Out of playoffs, Bucks face uncertain off-season
ST. FRANCIS, Wis. (AP)
Next time the Milwaukee Bucks are together, they might need name tags.
A day after being swept out of their first playoff appearance in three years, the Bucks began scattering Monday for what is sure to be a chaotic offseason. Brandon Jennings may not return. Same for Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick. The coaching staff will probably be new, too, with Jim Boylan unlikely to be brought back.
''You really want to build on this ... but you have to respect the fact there are a lot of moves that are going to be made,'' said Luc Mbah a Moute, one of the few core players guaranteed of being in Milwaukee next season.
''It's a tough balance,'' Mbah a Moute said. ''Last time we were in the playoffs, we got nine new players the following year and it was a complete disaster. It wasn't a fun experience. I'm sure they learned from it, and they're going to make the right decisions to make sure we stay a playoff team but keep getting better.''
Despite parting ways with coach Scott Skiles on Jan. 7, the Bucks were two games above .500 as recently as March 19. But their end-of-the-season collapse - they lost 12 of their last 16 - left them with a losing record (38-44) and, as the No. 8 seed, a first-round date with the Miami Heat.
Though Jennings guaranteed that the Bucks would win the series in six games, the Heat won all four games - by double digits.
''I've got no issue about getting swept by the Heat, they're a great team. The issue is having to face the Heat,'' Mike Dunleavy said. ''We basically dog-trotted down the stretch from March and April. We should have just never been in the position to have to play the No. 1 seed. Shame on us. That's the disappointing part to the whole season.''
But the Bucks never had much of a chance, not when upheaval was their only constant.
When Skiles left, he was replaced by Boylan, his longtime assistant. Though Boylan made some changes to the lineup, his philosophy - and playbook - was similar to that of Skiles. And while general manager John Hammond said Boylan would be with the team until the season ended, the prospect of more change was always there.
''With the coaching changes and everything, it's just a total rollercoaster,'' Jennings said.
Hammond shook the team up even further Feb. 21, when he acquired Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith from Orlando in exchange for Tobias Harris, Doron Lamb and Beno Udrih. That gave the Bucks four starters at guards - twice as many as they needed.
''We just had a lot of guys. A lot of guys who could make a good argument to be in there, for a lot of minutes, to be starting,'' Dunleavy said. ''It was a tough juggling act Jim had to step into.''
The tension was obvious at times.
Redick told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after Game 3 that he hadn't spoken to Boylan during the playoffs. When Boylan benched the struggling Jennings for the fourth quarter Sunday, Larry Sanders urged his coach to put Jennings back in.
''I trust him to make big shots, big plays,'' Sanders said. ''I knew he'd give it all out on the floor, but they made the decision they decided to make.''
And now there are even more to make.
Though Hammond wasn't available Monday, he's believed to already have decided to look for a new coach. Mbah a Moute, Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova and rookie John Henson are the only key players under contract for next season.
Redick and Dunleavy are unrestricted free agents. Jennings also is expected to test the market, though as a restricted free agent the Bucks can match any offer for him.
Ellis has an $11 million player option. While that's a lot of money to pass up, he could be swayed if someone offers a multi-year deal.
''I love my teammates, I love the situation we was in,'' Ellis said Sunday. ''We've just got to get better. That's the biggest thing.''
And not squandering the experience they got this season, difficult as it may have been.
Mbah a Moute, who had some of his best games in the playoffs, is excited at the progress he can make this summer after spending last off-season recovering from knee surgery. Henson, who showed flashes of promise in his rookie season, left Monday for Florida, where he and Sanders plan to work out together. Ilyasova will spend the next few weeks in Milwaukee before joining his Turkish teammates for the European championship.
''Right now it stings, it doesn't feel good,'' Boylan said Sunday. ''But I do know we had a bunch of guys who developed over the last couple of weeks, and they're going to use that development next season to help our franchise.''