Man on a mission
John Hammond is staying true to his mission.
Hammond’s four seasons as general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks have been a roller-coaster ride, but with year five right around the corner, Hammond still has the same prime objectives he expressed when he was hired on April 11, 2008.
“When I took this job, I made the comment that we want to have a team where, when it walks out on the floor at the Bradley Center, people are going to see a team that competes every night, a team that doesn’t quit, a team that’s going to represent them as fans, our organization and our owner that everyone can be proud of,” Hammond said. “We want to win. The first part of that story’s a real nice story, but hey, we want to win games. That’s really what it comes down to. I hope our fans come in and see a winning product.”
Hammond engineered an upgrade of eight victories in his first year on the job and another one of 12 victories in his second season. He was rewarded with the 2009-10 NBA Executive of the Year Award.
Milwaukee finished second in the Central Division with a 46-36 record in 2009-10 and, overcoming the absence of an injured Andrew Bogut, made its first appearance in the National Basketball Association Playoffs in four seasons. The Bucks, still without Bogut, pushed at Atlanta to seven games before being eliminated.
The Bucks slid to 35-47 in 2010-11 despite setting franchise records by holding 62 opponents under 100 points and 30 below 90 points. They yielded just 92.7 points per game – the second-lowest average in team annals.
Unfortunately, Milwaukee was hit harder than any NBA team by injuries. Fourteen different players lost a total of 275 games due to injury, and not one player on the roster appeared in all 82 games.
During the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign, the Bucks finished 31-35 and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
They made a substantial climb in a number of offensive categories, ranking third in the NBA with 23.48 assists per outing, fifth in scoring at 99 points per game and 15th in 3-point shooting at .343. They reached the century mark on 33 occasions and won 25 of those games, and they sank 10 or more treys in 12 outings and won 11 of those.
Conversely, the team dropped to 22nd in the NBA defensively, giving up 98.7 points a game.
“In year two, we won 46 games and went to the playoffs,” Hammond said. “We made some changes to our roster and people expected us to have a great year the next year, and I think rightfully so. We had a good team and a good roster. But we were decimated by injuries. I could go on and on and sing the song and dance about Drew (Andrew Bogut) missing 40 games and Brandon breaking his foot and missing 20 or 22 games, and Delfino 32 games with a concussion and Ersan 25 games with a concussion … and on and on.
“That season, I think expectations were extremely high. We made more changes to our roster and last year we were excited, but Andrew (Bogut) was injured early on. We were probably headed in a difficult direction when we made the trade and got back into the playoff race.”
Milwaukee made several significant changes, the first of which came March 14, 2012, when it sent Bogut and forward Stephen Jackson to Golden State in exchange for guard Monta Ellis, forward Ekpe Udoh and center Kwame Brown.
During the 2012 offseason, the team acquired 6-foot-11-inch center Samuel Dalembert, a 10-year NBA veteran, the 14th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and a future second-round pick from the Houston Rockets in exchange for Jon Brockman, Jon Leuer, Shaun Livingston and the 12th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft;
The Bucks chose University of North Carolina forward John Henson and University of Kentucky guard Doron Lamb with the 14th and 42nd picks in the NBA Draft, then signed center Joel Przybilla and guard/forward Marquis Daniels as free agents in August and September, respectively.
“Where we’re at today … at least we have size,” Hammond said. “We’re big. I think, in order to compete in this league, you have to have size. I think we could go as big as you want to go. I think if (head coach) Scott (Skiles) chose to put Mike Dunleavy at the ‘2’ guard spot and rest Brandon (Jennings) or Monta, we could go extremely big.
“We have probably an overabundant supply at the power forward position. That will work itself out, too. Guys will find ways to earn playing time.”
Hammond looks forward to seeing what Jennings and Ellis can accomplish in their first full season as backcourt partners.
Jennings led the Bucks in scoring a year ago at 19.1 points per game and ranked second in assists at 5.5 per outing. Ellis, in his 21 games with Milwaukee, contributed 17.6 points per outing and averaged 5.9 assists.
“It’s great to have a one-two scoring punch in the backcourt,” Hammond said. “A lot of times, I think Brandon felt like, when he was out on the court, ‘If no one else is going to do it, I’m going to do it myself.’
“And I think he’s very much assured now that he can look over at Monta Ellis and say, ‘If I can’t do it, you can.’”
Hammond expects the Bucks to be participating in the NBA Playoffs next spring rather than simply watching them.
“We expect to have a good season,” he said. “We expect to be a playoff team. That’s the goal.”
And Hammond said Milwaukee’s fans should expect nothing less.
“Sure, they should,” he said. “The guys in our locker room expect to win games. Scott Skiles and his coaches want to win games and expect to win games. If we don’t expect to win, we shouldn’t be here.
“And look, I’m always a little guarded in what I say in that regard, but I don’t know anyone who wants to win more than me or expects to win more than me.”