel can also go a little far. Nowhere does Woelfel mention Bell's petty "sabotage" threats in the last week, nor does he point out that protracted, lowball tactics are part of the game when you're a restricted free agent--just ask Anderson Varejao, Sasha Pavlovic, or Mickael Pietrus. Woelfel's been a reliable mouthpiece for Mark Bartelstein all summer, and while you can understand he might have some personal loyalty to a likable player like Bell, he's also shirking a bit on his objectivity here. It's easy to forget that even Michael Redd had to wait until October to get an offer sheet from Dallas (four years, $12 million with a player option the last season) in 2002. It's not to say the situations are the same, but given Bell's lack of leverage it's also understandable that he wouldn't be a priority.

If the Bucks really did wait until only two weeks ago to offer their three year, $9 million deal then you can't fault Bell for feeling somewhat neglected. It's certainly on the low side in general for a player of his abilities, but far from insulting given his age, role, and status as a RFA, so had it been offered immediately Bell would perhaps have felt a little better. But the Bucks evidently erred in thinking that they could use their leverage without turning the negotiation into a highly personal affair; Bell had been a good soldier the past two seasons, he would understand, right? Well, clearly not. It's also interesting that Woelfel points the finger less at Larry Harris and more towards the "three lawyers" involved in the Bucks' negotiating, which could be code for Bucks VP Ron Walter and other associates of Herb Kohl.

Lastly, did Woelfel really need to take a shot at Gov. Jim Doyle for meeting Yi Jianlian while in China?

By the way, with the myriad of problems we have in this state like the frightening inner city violence in Milwaukee, high unemployment, exhorbitant taxes, etc., doesn’t Gov. Jim Doyle have anything better to do than spend time posing with Yi for the paparazzi in China?

Let's be clear--Doyle didn't fly to China merely to rub elbows with the Bucks' newest pick. If that was the case, then you could legitimately complain, but Doyle is actually in Far East leading a Wisconsin trade mission to China and Japan that was scheduled before the Bucks even drafted Yi. I don't see how anyone can have a problem with the Governor of Wisconsin promoting the state with a visit to its fastest growing trade partner. And if he can capitalize on the state's newfound connection to China's newest basketball star, he'd be a fool not to do it. More info on the trip:

China is Wisconsin's fastest-growing export market and the third-largest export market overall, up from fourth-largest in 2005. The state's exports to China in 2006 totaled $870 million, representing a 29 percent increase over the previous year. Important export commodities include industrial machinery, up 35 percent to $338 million; electrical machinery, up 48 percent to $121 million; and paper/paperboard up 80 percent to $12 million. During the first quarter of 2007, Wisconsin's exports to China grew by 75 percent compared with 15 percent for the United States' as a whole. As of March, Wisconsin ranked #14 among the 50 states in exports to China.

Japan is Wisconsin's fourth-largest export market overall. Last year the state's exports to Japan totaled $739 million, representing a 6 percent increase over 2005. Leading categories include medical and scientific instruments, up 4 percent to $281 million; industrial machinery, up 17 percent to $181 million; and electrical machinery, $60 million.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bucks Sign Royal Ivey

Charles Gardner at the JS just broke that the Bucks have signed former Hawks guard Royal Ivey to a one-year deal.

Ivey played in 53 games with the Hawks last season, making 18 starts, and averaged 3.1 points and 1.0 rebounds. He scored 16 points in a late-season game against the Bucks at the Bradley Center.

During the 2005-'06 season, Ivey started 66 times in 73 games played and averaged 3.6 points and 1.3 rebounds. He led all NBA guards in fewest turnovers per 48 minutes (1.1).

"It's a new start for me, a great opportunity," Ivey said.
In other words, the Bucks are probably not going to match the Heat's offer sheet for Charlie Bell. Unlike Dee Brown, the 25-year old Ivey has enough size (6'4" / 215 lbs) to play the 2 in a pinch, though he's more of a 1 and he's not terribly good at that either. Still, Ivey's calling card is his willingness to play defense, something the Bucks would be losing if (read: when) Bell ends up in Miami. So given the defensive limitations of Mo Williams and Lynn Greer, you can see why Ivey might be viewed as a better fit than a player like Dee Brown (who foreshadowed the Bucks' signing in his blog).

While Ivey's not much of an offensive player, he at least seems to know his limitations, as evidenced by his microscopic turnover rates. All of which was enough to earn him the title of "destitute man's Lindsey Hunter," courtesy of John Hollinger. Which might be a compliment to someone in a rec league, but not so much for someone playing in the NBA. I haven't seen enough of Ramon Sessions to speculate whether he has a chance at getting any burn for the Bucks in 07/08, so at this point I'd guess Lynn Greer and Ivey battle it out for backup minutes at the 1.

UPDATE: The full story in the JS has a quote from Larry Harris claiming the signing is unrelated to the Charlie Bell situation, but that seems hard to believe. Even though Bell has played more SG than PG the last two years, the fact that they signed a big, defensive-oriented PG a day after Bell got his offer sheet sure seems a related move, especially given the Bucks wanted Bell to work on his PG skills this summer. While some have pointed out that Ivey's or Sessions' deals could be completely non-guaranteed, my gut is that with everything that's happened this is a signal of the Bucks' intention not to re-sign Bell. Or maybe they're just toying with Charlie's emotions.
"There's no direct correlation at all," Bucks general manager Larry Harris said of Ivey's signing. "We already had planned to do this, regardless of the Charlie Bell situation."

Tuesday Bucks Notes

Monday, September 17, 2007

More Bell...Too Much In Fact

So ESPN and CNNSI are now reporting that Bell's offer is actually $18.5 million over five years, slightly more than what the JS reported earlier today when they broke the story (nice work by Charles Gardner, he's stepped up of late). Bell has now launched an all-out media assault trying to convince the Bucks not to match the offer--complete with continued threats that his heart wouldn't be in it (wink wink)--which I'm beginning to think will probably work at the end of the day (or in this case, at the end of the 7 days the Bucks have to match it).

Now, after the signing a locked MySpace blog entry addressed to Bucks fans was unlocked and has now been locked again. I saw it on the blog, and it was pasted in over here. And wow, all I can say is Charlie needs to spend less time reading about himself on blogs and message boards, because it's clearly getting to him.

To the realgm’ers and jsonline'ers and any other fans who want to know
Current mood: happy

Those without sin cast the first stone. I think it's unfortunate that some of you say the Bucks should match any offer that I get so that I will be unhappy. You must be very unhappy in your own lives to seek vengeance on me because I want what's best for myself and my family. All I wanted, more than anything this summer was stability for my family because we have being moving all over the world since I have been playing professional basketball. The Bucks said they could not and would not give that to me. They also said they have no more money because they spent it all on Williams, Voskhul, Storey, and Mason. So when Miami stepped in and was concerned about what I had been through and wanted to offer me and my family the stablity that the Bucks said they could not offer, I turned down Olympiacos offer (THANK YOU AGAIN OLYMPIACOS, the fans are loyal and the owners are incredible) and well, the Bucks had already told me they were signing someone else anyway, so there was nothing to turn down. I just want them to stick to their previous promises to me that they ABSOLUTELY could not do more than 3 years or 3 million dollars/year. NBA players are human beings. We have lives, feelings, family, and values and we want to be treated as such just like you do. No one feels good about being given a life changing 24 hr ultimatum by their employer that effects their entire career and family. Especially when they have been an employee that shows up for work everyday, on time, and when they have done everything asked of them plus some. You and everyone else wants to be valued by their employer, especially if you put your heart into your work and do your best every time you go into work. If your not valued at your current job and you know that you are a good and talented worker, you find another employee who values you and cares about your life outside of basketball as well as on the court. Otherwise all jobs would be created equal. Well, God Blessed me to find that team. And that team is the Miami Heat.
Look, I like Charlie Bell. I've never heard anyone say anything but nice things about him off the court, and on the court he was a hard worker who did everything that was asked of him the past two seasons. He's basically been given a free pass by most Bucks fans since he came out of nowhere and actually played defense from time to time. I also don't doubt that Bell is just doing what's best for himself and his family, which is EXACTLY what he should be doing. And his strategy, as awkward and off-putting as it has been, looks like it will probably work. At this point it certainly seems like the Bucks misplayed the situation, especially if the rumors are right that they could have had Bell for three years and $9 million last week if they only had offered to make the last year a player option.

But once again Bell is proving that the more athletes talk about their contract negotiations, the worse they look. It's not quite Sprewellian in nature, mind you. But the bolded part about Miami being "concerned" with what he had "been through" is pretty great--hopefully Bell's not surprised when Pat Riley expects him to play basketball, too. And while it certainly seems like he used the Olympiacos trip as a negotiating ploy and wasn't very serious about taking it, at least he's appreciative that so many fans begged him to come and made him feel good. That's perhaps the most surprising part of all this--that Bell seemed so concerned with fans' perceptions of him that he's repeatedly gone out of his way to address fans directly, only to then delete those message a bit later when they don't exactly resonate with average fans. Maybe Bell DOES realize his scorched earth policy is BS, and he's just trying to make it as awkward as possible for the Bucks to match the deal, who knows. But given all the postings and un-postings over the last week, my guess is that he actually is very sensitive about everyone's perception of him. On the one hand it's kind of fascinating to see, especially as someone who does spend so much time on the Bucks, but on the other hand it's not altogether reassuring when you see players become unglued by fan reaction.

Overall I do think this is a very good signing for the Heat, for whom Bell has more value than the Bucks at this point (see my previous post). And while it's not a no-brainer for the Bucks to let Bell walk, the length of the deal probably puts it out of the range of acceptability for the Bucks, who would also have a hard time putting together a press conference even if they did match it. At this point nothing will surprise me, but I'd be lying if I said that after everything that's happened I'll be applauding Bell the next time he's in the Bradley Center--regardless of whose jersey he's wearing. Sorry Charlie, my heart just won't be in it.

Heat Sign Bell: 5 years, $18 million

Well that didn't take long. The Miami Heat, having been spurned by Mo Williams earlier this summer, took another shot at a Bucks guard by giving Charlie Bell a five-year, $18 million offer sheet. The Bucks now have seven days to match the deal or let Bell walk. No word on whether the salaries in the deal are flat or escalating. Either way, kudos to Bell and Bartelstein--playing the emotional card worked and Bell now has a much better offer on the table than he would have otherwise had. It may not have been pretty, but Miami has again proven a valuable ally to Bartelstein. It's also vaguely reminiscent of a few years ago when Riley signed Elton Brand to a massive offer sheet that the Clippers matched, only to see Riley then go after Lamar Odom, who the Clips let walk.

What will the Bucks do? Charlie Bell at $3.6 million per year is a reasonable amount; the problem is that the new deal will keep Bell under contract until he's 33 years old. Given his age and the fact that Michael Redd and Mo Williams are now entrenched as the starting backcourt in Milwaukee, it's not likely that Bell will become much more for the Bucks than he already is. Miami would probably give Bell extended time at PG, a position he's only played in limited spurts with the Bucks. Still, it could be a great situation for Bell: given Dwyane Wade handles the ball much of the time, Bell would be able to focus on spotting up from the perimeter and defending the opponents' best guard.

Bell's age was probably the biggest factor in the Bucks' insistence on a three-year deal during their tumultuous negotiations, so Larry Harris now faces a tough decision. Even without the recent drama it wouldn't have been shocking if the Bucks didn't match this sort of offer, as five years is an awfully long deal for a role player. While a guy like Bell wouldn't be grossly overpaid and his contract would be movable down the road, a young team like the Bucks could reasonably prefer to save their money in case they give Bogut (likely) and Villanueva (less likely) big extensions. Larry Harris has fared well in the past in finding role players on the cheap (Bell two years ago, Mo Williams in 2004), and their decision here will go a long way to showing how much they believe in Lynn Greer and Ramon Sessions. Even if they like both of them expect a guard like Dee Brown to be brought in as insurance. One can only hope that Bell's not-so-veiled threats won't affect the Bucks' decision, as I still don't see how a guy like Bell would "sabotage" the team that is paying him.

From a basketball standpoint, allowing Bell to walk would be a major blow to the team's backcourt depth, as Greer has only limited experience as an NBA point and 2nd rounder Sessions was in all likelihood headed to the D-League for a year of seasoning. With the Bucks' playoff chances being iffy to begin with, letting Bell walk now would add an extra degree of difficulty to the 07/08 season, especially considering the meager pool of free agents that the Bucks could sign. The Bucks have let RFAs walk before--Atlanta signed Zaza Pachulia two years ago to a very reasonable four-year, $16 million deal that the Bucks elected not to match. There's plenty of pressure on Harris and company to make the playoffs this coming season, but at the same time it's obvious the team is too young to make serious noise for at least a year or two. Is Harris that worried about the 07/08 season that he'd lock Bell up for five years? It probably won't look good for the Bucks either way, given Bell claimed last week he would have signed (for much less) if he only had gotten a player option for a third year. Check back in a week.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Charlie Bell Saga Continues

The Charlie Bell standoff continues and it's becoming a pretty tiring soap opera, but I guess it's a fitting conclusion to the Summer of Yi. After Bell's trip to Greece apparently didn't bring the leverage needed, it appears that Bell's new strategy is to convince the Bucks to allow him to sign with another NBA team, despite Larry Harris' insistence that the Bucks remain hopeful of bringing Bell back. Charles Gardner at the JS writes:

Harris said the Bucks had made a three-year offer worth $9 million, and he said the team raised its offer after Bell traveled to Greece last week and received an offer from Olympiakos, one of the noted club teams in Europe.

"We felt like it was a fair deal," Harris said. "We respect Charlie and the decisions he has to make for him and his family. We hope the dialogue can continue and we can eventually get something done."

Mark Bartelstein has said Bell no longer wants to play in Milwaukee, but Bell also seems unwilling to take the offer he has from Greek club Olympiakos. So it stands to reason Bell (and his family) are hoping to avoid a return to Europe, the only problem being that he can only sign with another NBA team if the Bucks elect not to match the offer. Over on his MySpace blog Bell's made it abundantly clear he wants to leave:
This summer has been long and trying for me and my family with many ups and downs. I am grateful for the offer by milwaukee last week and I was willing to accept it with a minor change. But the ultimatum and take it or leave it approach permanently poisened me and changed my desire to even be in Milwaukee anymore. I know that because my heart is no longer there I will not be able to be the player they want or need. They could offer me 10 million dollars/yr now and it would not change my heart. I can't play to the best of my ability if I'm miserable. I can't sabotage myself or a team like that. The Bucks will sign a player whose heart will be with the team. Good luck this season.
There's another post addressed "to the real gmer's and jsonliner's" so evidently Bell has been reading those boards (and perhaps even this blog after TrueHoop linked to us last week). Unfortunately the post is listed as private so I don't know what it says, but needless to say this whole process has obviously become extremely convoluted and personal. Bell--a versatile player who worked as hard as anybody to get to the NBA and whose game is defined by his willingness to do whatever the team needs--is trying to publicly convince the Bucks that he just wouldn't be able to be that guy anymore if he returned to the Bucks. Really? Given his beef is purely with the front office, it seems hard to believe Bell would be so emotionally damaged by the negotiations that he couldn't play hard for teammates, coaches and fans who DO value his abilities (and perhaps even overvalue them). On the one hand you understand at least some of Bell's frustration and can't begrudge him for trying to do anything possible to get what he wants, whether his currency is money or the vaguer idea of "respect." After all, it's a free country, right? But now we've reached a bizarre situation where a hard-working, high-character bench player is essentially trying to convince the Bucks that he would become the very opposite of that were he to return. Sorry, but I really don't buy it. It's an awkward move for a guy like Bell, who's been universally liked by fans and teammates for his play the past two seasons. Now he's working against that reputation by saying his heart wouldn't be in it if he returned, yet it's difficult to make that argument without rubbing a lot of people the wrong way.

Make no mistake, Bell won't find it easy getting a good deal elsewhere. The public theatrics are the first step--make the Bucks not want to bring Bell back, while convincing other teams it's now safe to give him a generous offer sheet. What could Bell get on the open market, and can Bartelstein really convince teams that the market is open? It's difficult to say where Bell's value is, but it's likely somewhere in the $3-5 million range for three to four years. But even given what's transpired in the past week, the Bucks have no reason to help Bell out by clearing the way for him to sign elsewhere. Even if the Bucks no longer wanted Bell back, they'd likely continue to put up an optimistic front, if for no other reason than to avoid being cowed into submission. At the end of the day, the real question is probably whether Larry Harris and company are really concerned Bell might be a problem if he's brought back against his will. Given a) Bell and his family had settled in Milwaukee and with the Bucks' players and coaches b) it'd be totally out of character for him to give less than his best effort and c) his frustration is simply the product of a drawn-out negotiation, I just can't see Bell "sabotaging" the team if the Bucks match an offer sheet from another team.

Sunday Bucks Notes

  • Gov. Jim Doyle met with Yi Jianlian today in Beijing. So to recap, Yi has now met with the state's governor and senior senator despite having neither set foot in the state nor played a minute of NBA basketball.

    "The whole community is very excited about you coming to Milwaukee," said Doyle, who held a face-to-face meeting with Yi shortly after arriving in Beijing following a brief trip to Xian, China, where he met with the provincial governor.

    Clad in a blue jeans, a white T-shirt, navy blue Nike jacket and white, low-top Nike athletic shoes, Yi greeted Doyle on a set of stairs leading into training facility. A select group of Wisconsin business delegates and government officials then gathered in a room adjacent to a gymnasium at the facility, where Yi and Doyle took seats next to each other.

    "I'm ready for it," said Yi, who spoke softly, provided one- or two-word answers, but smiled throughout the meeting, seeming at ease in the presence of Doyle and his entourage.

    Russ Feingold, get with the program. In all seriousness though, this only further underscores the idea that the drafting of Yi is much more than a basketball story. For a mid-market city always looking to raise its profile, Milwaukee could potentially benefit greatly from its association with China's most marketable young basketball star (Yao is of course an old man at 26).
  • Yi had 20 points in the Yao-Nash charity game in Beijing. Watch some highlights here.
  • Ty at the Milwaukee Bucks Diary has a great Damir Markota story from last December.
  • In a move aimed clearly at easing Yi's transition to the NBA, the Bucks announced the hiring of Jarinn Akana as an assistant coach for player development. Akana had spent the past six years with the Nuggets, serving in a similar capacity from 2003-2005. In 2000 he spent some time "guest coaching" with the Chinese national team and he's also been a scout in Asia, so given the timing of his hiring--Tony Brown, Jim Todd and Bill Peterson were all hired within a two week period in June--it's obvious the Yi signing was the key factor here. Akana is a Hawaiian native who graduated from Hawaii in 1995.
  • has a puff piece about Tony Brown and Awvee Storey being impressed with Yi's performance in Vegas.
  • I've added The Bratwurst to our blogroll on the right. Great site for Bucks stuff, check it out.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bell Gone...?

Charles Gardner reports Charlie Bell's days as a Buck are over, though where he's going hasn't been confirmed.

"A lot of frustration has built up throughout the summer," Bartelstein said. "The Bucks are certainly entitled to do what's in the best interest of the franchise.

"He feels the Bucks have sent him a message about how important he is to them. The waters have become poisoned at this point, and he doesn't want to be in Milwaukee any more."

"We're not sure what we're going to do, but he will not sign a contract with the Bucks," Bartelstein said. "Charlie has a lot of pride, and he has to do what's best for him and his family.

"Charlie wants to feel wanted and appreciated, and I don't see any way to repair it at this point."

Bartelstein said he spoke with Bucks general manager Larry Harris and conveyed Bell's feelings.

"There's no ill will," Bartelstein said. "I have great respect for Larry Harris. Each player wants to feel he's important to that organization's success."

There's no ill will? Actually it sounds like there's only ill will, but you can understand that Bartelstein himself doesn't want to embarrass the Bucks too badly in public given how much money he's made off them. Seemingly Bell's only other option would be to take Olympiakos' offer in Greece, though agent Mark Bartelstein's anywhere-but-Milwaukee stance does leave open the possibility of playing elsewhere in the NBA. The only problem with the latter being that the Bucks can match any offer for Bell, and even now I doubt they'd allow Bell to sign elsewhere just because he was angry at their lowball offers.

Still, that shouldn't obscure how big of a blow this would be. While Bell is likely never going to be a starting-caliber player and his statistics are pretty mediocre, his versatility and willingness to defend are going to be very difficult to replace at this point in the summer with only minimum contracts to offer. [ETA: as discussed in the comments, it's the timing which is the biggest problem in my mind. It's one thing for the Bucks to decide at the beginning of the summer they want a different guy, but doing so now leaves them very few options. The Bucks probably didn't think it would come to this, but at the moment Bell doesn't sound like someone who is simply posturing] But instead of giving Bell a reasonable deal, the Bucks appear to have been burned by overestimating their own leverage. You also wonder if this will leave a bad taste in the mouths of the other Bucks, many of whom openly campaigned for Bell's re-signing.

Not everyone will be sad to see Bell go: Lynn Greer, David Noel and even Awvee Storey just saw their chance for real minutes skyrocket given Bell was a critical part of the backcourt rotation. We'll see if the Bucks make a move for a player like Dee Brown, Mike Wilks or even Troy Hudson in the coming days, or whether it's still possible for the Bucks and Bell to kiss and make up (after Yi and Mason, never say never). Either way, it's hard to imagine the Bucks just helped their chances of returning to the postseason.

UPDATE: Charlie Bell's MySpace page no longer has any of his blog posts. Also, in a breakfast meeting with season ticketholders today, Larry Harris supposedly said the Bell situation is not over. Stay tuned...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thursday Bucks Notes

Aside from the ongoing Charlie Bell saga...

  • The Bucks have invited Puerto Rican national team forward Angelo Reyes to camp. The 6'8", 220 lb Reyes finished second in the recent FIBA Tournament of the Americas with 9.5 rpg. With Damir Markota gone Reyes should have an outside chance at a roster spot, but don't bank on it.
  • An Australian RealGM poster was nice enough to transcribe a recent Bogut article from Melbourne's MX newspaper (no real website unfortunately). The highlights:
    "In my first year i didn't really go out at all and then one of the veterans told me sometimes you've got to let yourself go. You can't waste time dwelling on your past games."

    "I've got a long way to go to get to the player I want to be in my career. I don't think I've really proven yet that I can cut it week after week. I've shown glimpses but I definitely have to improve. The one word that sums it up is inconsistency."

Charle Bell Has a MySpace Page

A RealGM poster found Charlie Bell's MySpace page, and it's got some interesting entries suggesting a decision about Bell's future should come in the next day or so. First off, you immediately wonder whether it's real or not, but judging by the massive amount of effort that's gone into it (785 friends, all the personal pictures) and the fact that other NBA players have MySpace pages as well, I'd guess it's legit. Either that or someone has been expending massive amounts of time trying to make people think they're a rather random NBA player on the internet. Anyway, he posted a couple entries in his blog yesterday that are worth looking at. The first one about visiting Greek club Olympiakos:

I have a very difficult decision to make today. Olympiakos is easily the best team in Europe and the fans are the best. The city is beautiful and you have the best owner in all of Europe. Thank you Olympiakos fans for all the support and emails. I know I will be happy if I choose to come to your team. If I don't, It would only be because my opportunities right now are better here in the United States. If I choose Olympiakos, it will be because the Bucks are mistreating me, and at Olympiakos we can win a championship this year. No matter what, if I do come back to Europe to play this year, or any year after, it will be with Olympiakos, as long as they will have me. I will talk with my family and friends tonight for one last time, and I will decide. Thank you again!!
The second one is also from yesterday, claiming the Bucks gave him an ultimatum.
The Bucks gave me an ultimatum today to either take the deal that they are offering me with absolutely no negotiating any parts of it, or they will sign another player immediately. They gave me 24 hours. I don't know what to do because it is not a fair offer in my opinion, but time is ticking... gotta make a decision. I'll be praying for an answer.
Sounds like Bell is rather displeased with the way the Bucks' negotiations are going, and isn't too thrilled with the idea of taking the Bucks' reported three-year $9 million offer. Which you can understand given the deals that players like Jason Kapono (five years, $30 million) and Matt Carroll (six years, $27 million) got this offseason. And certainly the fact that the Bucks dished out fairly generous new deals to Mo Williams, Desmond Mason and Jake Voskuhl probably doesn't make Bell feel any better either.

UPDATE: Over in that same RealGM thread it was noted that Bell put up another post a couple hours ago saying that he was willing to take the Bucks' offer IF they made the final year a player option, but that the Bucks had even refused that. The whole post is in the link above, but it is now gone from his blog. So you wonder if the Bucks might have relented, or if there's some other wrinkle in the negotiations; either way he decided to delete it. Certainly by the sound of it Charlie is not at all pleased with the Bucks' hardball stance. It's also worth noting that Larry Harris supposedly said yesterday on the radio they had given Bell a revised offer, but I'm not sure what that might be--more than three years, $9 million?

If a player option is all it's coming down to then there's little reason to haggle any longer. If the Bucks can get Bell for $3-4 million per season for two seasons they've done pretty well for themselves, and at that point the contracts of Lynn Greer and Ramon Sessions will also be expiring, so they could pick from that group who to retain and who to let go. Bell's not a youngster, so locking him up long term isn't as important as assuring that he's around for the near future. And as of now it would be a big blow to replace Bell with a veteran off the street like Dee Brown, Scoonie Penn or Mike Wilks (all of whom worked out recently for the Bucks).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wednesday Bucks Notes

  • Charles Gardner with details on the ongoing Charlie Bell discussions.
    "We're still talking and a good dialogue is going on," Bucks general manager Larry Harris said on Tuesday. "I would say progress is being made, and hopefully something will be done soon. "We're trying to financially get to a number where we both can be happy."
    Read: a deal will probably get done soon. The Bucks have brought in some free agents to work out, including former Jazz and Illinois PG Dee Brown, but the bottom line is Bell is far more valuable than anyone they can find on the street right now.
  • Over at the JS Forum there's a thread detailing two conference calls today with Jim Paschke and Larry Krystkowiak. All the details seem fairly reasonable, save for the part about Andrew Bogut being up to 270 pounds and that being a good thing. Last year Bogut showed up supposedly around 255 but he lost a step and didn't carry the added weight particularly well. Over the course of the season he shed some of those pounds and looked a lot more comfortable, once again being able to face up and beat guys off the dribble, especially to his left. A guy like Bogut needs to build core strength more than pure upper body bulk, so if he is heavier hopefully it's because he's strengthened his base. But I'm not sure how likely that is, especially given he was recovering from his foot injury at the beginning of the summer. Still, some good tidbits in there.
  • Word is Damir Markota has signed with Spartak St. Petersburg.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sessions Signs

Ramon Sessions talks to Jim Paschke at Summerfest

Second round pick Ramon Sessions has signed a two-year deal with the Bucks. Sessions was selected 56th overall, which was the pick acquired from the Rockets in the 2005 Mike James/Reece Gaines trade. The Bucks' own second rounder (33rd overall) was shipped to the Spurs in order to get the Artist Formerly Known as Damir Markota. In case you're wondering, that pick was used to draft Arizona swingman Marcus Williams.

About half of this year's second rounders have signed thus far, so the timing isn't all that unusual. Though for what it's worth, David Noel (July 3, 2006), Damir Markota (July 25, 2006), and Ersan Ilyasova (August 23, 2005) all signed earlier in the summer. As TrueHoop noted this morning, virtually all 2nd rounders sign for the minimum, though no word yet on how much is guaranteed.

I don't remember watching Sessions in college at Nevada, but he's a taller PG at 6'4" / 185 who showed pretty good vision in Vegas. DraftExpress notes that he helped himself a great deal at the Orlando pre-draft camp, and what he lacks in scoring he makes up for in decision-making and defense.

Sessions clearly has that natural knack for running a team, something he first displayed as a freshman. After injuries derailed his sophomore year, Sessions got back on track this season, showing major improvement as a scorer. His mark was all over this camp, and he does it with solid decision making, and a patient, probing way of making a defense commit to stopping him or stopping the pass. At this point Sessions would probably rather pull defenses toward him and use his excellent court vision to find teammates, but he is improving with the pull-up jumper and a creative array of floaters and other finishing moves if he makes his way into the lane.
I wouldn't read much into this in terms of the Charlie Bell situation, as the Bucks were going to sign Sessions regardless of whether Bell is re-signed. Potentially good news for the Bucks is that two of the European teams that had talked to Bell are likely no longer interested. Barcelona finally signed Alex Acker a week ago, while Greek side Olympiacos--the team Bell visited last weekend--reportedly signed Milos Teodosic after Bell left. The latter comes from a reliable poster over at RealGM, but I haven't seen it in the mainstream media (nor do I speak Greek unfortunately).

My guess is Sessions spends most of the season in the D-League unless one of the Bucks other PGs--Mo, Bell or Greer--goes down with an injury. So yes, I'm still assuming Charlie Bell will be a Buck next year. Longer-term his size and rep as a floor general could certainly give him a future in Milwaukee, since he could eventually provide a good change of pace from Mo Williams.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday Bucks Notes

  • Dime has a cool interview with Charlie Bell. Nothing new on his contract situation, and from what I've heard the contract numbers they're quoting are wrong--it's $5 million total, not per season, for two years. Either way it's interesting to see Bell's take on his previous adventures in Europe.
    “When I was in Treviso, we were looked at as celebrities, but we weren’t as big as the soccer team there. When I was in Spain and leading the league in scoring, I was really popular there. People would come up to me like, ‘Charlie Bell, you’re the greatest.’ Everybody called me ‘Santo Dios,’ which is like a saint. I was the Michael Jordan of Spain at the time. I’d go downtown and have crowd of kids following me around.
  • The Michael Redd Foundation is holding a two-day basketball tournament in Columbus.
  • Former Wolves combo guard Troy Hudson claims he's talking to the Spurs and Bucks.
    Point guard Troy Hudson, who received a $10 million contract buyout from the Timberwolves this summer, is talking with the San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks but wants his role defined before he'll sign.
    I suppose it's worth putting in a call to Hudson given the ongoing Charlie Bell saga, as Hudson's one of the few experienced guards still left who is available for the minimum. But let's be clear, the Bucks would surely prefer to lock up Bell than settle for the oft-injured Hudson even at the minimum. It's been five years since Hudson's career season (14 ppg/6 apg in 02/03), and at this point the 31-year old might stands a good chance of not even being in the NBA next season. At this stage of his career Hudson is a one-dimensional, shoot-first PG who isn't even very good at shooting anymore.
  • Bob Wolfley at the JS adds some logic to the discussion about Yi's minutes. I've always liked Wolfley a lot--he's not a beat guy so he doesn't seem to mind expressing his opinion (good or bad), but he also isn't a columnist who has to slap together a big, contrived column once a week.
    If the report is literally the truth - if it was something given to Yi beyond assurances - that's bad precedent.

    But the issue of a guarantee is a moot one given what players taken in Yi's slot have averaged in playing time.

    Over the last 15 seasons, No. 6 draft choices have averaged 28.2 minutes, three minutes over the maximum Kohl allegedly guaranteed. Of those 15 players, only three averaged less than 20 minutes, 11 averaged more than 25 minutes and six of them averaged over 30 minutes.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Markota Waived!

So just days after we were discussing Damir Markota's uh, interesting reasons for not trying hard last season, the Bucks stepped up and waived him. I figured the Bucks would be loathe to do so given it'd be simple to just stash him in the D-League for another season rather than admit their mistake, but being both bad at basketball and immature off the court does apparently count for something. At least in the NBA.

I'd have to guess his latest comments were perhaps the final nail in the coffin, and with Krystkowiak trying to build a more disciplined team Markota was probably viewed as a bad apple not worth wasting time on. Given he was friends with Bogut this might also be a bit of a wakeup call to the former #1 overall pick--no more coddling, Drew. In fairness Bogut doesn't have a rep for being much of a party animal, but his friendship with Markota was largely rumored to have been a reason the Bucks acquired Markota in the first place (and for a high '07 second rounder no less). I'll be curious to hear how much of his remaining two years' salary (about $1.5 million total, the minimum for a player of his tenure) was guaranteed.

Friday Bucks Notes

Guangdong says goodbye and gives Yi...well, whatever you'd call that.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Thursday Bucks Notes

The next question for CB: Greece or Milwaukee?

  • According to Greek papers, Charlie Bell is in Athens to visit with Olympiacos officials. The contract offer is reportedly a net-of-tax $5 million total over two years, so in pre-tax terms that's probably about $8 million or so. In other words, with Bell having stated a preference for staying in Milwaukee (and the NBA), the Bucks should have no problem retaining him for a fair amount. Keep in mind the last time Mark Bartelstein had a client make a trip to a competing city, Mo Williams wound up doing quite well for himself. No one seems to know what the Bucks are offering Bell, though in general the Bucks seem to be content to lowball Bell (or at least not roll over for him) and wait for someone else to force them to do something. Given they can match any offer sheet from another NBA team, the pressure hasn't really been on the Bucks to do anything. Clearly disappointed that he hasn't been able to fleece the Bucks again, Bartelstein has turned abroad to see if he can manufacture some leverage, but it still just doesn't seem possible that the Bucks would let Bell leave when a three-year, $10-12 million deal is probably enough to bring him back. Given the kinds of deals UFAs get you can understand why Bell would be hesitant to sign for a (gasp!) reasonable price, but it looks like the Bucks might be negotiating...well?
  • Damir Markota's Croatia took down Portugal 90-68 in their second game at the Eurobasket tournament in Spain. Markota appeared sober and came off the bench to score 13 points (3/4 fg, 2/2 3fg, 5/6 ft) along with a rebound, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block in 23 minutes (box score).
  • Ersan Ilyasova's Turkish team also won their second Eurobasket game, beating the Czech Republic 80-72. Ersan started for the second straight game but struggled, scoring just one point and going 0-8 from the field with 6 rebounds in 22 minutes. I was hoping Ersan would have a breakout tournament, but so far in the EFES World Cup and Eurobasket he's really struggled to find his shot. Looks like stashing him away in Europe for at least a season could prove a wise move on the Bucks' part.