Training Center - July 23, 2007
|Mason was with the Bucks from |
2003-05. (Getty Images)
Opening statement by Larry Harris:
Certainly it’s an important and significant day for the Milwaukee Bucks. I was talking to Roger Montgomery (Desmond’s agent) probably like five minutes ago and it seems like it’s been three weeks since we’ve been able to get a player here. Free agency has taken a toll on me physically, I can tell you that much. I never thought I could talk myself out, I know you guys find that hard to believe. It’s been a long road. But first, obviously, I would like to congratulate Desmond for coming back to Milwaukee. Certainly, there were other opportunities that he had, but he certainly felt at home when he was here. Obviously his daughter was born here. It’s a family affair and it has always been that way with Desmond, but we are certainly excited. For us to be able to be in a position with the (salary) cap room that we had and the space that we had, Desmond chose to come back. Certainly for us we’re adding a player that if you look at some of the weakness that we had at the end of the season and some of the things we needed to address from a team standpoint, I don’t think we are going to get a better leader and I don’t think we are going to get anybody that plays harder. There’s not a fan that hasn’t watched this man play. Whether it’s been with us, Seattle or New Orleans. They (fans) loved his tenacity, they loved his defense and they loved his commitment to winning. When we ultimately were able to get him to come to Milwaukee, he said I am coming here to do one thing, to get this team back into the playoffs. That is the one thing that he missed when he went to go play in the west, was a chance to play in the playoffs. I think that was a motivating factor, I think the city itself motivated him to come back because he was so well received here. I think his foundation started here and obviously his child was born here. With him it is a family commitment and it was a decision that was made by all of them. I want to commend all of them for looking at Milwaukee as an opportunity and putting us in a position to bring him back as a free agent.
Opening statement by Desmond Mason:
First, I just want to say that my family and myself are excited to be here. This summer, going through the whole negotiation process with Roger (Montgomery), we start hearing the opportunity to come back to Milwaukee and really got excited. We enjoy being here and enjoy spending time here. Again, our daughter was born here. We met so many people over the course of the two and a half years that we were here. There was a controversial trade to get me and Gary (Payton) to come here and Ray (Allen) (to Seattle), as well as knowing that there was an opportunity that Gary (Payton) wouldn’t stay. So it was almost a trade for me and Ray Allen across the board. That was a huge thing for me because this team had so much faith in me to come here and produce. So when we got here we were welcomed with open arms and this pretty much became home for us. It was like a family atmosphere all across the board, from the team, the community, the upper management staff – it was a great opportunity for us. For me I just want to say on behalf of myself, my family and my agent, we are really happy to be back in Milwaukee and we look forward to what the future holds for us.
What do you think is going to be your role on this team and how do you feel about sharing time with Bobby Simmons?
DM: My role is not going to change from any team I’ve been on. Everybody knows what to expect from me when I step on the basketball floor. So coming back here, two years ago when I was here, what you saw then is what you’re going to see again. When it comes to that standpoint, there’s going to be talks going on throughout the course of the season about me and Bobby (Simmons) and the sharing-time situation. But when it comes down to it, it’s a team wanting to win basketball games. I’m going to go out and put my best effort forth when it comes to training camp and comes to games. After that it’s management and the coaching staff that makes the decision who goes on the floor. But everybody knows what I am bringing to the table, but I come here to win and I’m a team player. That decision is not on me. My job is to go out and put up my best effort. The coaching staff makes the decision of who goes on the floor.
How did you shake off what happened two years ago (between you and Larry Harris)?
DM: Yeah, I was upset and the reason I was upset is the fact that, again, what Larry said, we (my family) are putting our roots in the ground. We were happy then and our daughter was born here. We had so many friends and we enjoyed being here but it was tough for us to leave. That was more or less what those feelings were. It was a tough situation for us. But I think it shows a lot for Larry to look past that and take the chance to offer us an opportunity to come back to Milwaukee. We were happy about that because we like being here. It also shows that those feelings kind of just go away. It’s what it is and you’re upset and sometimes those things happen. But at the end of the day it’s about where you’re comfortable at and this is where we’re comfortable.
How did you patch things up with Larry Harris?
DM: I think Larry realized that it was tough for us in a sense because we were rooted here. But those guys made a business decision and it happened. We’ve been traded before and we were upset when we left Seattle also. But again, like people say, that is the business. But we were happy being here and that was the main thing. You say things out of anger and in the spur of the moment. Then when you think back about it sometimes you regret the things you say because you really didn’t mean them. You were just upset and that was our scenario. But to have the opportunity to come back here and enjoy it, I think that’s what it’s all about. We’ve both talked about the playoffs and the team being successful. The things that happened two years ago happened two years ago, so we don’t want to think about those things.
Can you guys basically laugh about what happened two years ago?
LH: Well, we have. Again, it’s just the emotions of the game. I think it says a lot about Desmond as a player. It was hard for him when we first got him from Seattle; I think it was very hard there. Mainly because Andrea (Desmond’s wife) is from that area, I think it was hard for him. Coming from Texas all the way to go to the Pacific Northwest was probably a change for him as well. I think what you find out about Desmond is that when he sets his roots some place, he wants to be there. He thinks as a player, “I’m going to give everything I got. Why would you ever want to get rid of me?” I think that is a testament of the kind of player and the attitude he brings every night. It’s funny. It was never adversarial. It was just statements that were made. It’s not like he called me on the phone and said, “Hey, Larry, here’s what I’m going to say in the paper just to warn you.” It just happens and I think it happens on every team. I don’t think you’ve arrived in the NBA until you deal with some adversity at times. But again, when we started dealing with the season and the season ended, one of the three needs we wanted to address were (at) small forward, an athletic swing player that would bring some defensive toughness to our team. I remember during the season Mo Williams commenting that he was missing his lob guy. I didn’t know who he was referring to and I don’t mean to offend Ruben Patterson but he was looking for his lob guy. So when Desmond agreed to come back, one of the first calls I made was to Michael (Redd) who was ecstatic and when I told Mo (Williams) he said he got his lob guy back. So the electricity in the building will be back. It’s funny, you watch ESPN every night and they’re either showing three pointers or dunks and it seems like every time Desmond was in a different uniform doing that everybody was saying, “We miss that.” I think more importantly he looked at this as a great opportunity to come back to Milwaukee and to be able to help the team get back into the playoffs. We’re bringing back a guy that was a leader in the short amount of time within the two years he was here. He’s got great respect for all the players that are here and he understands what his niche in the league is. He’s not out there trying to prove himself. He is what he is and what you see is what you get. He’s just excited to come back to play and I even asked him, “Now that you’ve had a taste of the west and a taste of the east what do you think?” He said, “In the west they like to run and in the east they like to bang. I can go either way.” So hopefully we are going to get a little bit of both but we need someone in the trenches, we need someone down there that’s willing to guard bigger guys, taller guys, wider guys, quicker guys and he’s been able to do all of that and he has accepted the challenge. One of our biggest needs is a defensive presence, athleticism and a tremendous leader for this team. I think it’s going to go a long way for him and he’ll immediately step back onto the floor in October. I’ve always talked about continuity and I think it is very important. As we start bringing our free agents back in you will start to see that continuity is important. It’s funny with Desmond. I feel the continuity is right back where it was. I think he’ll fit right back in. Where not going to have to adjust to his game and he’s certainly not going to have to adjust to ours.
Are you comfortable with the management here?
DM: Well, I am definitely comfortable with coming back. For me the main thing was the fact that we were grounded here. My daughter was two and a half weeks old at the time (of the trade) and we loved being in the Milwaukee area. We had so many friends here and it was tough. Again, that’s what set off a lot of the emotions because anybody that knows me, knows that’s not me and that was out of character for me. That’s what I was upset about. Same thing when I left Seattle. Seattle was a situation where we were so close to my wife’s family and we had gotten to know so many people. When you’re traded you poor your heart out to a city and an organization and when you get traded you’re immediately upset. After a while you calm down a little and that’s pretty much what happened. After that time I calmed down and Larry and I had the opportunity to talk on the phone. I also had the opportunity to talk to Senator (Kohl) and everyone understood the situation and why some things were said. We’re grown men and sometimes you say things out of anger and out of the fact that you’re upset, but at the end of the day you move on and you do your job. That is what I want to do: move on and do my job on the basketball floor and help this team get back to the playoffs.
Do you regret trading Desmond?
LH: Well for me, it was asked before what was one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make in my short tenure here. It was trading Desmond Mason. I will say this and Desmond knows this: it’s a business. One thing that I learned when I did traded Desmond I thought that I could overcome was the fact that I was very close to the players when I was an assistant general manager. When we made these trades I wasn’t in the position of being general manager at that time. I was close to these guys. There was some emotion behind it for me but at the end of the day I had to take care of this franchise, I had to put them in a position to win – that’s my job. If I had to make that decision again, it was one that I did for the team. I thought that what I was doing was in the best interest of the team to win right (then). I just think it says a lot for Desmond to be able to accept what happened two years ago and to be able to come back with open arms. When those statements were made the people that were around me couldn’t believe that what Desmond said was true. I knew it was out of emotion. I really believe that. I didn’t need to pick up the phone and say, “Hey, I hear what the Internet is saying, did they miss quote you?” But it wasn’t important to me anymore because I knew how emotional it was for him and it was for me as well. It was very hard. We brought him back because we think we are in a better position to win now with him here. I think that he sees this as a possibly better situation coming back here and having something to prove to not only himself but to the rest of the league. “You know what, I’m out here I’m back to where I am very comfortable and I’m really going to have a great year and more than just one year here.” It was a tough decision at the time but I felt it was the right decision for the team and the organization and today is the right decision to bring him back.
Were you told you were going to be a starter?
DM: There weren’t any guarantees. Anybody that knows me knows that I don’t want that. I am going to work for what I get. I was like that when I was in college. A lot of college coaches say you can start when you get here. In college, I went with a coach who told me, “If you come here you have to maximize your ability to get on the floor.” I don’t want anybody to guarantee me anything. Nobody told me that. I had dinner with Coach (Krystkowiak) a couple days ago and our conversation consisted of that he wants to win basketball games as well as get to the playoffs. He wants this team to be the best possible team they can be. But everybody is going to have a fair shot. That is all I ask for. I don’t ask for anything else. I don’t demand anything. Give me a shot and I will take care of my own business.