Situation de Ramon Sessions has reminded us how painful and agonizing free agency can be.
Allow me to amend that.
How painful and agonizing RESTRICTED free agency can be. Over the last decade or so it seems like the Bucks have had as many restricted free agency haggles as anyone in the league. Some of the players have signed with the Bucks and turned out for the better. Some had their contracts matched and we thank the NBA gods for that. Some resigned with the Bucks and left us asking why Larry Harris was still under the organization’s employ.
The hassles of waiting a week are no fun, but on the plus side it gives us bloggers and other writers a weeks worth (and sometimes much more than that, right Mr. Sessions?) of material. Today I want to revisit the Bucks recent restricted free agent history and see how it worked out.
Redd signed a four year $12 million offer sheet with Dallas in October of 2002. I never realized how late he signed that thing. We’re getting frustrated with Sessions and we’re just started out in August. This thing could drag on for another couple months! Redd was coming off his first miniature breakout season. Starting eight games and playing in 67 in 2001-02 Redd shot 44% on threes and averaged over 11 points. Potential was vast in the 23-year-old Redd. It was a no-brainer to match three million a year for a guy like Redd at the time. It’s almost a little bit like Sessions if you think hard enough. A 23-year-old guard, filled with upside and a little bit of starting experience. The Bucks didn’t have any young stars at the same position as Redd at the time though .. and haven’t had many young “upside” guys at the position since. The most surprising fact out of Redd’s restricted free agency is that it took the Bucks 13 days to match his contract. What were they thinking about? What pen to use?
This could have been bad. Really bad. Like, Dan Gadzuric bad. In 2004 the Bucks inked Thomas to a six year $38 million offer sheet. That’s more than they signed Dan Gadzuric for. I guess it was rational though; Thomas had just averaged nearly nine points and eight rebounds while shooting under 50% from the field. No he couldn’t beat out Brendan Haywood for playing time, but surely he’d blossom and give the Bucks a two-headed force protecting the hoop with Dan Gadzuric. Would Gadzuric have received his mega-deal had Thomas been signed in the summer of 2004? Maybe not, hopefully not. But regardless, it seems like Larry Harris was hell bent on finding a way to blow 30-some million on an offensively challenged center and wouldn’t stop until he got his man. What makes this more unreal than Gadz’s deal though is that not only did Harris think Thomas was worth it, but so did Washington’s GM. Their GM? None other than former Bucks head honcho Ernie Grunfeld. A small world indeed.
Mo can be classified as the Bucks most successful steal in offering deals to other teams restricted free agents. Williams came young, cheap and talented from Utah. A second round pick, Williams saw little playing time in his first season with the Jazz before signing a two year offer sheet with the Bucks after their failed attempt to land Etan Thomas. Utah must have been awfully secure in who they had manning the guard positions because they didn’t match a paltry $5.5 million over three years. The guards they had ahead of him? Raul Lopez and Carlos Arroyo. See Bucks fans, other teams make terrible mistakes too!
As we know, Williams went on to be a productive starter, then backup, then back to starter for the Bucks. He made a number of big shots, played little to no defense often, had very hairy shoulders and eventually netted the Bucks Luke Ridnour. A so-so resume, but for an initial investment of less than two million a year, I’ll take it.
Things got a little ugly with Bell in the summer of 2007. Bell was actually something of a secret pioneer that summer when he negotiated a deal with Olympiakos in Greece and used that as leverage to get a bigger deal with the Bucks. Problem was that the Bucks offer still wasn’t his best. Bell eventually signed an offer sheet with Miami for five years and $18 million. Bell wanted to be there and the Heat wanted to have him. The Bucks realistically could have lived without an aging third guard that really was a fourth guard for a good team. But Larry Harris had to have his man. God forbid Harris would let any Buck get away. So the Bucks stepped in and matched the offer for Bell and brought back a disgruntled aging backup shooting guard.
If I were Bell I would have been upset too. He was days away from spending his next five years in beautiful Miami beach with his millions of dollars. Now he spends his time in Milwaukee playing for a losing basketball team and dreaming of what could have been. To Bell’s credit, he has taken on an active role in the community and served honorably as the Bucks player representative. He seems to be a terrific bench guy and a good example for the younger Bucks. If I were him I would brood by myself on the end of the bench and hope for a trade every day … but that’s just me.
Sessions is surely learning much of what Charlie Bell previously learned: the NBA is a business. Sessions has more or less been given the cold shoulder by the only team he has ever known in the league. The economy has slowed free agent bids and the summer of Lebron is on everyone’s mind. Five years ago Sessions would likely be looking at $36 million over five years from a number of teams. Now Sessions is sweating it out to get two years ten million. And the Bucks aren’t making it any easier for him. Have they even made an offer aside from the initial qualifying offer? That’s information that only the Bucks and Chubby Wells (Sessions agent) have. But if Sessions does come back, hard feelings will likely melt away fairly quick as he’ll probably be thrust back into the starting lineup with an opportunity to boost his stock up for his next free agency endeavor. And if he does come back he’ll have someone who can relate to him right down the bench.
So maybe it was a good thing Likable Larry did sign Bell. Perhaps he was more of a visionary than I ever give him credit for.
But probably not.