At the recent NBA pre-draft camp in Chicago, there was ample discussion about the Milwaukee Bucks.
The sale of the Milwaukee franchise to new owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens had been formally approved by the league’s Board of Governors and the sentiment among NBA officials was the fireworks was about to begin.
The general consensus was that not only Bucks general manager John Hammond and assistant general manager David Morway would be jettisoned by the new owners but so would head coach Larry Drew and his staff.
As one NBA executive said to me without hesitation: They’re going to blow it up in Milwaukee.
That sentiment was understandable. After all, the Bucks have been to the playoffs only twice during Hammond’s six-year tenure and are coming off a season from hell.
The Bucks not only were the most inept team in the league, winning a league- and franchise-low 15 games, but the organization was publicly embarrassed by the off-court shenanigans of starting center Larry Sanders.
After breaking his hand in an ugly bar brawl in downtown Milwaukee earlier in the season, Sanders was later suspended by the NBA for violating its anti-drug policy.
Sanders was forced to miss five games and is expected to undergo treatment this summer as part of the league’s rehab program.
All of this occurred after Hammond and former Bucks owner Herb Kohl agreed to give Sanders a fully-guaranteed four-year, $44 million contract extension last summer.
There was widespread chatter among Bucks officials and even some NBA executives that Kohl was livid with Hammond and, if he had maintained ownership of the team, would have fired him after the season.
But Hammond, the NBA’s Executive of the Year in 2009-2010, is still overseeing the basketball operations and Drew is heavily involved in draft preparations. Thursday, during an informal gathering with a group of media, Lasry and Edens expressed their support for Hammond, Drew and Morway.
“I think, on the basketball side right now, John, David and Larry, at least from all the dealings we’ve had, they have been doing a great job,” Lasry said.
Added Edens: “The resumes of the people at the top of the organization are good resumes. ... Our interactions with them have been great.”
Later, when I spoke to Lasry and Edens one-on-one, I asked them if Hammond and Morway would definitively be part of the organization next season.
Lasry said, “I have a ton of respect for John and David. I think they know their stuff. I would tell you I don’t think that we (he and Edens) know our stuff (about basketball dealings). They are very good and have a phenomenal track record, so that’s no issue for us.”
So they will then be a part of the Bucks next season?
“I think so,” Lasry said. “Absolutely.”
I broached the same questions a short time later to Edens and, while he praised the Bucks’ basketball operations employees, he stopped short of saying Hammond and Co. would be retained for next season.
Said Edens: “I don’t believe in artificial timelines in these things. These guys have great resumes. My interaction with them has been really positive. Every day is a new day, just like it is with every other business we run. So there’s no timeline.
“We want to get to a place where we have a great organization and we love the people that run it.”
Who has final say on trades?
While Hammond has been given the authority to make the Bucks’ draft selections — they currently have the No. 2 overall pick, along with three second-round picks — will he have the same clout to make trades?
Lasry said that’s the plan.
“At the end of the day, Wes and I want to be involved in the final decision,” Lasry said. “I think he (Hammond) will come to us and recommend. Hopefully, we’ll see and hear everything he’s done.”
More from Edens and Lasry
* Lasry said he wouldn’t have had any interest in trying to buy the Los Angeles Clippers, who are now on the block, under any circumstance.
“I wouldn’t have any interest because you’re not going to be able to get there in a short time,’’ Lasry said. “Part of what we wanted to do was come here and be able to come to the games, be able to be part of the community. It’s a quick flight (from New York to Milwaukee). We can stay for the night, stay for the weekend and come with the family. We want to become more and more a part of the community.”
* Lasry on the draft lottery: “The great news, to be blunt, is we didn’t get four and we didn’t get three. We got two. That’s great. It really is. The last thing we wanted when we started off with this was to get four.”
* Edens on how many local investors may come aboard with him and Lasry: “I would guess five, six, something like that. I would think no more than 10 and it would certainly be more than a couple.”
* When I asked Lasry if former Bucks center and Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had expressed an interest in being part of the ownership group: “I think he wants to get involved.’’
* Lasry on the importance of having local owners: “I think the intangible benefit of having true, local representation is not just lip service. I think it’s really important. Look, we can be great stewards of the organization, but for that to happen, you have to have deep involvement in the community.”
* Lasry on Kohl: “I have a ton of respect for him. I actually think he’s been a phenomenal pubic servant. When you think about it, there are very, very few people who would donate and give a gift of $100 million to the community to help build a new arena.’’
* Lasry on conferring with other league owners: “What Wes and I want to do is spent the next couple of months meeting with different owners and try to learn from the mistakes they made and ask them what they would have done differently.”
The Bucks will resume pre-draft workouts today with several forwards expected to be on hand, including former Marquette University standout Davante Gardner.