By Jim Owczarski Sports Editor Published Oct 15, 2014 at 1:05 PM Photography: David Bernacchi

Ersan Ilyasova couldn’t resist a little smile.

Standing next to a row of golf carts as the Milwaukee Bucks’ annual charity golf outing to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis in late September, just before training camp, he was asked if he now felt a sense of stability with the organization he has been a part of since the 2005 NBA Draft.

"It’s hard to say from this point," he said. "Last year when they make those changes we kind of set ourselves up for that kind of mentality but you never know. We could get changes again. It’s all part of the business. We have to live day to day and try to start to focus on the new season."

Ilyasova is the longest tenured member of the Milwaukee Bucks, even if his route was somewhat circuitous. Drafted as a teenager No. 36 overall in the second round of the 2005 draft – the same one that netted the Bucks Andrew Bogut No. 1 overall – he spent his first full year in the NBA Developmental League.

He joined the Bucks as a 19-year-old in 2006-07 and played in 66 games, averaging 6.1 points and 2.9 rebounds coming off the bench.

Little could he have known that season would set the tone for his career in Milwaukee.
In that first season, he played for two head coaches – Terry Stotts, then Larry Krystkowiak.

He also had 16 different teammates.

Ilyasova decided to play in Spain the next two years before coming back to Milwaukee at the start of the 2009-10 campaign for his third head coach, Scott Skiles, and 15 new teammates. Only Bogut, Charlie Bell and Dan Gadzuric had remained from his rookie season.

That year was a memorable one for the franchise, as it finished 46-36 and took the Atlanta Hawks to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. Things seemed to be looking up, with new point guard Brandon Jennings adding some flair to the team.

Nine new teammates came aboard in 2010-11 – along with a new, old teammate in Earl Boykins – and the team sunk to 35 wins.

Roster turnover has become part of every summer for Ilyasova, now 27 and entering his seventh full season in Milwaukee.

Jason Kidd is his sixth head coach. The new faces on the current roster means the forward has played with 77 different teammates. And, like Boykins, he’s seen Carlos Delfino and Luke Ridnour leave and come back.

He’s played with two other members of his 2005 draft class in Monta Ellis and Charlie Villanueva, and played against his current head coach.

"Obviously for me now, every summer, you never know," he said about changes. "Obviously this summer was really major changes as far as the owner (Sen. Herb Kohl), he sells the team, we got new coaches again and new players. I think it’s all about a building process now. We’ve got a lot of young talent on the team now. As far as you look at, we have a lot of talent, but the basketball game is all about the team sport. The toughest job for the coaches just to put us together in the same direction. We have a lot of talent on the team but we have to use the talent in the same direction and be as one part."

Part of what comes with seniority is receiving a nice paycheck, and according to, the four-year, $40 million contract Ilyasova signed in the summer of 2012 makes him the third-highest paid player on the team behind Larry Sanders ($11 million) and O.J. Mayo ($8 million).

It also makes him the subject of trade speculation, which he endured through last season as he struggled through an ankle injury and the team only won 15 games.

He wouldn’t address directly whether he was surprised to be back or not, but it was inferred he wouldn’t have been completely shocked if he wasn’t.

"Obviously, when you’re go in the summer with the changes we have, we knew it was going to happen; but in our business you have to live day by day," he said. "Changes will happen. You just have to deal with it.

"Now I’m here and I’m trying to motivate myself and a new season and I know it’s going to be really exciting. Just forget the past. Not completely, but you have to learn something from it. Obviously we’ve learned how to lose, but now we have to learn how to win the games. Obviously it was really frustrating the last year but hopefully we’re going to turn around and do better."

Ilyasova did not play for the Turkish national team this summer, instead focusing on making sure his body was completely recovered from the ankle injury he suffered last summer – which he said bothered him all season.

It showed, as he played in a career-low 55 games, posted his worst field goal percentage (40.9) since his rookie campaign, the worst 3-point field goal percentage of his career (28.2) and his lowest point production (11.2) since 2010-11.

"I want to be part of the national team, but it is what it is," he said. "I had to first fix myself and be healthy. Last year I just came from the European championship to training camp and it was really too much on my body. At one point it just break(s) down. It was really bad and I kind of rushed myself into it, to come back the first game of the season and it was just like a snowball, it got worse and worse. I never found myself 100 percent.

"Especially when you have a season like that, everybody was looking for some positive things but there was not much. Hopefully this summer I spent a lot of time fixing my ankle, be healthy, work on myself, and hopefully this season will start freshly with a new page with new energy and power."

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.