ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — After acquiring J.J. Redick in a trade with the Magic on Thursday, Bucks general manager John Hammond’s mind traveled back to a story his former boss used to tell him about a three-guard rotation working.
The general manager of the Detroit Pistons, Joe Dumars, described how he and Isiah Thomas gave up minutes to Vinnie Johnson in order to help the Pistons when that team became dominant in the late 1980s. Though Hammond made it clear he’s not comparing Milwaukee’s current three-guard rotation to one featuring two NBA Hall of Famers, he’s hoping the same principle of unselfishness prevails with Redick joining Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.
“I think if guys are willing to accept the process, there’s no reason it can’t happen,” Hammond said Friday. “It really comes down to this: Do guys want to win? If you want to win, people will make sacrifices. The sacrifices could be a few minutes a game.
“He said Isiah and I both realized that when Vinnie came into the game and hit his first few shots that they would be set for a while. It made them a better team and even propelled them to a championship.
After adding Redick, the Bucks have three high-scoring guards who are averaging 15.1 (Redick), 18.3 (Ellis) and 19.1 points (Jennings). The challenge for coach Jim Boylan will be to find minutes — and shots — to keep everyone happy.
If he can do that, Milwaukee could have the best three-guard rotation in the Eastern Conference. But what looks good on paper can be a more delicate balance for a team intent on climbing from its current No. 8 spot in the East.
The newest member of the Bucks didn’t think he was going to be traded despite all of the rumors including his name over the past two weeks. Redick’s agent informed him around noon Thursday that it appeared he was staying in Orlando. But when Redick got to the airport to board the Magic’s team plane to Dallas, his agent called back to say Redick could be on his way to Milwaukee. By the time the 28-year-old landed in Dallas, a car was waiting for him, Ish Smith and Gustavo Ayon to fly them back to Orlando to gather their belongings.
The flight was delayed, so Redick didn’t walk into his house in Orlando until almost 11 p.m. and still had to pack. After finally getting to sleep after 2 a.m., he was up by 5:30 to board the flight to snowy Wisconsin, where he was introduced at a midday news conference.
Redick, Smith and Ayon will take their physicals Friday and if they and the three players sent to Orlando all pass, the league will approve the trade and make them available for Saturday’s game against Atlanta. None of the new Bucks could practice with the team Friday.
Though Boylan said Redick will come off the bench with Ellis continuing to start at shooting guard, the challenge of figuring out the rotation begins immediately.
“I have a great deal of respect for Brandon and Monta as players,” Redick said. “I actually think I fit really well because I’m a guy who doesn’t need the basketball in his hands a lot. I don’t need a lot of touches necessarily. I don’t need a lot of dribbles. I’ll continue to be who I am as a player, a quick decision-maker, drive, pass, shoot, whatever it may be, but get off the ball and let those two guys play to their strengths.”
Jennings, like many, is going to see how things play out on the court before he judges the effectiveness of what was the biggest trade executed by any team ahead of the deadline.
“Only time will tell if we are really going to improve,” he said. “We just have to basically wait and see. We do have another shooter. We’ll just see what happens.
“It’s going to be very interesting just to see how the rotation is going to be now. As far as Luc (Richard Mbah a Moute) down the stretch, he’s one of our best defenders, he has to play too because he guards the best player down the stretch. It’s going to be very interesting what the rotation is going to be.”
Jennings also dismissed the notion that Redick doesn’t need the ball in his hands often to play his game.
“We’re going to need him,” Jennings said. “All that he doesn’t need the ball . . . he’s going to need the ball. We’re going to need him to shoot it. And to dribble, to make things happen. This year he’s been really good at taking the ball off the dribble and making shots. He’s really improved at that, and he’s not just a catch-and-shoot player, so he’s going to need the ball.”
Because of Ellis’ versatility, Boylan can play him at point guard when Jennings leaves the floor. Redick will essentially fill the role of third guard Beno Udrih, who was sent to Orlando, but will need more time on the court than the 15.8 minutes per game Udrih had been averaging in February.
“You have a wide variety of possibilities,” Boylan said. “It’s going to kind of be an experimental thing, we’ll try to figure out what works. Put some lineups out in certain situations and see what other teams do. We can put some pressure on other teams by playing all three guys together and seeing how they match up and decide to do. It’s a nice luxury to have.”
Without Ellis and Jennings’ ability to play both guard positions, Hammond probably wouldn’t have felt comfortable making the deal, which also included sending role players Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb to Orlando.
“That’s really the key to being able to have a true three-guard rotation,” Hammond said. “I don’t know where it would fit in the realm of the NBA in its entirety, but I do think I would put our three guards up with most in the league and say we can compete if not hold our own or win the game against a three-guard rotation like that.”
The deal didn’t come together until about 15 minutes before Thursday’s deadline. As far as the rumors of Atlanta backing out on a potential three-team trade that would have sent star forward Josh Smith to Milwaukee, Hammond said they simply weren’t true. Milwaukee was interested in bringing the forward to town, but Hammond wasn’t disappointed he couldn’t pull off the deal.
“There was never a true offer on the table from Atlanta,” Hammond said. “They never said, ‘This is exactly what it will take to get a deal done,’ but we just continued to negotiate, talk and exchange ideas until the very last moment. It was a possibility. There were other possibilities with other teams for us, but it just didn’t work out. It was Atlanta’s decision to keep their own player.”
After spending the past seven years in sunny Orlando, Redick was greeted by a winter snowstorm in Milwaukee. Admitting he had to make sure he packed gloves, a few hats and a winter coat, Redick did grow up in Virginia, so snow doesn’t bother him.
Though it was bittersweet for him to say goodbye to the organization he cut his teeth with, Redick is excited about going from the second-worst team in the NBA to a team fighting to make the playoffs. An unrestricted free agent following the season, he will deal with his future after the season is over.
“I’m definitely open to staying in Milwaukee,” Redick said. “That’s a path I’ll cross in July. My focus right now is hoping this team secures a playoff spot and hopefully a higher playoff spot than the eighth seed and making a playoff run with this team.
“I feel like I’m a guy who has been through the fire. I’ve guarded Kobe Bryant in the NBA Finals. I’ve started a Game 7 in Boston when they were the defending champs. I have that playoff experience, and I hope I can help the team in that regard.”