Earlier this month, the Bucks signed Kenyon Martin to a 10-day contract. He inked a second 10-day deal last week and signed on for the rest of the season Wednesday. At 37 years old, it’s easy to think this will be his last go-around in the league.
Martin certainly isn’t the first well-past-his-prime veteran to join a new team at the end of his career, and he won’t be the last. It happens year in and year out. This offseason alone saw Shawn Marion sign on with the Cavs, Paul Pierce join the Wizards and Vince Carter go from one Western Conference contender to another. And then there’s Ray Allen, the most coveted 39-year-old free agent of all time, who continues to keep his suitors at bay after serving a couple of tours with LeBron in South Beach.
Whether the goal is chasing another ring or collecting a few more checks, proven veterans like Martin and the players mentioned above are usually able to find a team willing to take them in. While filling a 15th roster spot with a younger player might come at a slightly cheaper price with the promise of upside, veterans often present fewer risks and are typically lauded for their intangibles.
He’s a great locker room presence. He’ll teach the younger guys how to be professionals. He’s been there before.
Whether the clichés hold true or not – spoiler: sometimes they don’t – players several years removed from their primes continue to find homes later in their careers.
With Martin in mind and the All-Star break on the horizon, I want to shed light on a handful of former NBA stars whose twilight years have played out in a Bucks uniform. So, in order to do just that, I present the Milwaukee Bucks All-Twilight Team.
A few things before we begin:
– First, to clarify, this team is comprised of the best players who solidified their place in history before coming to Milwaukee. Essentially, these are the five best players who starred elsewhere and ended up Kenyon Martin-ing in Milwaukee for a year or two at the end of their careers
– Shouts to the guys at Fear the Sword, whose tweet last week is at least partly responsible for the idea behind this
– After poring through years of rosters – I’ve found the fastest way to do this is by using Basketball-Reference Uniform Numbers page – I discovered that Milwaukee has been home to quite a few twilight stars, many more than I initially expected. The toughest part was determining what exactly, constitutes a player’s “twilight” years. In order to pare the list down to something more manageable, I imposed the following criteria:
- Player spent no more than three consecutive seasons with the Bucks near the end of his career
- Player was at least 33 years old at the time he was acquired by Milwaukee
- Player played fewer than 100 NBA games after leaving the Bucks (sorry, Gary Payton)
Of course, these are arbitrary terms, and the roster might change with different parameters. But I think these rules most accurately portray the “twilight” demographic. So without further ado, the Milwaukee Bucks All-Twilight Team:
F: Moses Malone – 6-10, 215lbs
Careers stats: 1,329 games, 20.6ppg, 12.2rpg, 1.3bpg, 49% FG
Three-year peak: (1980-83) 27.8ppg, 14.9rpg, 1.8bpg, 52% FG
Bucks stats: 93 games, 14.3ppg, 8.5rpg, 0.8bpg, 47% FG
Accolades: Three-time NBA MVP (1970, ’82, ’83); NBA Finals MVP (1983); All-NBA First Team (1979, ’82, ’83, ’85); All-NBA Second Team (1980, ’81, ’84, ’87); All-NBA Third Team (1991); NBA Comeback Player of the Year (1981); All-Rookie team (1975); 13-time All-Star (1975, 1978-89), One of 50 Greatest Players in NBA History (1996).
One of the best and most unique players in NBA history, Malone played 19 seasons in the NBA and two in the ABA. A six-time rebounding champ, Malone’s best season came in 1981-82 with the Rockets, when he averaged a jaw-dropping 31.1 points, 14.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. After stints with Houston and Philadelphia propelled him to stardom, Malone played for five different teams over his final nine NBA seasons.
Following three years with the Hawks (1988-91), Malone signed with the Bucks prior to the 1991-92 season as a 36-year-old free agent. He was coming off of the worst statistical season of his career – 10.6ppg, 8.1rpg – but appeared in all 82 games and averaged a rebound every 2.87 minutes, third-best in the league behind only Hakeem (then Akeem) Olajuwon and Robert Parish.
“Moses is an intense competitor with the heart of a lion and the spirit of a thoroughbred,” then-Bucks coach Del Harris said at the time of the signing. “He will give us a big lift in our rebounding and inside game.”
That’s exactly what a rejuvenated Malone did in his first season with the Bucks. He again played in all 82 games (77 starts) and averaged 15.6 points and 9.1 rebounds. Malone scored in double-figures in all but 16 contests and pulled down at least 10 rebounds 37 times. Malone finished 11th in the NBA in free throw attempts, seventh in offensive rebound percentage and 14th in total rebound percentage. The Bucks won only 31 games, however, sputtering to an 11th place finish in the Eastern Conference.
While preparing for the 1992-93 season, Malone was dealing with back pain throughout training camp. He began the season on IR and the team announced in early November that he would undergo surgery to remove a herniated disk. Malone returned late in the season, making his debut on Mar. 27, and played in Milwaukee’s final 11 games. The Bucks ended the season on a 10-game losing skid, finishing 28-54, third-last in the East. Still, he was one of the best Bucks of the 90s, according to … us. Tough decade.
Entering the offseason as a free agent, Malone appeared destined for retirement but instead opted to return to Philadelphia on a one-year deal. Malone appeared in 55 games off the bench, averaging 11.2 minutes per game. He was waived the following summer and would go on to sign with the Spurs, for whom he played only 17 games before suffering a season-ending leg injury. Malone retired in 1995 as the fifth-leading rebounder in league history and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2001.
F: Anthony Mason – 6-7, “250lbs”
Career stats: 882 games, 10.9ppg, 3.2apg, 6.4rpg, 51%FG
Three-year peak: (1995-98) 14.5ppg, 4.7apg, 10.3rpg, 53% FG
Bucks stats: 147 games, 8.5ppg, 3.8apg, 7.2rpg, 50% FG
Accolades: Sixth Man of the Year (1995); All-Defensive Second Team (1997); All-NBA Third Team (1997); All-Star (2001)
A polarizing staple on some memorable mid-90’s Knicks teams, the bruising Mason played his final two NBA seasons in Milwaukee. Coming off of his first (and only) career All-Star appearance with the Heat, he signed with the Bucks as a 34-year-old free agent prior to the 2001-02 season, inking a deal worth around $18 million over four years.
Mason didn’t join the Bucks until the final week of training camp, as he was holding out for a team to offer him what he believed to be a fair contract. In order to clear space for Mason, the Bucks had to quickly engineer a three-team trade, which sent Scott Williams and a first-rounder to Denver for Aleksandar Radojevic and Kevin Willis. Milwaukee then sent Willis to Houston for the Rockets’ second-round draft pick in 2002.
Despite his checkered past and reputation as a questionable locker room presence, Milwaukee, with a strong core in place, saw the veteran as a potential final piece for a team coming off of a 52-win season that ended at the hands of Allen Iverson and the 76ers in Game 7 the Eastern Conference Finals.
While Mason started 140 games from 2001-03, his tenure with the Bucks was ultimately characterized by turmoil and disappointment. Mason, never one to shy away from the buffet line, reportedly showed up “seriously overweight” to his first Bucks training camp and, not surprisingly, got off to a slow start, averaging only 7.8 points and 7.5 rebounds over his first 10 games. However, the Bucks went 9-1 in that stretch, again looking like one of the top title contenders in the Eastern Conference. But despite the fast start, the Bucks faded in the second half, going 15-26 over their final 41 games and dropping nine of their final 12. Milwaukee finished 41-41, an 11-game drop-off from the previous season, and missed the playoffs for the first time in three years.
Warranted or not, Mason, who started all 82 games, took much of the heat for the disappointing season and was criticized for his negative influence on the locker room. He clashed with coach George Karl, leading to reports suggesting the Bucks were “just about at their breaking point” with Mason after less than one season.
“Actually, I think he says some things that the coach should say,” Karl said in April of 2002. “I think right now it’s better for everybody if he worries about playing and lets me worry about the coaching.”
Mason publicly criticized his teammates for a lack of preparation, but many reports suggest Mason, himself, was far more of a problem than he was willing to admit.
Mason entered his second year in Milwaukee with guns blazing, no-showing the first day of training camp. The Bucks opted to go in a new direction that season, trading Robinson, who may have been just as much of a locker room problem, to the Hawks in August and sending Allen to Seattle in a mid-season deal that netted veteran, and free-agent-to-be, Gary Payton. Despite the dismantling of its core, Milwaukee actually finished one game better than the previous season, notching 42 wins en route to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. They would fall in the first round to Jason Kidd and the eventual Eastern Conference champion Nets in six games.
Even after returning to the playoffs, the season was again shrouded in locker room turmoil, as more stories of Mason’s disruptive presence surfaced. In late-March of 2003, after a big win over Mason’s former team, the Heat, that moved Milwaukee into eighth place, Mason and Joel Przybilla engaged in a heated locker room dispute, according to the Racine Journal-Times:
While Redd and other players showered, Anthony Mason and Joel Przybilla got into an ugly verbal exchange.
With Mason sitting on the south side of the locker room and Przybilla about 15 feet away on the north side, Mason directed a stinging comment at Przybilla. The latter temporarily ignored the remark before responding with some terse words of his own.
The two Bucks players then jawed back and forth for several minutes as reporters and teammates looked on. At one point during the profanity-laced exchange, Mason, who stared at Przybilla non-stop, shouted, “You better keep your mouth shut.” Przybilla then mumbled something back at Mason.
The incident was a perfect encapsulation of Mason’s time in Milwaukee. Even when times were good, from a team perspective, he was tough to please and never afraid to dish out public criticism.
A few years later, when pressed about the ongoing issues inside the infamous mid-2000’s Jail Blazers locker room, which included such personalities as Darius Miles, Zach Randolph and Ruben Patterson, Przybilla offered a damning comparison.
“I’ve seen worse,” Przybilla said. “I was in Milwaukee with Anthony Mason, and this was nothing.”
After the season, the Bucks, fed up with Mason’s attitude, actively shopped the veteran but predictably received little interest. With Mason set to turn 37 in December, the Bucks made the call to buy out the remaining two years and nearly $10 million remaining on his contract. After a brief and ultimately unsuccessful bid to sign with a new team, Mason announced his retirement less than a week after the buyout.
Mason remained in the headlines even after his NBA career ended. In 2011, Mason was listed as Wisconsin’s third-highest delinquent tax-payer, owing the state nearly $2.1 million in back taxes. But his debt paled in comparison to that of Milwaukee native Latrell “I’ve got a family to feed” Sprewell, who topped the list at over $3.5 million.
F: Jerry Stackhouse – 6-6, 215lbs
Career stats: 970 games, 16.9ppg, 3.3apg, 3.2rpg, 41% FG
Three-year peak: (1999-02) 25.0ppg, 4.9apg, 4.0rpg
Bucks stats: 42 games, 8.5ppg, 1.7apg, 2.4rpg, 41% FG
Accolades: Two-time All-Star (1999-01); All-Rookie First Team (1995-96)
A two-time All-Star, Stackhouse was one of the better shooting guards in the league in the early 2000’s. He put up 29.8 points and 5.1 assists for Detroit in 2000-01 and averaged 21.3 points, 4.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game over his first eight NBA seasons.
Stackhouse was dealt to Washington prior to the 2002 season, and it was there where his numbers began to swoon. He averaged better than 21 points per game in his first season with the Wizards but that number dropped to 14 per game in Year 2. Stackhouse was dealt to Dallas following the 2003-04 season, where he spent five years before becoming a free agent in the summer of 2009. The 35-year-old failed to draw much interest and sat out until January, when the Bucks came calling. On Jan. 19, Stackhouse signed a contract for the remainder of the season that would pay him just under $700,000.
Stackhouse was an integral piece for the Fear the Deer Bucks, coming off the bench to average 8.5 points on 41% shooting in 42 games (20.4mpg). He would struggle in the playoffs, however, shooting only 33% from the field as the resilient Bucks fell to Atlanta in seven games.
With his contract up, Stackhouse again became a free agent. He would go on to join LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami but was waived less than a month into the 2010-11 season. Stackhouse subsequently made brief cameos with both the Hawks and Nets over the next two seasons.
For the most part, Stackhouse played the part of the responsible veteran during his stint with the Bucks, but he ruffled some feathers when he suggested on his weekly SIRIUS Radio show that former Bucks swingman Richard Jefferson, at the time a member of the Spurs, was overrated.
“I just don’t think he’s as good as everybody talked him up to be, to me,” Stackhouse said. “It wasn’t a great fit for him in Milwaukee when he was here. He had some big games but really nothing special. He wasn’t a guy that really helped them go to another level as far as wins and losses.”
Never one to shy away from the spotlight, Stackhouse also performed the pregame National Anthem on several occasions, most notably prior to Game 6 of the Hawks series.
G: Nate “Tiny” Archibald – 6-1, 150lbs
Career stats: 876 games, 18.8ppg, 7.4apg, 2.3rpg, 47% FG
Three-year peak: (1971-74) 28.7ppg, 9.8apg, 2.8rpg, 48% FG
Bucks stats: 46 games, 7.4ppg, 3.5apg, 1.7rpg, 49% FG
Accolades: NBA champion (1981); All-NBA First Team (1973, ’75, ’76); All-NBA Second Team (1972, ’81); Six-time All-Star; All-Star Game MVP (1981); One of 50 Greatest Players in NBA History (1996).
One of the league’s most dynamic playmakers, Archibald rose to stardom as a member of the Kansas City-Omaha Kings in the early 70’s. He averaged 27.1 points and 8.5 assists over four seasons with the Kings, and led the league in both scoring (34.0ppg) and assists (11.4apg) during the 1972-73 campaign, becoming the first (and still the only) player in NBA history to do so. Archibald averaged a whopping 46.0 minutes per game that season, which currently stands as the eight-highest single-season average in league history. Wilt Chamberlain accounted for each of the top seven.
Archibald was traded in each of the next three offseasons. First, he was sent to the New York Nets, for whom he played one season. Then, New York shipped Archibald to Buffalo in exchange for George Johnson and two first-
round picks. Archibald never played for Buffalo after tearing his Achilles before the start of the 1977-78 season. The following summer, Buffalo traded him to Boston, where he played five seasons, capturing the 1981 NBA title.
After the Celtics placed him on waivers in the summer of 1983, Archibald drew minimal interest. However, on the final day of the waiver period, Milwaukee extended him an invitation to training camp.
“We feel that Tiny can still play and contribute,” then-coach Don Nelson said. “Obviously there are not a lot of other teams in the league that think so, but I look forward to having him in training camp and working him into our system.”
Then-Bucks VP John Steinmiller stated that if Archibald were to make the team, the Bucks would absorb the final year of his original contract with the Celtics, which is what ultimately happened.
In his final NBA season, Archibald started and played in 46 games, posting averages of 7.4 points and 3.5 assists on 49% shooting – the third-highest mark of his career. Injuries would cut his season short, however, as Archibald played his final NBA game on March 3, 1984. He sat out the rest of the regular season, in addition to the playoffs, as the Bucks made a run to the Eastern Conference Finals but ultimately fell to Larry Bird and the Celtics, who would go on to defeat Magic’s Lakers in the Finals.
G: Adrian Dantley – 6-5, 205lbs
Career Stats: 955 games, 24.3ppg, 3.0apg, 5.7rpg, 54% FG
Three-year peak: (1980-83) 30.5ppg,4.1apg, 6.4rpg, 57% FG
Bucks stats: 10 games, 5.7ppg, 0.9apg, 1.3rpg, 38% FG
Accolades: All-NBA Second Team (1981, ’84); NBA Rookie of the Year (1977); NBA Comeback Player of the Year (1984); NBA All-Star (1980, ’81, ’82, ’84, ’85, ’86); Olympic gold medalist (1976)
One of the most prolific and efficient scorers in NBA history, Dantley spent only the briefest of stints in Milwaukee,
signing on in April of 1991 and playing the final 10 games of his career with the Bucks.
After rising to stardom in seven seasons with the Jazz, Dantley, a uniquely lethal post player for his size, was dealt to Detroit prior to the 1986 season. He teamed with “Bad Boys” Bill Laimbeer, Isaiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, forming an Eastern Conference power to rival the dominant Celtics. Detroit won 52 games in Dantley’s first season but fell to Boston in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Dantley averaged 20.5 points on 54% shooting in 15 playoff games.
The following year, Dantley led Detroit in scoring as the Pistons cruised into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the East behind Boston. Detroit dispatched Washington and Chicago in the first two rounds, setting up a conference finals rematch with the Celtics. This time around, the Pistons knocked off Bird and Co. in six games, moving on to face the Lakers in the Finals.
After grabbing a 3-2 lead in the series with a Game 5 win at home, the Pistons headed back to Los Angeles, where they would go on to lose Games 6 and 7 by a combined four points. Dantley, who scored 34 points on 14-of-16 shooting in Game 1, finished the series with averages of 21.3 points on 57% shooting to go with 5.0 rebounds.
Midway through the 1988-89 season, the Pistons made a shocking move, dealing Dantley and a first-rounder (which would become the immortal LaBradford Smith) to the Mavericks for Mark Aguirre, who was coming off of an All-Star season. Upset by the move and his contract situation, Dantley initially refused to report to Dallas.
While the Pistons would go on to win back-to-back championships, Dantley posted the two lowest field goal percentage seasons of his career in a season-and-a-half with the Mavericks. He broke his foot midway through the 1989-90 season, causing him to miss the remainder of the year. The ensuing offseason, Dantley and the Mavericks worked out an arrangement that allowed him to forfeit the remaining $1.25 million on his contract and become a free agent.
However, Dantley overestimated his value on the open market and did not attract any serious suitors until late in the 1990-91 season. He hinted that he believed he may have been “blackballed” as a result of his rocky tenure with the Mavericks and reputation as a strong-willed player. After an injury to swingman Dale Ellis, the Bucks came calling on April 1, signing Dantley for the rest of the season.
“His kind of game stays with you,” said then-Bucks coach Del Harris said at the time of the signing. “It`s not like he has to depend on other guys to get him open. Give him the ball and get out of the way. He`ll either score or get to the foul line.”
Dantley appeared in the Bucks’ final 10 regular season games, scoring in double-figures three times. The Bucks would fall to Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs, and Dantley played only 19 total minutes in three games.
Following the season, Dantley walked away from the NBA, retiring as the ninth-leading scorer in league history. His 24.3 career scoring average is the 18th-highest ever (13th, excluding active players), and he ranks fifth all-time in free throws made.
Dantley played one final season in Italy as a 35-year-old, averaging nearly 27 points per game and shooting 59% from the field.
Career stats: 1,153 games, 10.3ppg, 5.5rpg, 1.9apg, 47% FG
Three-year peak: (1987-90) 17.5ppg, 8.3rpg, 2.8apg, 48% FG
Bucks stats: 22 games, 3.3ppg, 2.0rpg, 0.7apg, 46% FG
Accolades: NBA Champion (1998-99)
Career stats: 929 games, 13.7ppg, 1.2apg, 6.9rpg, 49% FG
Bucks stats: 196 games, 9.7ppg, 0.9apg, 5.4rpg, 47% FG
Accolades: All-Rookie First Team (1987-88)