Bucks contingent positive after learning of expected ownership change

New York investment firm executives Marc Lasry, center left, and Wesley Edens, left, talk to Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Jim Cleamons. second from right, and owner Herb Kohl, right, on Wednesday. The Bucks announced that Kohl has reached a deal to sell the franchise to Edens and Lasry.

Morry Gash/Herb Kohl/AP

MILWAUKEE — By the time Herb Kohl made his way to the Milwaukee Bucks locker room to address his team one last time as owner, the players already had heard the news and watched the press conference.

But that certainly doesn’t mean the gathering wasn’t emotional. When the meeting was done, the Bucks gathered around Kohl and had a team breakdown before preparing for their season finale against the Atlanta Hawks.

"He said it was time for him to give up ownership of the team," Bucks forward John Henson said. "I think part of that was building the new arena. It was something that he had to do. Now the Bucks will be here for a little bit longer and everybody can put that to rest."

Earlier on Wednesday, Kohl announced he had entered into a signed agreement to transfer full ownership to billionaire investors Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens, pending league approval. Lasry has a minority stake in the Brooklyn Nets and will have to divest himself of that before the sale will become official.

Kohl got a standing ovation when he was introduced by former Bucks guard and FOX Sports Wisconsin analyst Jon McGlocklin during the first quarter. Chants of, "Thank you, Herb!" broke out in the waning moments of the game, as Kohl stood up and acknowledged the crowd of 13,111.

Despite all that occurred earlier in the day, a game still had to be played. The Bucks ran out to an early lead, but just like most games this season, faded late in a 111-103 loss to the Hawks to finish the year 15-67.

"I would like to think their concentration was there, but I think I would be lying if I said that it was," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "This was a big day with all that has happened. There were a lot of things that were a factor with the sale of the team and the last game."

As with every ownership change, the job status of general manager John Hammond and Drew could be up in the air. Drew plans to take a step back and recharge his battery, admitting it was a relief that this season is now over.

"I really don’t try to focus on that," Drew said of his future. "I know the new group has a job and they will come in and I’m sure they are going to evaluate everybody. I just have to sit back and wait and see what happens."

While Bucks center Zaza Pachulia has yet to meet Lasry and Edens, he is confident in the new ownership group because they got the stamp of approval from Kohl.

"Knowing the Senator, (I know) how much he cares about this team, how much he cares about every employee of this team and every player and coach," Pachulia said. "He really cares, especially if you are a good person doing the right thing for the organization.

"I’m sure he wouldn’t make a bad move for this team. I’m 100 percent sure about it, just knowing the Senator."

Ersan Ilyasova, the longest-tenured player on the roster, was not surprised by the news. The Bucks drafted Ilyasova in 2005, and he played the 2006-07 season in Milwaukee before spending two years in Spain. The Turkish forward returned to the Bucks in 2009 and has been with the team since.

"Everyone was kind of expecting it," Ilyasova said. "Obviously it’s a good thing for Milwaukee and Wisconsin. The team will stay here. We want it to be like it was before. I remember when I first came back from Barcelona and we made the playoffs. The fans were unbelievable.

"The changes are going to be good or bad. I’m really hoping it’s going to be good for everybody. We’re trying to build something here. We have a lot of young, talented guys on the team. This summer it is going to be really a tough job for John Hammond to find all the right pieces. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. It takes some time.

"We have a lot of pieces for next season. But it’s not going to be a miracle. This will take time. But we’ve played much better than we used to . . ."

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Kohl’s gift of $100 million and the $100 million pledge the new owners made toward a new arena didn’t go unnoticed by the players.

"That’s an amazing gift, man," Henson said. "For someone to just give that much, what can you say? He really wants this team to be here and to be successful."

Bucks guard Brandon Knight was pleased to hear the new owners say they are competitive individuals and want to work toward bringing a championship to Milwaukee.

"When you have people that really come in and owners that really do their best to put a lot of effort into the team, it definitely pays off," Knight said. "As players, we’re thankful to have that.

"That’s what you want, an owner that’s just as passionate as the players and wants to win games. That’s all you can ask for."

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