ST. FRANCIS, Wis. (AP) – One by one, the Milwaukee Bucks met with their coach one last time before packing up their belongings.
With new ownership on the horizon, it is uncertain just how many of these guys will be back after a dreary 67-loss season.
More change could be coming to Milwaukee.
“There (are) definitely pieces here that we can build around, young talent,” guard Brandon Knight said Wednesday at the team training facility just outside the city. “But like I said, the decisions that are made are out of our hands. We have little to no control over what is said in those rooms up here.”
Knight gestured toward the bank of windows overlooking the practice court, where coach Larry Drew and general manager John Hammond conducted player exit interviews. They will be evaluated, too, by incoming owners Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens – assuming the NBA approves their $550 million purchase of the team from Herb Kohl, a former U.S. senator.
For now, the current regime can only hope the process goes quickly and smoothly so they, in turn, can figure out whether they will be part of the new era with the Bucks.
“We don’t know what the situation is, but as of right now, we have to carry on,” Drew said. “We still have to approach the next day, approach the next line of business. The next line of business for us is the draft.”
Perhaps the only perk for finishing with the NBA’s worst record is the best shot at landing the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft lottery. And this year’s draft is rich in talent, led by one-and-done freshmen Jabari Parker of Duke and Andrew Wiggins of Kansas.
The Bucks often were labeled as a team that sought to “tank” in order to get a better shot at the top pick. Kohl and Hammond vowed repeatedly that was not the case, and pointed to a series of offseason moves that reshaped the roster with solid veterans and character guys.
But injuries hampered the team all season long.
Carlos Delfino, who signed with Milwaukee in the offseason, never played because of a right foot injury. Gary Neal also dealt with a foot injury, and was eventually traded to Charlotte. Knight got off to an ominous start when he hurt his hamstring barely 30 seconds into the season opener Oct. 30 at New York, an injury that forced him to miss much of the next month.
Perhaps no two players exemplified the franchise’s plight more than guard O.J. Mayo and center Larry Sanders.
Mayo signed a $24 million, three-year deal in the offseason. Mayo (11.7 points) got off to a decent enough start, but only came off the bench after Dec. 14.
He was sidelined by illness in January and never appeared to get back into adequate shape. A sprained right ankle sidelined Mayo at season’s end.
Sanders (7.7 points) signed a $44 million, four-year contract extension in the offseason but played just 23 games. A right thumb injury from a nightclub fight the first weekend of the season in November knocked him out of the lineup for nearly two months.
A fractured right orbital bone sidelined him for the year in early February. He also ended up getting suspended for the final five games of the season for violating the league’s anti-drug program; Sanders has said he was penalized for using marijuana.
“Hopefully, he will have learned his lessons away from the floor … because nobody wants to have those things to keep happening year after year,” Drew said.
The Bucks likely will look to Knight (17.9 points, 4.9 assists) and 19-year-old rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo (6.8 points) as part of the core of the future, and hope Sanders can bounce back and justify his big payday.
Drew, an even-keeled presence and former NBA guard, seems to have connected well with Knight. He’s hoping to get an opportunity soon to speak with the new owners.
“I would love to come back. I love the city. I believe in the organization,” he said. “I’ve been a part of rebuilding, and I’d like to be a part of it in Milwaukee.
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