Five-point play

Bucks GM displays his range

Bucks GM John Hammond
Bucks GM John Hammond

As John Hammond began his fifth season as general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks, he addressed five key points regarding the team he transformed during the 2013 offseason.

Here is Hammond’s five-point play:

Q: “What was your plan as you transformed the Bucks roster during the summer?”

A: “We went into the summer and tried to make our team better. We explored options in free agency, we explored options in trades. At the end of the day, we came up with the roster that we have. We’re excited about our group and the upcoming season. We didn’t really go into it saying we wanted to build it after a certain profile.

“I think we’ve helped ourselves defensively. Brandon Knight’s a big kid, a strong kid. He’s got some nice size at the point guard spot. O.J. Mayo is a little undersized heightwise, but he’s another strong guy, so I think that will help us.”

Q: “How important was it to acquire a player of Mayo’s caliber and how prominently will he figure into the Bucks’ success?”

A:  “We need him. We need him to play well and have a good year for us. He’s been in two different situations with two successful teams. The one thing that really impressed me with O.J. was the circumstance he went through in Memphis. When he came in as the third pick in the draft, he came out of the chute and averaged 18 points a game in his rookie year. Then they made a coaching change and Lionel Hollins came in and had him come off the bench. Looking from afar and observing him, I really appreciated the way he handled that situation. You never heard him say a bad word about a teammate, a bad word about a coach or a bad word about the organization or, ‘Trade me.’

“I hope he performs well. We expect him to do that. I’m excited about the type of person he can be for our team and excited to have him here. We knew if we didn’t retain Monta Ellis, we needed some scoring from the guard position. One thing O.J. has always been able to do is score the ball. It was a need for us, and he fit the need.”

Q: “The Bucks made a big investment in Larry Sanders with his contract extension. How important was it for the franchise to retain him?”

A: “We said at his press conference when he signed his contract that we appreciate having an owner who’s willing to make a commitment to a player like that. We’re excited for Larry and excited to have him here long-term. He’s committed to us for five more years.

“We think he’s one of the best goaltenders in the game. I think when you can call yourself one of the best in the game at one particular thing, any facet of the game -- and Larry’s one of the best shot-blockers in the league – that separates you. And Larry’s willing to work on his game.

“When we drafted him, I knew we drafted a guy who could run the floor and had tremendous length. I know he has good timing at rebounding the basketball and as a shot-blocker. He has grown into that. Sometimes with big guys, that doesn’t happen so quickly. When you look at Larry’s background, he wasn’t a guy who had a basketball in his hands when he was very young, traveling with AAU teams. He came to this game late, so there was a growth period with his game, and it did happen. Now he just has to get better.”

Q: “How important is it that the players on Milwaukee’s roster want to be here?”

A: “Being around the league as long as I have as an assistant coach and in the front office – this will be my 13th year in the front office – I know that it’s difficult to go through free agency in the last year of a contract, especially in different circumstances. Guys wake up in the morning, and when they’re a free agent, the first thing they think about is, ‘What’s going to happen to me? Where am I going to be?’ It’s a natural process. Most of those guys come to work and try to be focused on the team and doing what’s right, but being in unrestricted free agency in the last year of a contract is not an easy way to live.

“So I do think the fact that we have guys who are under contract is going to help us. I think having players with the attitude that they want to be here is going to help us. I think it’s a very positive fact. I like the fit and cohesiveness of our team and I think it’s going to help us win games.”

Q: “What are your early impressions of Giannis Antetokounmpo?

A: “It’s been exciting to watch him on the floor. He has tremendous ability and tremendous talent. I think we keep talking about him and this upcoming season and what we expect of him. I would like to see him get exposed, but not overexposed – give him an opportunity to be on the floor when it’s possible, but not having him out there so that he’d lose his confidence and those around him would lose confidence.

“But I do think, at 18 years old – 19 in December – the kind of things he’s doing on the floor are unusual to say the least. So it’s a growth curve, but that curve could be extremely high. We’re excited about having him. You look at that length on the frontline with Larry Sanders and John Henson and Giannis. Those are three extremely long, young guys. Then you think about Ersan, and we act like he’s a crusty veteran. I think he’s like 26 years old. He’s another guy with extremely long arms. So I like our frontline. I think it has the potential to be a championship-caliber frontline someday. So much will depend on how good Larry Sanders wants to be. The same is true of John Henson. The same is true of Giannis.

“You want to have patience, obviously. But Larry (Drew) and I are going to be united in this line of thinking. The best experience Giannis can have, there’s no better experience than getting between those lines – and between those lines at the Bradley Center in particular. There’s nothing like playing time. He needs to get out there and get his feet wet. He needs experience with the size and quickness of the NBA game. I know he’ll have training camp and the exhibition season and we’ll see how that goes, but he needs to get on the floor and get some experience. The sooner he gets it, the sooner it’s going to happen for him.”