Free agency in the modern NBA is all about the pitch meeting.
Teams send out their cadres of high-profile salesmen or fly in their big-name targets and, starting at midnight on the first day the negotiation period begins, attempt to woo the objects of their basketball affection with private jets, fancy dinners, extravagant venues, personalized presentations, sophisticated Power Points, dramatic (or sometimes funny) videos, urging from other superstars, ostentatious displays of championship hardware, and, for some reason, even Chandler Parsons.
Opulence, prestige, promises, Parsons. These are the tools of persuasion for NBA teams trying to sign free agents.
For LaMarcus Aldridge, the Lakers courted him with Los Angeles’ off-court appeal, citing the city’s celebrities, promotional opportunities and beautiful weather. The Phoenix Suns tried to lure him by bringing new assistant coach Earl Watson (Aldridge’s good friend) and not-yet-signed new center Tyson Chandler (Aldridge’s vocal advocate). Neither organization prevailed, but their pitches were clear.
The Knicks can present free agents the lights of New York City and the country’s largest media market. The Dallas Mavericks have a fun-loving, high-rolling owner who treats his players like (non-Sacramento) kings. The Houston Rockets have analytics. The Miami Heat have rings. The Los Angeles Clippers just won’t leave the house.
What does Milwaukee, a small-market team in a cold town without a successful pedigree, have to offer?
If you’re Greg Monroe, who was one of the top free agents available this offseason, the Bucks offered good conversation, an up-and-coming team and a no-frills sales method that suited his low-key personality.
Monroe signed a three-year, $50 million contract last week, becoming the biggest free-agency acquisition in franchise history. At his introductory press conference and afterward, he talked gushingly (or, as gushingly as Greg Monroe can get) about how the Bucks were "the best fit for me" and had "everything I needed to be comfortable and happy."
On Tuesday, Monroe sat down with Bucks broadcaster Jim Paschke and elaborated on how little old Milwaukee beat out New York, Los Angeles and other big cities for his services.
Monroe said there was just something different, perhaps refreshing, about the Bucks’ approach.
"They really made it comfortable," he said while in Las Vegas for Summer League. "It was more of a conversation than anything, and that was one thing that definitely made them stick out.
"It wasn’t like they were just pitching stuff at me. They came and they were just real laid back and comfortable and conservative and they just talked to me."
The Bucks weren’t the first team to meet with Monroe in Washington, D.C., and they weren’t considered the early favorites to get him. But they sent what turned out to be a convincing contingent, which consisted of head coach Jason Kidd, general manager John Hammond and co-owner Marc Lasry, as well as a couple other team officials.
Monroe said choosing a team was a "tough" and "life-changing" decision, but the presence of Kidd and Lasry at the meeting made an impact on him.
Though the Bucks owners — New York City hedge-fund billionaires Lasry and Wes Edens, who have infused money and marketing into their new brand since buying the team last year — are high-energy and future-focused, Monroe’s personality seems to be well-suited for the more typical perception of Milwaukee as Midwestern and modest.
He described himself as "pretty regular" and "kind of a homebody," who likes to relax and play pool. The bearded and baritone-voiced big man said "I know there are some weird things, but I don’t think I partake in any of those out-of-the-box things." Having played the past five years in Detroit, he’s accustomed to the cold and knows to "just layer up."
So Los Angeles can keep its sunshine, celebrities and DeAndre Jordan second thoughts. New York City can have its skyscrapers, spotlights and Carmelo Anthony salaries.
Milwaukee just made conversation, and that made Greg Monroe a Buck.