There could be more than an NBA Eastern Conference playoff spot on the line for the Milwaukee Bucks in their remaining five regular-season games.
There could also be John Hammond’s and Scott Skiles’ jobs.
Hammond, the Bucks general manager, and Skiles, their head coach, are nearing the completion of their fourth year with the organization. If the Bucks fail to advance to the playoffs, it would mark the third time in four seasons under their regime that they missed out on postseason play.
What’s more, there aren’t any concrete indicators pointing toward a more promising future. In fact, since their blockbuster trade last month that sent Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson to Golden State for Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown, the Bucks have posted an anemic 1-7 record against teams with a winning record.
Of course, that will be easily forgotten if the Bucks reach the playoffs, which has always been Kohl’s primary goal for his GMs and head coaches. By making the playoffs, Kohl would also save himself an exorbitant amount of money. Skiles and Hammond each have one more season left on their contracts: Skiles for around $5 million and Hammond for around $2 million.
At the same time, nobody should be startled if Kohl swallows one or even both of those contracts. After all, Kohl is fully cognizant of the Bucks’ rapidly deteriorating fan base. Last season, the Bucks managed just four sellouts at the Bradley Center; this season, they’ve have had only two. The Bucks’ average attendance this season is 14,747, a franchise low.
To his credit, Kohl hasn’t been the least reluctant to do whatever it takes to make the Bucks a winner. He shelled out major money for players like Michael Redd, Glenn Robinson and Tim Thomas. He also wrote out hefty checks to lure Mike Dunleavy, then considered one of the brightest coaches in the business, from the Los Angeles Lakers. And he made George Karl the highest-paid coach in sports history at the time.
But Kohl also showed Karl the door, paying off the last season on a contract that was worth approximately $8 million — or more than the combined salaries of Hammond and Skiles for next season.