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Points of interest: Bucks looking at guards

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Associated Press
June 25, 2009
— Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond stopped for his cup of Starbucks coffee recently when he bumped into a former champion.

Brewers infielder Craig Counsell, who won two World Series titles in Arizona and Florida and has spent two different stints in Milwaukee, had a little advice.


“He was like, ‘It took us time to get where we’re at right now,”‘ Hammond recalled. “I wasn’t here, reading what I’ve read about the Brewers and the direction that they made their moves and built their teams, they had a process.”


Just as baseball’s Brewers did in recent years, Hammond and the Bucks are going through the process of getting younger, better and more financially sound right now. And that process can be painful.


Hammond said he spent a few sleepless nights pondering his decision to trade standout player Richard Jefferson to San Antonio in what eventually became a three-team deal on Tuesday.


Going into tonight’s NBA draft, in which the Bucks have the No. 10 pick, Hammond insists the Jefferson deal wasn’t a pure salary dump. Nor, Hammond said, was it a mandate from the team’s owner, Sen. Herb Kohl.


“This is not about financial flexibility,” Hammond said. “This is about roster flexibility, something that we did not have.”


The Bucks acquired a couple of players with expiring contracts from the Spurs, Bruce Bowen and Kurt Thomas. They also got Fabricio Oberto from San Antonio and immediately sent him to Detroit for Amir Johnson, a young power forward who Hammond believes has a strong upside.


But Hammond said taking Jefferson’s remaining $29.2 million, two-year salary off the Bucks’ books will give the team more room to make other moves.


The Bucks could consider making qualifying offers to guard Ramon Sessions and forward Charlie Villanueva, both of whom are restricted free agents. Or they could make another deal.


“In the last, probably, 12 hours, my phone has rang more than it has in the last six months,” Hammond said, although he cautioned that no “blockbuster” trade was imminent.


Hammond will have another chance to add young talent on Thursday, when he selects 10th in the draft. With the pick and the Jefferson trade, Hammond continues to put his stamp on the franchise and clean up the mess he was left from Larry Harris’ tenure as GM a year ago.


Hammond went through the draft process last year, but he was in the process of hiring a staff and getting control of Milwaukee’s burgeoning payroll. Hammond’s pick, Joe Alexander at No. 8, had a disappointing rookie season and played sparingly off the bench.


Hammond’s second round choice, Luc Mbah a Moute, saved him from a complete bust in his first try, but the pressure is building to find a strong player who can contribute immediately without a staggering price tag. The Bucks, who also have the 41st pick, need a point guard and floor leader who’ll be able to handle the demands of Scott Skiles and evenly distribute the ball to Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd.


The bright side for the Bucks is that a group of about 13 players after Blake Griffin are all considered fairly close together in talent in this year’s draft. Of those, nearly half are point guards and the Bucks figure to get one from the group that includes Ricky Rubio, Jrue Holiday, Jonny Flynn, Brandon Jennings and Stephen Curry.


The Bucks don’t believe Curry or Rubio will be around by the time they’re on the clock. Holiday struggled in his workout, while Flynn and Jennings are high on Milwaukee’s wish list.


“If it wasn’t for some injuries last year, it could’ve been a different team in the East,” Flynn said. “They have the right pieces to the puzzle and I think I could be a great fit in a situation like this.”


Jennings, who made a much publicized jump from high school to Europe before returning for the draft, thinks the Bucks will pick a point guard.


“As long as they get a point guard in here that can run the team, learns from coach then I think you’ll see this team back in the playoffs again,” Jennings said. “They’re just missing that one little piece.”


Hammond already has Bogut locked up to a long-term contract and wants to build around the 2005 No. 1 pick.


“If you don’t have a good point guard, it doesn’t really matter what else you’re doing on the floor,” the general manager said. “I do believe that Andrew can be a future All-Star in this league at some point. … If you could find a young point guard, I think that’d be a great addition to our team.”


And Hammond said he understands patience is wearing thin with a franchise that hasn’t had a winning season in six years and hasn’t won a postseason series since reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 2001.


“I would just say to our fans, to our season ticket holders—trust us. Famous last words, but that’s all I can say, trust us,” Hammond said. “We’re not going to do anything on a whimsical decision.”


NBA DRAFT ORDER

At New York


FIRST ROUND


1. L.A. Clippers; 2. Memphis; 3. Oklahoma City; 4. Sacramento; 5. Minnesota (from Washington); 6. Minnesota; 7. Golden State; 8. New York; 9. Toronto; 10. Milwaukee.


11. New Jersey; 12. Charlotte; 13. Indiana; 14. Phoenix; 15. Detroit; 16. Chicago; 17. Philadelphia; 18. Minnesota (from Miami); 19. Atlanta; 20. Utah.


21. New Orleans; 22. Portland (from Dallas); 23. Sacramento (from Houston); 24. Dallas (from Portland); 25. Oklahoma City (from San Antonio); 26. Chicago (from Denver through Oklahoma City); 27. Memphis (from Orlando); 28. Minnesota (from Boston); 29. L.A. Lakers; 30. Cleveland.


SECOND ROUND


31. Sacramento; 32. Washington; 33. Portland (from L.A. Clippers); 34. Denver (from Oklahoma City); 35. Detroit (from Minnesota); 36. Memphis; 37. San Antonio (from Golden State through Phoenix); 38. Portland (from New York through Chicago); 39. Detroit (from Toronto); 40. Charlotte (from New Jersey through Oklahoma City).


41. Milwaukee; 42. L.A. Lakers (from Charlotte); 43. Miami (from Indiana); 44. Detroit; 45. Minnesota (from Philadelphia through Miami); 46. Cleveland (from Chicago); 47. Minnesota (from Miami); 48. Phoenix; 49. Atlanta; 50. Utah.


51. San Antonio (from New Orleans through Toronto); 52. Indiana (from Dallas); 53. San Antonio (from Houston); 54. Charlotte (from San Antonio); 55. Portland (from Denver); 56. Portland; 57. Phoenix (from Orlando through Oklahoma City); 58. Boston; 59. L.A. Lakers; 60. Miami (from Cleveland).



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