By Jim Owczarski Sports Editor Published Aug 06, 2013 at 1:16 PM

The question was appropriate enough, considering the setting.

In front of the Milwaukee Bucks backdrop, general manager John Hammond and head coach Larry Drew sandwiched the team’s newest acquisitions in small forward Khris Middleton and point guard Brandon Knight.

They were the key players the team received in return following the sign-and-trade of Brandon Jennings to the Detroit Pistons, so Hammond was asked what he saw in the 21-year-old Knight that he felt was an upgrade, or something different, than the point guard he traded away.

Hammond’s response was an impassioned, nearly three minute soliloquy that brought a phrase to Milwaukee basketball most haven’t thought about since George Karl and the Big Three were making a run to the Eastern Conference Finals: Championship caliber.

"As we move forward, to kind of talk about where we’re at today, some people use these words, like ‘tanking’ so to speak, we’re by no means in that mode whatsoever," Hammond said. "We’re trying to remain competitive. We want to be a competitive team and I think we can be a competitive team but also – also – we really want to start focusing on the youth of this team and start talking about things like a championship caliber team and building around the young players that we have on this team. Can they develop into a core like that? I think they can.

"We’re going to have the right kind of people, people that say ‘I want to be a part of that and I’m going to work hard enough to become that.’"

Hammond then acknowledged that to get to that point, players like Knight, Larry Sanders and others will need to develop into All-Star players.

"We need players to develop and say, you know what, I want to become that. I want to become the best player I can possibly become, but also it’s very important we have the right kind of people to say that I want to become great, but not more important than winning and winning a championship someday. We want to start talking about the youth on this team and saying that we someday want to start talking about being a championship caliber team. I think we should start talking about that and I think we can be that."

Hammond was so animated during this talk that as soon as he finished that sentence, there was almost a stunned silence among the gathered media. Nearly six seconds passed before another question was asked.

Later, he spoke on how soon he saw that championship caliber team developing, and he was honest in his assessment.

"Our guys are planning on winning this year," he said, addressing the goals of this season first. "The old saying (that) if you’re going to play to might as well play to win – that’s the plan. The plan is be competitive and try to win games. But as we move forward, to start talking about some long term future plan, and start talking about a championship caliber team, I don’t know. I don’t know when that’s going to be."

He continued, addressing natural follow up questions.

"If we start talking about those type of things, a championship caliber team, some people might say well, but you’re going to need that guy, that All-Star type player to become a championship caliber team," he said.

"Can one of our guys, on our roster today, develop into that? Can Brandon Knight develop into that? Khris has that same desire, no question I’m sure. Can Larry Sanders develop into that? Could John Henson? Could Ersan (Ilyasova) continue to develop and shoot that three ball as well as he does? Could Giannis someday be that guy?

"The goal is for all those guys to hopefully strive to achieve that. But, also, for us (as an organization) not to take our eye off the target and try to acquire a piece like that. If we don’t have that guy on our roster, and hopefully we do, but if we don’t to try and acquire that difference maker and we’re going to get that guy more than likely, more than likely, probably through the draft or maybe through a trade. Free agency (is) a possibility, but probably more than likely through the draft or through the trade."

Hammond noted that in two years, the team’s potential starting lineup could have an average age of 26 or under with multiple years of NBA experience under its collective belt. He knows some things have to fall his way in terms of this bevy of young players turning into a superstar, but that’s one of the reasons Drew was brought in as head coach.

"You hire a coach and at times, that’s a responsibility, and I think Larry is excited about and welcomes that opportunity to develop these young players and to help lead," Hammond said.

In addressing the public for the first time since overhauling the roster, Hammond outlined his mission. He noted how important it was for the team to have the financial flexibility it now has – including the $7 million in cap space the team is currently operating with – and the mixture of young core players as well as true veteran professionals that will be counted on as locker room leaders.

Later, Knight smiled when talking about Hammond’s declarations.

"It gives you goosebumps a little bit," he said. "You know, him being the type of guy he is, I know he says it for a reason; not just to say it. He sees the type of guys that we have and I know a lot of them – a lot of them work very hard and a lot of them put the team first, which is very important. When you have guys that do that collectively, it can be something special."

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

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.