Changing of the guard, forward and center
Part I: Bucks veterans applaud Hammond's wheeling, dealing
By Truman Reed
Brandon Jennings responded, "I feel like John Hammond did a great job again. It looks like he's trying to go for that Executive of the Year award two years in a row."
National Basketball Association players don't generally go out on a limb promoting others within their organization for all-league recognition before training camp - let alone the regular season - even starts.
But a prominent member of the Milwaukee Bucks went public with his two cents' worth.
Brandon Jennings has just one year of NBA experience to his credit, but he has exhibited boldness with his words and even more with his actions on the court during that time.
And as the Bucks prepared to begin their 2010 training camp, the 2009-10 first-team NBA All-Rookie Team selection made a candid observation that could prove to be an accurate forecast.
When asked for his reaction to the many developments within the Bucks organization during the summer of 2010, during which 10 newcomers were added to the team's roster, Jennings responded, "I feel like John Hammond did a great job again. It looks like he's trying to go for that Executive of the Year award two years in a row.
"I don't blame him. Why not do it? The pieces he brought in here, he made some great moves. We could do some big things."
Hammond's offseason wheeling and dealing included trades for guard/forward Chris Douglas-Roberts, 23; forward Corey Maggette, 30; forward Jon Brockman, 23; the signings of free agent forward/center Drew Gooden, 29; guard Keyon Dooling, 30; guard Earl Boykins, 34 and forward Brian Skinner, 34; the re-signing of guard John Salmons, 30; and the drafting of forward/center Larry Sanders, 21; forward/center Tiny Gallon, 19; and guard/forward Darington Hobson, 23.
Jennings wasn't the only Bucks returnee who was impressed with Hammond's moving and shaking.
"We didn't have a lot of money under the cap to move around a lot," center Andrew Bogut said. "John Hammond has somehow managed to work through that and bring some great players onto this team. Our cap is so close to being over. To operate the way he did over the summer has really given us a chance to be good.
"We addressed some needs. We had some problems rebounding in certain games. We have a lot of options right now to address the needs we had last season. We just have to put it together. We have 11, 12 or 13 guys who can play a lot of minutes. We could get hit by injuries. We think we have guys who can step in and help."
Several of the newly acquired players will bolster the Milwaukee's depth chart at positions manned last season by the likes of returning players Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Carlos Delfino. Both of them welcomed the additions with open arms.
"It's good," Mbah a Moute said. "I think we had a good season last year, and the team is trying to get better. By bringing in the guys they brought in, it's going to help. There's going to be a lot of competition. I think everybody's going to bring their `A' game. That's what you want. Every time you have that, it's always a good thing."
Delfino expects the additions to both intensify competition within the team and fortify a team trying to take the next step after reaching the playoffs last season for the first time in four years.
"Every time you have an addition to a team, when it's guys like Corey, like Keyon and like Drew, it's a good thing," Delfino said. "We're trying to get better. We got better last year, and that was great. Now we're trying to keep improving the same way. It's a push for the team. We're on the same page. I don't care if it's my position or not. If it's good for the team, then I'm the first one to say I'm happy for it.
"Nothing against the guys who left, but you always want to get better and have competition. When you saw how we went out in the playoffs last season, you knew we needed to get stronger. So it's all good. There's going to be a lot more competition in practice. Everybody wants to play. But this is good for the team because we've added some strong personalities and a lot of talent."
Bogut likes the idea of having Gooden, who has been a thorn in the Bucks' side for many years, on his side. He expects Gooden and potentially first-round draft pick Sanders to give him some needed help in the paint and on the backboards.
"Not being the only shot-blocker on the team anymore is going to help, now that we have Drew and Larry down there, too," Bogut said. "We're in good shape to battle down there. Larry can block shots and he'll be able to bang down there, too, once he puts on some weight."
Few players who changed teams during the 2009-10 season made as great an impact as Salmons. He joined the Bucks in February, helped them go 22-8 for the remainder of the season and was arguably the biggest difference-maker in their return to the playoffs.
He believes Milwaukee's summer acquisitions of 2010 - particularly the free-agent signings - were telltale of the team's direction.
"I think one of the biggest reasons why the new guys came here is they just want to win and they know this team has a great chance to win," Salmons said. "They're vets. They know what to expect. I think Corey said he's only been to the playoffs one year. Keyon said he came in because the team has a chance to be really good this year."
Bucks Head Coach Scott Skiles will have a dramatically different depth chart with which to work than he did while orchestrating the team's dramatic climb last season.
The holdovers are expecting an extremely intense camp.
"I just feel like as a team, we're tougher and we have more depth," Jennings said. "Our bench is way deeper than it was last year. Guys will be out there fighting for positions. You'll have to come and bring it every night.
"We're like 10 deep right now. It's like we've got two starting fives. There's going to be a lot of fighting. There's going to be a lot of trash-talking. I can't wait for that."
Mbah a Moute, who will soon begin his third NBA season, was asked if he considers this potentially the deepest Bucks team he has played on.
"Yeah, by far," he replied. "I think we're three deep at every position. I think it should be a lot of fun this year.
"I would think you'd want to have a lot of options. Once you have that, you've got to make the best of it and use it the right way. I think Coach Skiles is a good coach and I have faith in him to use it the right way. He'll find the right combinations."
Salmons likes how the team has stocked up, too.
"We've got a lot of talent," he said. "I think our depth will be great. If we come with the same mentality that we did last year and step it up a notch, we'll have a chance to be even better than we were last year.
"We've got to continue to work hard, work on our defense, work on our shooting and do whatever it takes to make ourselves a better team."
Bogut believes the Bucks could present their coach with quite a dilemma, but it's one that Skiles ought to welcome.
"I think it's going to be tough on Coach," Bogut said. "We have a deep team. We probably have 12 guys who should get minutes. How he's going to move those minutes around is going to be a game of chess at times."
The Bucks and their fans would like nothing better than to see that game end with a triumphant proclamation that has a bit of an Aussie ring to it: