Bucks build with free agents Salmons, Gooden
Far removed from the free-agent frenzy and prime-time television
specials, the Milwaukee Bucks quietly believe they’re getting
The Bucks formally introduced free agents John Salmons and Drew
Gooden on Thursday after agreeing to deals with both players last
And while small-market Milwaukee wasn’t anything more than an
interested bystander in the sweepstakes for LeBron James and other
marquee free agents, general manager John Hammond believes the
Bucks are beginning to be seen as a desirable destination for good
“I can guarantee you, John Salmons had options, and I can
guarantee you, Drew Gooden had options,” Hammond said. “And the
fact that they want to be here I think is very, very important to
Hammond and the rest of the Bucks’ front office was busy last
week, agreeing to a five-year, $32 million deal with Gooden last
Thursday and a $40 million, five-year deal with Salmons a day
later. The moves came a few weeks after the Bucks added Corey
Maggette in a trade with Golden State.
The Bucks believe they’re now in position to build on last
season, when they made a surprise run to the playoffs without
injured center Andrew Bogut and then pushed the Atlanta Hawks to
seven games before bowing out in the first round.
“With the moves we made, I think we’re competing with
anybody,” Salmons said. “With all the shuffling that’s going on
now, I think that people have still got to put us in the mix with
the best teams. I think that was our goal before we made the moves,
and it’s definitely our goal after.”
Coach Scott Skiles knows the team will be facing increased
“Now the thing that’s going to happen is, the script is going
to flip and we’re going to be expected to do something, as opposed
to being picked last or second-to-last in the East,” Skiles said.
“And that’s good. That’s what we want.”
Salmons played a critical role in the Bucks’ playoff push after
arriving in a trade with Chicago in February.
He opted out of his contract and explored his options but
ultimately decided to return, citing the team’s stability and
chemistry as factors in his decision.
“I’ve been in some chaotic locker rooms,” Salmons said. “It
takes a toll on you after a while.”
Skiles, who isn’t known for heaping undue praise upon his
players, said it was “almost unbelievable” how well Salmons fit
in right away last season. Then he caught himself gushing.
“I’m afraid he’s going to get a big head,” Skiles said,
playfully slapping Salmons on the shoulder.
Stability also was a primary concern for Gooden, who said he
“wanted a home” after bouncing around the league. The No. 4
overall pick in the 2002 draft has played for eight teams in eight
“What team is actually going to commit to me and see a future,
instead of renting me for a couple months or a year and seeing what
they can do with me?” Gooden said. “That was really intriguing
for me, and caught my interest.”
After keeping Salmons, finding a power forward to play alongside
Bogut was the Bucks’ biggest offseason priority.
Skiles said it would be “shocking” for Gooden not to become a
starter right away, but acknowledged that he expects increased
competition for playing time up and down the roster.
“When you continue to bring in quality guys, obviously the
competition among the players raises up,” Skiles said. “That can
be a very, very healthy thing if handled properly by the players
and the coaches and the organization, or it can go the other way.
We don’t sense in any way that we have the type of people that
aren’t going to thrive in that type of environment.”
Hammond said the team was likely done making major moves this
offseason. The soft-spoken Salmons seemed relieved he wasn’t in the
spotlight like James.
“I’m glad I don’t have a nine o’clock press conference,” he