If we’re marking the calendar, let’s put a big “X” on Friday, June 27, 2014.
For a day — for a single, lonely day — the Milwaukee Bucks had the rapt, universal appreciation of their fanbase. On Friday, the Bucks brought Jabari Parker to Public Market during the day, then zipped him out for Summerfest at night and on both occasions, Parker drew a spontaneous, overwhelming standing ovation.
Long-dormant fans rose to their feet and smashed together their hands in appreciation of a much needed rebuild. The Bucks were finally going to strip down the team, patiently stock the roster with young players and gradually ascend the ranks of the Eastern Conference with a talent base that would learn and mature together. They had a core. Everyone was on the same page, and if the Bucks went 29-53 for the 2014-15 season, everything was still going to be OK. The situation would fetch a wink and a knowing nod from each fan, because in the back of our minds, we all understood that Jabari and Giannis Antetokoumpo formed the nucleus of a team patiently headed in the right direction.
The Bucks’ plight is most likely still headed in the right direction. The Bucks still have their core. But the cool calm track to success has spun off into the mad rails of a roller coaster after just one full solitary day of tranquility.
The Bucks want Jason Kidd. Kidd wants out of Brooklyn, too, because the Nets did not acquiesce to his demands for a job that would pay him more while requiring less in the way of demands on his time. Kidd saw a bump into upper management as a chance to boost his salary into a range commensurate with what his peers were about to earn. This month, he saw Derek Fisher and Steve Kerr follow in his footsteps of bypassing the assistant coaching ranks and stepping straight into the head job, but Fisher and Kerr each took jobs for $25 million over five years.
Kidd just finished the first season of a four-year, $10.5 million deal with the Nets.
The Nets said, “no”, Kidd reportedly fumed at a few bosses over the phone, and the Bucks — with ties to Kidd through new owner Marc Lasry — reached out to Brooklyn and got permission to speak with him. (The word “boss” is a tricky one here. Kidd was dealing with managers directly above him. Because those bosses are Russian, a lot of folk are tiptoeing or outright stomping some racist lines by implying that these folks are mobsters. Then again, they’re home-grown associates of Mikhail Prokhorov.)
Lasry knows Kidd well. Lasry held a minority stake in the Nets through a group run by Bruce Ratner while Kidd was the coach. He reportedly befriended Kidd to the point of giving him investment advice, and he even brought in Kidd for his daughter’s wedding.
Lasry also made these moves without informing GM John Hammond and head coach Larry Drew. Now, it isn’t outright meddling for the new ownership group to look to bring on a new executive in a position above Hammond and Drew without notifying them. That’s completely reasonable. But something about this feels strange, at least in terms of timing.
It sounds like Kidd won’t be the coach. But, if Kidd wanted the final say-so over personnel decisions, a title something on the order of “President of Basketball Operations”, then he will want the same thing in Milwaukee. For nearly three decades, Herb Kohl presided over the presidency of the Bucks, but it’s a role that Lasry and co-owner Wes Edens have said they will not pursue themselves. At the very least, he’s trying to leapfrog Hammond and Drew. If he does, he could go one step further and kick them to the curb too.
That’s what makes this a bit strange. One of the reasons that excited Parker to be in Milwaukee was the current group’s interest and commitment to him. He kept referring to them as “all-in”. Hammond and Drew gushed over his workouts. over his personality, over everything about him. All of them seemed committed to turning things in Milwaukee around together. Now, there’s uncertainty surrounding two out of the three of them.
For Jason Kidd to step into a prestigious position he’s never held?
Just a summer ago, Kidd retired as a player with the New York Knicks and immediately swapped boroughs to take the head coaching job in Brooklyn. It has not been a bump-free year for Kidd. To wit:
July 11, 2013: Kidd answers a cell phone call during a Summer League game in Orlando. The game was being coached by one of his assistants.
November 2013: Kidd sits out a two-game suspension from the league to start the regular season for reasons connected to a DUI offense.
November 19, 2013: A Bleacher Report article by Howard Beck included quotes from an unnamed scout who ravaged Kidd’s coaching style:
“He doesn’t do anything,” said the scout, who has watched the Nets several times. “He doesn’t make calls. John Welch does all the offense. Lawrence does all the defense. … I don’t know what Kidd does. I don’t think you can grade him and say he’s bad. You can give him an incomplete.”
November 23, 2013: Out of timeouts and trailing the Lakers with 8.3 seconds left, Kidd intentionally spilt a drink on the floor — after ordering Net Tyshawn Taylor to bump into him — to delay the game enough to draw up a play for his team. The NBA later fined Kidd $50,000 for the incident.
December 3, 2013: Kidd’s top assistant, Lawrence Frank is reassigned after clashing repeatedly with Kidd.
Kidd eventually got the Nets back on track. They won 44 regular-season games and won a first-round series over the Toronto Raptors in 7 games. But the tumult is overwhelming.
What is mildly baffling about the situation is that the Nets are seeking compensation from the Bucks before Kidd is let out of his contractual responsibilities with Brooklyn. The Nets want to be rewarded for being saved from their mild mess. Per league rules, the only compensation that is allowed in a “coach trade” is cash and draft picks. And the Nets have a whole lot more cash than the Bucks. So it seems that the Nets are fishing for some picks from the Bucks.
Adrian Wojnarowski said that one source reportedly said that a “bunch of second-round picks” would be reasonable compensation. NetsDaily is saying that the Bucks turned down the Nets request to include a first-round pick. The Bucks hold the rights to five second-round picks over the next two seasons, including the Nets’ own 2015 second-rounder that they picked up Thursday via a draft night trade with the Hawks.
The Nets need the picks too. The deal that brought Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn from Boston also sent out a forklift full of picks to the Celtics. Truth be told, being President of Basketball Operations for the Bucks is a better gig that the same job in Brooklyn going forward for the next five years.
Amazingly, part of the reason that it’s known that Kidd clashed with his Brooklyn bosses is that quietly this whole scenario was described two days ago by Carl2680, a poster to RealGM’s Nets discussion forum. (The same RealGM poster said the Nets are hot after Mark Jackson.)
Think about it. The Bucks were chasing after Kidd two days ago. While Bucks fans hailed Jabari across the city, rising to their feet at a number of venues, the Kidd machinations were already in the works. The one quaint day of contentment was mostly an illusion.
Because of course it was.