The drumbeat started months ago, beginning with those familiar with the way Marc Lasry and Wes Edens (and Jason Kidd?) felt about the future of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Yes, the team was hovering around .500 through its tough December schedule, and yes Jabari Parker had been lost for the year, but the Bucks weren’t going to mortgage the future, or deviate from the owners' plan of a multi-year rebuild and acquire veterans with the goal of making the playoffs.
Things change, you may say.
The Bucks went from a 21-21 team on Jan. 22 to 30-23 as the trade deadline approaches Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m.
But nothing has changed.
Through the rest of December, and January, team executives insisted behind the scenes that you weren’t going to the team hit the trade market looking to acquire an established veteran to solidify a middle seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
General manager John Hammond then went public with that train of thought just before the all-star break.
"I think as we move forward, look, the big picture for us is becoming a championship-caliber organization," Hammond said at the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin Training Center last week.
"So, I think for us to get short-sighted and say 'let’s try to to win today' and replacing any thought of moving forward into the future, I think we’re all aware that’s not who we want to be."
But, he did allow that a move could be made to add to the future of the organization.
"Right now, anything we’re looking at today is still, hopefully, going to be focused on maybe acquiring a piece or talking about adding pieces that can be future, long-term player for this organization," Hammond said.
"We appreciate where we’re at today. As I said, overachieving, the talk about this team being a playoff team is such a great story in itself, but as I said, we’re still focusing on the future and moving forward long-term and that’s becoming a championship-caliber team."
This is a key distinction for Bucks fans to understand.
The other important detail to understand is that to get that "long-term" player, this team isn’t going to trade away valuable first round draft picks (as to what their definition of valuable is, though, we're not sure) Giannis Antetokounmpo or Jabari Parker.
After that, it’s safe to say all bets are off.
And that includes Brandon Knight, whom the team did not extend by the October deadline for restricted free agents.
That includes John Henson, a third-year 24-year-old forward who is a serviceable rotation big, but hasn’t developed into a front-line starter.
There will be no John Salmons, no Monta Ellis, no J.J. Redick.
(If anything, the Bucks would love to "reverse" the Redick deal and send a veteran away for a team-controlled second-year player.)
So, thoughts turn to Utah Jazz center Enes Kanter, who, ostensibly, fits the criteria of a "long-term" player for the organization. After all, he’ll only be 23 in May, and has averaged 12.9 points and 7 rebounds over the last two years in about 27 minutes per game.
He has his flaws, in that he’s not a rim protector, and he doesn’t shoot particularly well for someone who stands 6-feet, 11-inches.
Oh, and then there’s this:
Executives say Utah has significant threshold for Enes Kanter deal - including young player, 1st rounder, etc - but several teams pursuing. — Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 17, 2015
Oh, one more thing. Like Knight and Middleton, Kanter will be a restricted free agent. So not only would the Jazz have to substantially lower their demands by Thursday afternoon, the Bucks would also need make a long-term commitment or risk losing him if another team offers a more lucrative deal.
It looks like a roster space will be opened up, as the team is close to agreeing on a buyout with Larry Sanders, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a trade is in the works. Like last year, this team could be content with bringing in several different guards or big men on 10-day contracts to see who may fit the back end of the roster for the future.
That’s not to say the Bucks won’t make a trade. They very well may. Some national pundits feel Kidd likes what he sees in Kanter.
But even if that move is made, it won’t be in line with what Bucks fans have come to expect over the last half decade. It'll be made with a clear vision of the future. And if no move is made, again, they'll stand pat knowing in which direction they're headed.
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.