The boundless hours of rehab that have finally landed Michael Redd back in Milwaukee probably aren’t comparable to the many minutes Redd spent studying how to be a professional with Ray Allen back in the early 2000s, but the symmetry is worth noting. From start to finish, Redd’s story as a member of the Bucks, the one where a second round draft pick without three-point range becomes an All-Star and one of the league’s finest shooters, has been about hard work.
What his career hasn’t been about though, is winning basketball. And Redd is not solely to blame for that.
By the time Redd is ready to play in a game this season, Milwaukee’s fate will have already been decided. Even if Redd progresses quickly — he’s only going through one-on-one drills right now — and returns in two weeks, there won’t be much question as to where the Bucks are heading at that point. In the next two weeks, Milwaukee plays eight games. Unless the Bucks can drastically outperform their season long pace and win six or seven of those eight, it will be time to face a hard truth: there will not be any playoff games taking place in Milwaukee this season.
If that’s the case, it seems fitting that Milwaukee will be adding a player like Redd to the mix. To be clear, that’s not a shot at Michael Redd. The past is past. It doesn’t help to dwell on those years lost during the prime of his career; it was more the organization’s fault than it was his. No, I’m talking about the kind of player Redd is at this point and how he meshes with the Bucks future. It’s fitting that Milwaukee could be playing out the stretch in one of its most disappointing seasons in recent memory with one of its only tantalizing prospects blocking shots and dunking 250 miles away, while a 31-year-old guard with no future on the Bucks rejoins the team.
A team he probably shouldn’t be on anyway. One of the unluckiest things to happen to the Bucks since John Hammond took over as general manager has been Redd’s string of season ending injuries. Upon his arrival in 2007, figuring out what to do with Redd was considered the most important thing Hammond would do. Redd’s hefty salary and lackadaisical defense were blamed, fairly or not, for the Bucks struggles through the 2000s. Dumping his large contract could have given the Bucks more financial flexibility and hopefully a prospect or two to help the building process.
Instead, Hammond attempted to pair Redd and Richard Jefferson with Andrew Bogut for a playoff run during the 2008-09 season. When Redd first tore his ACL and MCL in January of that season, it left the Bucks unable to move him before the next season. That was bad luck. When Redd suffered the same injuries to the same knee a year later, that was really bad luck. Two injuries, both just a month before the trading deadline when anything could have happened. Maybe Redd would have been traded, maybe not. It seemed like Milwaukee was hesitant to pull the trigger on a Redd deal in 2009. They seemed to want to give the Redd and Jeffereson team a real shot at the playoffs.
If Redd hadn’t gotten hurt, perhaps the Bucks would have made the playoffs in 2009. Congratulations. All that would have done is cost them Brandon Jennings as a reward for a first round playoff exit. But that’s long been the mentality in Milwaukee.
“Let’s try and make the playoffs every year. We’ll assemble a few talented players, surround them with a few overachievers and either try and shoot or defend out way into the dance.”
That right there, is so very this season. Potential, athleticism, youth and energy be damned, it’s veteran time. While teams across the league are either assembling future title contenders or blowing up and completely rebuilding, here in Milwaukee, the Bucks continue to chase mediocrity. The team hasn’t been healthy this season, so it’s hard to say they aren’t a quality enough group when injury free to be a perennial seventh or eighth seed playoff team, but even if they are, no one will care.
Not when other teams in the East are assembling All-Star laden rosters the way the Bucks never could. But instead of taking their only reasonable route to a true contender, assembling lottery picks and talented young players, the Bucks continue to trot out players whose best years are behind them.
So welcome back Michael Redd. You’ll fit in just fine. Get your legs under you, use the rest of this season to get back in game shape and figure out what you need to do to become a useful shooter again. You’re not there yet, but you’ll probably figure things out in a year or so. By that time you’ll be long gone, riding the bench for a contending team, ready to go when they call on you. It’s the dream life for a veteran. It’s what you deserve. Finally, all that work will pay off.
Just not for the Bucks.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).