The Milwaukee Bucks were a combustible mess all season. Worse, they were a boring combustible mess. They didn’t even have the timing or touch to release news about their infighting during the actual season. Instead, a report about a locker room confrontation between defensive maven Larry Sanders and scoring guard Monta Ellis was released nearly two weeks after their last game of the season, dumped on a Thursday afternoon in the midst of the playoffs.
CBS Sports’ Ken Berger broke the news about a near-clash of Milwaukee’s near-titans, and we use the “near” qualifier because the two never came to blows, and 38-win teams don’t really have titans. Here’s Ken’s report:
After the Bucks lost 104-91 to the Heat in Milwaukee on April 25, Sanders vented in the locker room and said in a fiery speech, “We need to start playing together as a team and stop worrying about next year,” according to one of the people briefed on the confrontation. “We need to stop being selfish and start worrying about right now.”
Ellis “took umbrage,” according to another person with knowledge of the situation. Correctly assuming that Sanders' comments were directed primarily at him and backcourt mate Brandon Jennings, who both are prospective free agents, Ellis approached Sanders and squared off with him, sources said. A teammate got between the two players and separated them before the conflict became physical.
Berger went on to remind us that this was following the just-about-deciding Game 3 loss in a series that Miami eventually swept, one that saw potential 2013 free agent Monta Ellis miss seven of nine shots in a frustrating performance.
Of course, Sanders may not have been passive/aggressively venting at just Ellis.
Ellis has a player option for 2013-14, a very lucrative one for $11 million, and it’s quite possible that the high-volume, low-efficiency guard (that the league has more or less come around on) opts in to the last year of his deal. He may not turn out to be a free agent, after all.
Brandon Jennings, who missed 10 of 15 shots in that Game 3 loss, could also be a restricted free agent if he decides to decline Milwaukee’s qualifying offer. If the Bucks decide to cut ties with Jennings completely and pass on tossing the QO his way, Jennings will be an unrestricted free agent. As we wrote in April, it would probably be best for the Bucks to not chase after their low-efficiency, defensively-deficient backcourt.
J.J. Redick, who told Milwaukee press before Game 3 that he had not spoken to interim head coach Jim Boylan since the postseason started (countering what Boylan claimed at a press conference), is also an unrestricted free agent. So is Samuel Dalembert, who openly admitted to wanting to play for the opposing Miami Heat during the team’s first round series. And this news comes on the heels of a fantastic performance from Golden State Warrior guard Klay Thompson, who the Bucks could have acquired in the 2011 NBA draft, but were left without a pick after dealing for Stephen Jackson the year before.
Clearly, despite the postseason appearance, this was a massive failure of a season for Milwaukee.
Former coach Scott Skiles was rumored to be displeased with the team’s roster seven months before the season even started, and yet the Bucks didn’t have a replacement lined up for when Skiles did what everyone expected and initiated a breakup partway through 2012-13. Instead, Bucks general manager John Hammond went with what failed the Chicago Bulls exactly five years prior – hiring Skiles assistant Jim Boylan to unsuccessfully peddle his Scott Skiles-lite coaching style on a roster that was already sick of the fully krausened brew.
And yet, somehow, Bucks GM John Hammond received a second and third place vote in the Executive of the Year voting. This is why the NBA has lockouts.
And this is why Monta Ellis, with that player option, may not be a member of the Milwaukee Bucks next season. Larry Sanders has a bit of a history, you know, and a whole summer to stew over it.