MILWAUKEE – Let’s play a Milwaukee Bucks edition of the game “Should he stay … or should he go?”
After being swept from the playoffs Sunday by the reigning champion Miami Heat, most card-carrying members of Bucks Nation would like to see a thorough housecleaning of their favorite team, starting at the top with owner Herb Kohl to the bottom with the video coordinators.
Can’t blame them, either.
The Bucks had a most despicable season. From the beginning of training camp, when a disengaged Scott Skiles was coaching the team, to the middle of the season when they traded talented young forward Tobias Harris to Orlando for perhaps a rent-a-player in J.J. Redick to Sunday’s season-ending game, there has been non-stop turmoil surrounding the organization.
You don’t have to possess telepathic powers to realize heads are going to roll. It’s just a question of how many of them. Rest assured, this offseason figures to be infinitely more intriguing and entertaining than this season.
So, who should stay and who should go?
Monta Ellis: Even before his arrival in Milwaukee last March as the key piece in the Andrew Bogut trade with Golden State, there were whispers the veteran guard intended on opting out of his contract after this season. Those whispers haven’t subsided.
Ellis, whose game mirrors a Hall of Famer at times and a D-Leaguer on other occasions, is in quest of a lucrative long-term contract, one that would likely play him in excess of $11 million annually. A team desperate for a potent scorer may accommodate him. Verdict: Goes.
Luc Mbah a Moute: While his offensive game remains erratic, his defense remains among the best in the business. He is the only Buck and one of the few in the league that can go toe-to-toe with the elite wing players in the league like New York’s Carmelo Anthony, Boston’s Paul Pierce and Miami’s incomparable No. 6, LeBron James. Verdict: Stays.
Larry Sanders: It’s nothing short of mind-boggling how far Sanders has come in such a short time. Coming into camp, Sanders was projected as a backup center behind Samuel Dalembert. You can now make a compelling argument he is the Bucks’ most indispensable player.
Sanders has emerged as a five-star defensive player and his value has skyrocketed. Don’t be surprised if Sanders sniffs around for a contract extension this summer. Verdict: Stays.
J.J. Redick: The pressure on Hammond to retain the veteran shooting guard will be immense. If Redick, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent July 1, bolts, Hammond will have nothing to show for his baffling decision to trade Harris to Orlando, where he had a pair of 30-point games and another 29-point outing.
The scuttlebutt is Redick’s agent, Arn Tellum, is looking for a contract in the range $32 million for four seasons. That’s a hefty amount for a non-starter who’ll turn 29 on June 24. Verdict: Goes.
Samuel Dalembert: After last season, Kohl tried to convince reporters that the Bucks were just a center away from being a legitimate team. So what happens? A couple of months later, Hammond acquires Dalembert, a veteran center who is a pretty decent defender.
The Bucks also acquired Dalembert’s quirkiness. While he is extroverted and easy to like, Dalembert tested the Bucks’ patience on several occasions, just like he had done at his previous places of employment. Dalembert’s legacy as a Buck may have been his declaration just a week ago that he wouldn’t mind playing for the Heat next season. Can you ever remember any player EVER making such an ill-timed comment during the playoffs? Verdict: Do you even need an answer?
Ersan Ilyasova: Once the Bucks finally jettisoned Skiles, Ilyasova got to showcase his myriad talents on a consistent basis. Interim coach Jim Boylan inserted Ilyasova into the starting lineup and gave him major minutes. Ilyasova responded with a slew of double-double outings.
On a team that was frequently effort-challenged, Ilyasova brought energy and a refreshing workmanlike approach. Verdict: Stays.
Jim Boylan: When Boylan replaced Skiles, the Bucks went on a nice run. It looked like the foundering ship had been righted. Yet, some players were still privately grumbling. (Shocking, eh?). They felt Boylan was a Skiles clone and nothing had changed. Call it guilt by association.
The Bucks stumbled down the stretch and, if for not being in the pathetic Eastern Conference, would have been back in the draft lottery. Now, after being ushered unceremoniously from the playoffs, Boylan’s fate appears sealed. Verdict: Goes.
John Henson: You’d have to be a basketball moron to not seeing the potential in this young man. He’s athletic, runs the floor like a gazelle, has a ridiculously-long wing span and — imagine this — has retained an upbeat, positive attitude. Verdict: Stays.
Brandon Jennings: It’s easy to understand why this enigmatic 23-year-old has been a source of constant frustration for Bucks officials and Bucks fans. He has teased them with jaw-dropping moves and an uncanny knack to score baskets in bunches. He has also irritated them by blowing simple layups, playing matador-like defense and, worst of all, exhibiting a “me-first” attitude.
Confident to the point of almost being cocky, a good portion of the Bucks fan base is still miffed by Jennings’ comments that he wanted to play in a glitzier market than Milwaukee. And he’s periodically rubbed his teammates and coaches the wrong way, too. His silly prediction the Bucks would beat Miami in the playoffs in six games went over like a lead balloon with many of them. The last thing the Bucks wanted to do, was wake up the giant with bulletin-board fodder.
Jennings is a restricted free agent this summer and has visions of grandeur. He wants a star-like contract — likely in excess of $10M a year — it only takes one delusional team to make it happen. Verdict: Stays … but for how long?
Buckle up, Bucks fans. It’s going to be a wild and crazy ride this summer.
Gery Woelfel is a sports reporter for The Journal Times. You can reach Gery by calling (262) 634-1713 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org