TrueHoop: Milwaukee Bucks

The state of Larry Sanders

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
Abbott By Henry Abbott
Kevin Arnovitz discusses Larry Sanders and the quest to find an active player to be the face of mental health in the NBA.


More bang for your Bucks

November, 19, 2014
By Frank Madden
Special to
Jabari ParkerNathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesAfter years of playing for a postseason berth, the sky's the limit for the Bucks under new ownership.
After a decade of false starts and half-baked ambition, the Milwaukee Bucks suddenly have new priorities. A season after crashing and burning to a franchise-worst 15-67 record and five months after the arrival of new owners Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, the Bucks opened camp with the league’s youngest team, a new coaching staff led by Jason Kidd, and all the optimism and glass-half-full-ness that come with it.

So far, so good.

Gone is longtime owner Herb Kohl’s well-intentioned but ultimately failed mandate to remain “competitive,” replaced by a renewed emphasis on the now-familiar tenets of NBA rebuilding: young players, cap flexibility, asset acquisition -- and the patience to hopefully see it translate into contention before the decade is over.

On the court, the Bucks are by design a work in progress, though at a surprising 6-5 entering Wednesday’s Kidd Reunion in Brooklyn, progress is certainly being made. Neither Jabari Parker nor Giannis Antetokounmpo can legally drink, but the two preternaturally talented 19-year-olds have effectively been tasked with saving the Brew City’s basketball franchise … eventually. Less than a month into their first season together, the teenagers are already Milwaukee's starting forward combination and wasting little time giving Bucks fans a steady diet of youthful exuberance and highlight-reel dunks, albeit with their fair share of teenage indiscretion mixed in as well.

[+] EnlargeBucks
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesAfter arriving in dramatic fashion this offseason, Jason Kidd has helped bring a buzz to Bucks ball.
Not that they’re in it alone. Despite an ongoing inability to finish around the hoop, Larry Sanders has returned to his disruptive best on the defensive end, spearheading a long, chaos-inducing Bucks defense that ranks fifth in the league. And for better or worse, fourth-year guard Brandon Knight remains the fulcrum of the Bucks’ inconsistent offense, increasing his efficiency while keeping the leading scorer mantle warm until Parker and Antetokounmpo are ready for it. How quickly the Bucks’ stable of young talent can evolve into a winning core remains unclear, but early returns suggest it may happen sooner rather than later.

Until then, steep learning curves figure to be on public display anytime the Bucks take the court, par for the course when you consider this is an NBA team with only one player over the age of 30 and more teenagers (three) than the local college team at Marquette. The early results haven’t always been pretty; while Kidd’s defensive focus paid immediate dividends on that end, the team’s offense remains among the league’s worst. Still, for the first time in years the Bucks are, well, interesting.

For now, Kidd’s job will be absorbing the pressure that comes with the team’s new ambitions, all while helping his young charges navigate the turbulence that comes from growing up on the job. For better or worse, it’s a task for which he’s unusually well suited.

Kidd the player knows all about the challenges of making the leap from lottery pick to surefire Hall of Famer, while Kidd the coach has spent the past year going through his own crash course in big-city pressure and media scrutiny. A miserable start to his coaching career in Brooklyn nearly cost him his job last December, and his controversial move to the Bucks in July served as the first PR misstep of Edens and Lasry’s tenure in Milwaukee. What should have been a coup for the franchise -- Jason Kidd leaving Brooklyn for Milwaukee! -- instead made for an introductory news conference that was at the time part interrogation, part mea culpa, and all sorts of awkward. The lesson for the new owners was apparent: Go for the big splash and you might get wet. But the message to Bucks fans and the rest of the league was equally clear: With its big-city billionaires now aboard, Milwaukee was no longer content to play the role of sleepy Midwestern hinterland.

But while Kidd will be allowed plenty of time to drag the young Bucks out of the NBA’s primordial ooze, Lasry and Edens know that they don’t have the same luxury of patience off the court.

Newly minted Bucks team president Peter Feigin describes his approach for turning around the Bucks’ flagging brand in blunt terms: "We're trying to boil the ocean." Look no further than Milwaukee’s league-worst attendance and TV ratings last season, highlighting the obvious challenge of marketing an uninspiring product in an old building to one of the league’s smallest markets.

The result has been a renewed urgency to win back fans, and a willingness to throw the kitchen sink at an image problem decades in the making. Since May, the team’s business operations staff has grown by roughly 50 percent, including 40 new hires in the team’s sales department. With “Own the Future” as its new rallying cry, the team’s swelling business staff has moved into a new corporate headquarters from which to hawk new ticket deals far and wide, including free 2015-16 tickets for all fans who attend every game of the coming season. Overall, the team has redoubled its efforts with both individual and corporate season-ticket holders, with Feigin noting the team’s focus on skewing toward a younger demographic than in the past.

"We really need to grab the [demographic] of the 25- to 35-year-olds to be successful,” he said. “We want their kids to be born Bucks fans. We might have been soft in that area in the past."

Also new are a dozen local investors and a largely overhauled executive suite. Among the new VPs: Lasry’s own 27-year-old son, Alex, whose résumé features stints at the White House and Goldman Sachs. It’s not the “same old Bucks” on the court, nor is it behind the scenes. The changes haven’t gone unnoticed, including by a certain former NBA commissioner.

"What people underestimate is what new and infused ownership can bring,” David Stern noted ahead of the Bucks’ season opener in Charlotte.

"They've had an increase in their full-season equivalents. It won't be as good as it's going to be next year, and next year won't be as good as the year after. But I use Sacramento as an example.

"They went from a 30 percent increase to another 30 percent increase and when they move into their new building, Katy bar the door, it's going to be great. I think Milwaukeeans and Wisconsinites are going to have a great ride with respect to this ownership."

[+] EnlargeAntetokounmpo
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Bucks have made a big effort to reach out to the community to help build a fan base to grow with.
To that end, the team is working to expand its base of support both near and far. The month of September saw a “Bucks Bar Network” introduced in the Milwaukee area, while players, mascots and cheerleaders were dispatched on a statewide bus tour to hold kids camps and remind the rest of the state that, yes, there is actually a pro basketball team in Wisconsin. All of which underscores that it’s not just about getting fans’ money, but also their attention. An opening-night sellout -- the team’s first since 2007 -- suggests that the team’s new narrative has started to gain traction.

But for all the positive energy emanating from Milwaukee these days, the team’s most fundamental challenge will also be the most costly and difficult to pull off: building a replacement for the aging BMO Harris Bradley Center. Only three members of the current Bucks roster were even alive when the Bradley Center opened its doors in 1987, and no one associated with the Bucks or the NBA views it as a feasible solution beyond the current lease that expires in 2017.

Such is life for a small-market team dependent on the league’s revenue-sharing riches to make ends meet. As fans in Sacramento and Seattle can attest, it’s not enough to have a building that isn’t falling apart. You either play the new arena subsidy game and maximize your contribution to the league’s expanding revenue pie, or dare the league to ship your team to a city that will. The NBA’s implied threat finally gained teeth in May, when a league buy-back provision became a requirement of the new ownership group’s sale agreement with Kohl. Failure to have a new arena ready by the fall of 2017 would contractually allow the NBA to buy back the team -- and presumably move it elsewhere -- for the now-bargain price of $575 million.

Not that anyone in Milwaukee is in a panic just yet. Though history reminds us that owners can change their minds, an opening ante of $200 million toward a new arena from Edens, Lasry and Kohl suggested the new guys were dead serious about making a new arena happen in Milwaukee, and local belief in a solution has only increased of late despite the specter of a public funding debate in early 2015. The Bucks expect to finalize a downtown site by the end of the year, and if they get it right, the arena could serve as a hub for broader development encompassing retail, commercial and residential spaces. All of which makes the getting it right part so crucial for all parties.

"I think it comes down to having a vision," Edens commented during a recent Q&A with local business leaders. "It is not hard to imagine what could be here. But it is important where it is. We've looked at a bunch of things. We could pick an easy site, but it would be the wrong answer."

In the meantime, the Bucks continue to press forward. Off the court the challenges are more urgent; there are fans to win over, tickets to be sold and an arena to be built. On the court more patience will be needed. There are lessons to be learned, talents to be developed and, yes, games to be won. Some now, many more later.

Hurry up? Wait? In Milwaukee, the answer is decidedly both.

Frank Madden is the editor of Brew Hoop. Follow him, @brewhoop.

Checking in with Jabari Parker

July, 16, 2014
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz

Jabari Parker drops by TrueHoop TV to chat about the city of Milwaukee, his Mount Rushmore of role players and why his alma mater of Duke is the team everyone loves to hate.

The back of the envelope guide to Las Vegas Summer League: The East

July, 11, 2014
By D.J. Foster
Special to
Jabari Parker and Andrew WigginsGetty ImagesJabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, the draft's top two, will get their first taste of NBA ball in Vegas.
There’s something for everyone at Las Vegas Summer League. For the prized rookies in the 2014 draft class, it’s a chance to get their feet wet. For the prospects who haven’t found luck in the league yet, it’s an opportunity to jump-start a career. For others, it’s simply a shot at getting on the radar.

The following is our annual "back of the envelope" guide to the Las Vegas Summer League teams, highlighting some of the more promising and intriguing prospects who will take the floor. The East guide is below, and the West guide is here.

Atlanta Hawks

Adreian Payne: Stretch big men are here to stay, and the Hawks continued to hoard them by drafting Payne, a dangerous pick-and-pop threat with legitimate 3-point range. It’s rare to see this kind of size, skill and athleticism in one player, but Payne might be limited to a smaller role because of a lung condition that affects his ability to play long stretches and big minutes.

Dennis Schroder: Watching Schroder run the point is an adventure. He applies legitimate full-court pressure on ball handlers nearly every time up the court, and he’s not bashful about trying to thread the needle through traffic for perfect dimes on the other end. There’s no fear here, and there’s rarely a dull moment, either.

Walter Tavares: It’s stranger than fiction, but Taveras was completely off the basketball radar until a German tourist in Cape Verde recruited him to try out. He had never even touched a basketball until 2010, but at 7-foot-3 with a reported 7-foot-9 wingspan and traffic signal-sized hands, he has what can't be taught.

Charlotte Hornets

Noah Vonleh: His draft-night fall was plenty fortuitous for Charlotte, as it would ultimately need a stretch 4 to pair with Al Jefferson, with Josh McRoberts now committed to the Miami Heat. Vonleh is a little reminiscent of Chris Bosh offensively, and his length and mobility defensively will cover up for mistakes while he learns the ropes. He could be the steal of the draft.

Cody Zeller: Last year’s fourth overall pick surprised a lot of folks by shooting jumpers and playing on the perimeter during last year’s summer league, but it didn’t pay dividends when the real games started. Zeller shot just 27 percent from 16 feet and out as a rookie, and it’s still unclear what his role will be at the NBA level. He’s a great athlete and very active, but Charlotte will need more than that justify his draft slot.

Roberto Nelson: The name might ring a bell if you’ve read George Dohrmann’s excellent book “Play Their Hearts Out." It’s a testament to Nelson’s drive that he’s made it to this point despite some well-documented efforts by AAU sharks to submarine his career. Here’s hoping he gets some minutes to show his stuff.

Chicago Bulls

Doug McDermott: In this strange setting where Anthony Randolph and Adam Morrison have looked unstoppable, McDermott might not quiet concerns of his ability to keep up in the NBA, regardless of how well he plays. That said, he made mincemeat of college competition for four straight years at Creighton, so he’s a strong bet to win MVP in Vegas. For your own sake, though, don’t bet on summer league.

Tony Snell: After an incredibly disappointing rookie campaign wherein Snell had a PER of 8.0 and shot 38.4 percent from the field, he’ll be looking for some redemption. You get the feeling Tom Thibodeau would have never played him if it wasn’t out of total necessity, but the scoring wing could earn some trust going forward with a more assertive offensive performance in Vegas.

Cameron Bairstow: A former teammate of Snell’s at New Mexico, Bairstow exploded on to the draft scene after Snell’s touches started to go his way. Bairstow is a serious inside-outside threat offensively, and if he expands his range on his jumper out to the 3-point line, he’ll be a nice weapon for Thibodeau to utilize off the bench.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Anthony Bennett: After missing out on the opportunity to play in front of UNLV fans last year at summer league because of rotator cuff surgery, Bennett should draw a big crowd even if the hype balloon has deflated some after a rough rookie season. It’s about baby steps at this point with Bennett, though, and showing that he’s at least in shape and playing fast will calm some nerves in Cleveland.

Andrew Wiggins: Another year, another first overall pick from Canada. Wiggins is the wing defender Cleveland desperately needs now, and perhaps he’ll be much more than that down the line. He’s not a stranger to big expectations, but the first days on the job always leave you under the microscope. If his college career foretold anything, no one in Vegas will have his performances more closely scrutinized.

Matthew Dellavedova: He was one of the only players Mike Brown could get consistent effort from last season, which led to more playing time than expected in his rookie season. With Jarrett Jack off to Brooklyn and Kyrie Irving’s shaky injury history, Dellavedova might be thrust into serious action again next season. These could be important reps.

Miami Heat

Shabazz Napier: Kobe Bryant isn’t even following poor Kendall Marshall on Twitter, but LeBron James wasn’t bashful about giving Napier his stamp of approval even before the two were teammates. While that confidence from the best player in the world is great to have, it also puts a big, red bull's-eye on his back. LeBron called him the best point guard in the draft, after all, so now it’s on the former UConn guard to start proving it.

James Ennis: This is just what Miami needs, right? Ennis is an athletic, 3-and-D wing who opted to play professionally in Australia after being drafted in the second round by Miami last season. He has glue guy written all over him, and with Shane Battier stepping away, Ennis could potentially have a role in Miami next season.

Justin Hamilton: He received plenty of burn in the Orlando Summer League (Miami is double-dipping this year along with the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers), and after playing very well in the D-League last season, the former LSU big man could win a roster spot, particularly if he continues to shoot the ball well from distance. If you haven’t caught on yet, that’s a niche every team wants to fill.

Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo: The “Greek Freak” was Cirque De Soleil on a basketball court last season, and now he’s reportedly 2 inches taller and presumably even more capable of ridiculous feats. Few players in this setting will illicit this level of reaction -- you’ll drop your jaw, you’ll yell, you’ll jump out of your seat. He’s big fun.

Jabari Parker: The Bucks might be the hottest ticket in Vegas. Parker, the second overall pick of this year's draft, was touted as being the most "NBA-ready” prospect out there, and he’ll get plenty of chances to show why that is. Milwaukee doesn’t have to get too cute offensively –- just get Parker the ball and get the heck out of the way.

Nate Wolters: It never hurts to have a steady hand at point guard, especially since summer league is basketball’s Wild West. Shots fly everywhere and guys scramble all over the place, but Wolters has shown he’ll stay cool in less-than-ideal circumstances. In 58 played games in hi3s rookie season, Wolters had more than one turnover only 13 times. He’ll be a sight for sore eyes.

New York Knicks

Shane Larkin: The speed merchant might end up being the key to the Tyson Chandler trade despite the fact that he’s coming off a shaky rookie season. Triangle point guards are typically bigger and more physical than Larkin, but he should provide a drastic change of pace to Jose Calderon when he comes off the bench, at the least.

Cleanthony Early: Is he a 3, a small-ball 4, both or neither? Tweener forwards rarely have it easy in the early stages of their careers, but Early is an impressive athlete with a nice stroke that caught a lot of eyeballs during Wichita State’s superb season. His lack of ballhandling skills and ability to score off the dribble probably limit him to being a role player for now, but that’s not the worst thing.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo: He’s one of the few siblings of an NBA player who actually belong here. Nepotism runs wild at summer league, but Giannis' older brother earned his spot by playing very well in the D-League last season as a defensive specialist capable of wreaking havoc in transition. He’s a legitimate prospect, even if he needs more seasoning offensively.

Philadelphia 76ers

Nerlens Noel: There’s some debate over whether Noel will play in Vegas after performing well in Orlando, but maybe that’s just Philadelphia keeping its best-kept secret under wraps a little longer. Don’t forget about the shot-blocking big man in the rookie of the year race this season -- he’s got a leg up on knowing Brett Brown’s playbook (hint: run!), and he’ll get plenty of playing time and opportunities throughout the season.

Jordan McRae: Be still, Jay Bilas' heart. McRae has a 7-foot wingspan despite being just 6-foot-5. Although the Tennessee grad and second-round pick isn’t an insane athlete, those long arms and his decent burst allow him to sneak up on opponents at the rim on drives. He’ll need to hone in on one transferable skill and bulk up that lanky frame, but he’s a whole lot of limbs coming right at you.

Scottie Wilbekin: Being one of the best college players doesn’t always translate to NBA success, and Wilbekin’s lack of size will have him fighting an uphill battle. System-less basketball isn’t always kind to guys who excel at getting their team into sets and managing the game, so it will be interesting to see how the Florida point guard can perform in the chaos.

Toronto Raptors

Bruno Caboclo: He should start a support group with Mickael Pietrus (the “French Michael Jordan”) after being dubbed the “Brazilian Kevin Durant” by Fran Fraschilla on draft night. Caboclo has a 7-foot-7 wingspan and a prayer at ever getting anywhere close to Durant’s level, but performing well against legitimate competition right away could help justify the boldest pick of the draft.

Lucas Nogueira: The Bebe and Bruno show should give Brazilians a nice distraction from their World Cup hangover, as there should be plenty of highlight moments to go around. Nogueira won a lot of fans last year in summer league with his energy and amazing hair, and opposing guards should proceed with caution while he’s patrolling the paint.

Dwight Buycks: Lots of players are fighting just for a camp invite, but Buycks has a little more on the line. If he’s not waived before July 22, which is right after the end of summer league, the point guard’s contract for next season becomes guaranteed. After a performance last season that really put him on the radar, he’ll be scrapping to keep his status this time around.

Washington Wizards

Otto Porter Jr.: It’s been a rough 365 days for last year’s third overall pick, as his awful debut in summer league led right into a completely unproductive rookie season. Truthfully, it would have been a bigger deal had Anthony Bennett not absorbed all the ire, but Porter has to put it all behind him. The Wizards might need the jack-of-all-trades forward to play a big role next season with Martell Webster out three to five months for another back surgery and Trevor Ariza still an unrestricted free agent.

Glen Rice Jr.: They’ll be teammates here, but they might be battling for the same playing time. Rice Jr. barely played last season, but his 3-point stroke could come in handy for the Wizards. He’s been pretty solid as a shooter and scorer in the D-League, so he’ll get plenty of chances, especially if Porter looks out of place once again.

Khem Birch: We’ll see how the UNLV faithful treat him; he was very productive and won Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year two seasons in a row, but he also left after his junior year only to go undrafted. Birch should win neutral fans and general managers over anyway, as he’s a good hustle player and an active athlete at the 4.

D.J. Foster is an NBA contributor for, ClipperBlog and others. Follow him, @fosterdj.

Buck what you heard

June, 25, 2014
By Frank Madden
Special to
BangoAP Photo/Morry GashAfter decades stuck in the middle, new Bucks ownership says its ready to build for the long haul.
"I didn't build my business trying to be mediocre, and I don't think anyone should."

With those words just a month after assuming control, new Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry sent a message to long-suffering Bucks fans that was both clear and meaningful: Longtime owner Herb Kohl’s aversion to a bottom-up rebuild was now officially dead, and “competitive” was no longer an acceptable level of long-term ambition.

Granted, neither a well-crafted marketing message nor the warm, fuzzy feeling of a new-owner honeymoon will guarantee the Bucks a future any better than the three decades of near-uninterrupted mediocrity under Kohl. In fact, for all of Lasry and fellow co-owner Wes Edens’ long-term ambitions, even they admit that the short term might be ugly at times. So while the Bucks might now be talking about contending for a title rather than just a playoff spot, getting there will undoubtedly require years of patience -- not to mention shrewd decision-making, good luck and another half-billion dollars or so to build a new arena.

With the focus in Milwaukee at long last firmly on the future, the first major step toward a brighter one begins Thursday night. Currently slated to pick second in the much-hyped 2014 NBA draft, the Bucks will almost assuredly add one of the draft’s top three (uninjured) prospects -- Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, or maybe Dante Exum -- and in the process one of them will inherit the title of Milwaukee’s Next Great Hope.

Before Joel Embiid’s bum foot took a wrecking ball to most mock drafts, the Bucks’ motivations at No. 2 had been an understandably popular subject of speculation: No team near the top had been presumed to love every prospect as much as the Bucks, with armchair general managers reading often contradictory motivations behind each prospect’s appeal. The Bucks need an impact guy now! No, they need the guy with the most upside! Wait, they need someone who can play with Giannis!

But let’s at least agree not to overcomplicate the premise: The Bucks need a star, and the great news is that whether it’s Wiggins or Parker, Milwaukee will have a chance on Thursday to add one of the brightest draft prospects of the past decade. So even if Lasry himself admits that the Cavs’ decision will likely make Milwaukee’s somewhat anticlimactic, taking Cleveland’s leftovers shouldn’t do anything to diminish the enthusiasm of long-suffering Bucks fans. Although previous No. 1 overall picks Glenn Robinson and Andrew Bogut fell short of the greatness many had hoped for, there’s still an energizing (and unfamiliar) sense of hope that this draft can deliver the star the franchise so desperately needs.

Yet as important as it might be, the draft is just the first of many decisions that will shape the future of pro basketball in Milwaukee. On the job for less than a month, Edens and Lasry have already moved to draw a bright line between themselves and Kohl, whose complicated legacy in Milwaukee includes saving the team from relocation in 1985 and making an unprecedented $100 million parting gift toward a new arena last month. But while the bookends to Kohl’s tenure as owner will leave Wisconsinites forever indebted to him, the team’s first round-or-bust roster-building under his stewardship has also left most fans unapologetically thrilled about his decision to move on.

And as for actually improving on the team’s forgettable recent history? Well, one trip past the first round in 25 years doesn’t exactly set a high bar, but there’s reason to believe that the new guys are more than just talk. Though they readily admit to being basketball fans rather than player personnel experts, Edens and Lasry have spent the past two decades helping turn around companies of all shapes and sizes, in the process amassing a combined net worth measured in the billions. They are ambitious, self-made dealmakers from the big city, which painted against the sleepy backdrop of their new Midwestern home makes them quite possibly the best thing that could have happened to basketball in Milwaukee.

Case in point: A week after the league approved their then-record $550 million purchase of the team, the billionaires from New York City found themselves at a bar in Milwaukee, drinking beers with a few hundred Bucks fans. The new guys mingled with fans, accepted unsolicited advice on personnel matters and reveled in the nowhere-to-go-but-up optimism that comes with a fresh start and a young roster poised to add a No. 2 overall pick. And so the metaphor of Bucks ownership became clear: If the 79-year-old Kohl played the part of the generous but largely out of touch grandfather, Lasry and Edens were now casting themselves as the cool uncles -- you know, the ones who show up to the family reunion with a red Corvette and a six-pack.

Of course, the energizing effect of a good PR campaign will need to be matched by big ideas and seamless execution on and off the court. What the duo got for their half-a-billion dollars was a rebuilding project they admit will likely require three to five years before the rah-rah talk of contention might ever become reality -- and with the more critical challenge of building a new arena needing an answer even sooner.

[+] EnlargeMarc Lasry and Wesley Edens
AP Photo/Morry GashHerb Kohl has passed the torch to Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens after nearly 29 years as Bucks owner.
On the court, Milwaukee's motley crew of youngsters and middling vets crashed and burned from day one of the 2013-14 season, making the mediocrity of previous seasons seem almost Spursian in contrast. Not even a 26-game losing streak in Philadelphia could spare coach Larry Drew from presiding over a league- and franchise-worst 15-67 record and the lowest attendance marks in the league, as a new roster faced a glut of early-season injuries before falling into a black hole of youthful indiscretion and veteran indifference. The No. 2 pick, improved play from the team’s youngsters and non-disastrous seasons from Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova (if they’re still around) should drive a notable improvement in the standings, but wins next season are on some level incidental to the long-term project anyway.

Of much greater significance over the next year: wins off the court. A September 2013 visit from then-deputy commissioner Adam Silver reiterated the league’s requirement that a new-arena plan be in place by the expiration of the team’s lease with the aging BMO Harris Bradley Center in 2017, a threat given teeth by a buy-back provision in the team’s sale agreement with Lasry and Edens. Should the new owners fail to have the situation sorted by 2017, the league will have the ability to buy the team back for what now appears to be the relative bargain price of $575 million, a scenario that neither the new owners, city nor league would like to see realized.

For now the path to a solution remains long, even with a combined $200 million in private funding already committed by Kohl, Lasry and Edens. A new building will cost at least twice that amount, and the region’s tepid interest in public financing thus far has many fearing a standoff reflective of the state and region’s broader political polarization. While Milwaukee County officials have insisted that wealthier suburbs share in the costs of a new downtown development, three neighboring counties have already moved to preemptively scuttle the sort of regional tax that controversially funded the Milwaukee Brewers’ Miller Park. More private money will undoubtedly be needed, and defining an actual plan for the project -- where it will be located, what it will look like and how much it will cost -- is now job one for Lasry, Edens and local stakeholders.

The stated hope is for the parameters of a deal to be finalized a year from now, providing at least two years for construction of the project ahead of the 2017-18 season. Missing any of those deadlines won’t necessarily prove fatal, but the NBA’s leash will stretch only so far.

Either way, it’s a tight squeeze and one that will require a solution well before Wiggins, Parker, Exum and Embiid ever reach their full potential. But in the meantime, Bucks fans can breathe easier knowing a better future likely awaits -- and it begins in earnest on Thursday.

Frank Madden is the editor of Brew Hoop. Follow him, @brewhoop.

Gift of Love: 29 trades for 29 teams

May, 21, 2014
Harper By Zach Harper
Special to
Kevin LoveBrad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports
The end is nigh. Or so it seems. Reports about Kevin Love’s uncertain future with the Minnesota Timberwolves are coming out left and right. Every team in the league is positioning itself to capture the star power on the market right now.

With the draft a little more than a month away, it would behoove the Timberwolves to maximize the trade market now while cap flexibility, draft picks and crushed lottery night dreams are fresh in the minds of the potential suitors.

The Wolves don’t have the upper hand in this situation, but they do have the ability to leverage ravenous front offices against one another and create a trade-market bidding war. As team president Flip Saunders and owner Glen Taylor face a gut-check moment of whether to risk Love leaving for nothing in summer 2015, here are the deals I would blow up their phones with if I were in charge of one of the 29 teams in the league.

Atlanta Hawks

The deal: Trade Machine

Hawks receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Paul Millsap, Dennis Schroder, the rights to Lucas Nogueira, No. 15 pick in 2014

This is a big haul for the Hawks to give up, with three rotation guys plus the pick going to Minnesota. But pairing Love and Al Horford together in Mike Budenholzer’s offense would be an alien invasion without Bill Pullman and Will Smith to fight it off. For the Wolves, Millsap is a nice option you can win with now and flip if he isn’t happy; Schroder is the backup point guard they crave; and Nogueira would give the Wolves a tandem with Gorgui Dieng that makes Nikola Pekovic and his contract expendable.

Boston Celtics

The deal: Trade Machine

Celtics receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, Phil Pressey, Vitor Faverani, Nos. 6 and 17 picks in 2014, Celtics’ first-round pick in 2016

Here, the Wolves are basically getting the picks and then a bunch of cap filler and former first-rounders. There’s no reason to pretend Olynyk and Sullinger would be pieces for the Wolves at all. Being a Wolves fan since they've come into the NBA, I am pretty good at recognizing overvalued first-round picks who won’t be as good as you hope they are. This is about the picks, and with Nos. 6, 13 and 17 in this draft, they could load up or move up.

Brooklyn Nets

The deal: Trade Machine

Nets receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: The 2003 Kevin Garnett

Look, I don’t know how owner Mikhail Prokhorov got his hands on a time machine, either, but billionaires have access to things we don’t. Let’s just take advantage of the opportunity to grab 2003 Kevin Garnett and get this team back into the playoffs.

Charlotte Hornets

The deal: Trade Machine

Hornets receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Gary Neal, Nos. 9 and 24 picks in 2014

The Wolves never got to truly test out the Al Jefferson-Love big man tandem because Love wasn’t that great yet and Jefferson hurt his knee. They get a redo in Charlotte in this scenario, and with coach Steve Clifford’s defensive stylings, it could actually work.

Wolves would get a former No. 2 pick with potential; Zeller, whom they were enamored with before last year’s draft; and two first-round picks. The Pistons conceding the No. 9 pick to the Bobcats makes this a very attractive deal.

Chicago Bulls

The deal: Trade Machine

Bulls receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler, the rights to Nikola Mirotic, Ronnie Brewer, Nos. 16 and 19 picks in 2014

Of the most realistic trade scenarios for the Wolves in unloading Love for assets, cap relief and picks, this is probably the best move they could make, unless Phoenix is willing to be bold. You could also swap out Boozer for Taj Gibson, but his long-term money isn’t ideal for a rebuilding team. The Wolves could flip him to a contender later. The Bulls would be giving up a lot, but a big three of Joakim Noah, Love and Derrick Rose (assuming he's healthy) is an amazing way to battle whatever the Heat end up being after this season.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The deal: Trade Machine

Cavaliers receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, No. 1 pick in 2014

Why would the Cavaliers possibly trade the No. 1 pick in a loaded class, plus three rotation players, for Love? Because they seem to have a pipe dream of bringing LeBron James back to Cleveland this summer and this is the way to do it. It’s not stockpiling a bunch of young role players for James to play alongside. He wants to play with stars, and having Love and Kyrie Irving in tow would go a long way.

Dallas Mavericks

Mavericks receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: 2011 NBA championship banner and one free pass for a business idea on “Shark Tank”

I’ve always had a problem with teams hanging up “division title” banners in an arena because it seems like a lower-level franchise thing to do. Considering the Wolves are about to lose their best player and potentially miss the playoffs for an 11th straight season, it’s safe to consider them on that lower level right now.

It would be nice to take down the 2003-04 division title banner and replace it with a championship banner. And the extra revenue from getting a business idea funded through “Shark Tank” could give this organization a little extra money to play around with during the next few years. The Wolves are renovating their arena, so they could use the cash.

Denver Nuggets

The deal: Trade Machine

Nuggets receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari, Darrell Arthur, Randy Foye, No. 11 pick in 2014

Coach Brian Shaw gets his coveted big-time power forward and a nice offensive complement to Ty Lawson in the backcourt. While Martin isn't even close to being a defender, he at least has some size to utilize on offense.

The Wolves get a lot of quality players and a couple of veterans (Arthur and Foye) they can flip. They could even add a lottery pick here in this draft, although this sort of feels like a lot in return. Oh, who cares? The Wolves get to be greedy here.

Detroit Pistons

Pistons receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Stan Van Gundy

I don't want your horrible Josh Smith contract and shot selection that makes most government agencies look like well-oiled machines. I don’t want an improbable sign-and-trade deal with Greg Monroe. I don’t want any of the young players. I don’t even want the pick. I want SVG in all of his coaching glory and I’m willing to relinquish this fake GM power to him when the trade is completed. I’m going full-on Veruca Salt on this one. I want Stan Van Gundy to coach the Wolves and I want it now!

Golden State Warriors

The deal: Trade Machine

Warriors receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: David Lee, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, right to swap picks in 2015 and 2016

I don’t actually think this is a good trade, but it allows me to bring up a point. I get the mindset of wanting to maximize the value you receive in a trade versus what you’re sending out. But there are Warriors fans worried about giving up Thompson and Barnes in a deal for Love, while ridding themselves of Lee’s contract. Back when the Clippers were trading for Chris Paul, there were fans and writers who thought it was a bad idea to include Eric Gordon. Think about that now. Sometimes it can get out of hand for players who probably won’t be All-Stars.

Houston Rockets

The deal: Trade Machine

Rockets receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Jeremy Lin, Donatas Motiejunas, Chandler Parsons, Jordan Hamilton, first-round picks in 2015 and 2017

This is an incredibly tricky situation because while the Rockets have lots of assets to move, the inclusion of Parsons makes the deal really difficult. The Wolves would need to pick up his team option for next season, but that means he’s an unrestricted free agent in 2015. How likely is it that he will want to stay in Minnesota?

Lin’s contract will cost more than owner Glen Taylor wants to pay for a non-winning team. Motiejunas would be the best prospect in the deal and you’re taking late first-round picks in the future. Can we just forget this deal and ask Hakeem Olajuwon to be an adviser to the Wolves instead?

Indiana Pacers

The deal: Trade Machine

Pacers receive: Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic
Wolves receive: Roy Hibbert, David West

I want to see just how good of a coach Frank Vogel is. The Wolves were 29th in defending the restricted area this season, and I would guess the only reason they weren’t the worst is because of Dieng’s late-season rim defense. The Pacers were the best at defending the rim this season. Can Vogel keep that defensive prowess with these non-shot-blockers? Can the Wolves defend the rim with these two big men? These two teams don’t match up at all in the trade department, so we might as well experiment.

Los Angeles Clippers

The deal: Trade Machine

Clippers receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford

I don’t know why the Clippers would ever do this trade, but it’s unfair for other fan bases to have all of the fun and none of the depression. Griffin gets to receive alley-oop passes from Ricky Rubio while Crawford dazzles the media members with his dribbling and charm.

The Clippers get another shooter to stretch the floor to allow DeAndre Jordan to further develop. Martin wouldn’t exactly add anything to what the Clippers do now, but again, I’m sick of all the depression in these scenarios, so just take one for the team, please.

Los Angeles Lakers

The deal: Trade Machine

Lakers receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Steve Nash, Robert Sacre, Nick Young, MarShon Brooks, No. 7 pick in 2014, future first-round pick, Flip Saunders gets a statue outside Staples Center, Minneapolis Lakers’ title banners

In this scenario, I suffered a head injury when I tried to pull off one of those 360 layups Swaggy P loves to do so much and I fell into the celebrating elbows of Sacre. It left me a little woozy, but I think I came up with a good deal to finally get Love to Los Angeles. Nash's deal is expiring, Sacre and Ronny Turiaf form the greatest bench-cheering duo ever, Young gets to teach me that layup and Brooks is cap filler. Those Minneapolis Lakers banners will look great at Target Center, too.

Memphis Grizzlies

The deal: Trade Machine

Grizzlies receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: Zach Randolph, James Johnson, Jon Leuer, Jamaal Franklin, first-round pick in 2017

This does one thing that’s pretty cool: It gives a Grizzlies team that struggled to score in the half court two very good half-court scorers. They lose some toughness but they can actually round out their overall game quite a bit. For the Wolves, it gives them the potential for a Pekovic-Randolph-Johnson frontcourt, which, if Randolph opts in this summer, will protect Minnesota when the zombie apocalypse happens. Nobody is taking out that frontcourt.

Miami Heat

The deal: Trade Machine

Heat receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: Chris Bosh, Norris Cole, right to swap first-round picks in 2016 and 2018

The Wolves are torn between a full-on rebuild (try selling that to the fans again during this decade-long playoff drought) and trying to still find a way to sneak into the playoffs. Granted, Bosh has to agree to this deal by not opting out of his contract this summer, but the Wolves would at least remain hyper-competitive on the playoff bubble. They’d also grab a backup point guard who isn’t as erratic as the incumbent, J.J. Barea.

The Heat get younger and give LeBron the chance to really have a great second scorer with him in his next deal in Miami.

Milwaukee Bucks

The deal: Trade Machine

Bucks receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Larry Sanders, O.J. Mayo, No. 2 pick in 2014, Wisconsin has to pretend the Vikings are the best team in the league

Sure, Sanders has the potential to be a nice defender in this league for a long time, Mayo would be a possible cap-relief trade chip in a year and the No. 2 pick, whoever it ends up being, could be a major star in this league. But the win here for Minnesota is Wisconsin having to pretend the Vikings are the best. A fan base that was 27th in attendance in the NBA and 13th in attendance in the NFL doesn't really care how they make out in any Love deal. They just want the football win. Vikings fans aren't used to getting a lot of those.

New Orleans Pelicans

The deal: Trade Machine

Pelicans receive: Kevin Love, Chase Budinger
Wolves receive: Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon

Sure, you guys are laughing at me and how ridiculous this is, but in my head the deal has been made and I’m doing a little dance of celebration. Have your laughter, and I’ll have my delusional mind, and never the twain shall meet.

New York Knicks

The deal: Trade Machine

Knicks receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: [processing ...]

The Knicks gave up a first-round pick to get Andrea Bargnani. Comparable value means they’d have to give up the entire Wall Street district for Love. I can’t even pretend there is a combination here that works for the Wolves. Maybe they could do a double sign-and-trade and swap Love for Carmelo Anthony? Someone ask cap guru Larry Coon if this is allowed. Can we get a reality show just recording La La’s face when Melo has to tell her they’re moving to Minneapolis?

Oklahoma City Thunder

The deal: Trade Machine

Thunder receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: Serge Ibaka, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones III, Hasheem Thabeet, Mavericks’ first-round pick in 2014, Thunder’s first-round pick in 2017

I’m not going to be unrealistic and pretend Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook are in play here, but there’s no reason the Wolves can’t ask for Ibaka, while also unloading Martin’s deal (three years, $20 million left) and picking up young talent in Lamb and Jones, a first-round pick this year and an unprotected pick in 2017. Why 2017? Let’s pretend this Thunder thing doesn’t work out and Love and Durant both leave in 2016. In this scenario, the Wolves position themselves to take advantage of a team falling apart. It’s like what every team does to Minnesota every single time it trades a draft pick.

Orlando Magic

The deal: Trade Machine

Magic receive: Kevin Love, No. 13 pick in 2014
Wolves receive: Victor Oladipo, Andrew Nicholson, Jameer Nelson, No. 4 pick in 2014

I recognize that the Wolves getting the No. 2 pick from last year’s draft plus the No. 4 pick in this draft seems like a lot, but Love is a lot better than Oladipo and it’s not all that close. Even if Oladipo maximizes his potential, he’s probably not reaching Love’s status. Flip was enamored with Oladipo heading into the 2013 draft and would probably be willing to swap firsts with the Magic this year in order to complete this trade.

Philadelphia 76ers

The deal: Trade Machine

76ers receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: Thaddeus Young, Jason Richardson, Nos. 3 and 10 picks in 2014

The Wolves get a young asset, cap relief and two lottery picks in this draft in exchange for Love and getting rid of Martin’s deal. It sounds like the Sixers are giving up a lot here, but they have assets to spare. You’re teaming Love with a defensive-minded center in Nerlens Noel and a pass-first point guard in Michael Carter-Williams. Plus, the Sixers still have room to add another major player.

Phoenix Suns

The deal: Trade Machine

Suns receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Eric Bledsoe, Timberwolves' first-round pick in 2015

This is the dream scenario. The Wolves would have to convince Bledsoe to want to play in Minnesota, and then execute a sign-and-trade. Most likely, they’d have to max out Bledsoe in the process. The Suns do it because of the knee concern for Bledsoe, and Love is a much better player who fits coach Jeff Hornacek’s style of play. Getting their top-12 protected pick back for dumping Wes Johnson in Phoenix helps, too. It’s a risk by the Suns and a concession by the Wolves, but this is the “fingers crossed” scenario.

Portland Trail Blazers

The deal: Trade Machine

Trail Blazers receive: Kevin Love, medium-quality bike lanes from Minneapolis
Wolves receive: LaMarcus Aldridge, second-best bike lanes from Portland

This needs to happen and it doesn’t have anything to do with basketball. I just want to see both fan bases reverse course on the vitriol thrown each other’s way when discussing which power forward is better. The Blazers fans would have to embrace Love as the top PF while the Wolves fans pretend they never meant the things they said about Aldridge’s rebounding.

The bike lane aspect of this trade would really help Portland take back its title as top cycling city in the country.

Sacramento Kings

The deal: Trade Machine

Kings receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Williams, Jason Terry

This one doesn't even involve a draft pick because Cousins has so much potential. The Kings can take a big man with the No. 8 pick this year and pair him next to Love. Martin returns to Sacramento and doesn't have Tyreke Evans to hog the ball and make him want to get out of town. Terry is salary-cap relief for the Wolves, and they can to try a do-over with Williams. This trade can’t happen until after July 1, so that and reality are the only two hang-ups right now.

San Antonio Spurs

Spurs receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Gregg Popovich

This works out perfectly in a couple of ways. Let’s say the Spurs win the title this year and we see Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili ride off into the sunset. Love would immediately be the replacement for Duncan and give the Spurs a bridge from this era into the next successful one.

For the Wolves, I don’t even want to subject Popovich to coaching the team. He should just be a consultant for a month and let the organization know all of the awful ways in which they do things and the way the Spurs “would never consider something like this.” He’d essentially be The Wolf in "Pulp Fiction" for Minnesota.

Toronto Raptors

The deal: Trade Machine

Raptors receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross, John Salmons, No. 20 pick in 2014, Knicks’ first-round pick in 2016

It would leave the Raptors searching for a big man to protect the paint, but in today’s NBA, you could get away with a Love-Amir Johnson frontcourt against a lot of teams. The Wolves get the young assets they crave, the draft picks they need and the cap relief necessary to keep their options open. They’d have to move Pekovic next, and they don’t get rid of Martin's contract in this scenario, but it’s a good start to the rebuilding plan. This might be a lot for the Raptors to give up, but general manager Masai Ujiri can just fleece the next four trades he makes and even it all out.

Utah Jazz

The deal: Trade Machine

Jazz receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Derrick Favors, Jeremy Evans, John Lucas III, Rudy Gobert, No. 5 pick in 2014

Requesting the Jazz’s top big man and the fifth pick is asking Utah to do the Wolves quite the ... Favor(s) ... you know? No? Wait, where are you guys going? I still have one more team to poach players from!

Washington Wizards

The deal: Trade Machine

Wizards receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: Bradley Beal, Nene

This would be an incredibly tough decision for the Wizards to make. They have one of the best young shooting guards in the NBA, and pairing him with John Wall would produce an awesome tandem for a decade. And yet, they could upgrade for Love while still keeping a scorer at the shooting guard position. In the process, they’d rid themselves of the long-term money owed to Nene. They would owe long-term money to Martin, though.

It’s not an ideal scenario in a few ways, but you’d be making this team a big threat. Plus, it would give coach Randy Wittman a chance to apologize for telling a young Love that he should abandon the 3-point shot.

ESPN Insider David Thorpe has been keeping an eye on the entire rookie class all season. As a learning exercise, he suggests the rooks study some of the top veterans in the NBA. With that in mind, we asked some of the top rookies who they watch in the NBA. Here are their answers:

Quotes were gathered by writers Israel Gutierrez and Michael Wallace, ESPN Dallas contributor Bryan Gutierrez, and TrueHoop Network bloggers Jovan Buha, James Ham, Andy Larsen, Andrew McNeill, Brian Robb and Kyle Weidie.

In their dreams

March, 18, 2014
Abbott By Henry Abbott
Who do the Sixers dream of drafting? What about the Bucks, Magic and Celtics? And have the Lakers already identified their man? We ask Chad Ford.

Everybody loves Giannis

March, 6, 2014
Abbott By Henry Abbott
David Thorpe on why the young Buck, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is not just infectiously likable, but also has MVP-grade potential.

Recent play of top draft prospects

February, 4, 2014
Abbott By Henry Abbott
The four NCAA freshmen who define the top of 2014 NBA draft -- Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle -- have each faced recent challenges. Chad Ford on who emerges looking best.

Epic trade deadline

February, 3, 2014
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN Insider Chad Ford predicts an "epic trade deadline" because of this NBA season's strange set of circumstances where many teams are tanking, and thus are willing to part with talented players.

Chad Ford mocks the 2014 draft

January, 22, 2014
Abbott By Henry Abbott
Can we still call it the Andrew Wiggins draft, even if a lot of teams would draft Joel Embiid higher? Chad Ford on forecasting one of the best drafts in a long time.

The NBA's "global money machine"

January, 22, 2014
Abbott By Henry Abbott
In Forbes' 2014 ranking of team values, the NBA is said to have become a "global money machine," with almost every team making money and franchises like the Knicks, Lakers and Bulls worth more than a billion dollars each. Editor Kurt Badenhausen explains.

Race to the bottom

January, 20, 2014
Abbott By Henry Abbott
Would an injured Kobe Bryant help or hurt the Lakers' chances of a top pick? Can the Pelicans lose enough games to get into the top five so they won't have to give the 76ers their 2014 draft pick? Chad Ford on tanking.

Make way for the Greek Freak

January, 9, 2014
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
Milwaukee Bucks rookie sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo talks about ice custards, being the youngest starter in the NBA and his parallel parking prowess.