Milwaukee Bucks reserve center Samuel Dalembert is not some team-killing cancer, musing openly about his future beyond 2012-13 on full record with reporters. He’s just an open, candid, honest guy when it comes to discussing the life of a moderately priced journeyman NBA reserve.
Still, we don’t recall too many instances where one of those reserves has gone record to discuss signing with an opponent while he plays that opponent in the first round of a playoff series. This is exactly where Samuel went before Sunday evening’s Game 1 showdown between the Bucks and Miami Heat, as FOX Sports’ Chris Tommasson talked to Sam about his very specific thoughts on his upcoming free agency:
"The Heat will be definitely an option," Dalembert told FOX Sports Florida before his Bucks lost to the Heat 110-87 in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference first-round series Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. "It’s up to them and seeing what’s going to be out there. But at this point you want to be with a contending team. You don’t want to go backwards, so you want to chase that promised land."
"I’d look at the mid-level, whatever’s going to be out there," Dalembert said. "If it is a real contending team, we’ll have no problem. So we’ll see."
That’s a new one. It’s rare enough for players to discuss free agency in terms that rise above the typically vague and bland. It’s even rarer for players to point to specific teams before the season even ends. To talk up the Heat just minutes after playing against the Heat? That’s pretty unprecedented.
Of course, Dalembert didn’t play against the Heat on Sunday. He’s played just six minutes of action since the end of March, and while he remains a talented big man that can defend and score off of broken plays (remember, this guy is just 2 1/2 months removed from dropping 35 points on the Denver Nuggets), the Bucks were not pleased with Dalembert’s conditioning to start the season, and even suspended him for one game earlier in the year for an unnamed violation.
Still, anyone criticizing Dalembert for answering honestly would be perpetuating the NBA’s unfair double-standard.
Teams are allowed to treat players as assets, as tradable commodities often valued for their ability to land other players in an upcoming deal, or come off the salary cap once their contract expires. Dalembert discussed a contract with the Heat before the 2011-12 season before signing a two-year deal for an average salary with the Houston Rockets. Houston has long been in the asset-moving department, and the team dealt Dalembert to Milwaukee over the summer to clear cap space just for a chance to potentially swing a deal for a superstar. That’s not a criticism of Houston’s move involving Samuel, as they’re one of 30 teams that make these moves routinely.
The Bucks can moan about Dalembert talking up other teams, but they’re also one of 30 teams that are allowed to cut, bench, or trade players like Dalembert with relative ease any time the NBA deems it legal. If teams can be so brash when initiating player movement, I think it only fair that players are allowed to be as frank when it comes to their own future.
(Maybe not the opposing team before a playoff game, though.)
To Dalembert’s credit, recently he’s been calm and respectful in talking about the team that has pulled him in and out of the lineup all year. Sam is currently on the “out” portion of that run, as youngsters Larry Sanders, John Henson, and Epke Udoh are rightfully being awarded minutes to aid in their development. From Tomasson’s report:
"It’s been a very interesting season," Dalembert said. "Things change. Suddenly, there is no explanation (about his minutes cut). It’s basically a business. So that was my first year of DNP (did not play due to coach’s decision) in my career and not only one or two. I don’t know how many. I lost track.
"But, for the most part, we’re supporting each other and the young guys are getting a chance like John Henson and Larry is stepping it up real big this year and what Ekpe is doing. So I support the guys and then I try to pass the knowledge you got and then waiting for the resurrection (of his career)."
With Chris Andersen delighting both fans and announcers alike, it’s possible that the Heat won’t have any use for Dalembert this summer. We’re pretty sure, after reading quotes like these, that the Bucks won’t have much use for him in the first round, either.