Bucks begin process of "getting better"
This is the goal of the Milwaukee Bucks organization going forward, beginning with the end of the 2012-13 season and the dismissal of interim head coach Jim Boylan, which was announced Wednesday afternoon by general manager John Hammond.
Hammond asserted the Bucks aren't "broken" as is, but recognized there were certain weaknesses within the roster which caused the team to stumble into the postseason with a losing record.
"When things like that are happening, I don't go home and sit by myself and think what's wrong with the players or what's wrong with the coaches – I think about what did I do to allow it to get to this point?," he said. "That really weighs on me and I take a lot of responsibility for that. Our job is to fix it."
It was the phrase, the mission, tossed about most frequently when it came to what this team had to do going into 2013-14.
"It's all an opportunity to get better," free agent guard J.J. Redick said Monday of his experience being traded and in Milwaukee. "I'll reflect and learn and get better this summer. That's ultimately all you can do is to continue to improve and learn from your past experiences."
"We have to get better," Monta Ellis said Sunday about the offseason. "We know that. Like (Boylan) said, we're a young team, but at the end of the day, we have a responsibility. Everybody has to take the initiative to get better and come back for next year."
It sounds simple, really – get better. It's what professional athletes are supposed to do, right? It doesn't always work like that, however.
Hammond admitted as much, saying the roster he constructed – one that included five unrestricted free agents, a player in Ellis who is seriously considering opting into free agency, and a player in Brandon Jennings who can be offered contracts by other teams, didn't suit that mission.
"Jim had a difficult time at different points in the season and some of it had to do with our roster, the fact of the number of free agents that we had," Hammond said of Boylan. "That could be difficult."
He clarified why later in the press conference.
"I think it's because as our roster was formed, the fact that we had so many free agents," Hammond said. "I wasn't putting that on Jim saying hey, what's wrong with you for having those problems? I'm saying that was on us for how our roster developed. I think Jim handled the situation the best as he possibly could. I think he communicated, tried to communicate with our guys and tried to work with our guys, and I think he did the very best he could possibly do."
The next coach won't have those types of roster issues.
If any combination of the backcourt trio of Jennings, Ellis or free agent J.J. Redick does come back, it will be with a long term deal and significant money – the same with any other free agent that comes to the team. Ersan Ilyasova got his deal a year ago. Larry Sanders and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are worth extending but it's not necessary at this time. John Henson is just going into his second year.
For those players, they will undoubtedly find what Hammond does going forward, but it's out of their control, so…
"For some of the players under contract the best thing is to focus on what they need to do to get better as players," Mbah a Moute said. "That's what I'm going to do this summer, regardless of who the new coach is. That's something they've got to figure out, who they want, get in touch with him. I think the main thing is just figure out how to get better as a player."
Even in his harshest assessment of the team going forward, Redick talked about looking ahead, and improving.
"We had a losing record. We were the eighth seed. We lost 4-0 in the first round," Redick said Sunday night. "So, if you're taking positives from mediocrity, you're setting yourself up for a major fail in the future. Hopefully every person takes it upon themselves to get better in the offseason. It's part of your professionalism as an NBA player.
"We'll see what the team looks like next year. If I'm back, we'll see what the team looks like and hopefully we can be better and gain momentum for this franchise."
That momentum began to build Wednesday, but getting it going unfortunately meant cutting loose the last tie to Scott Skiles' tenure as the Bucks head coach.
"Jim did a very nice job with our team and I can't tell you how much I appreciate the efforts that he made and what he stands for," Hammond said of Boylan. "He's a tremendous guy. He's been a part of this community for a very long time as a player at Marquette and working at this organization. I think so very highly of him and when you feel that way it doesn't make it easier, that's for sure."
The coaching search is underway, and Hammond said he holds no preconceived notions on their leanings offensively or defensively, or even if he has had previous head coaching experience. He also gave no timetable for the hiring, saying he would stretch the search as long as possible to "get it right."
Getting it right, for Hammond, is part of getting better.
"It's going to be important that we find the right guy and he can make the fit work and we make it work for him," he said.
As Hammond searches for a coach, he has time to look at the roster. Which players does he want to offer to come back? Which players around the league might he want to bring in? What he was happy about is having a core group of Sanders, Ilyasova, Henson and, yes, Jennings to start with.
"I think the thing you can build is you've got some young guys who have a very, very bright future," free agent Mike Dunleavy said on the way out Monday. "Certainly with the emergence of Larry and last year's draft pick John Henson showing signs, showing flashes that he can be really good. Assuming Brandon will be back – he is a restricted free agent and I mean, I can't see a scenario where they let him just walk without getting something.
"You have these assets and these guys who are young and can get better and that's something you can build on. I think when people talk about building or growing that's what you're looking at and you try and fill in the parts around those guys and just keep better players."
Perhaps the new players Hammond brings in to go with the existing building blocks, along with the new coach, will create an improved team that helps the Bucks make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in a decade.
"It's a two way street," Hammond said of developing a winning culture within the organization. "I think that yeah, we have to have a coach willing to instill that and we have to have the players willing to accept that. I don't just say let's hire the coach and say now, you fix it. It's my responsibility to fix it also. It's our job to get that done and I think we can."
Seems like every year is a new chapter of more of the same for Milwaukee Bucks.
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