John’s Mission

By Troy A. Sparks, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: February 22, 2010

MILWAUKEE (BASN) — Milwaukee Bucks’ general manager John Hammond is on a mission. He still getting rid of old cluttered junk and sweeping the trash out the door.

And when he’s done, there will be enough space to move in some brand new and better items. Hammond moved in the Bucks’ cluttered house on April 11, 2008, 23 days after the franchise evicted previous GM Larry Harris.

Hammond didn’t take long to make his presence felt.

He hired Scott Skiles as coach on April 21 of that year, signed first round pick, forward Joe Alexander and second rounder, forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

In 2009, Milwaukee chose guards Brandon Jennings in the first round and Jodie Meeks in the second round. And in between, veteran players passed through the revolving doors.

Hammond’s recent move was another step towards making the team playoff contenders in the future.

Milwaukee last made the playoffs in 2006, losing to Detroit in the first round when he was their vice president of basketball operations.

On the NBA trade deadline day, Feb.

18, Hammond traded four players to two teams. Milwaukee sent forwards Hakim Warrick and Alexander to Chicago for forward John Salmons and the Bulls’ second round picks in 2011 and 2012.

If the first round Chicago pick is between 11 and 30, the Bucks can swap picks with the Bulls. Injured center Francisco Elson and guard Jodie Meeks went to Philadelphia for guard Royal Ivey, center Primoz Brezec and the Sixers’ 2010 second round selection.

“We need some more scoring and (Salmons) is a proven scorer in this league,” Hammond said recently. The Bucks believe that Salmons will take pressure off Jennings and spark the offense. Hammond thought that acquiring Salmons in a trade and taking on his salary was a risk worth taking.

“A player like John Salmons is obviously under contract for the remainder of the season and is under contract next year,” he said. “We would love to have him for two more years, and I think he can really be a very good asset to our team.”

Salmons is an insurance policy for the Bucks in case injured guard Michael Redd can’t come back to play out his final year of his huge $18 million contract.

Hammond likes what Ivey brings to the table, relative to his production in his only season with the Bucks in 2007-08 when he started in 20 out of 75 games.

“He knows the city,” Hammond said of Ivey. “The city knows him. He’s about what we’re about. He’s a hard worker, kind of a blue collar type guy that’s gonna put it out there on the floor for you. You need guys like that.”

Hammond said Alexander understood what happened to him. Hammond took the blame for Alexander being a draft bust. After Alexander recovered from a hamstring injury, he was sent to the NBA’s Developmental League to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, which is the Bucks’ minor league team.

Alexander took it all in stride.

Warrick was probably the one player who was shocked about the trade situation. He didn’t play against the Houston Rockets on Feb. 17. When Warrick left the Bucks’ locker room later that night, forward Kurt Thomas told Warrick that he’ll see him tomorrow (Feb. 18).

There were trade rumors days before the deadline about Thomas. He’s still with the Bucks.

Thomas is used to being shipped around the league. He said that he’s there to do his job, wherever it is.

As for Warrick, Hammond had kind words for him.

“Hak had some very good moments for us,” he said. “He’s had a chance to start at times, had a chance to come off the bench. He contributed to the team.

He helped us win games.”

Meeks, Hammond said, was coveted by the Sixers about 10 minutes after Milwaukee selected him. Philly got their wish.

Hammond has another big body in the 7-foot-1 Brezec, who played in the NBA and European leagues and was a teammate of Jennings in Italy. Elson, who recently had a hernia operation, is probably done playing basketball.

The exchange with the Bulls was both gut-wrenching and necessary for Milwaukee, especially when they’re doing business with a team in the division who’s a threat to their playoff chances. Currently, Chicago holds the sixth spot in the East.

The top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs.

“You do hesitate,” Hammond said.

“You hesitate trading within the division and to a team like Chicago who was, so to speak, right around the corner from us. You do hesitate, and that does bother you. But at the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you and the organization.”

According to Hammond, Chicago had $13 million in salary cap room. The Bulls had other options to move Salmons to other teams in case it didn’t work out with Milwaukee.

Hammond was asked about the Bucks’ interest in recently-traded and local product Carl Landry. “We had an interest in Carl Landry for two years,” he said.

“Love the player and everything he’s about. A local player makes it even more interesting for us .

. . There were no discussions about Carl, but we have expressed interest in him numerous times.”

In other words, it wasn’t gonna happen.

Hammond likes taking on expiring contracts and future draft picks.

He lost some flexibility with the Salmons deal.

In 2011, after the new NBA collective bargaining agreement is in place, Milwaukee will have salary cap room to be a major player in signing top free agents and making the playoffs again.