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News » TOM ENLUND Bucks face 'accounting' side of NBA

TOM ENLUND Bucks face 'accounting' side of NBA

TOM ENLUND  Bucks face 'accounting' side of NBA
Remember the good old days in the National Basketball Association, when trades were made based on players' abilities?

Welcome to today's NBA, where it isn't so much the players that are traded but their contracts.

Milwaukee Bucks guard Damon Jones discovered that while he sat idle this season before he joined the team late last month. Another Bucks player or two also may experience what Jones calls the "accounting" side of the NBA before the Feb. 19 trade deadline.

The Bucks have some difficult contractual decisions to make before the deadline, the most important being the impending free agency of forward Charlie Villanueva and guard Ramon Sessions. Both will become restricted free agents after this season, which means the Bucks would be able to match any offers presented to the players this summer.

However, it may turn out to be too costly for Milwaukee to match offers to one or both of those players, which is why they look to be the most likely Bucks to be traded should the team decide to make a deal.

Still fresh is the memory of the summer of 2007, when Mo Williams and Charlie Bell were both restricted free agents and both were signed to offer sheets by Miami. The Bucks matched both offer sheets, overspending in the process.

The Bucks could face similar situations with Villanueva and Sessions.

As its stands, the Bucks' payroll is probably about $5 million below the luxury tax figure that is projected for the 2009-'10 season.

That would make retaining the two players difficult, if not impossible, without venturing into tax territory.

In other words, all a team would have to do is offer Villanueva a deal starting at $5.1 million, knowing the Bucks would not match because it would take them over the luxury-tax figure.

Even though there is considerable interest in Sessions, he probably would command less in the open market than Villanueva. Even so, all it would take is one team to come out of left field with a mega-offer that would be unrealistic for the Bucks to match.

Since no one knows exactly what the luxury-tax figure will be for 2009-'10 (it's $71.2 million this season), that only muddies the water as the Bucks ponder the future.

And so in the weeks ahead, the Bucks will be asking themselves if they want to risk letting Villanueva and/or Sessions go into free agency and possibly lose them with no compensation, or swing a deal for one or the other or both before the deadline.

The Bucks created some flexibility last week when they waived Austin Croshere and opened a roster spot, which means they now can make a two-for-one trade, although they may just sign someone off the waiver wire to fill that spot.

When asked about trade possibilities last week, general manager John Hammond would say only that the Bucks were keeping their options open.

After joining the Bucks, Jones indicated there had been some trade possibilities explored involving him - his contract - that didn't materialize.

"You have to understand this league where it is now - it's all about accounting," said Jones. "In making trades, people are not willing to take salaries back unless they're going to come off the books soon. That's basically what it turned out to be.

"There were a lot of scenarios out there that could have been done, but because of the accounting part of it, one team didn't want to take this back or the other team didn't want to take that back."

Such is life in today's contract-driven league.

Reuniting with KG?

News flash. Stephon Marbury has only the good of the game in mind when he dreams about a reunion with his former Minnesota teammate, Kevin Garnett, in Boston.

Marbury was in Minnesota on business last week, took in the game against Golden State at the Target Center and sat in on the Timberwolves' television broadcast during the first half.

When asked about reports that he might join the Celtics, Marbury said, "Reuniting with Kevin is something that I would love. Going to Boston would be great for Basketball and for fans to see Kevin and I reunited, like when we were younger."

Just chillin'

The Utah Jazz assigned center Kyrylo Fesenko to the D-League's Utah Flash, a team that plays about 30 minutes from Salt Lake City. When asked if he had made the short drive to see Fesenko play Tuesday, Utah coach Jerry Sloan said, "No I didn't. It was snowing out at our house. I felt better sitting in front of the fireplace for a little bit."

Well then, Sloan must have been watching the New Orleans-Los Angeles Lakers game at home since the Jazz would be playing the Hornets the next night.

"No I didn't," he said. "(But I heard the Hornets) had beat them pretty good."

It's refreshing

The Timberwolves seem to be responding well to the laid-back approach of interim coach Kevin McHale, who replaced the more vocal and animated Randy Wittman, and consecutive victories over Golden State, Chicago, Memphis and Oklahoma City were evidence.

McHale said his players were playing with more confidence than they were a couple weeks ago.

"They're feeling good about playing Basketball," he said. "It's no fun when you're getting stomped, but it's fun when you're playing (well). They've got to enjoy the game."

Otis can relate

When Washington played in Orlando last week, Magic general manager Otis Smith was asked about the situation the Wizards are facing with Gilbert Arenas, who signed a six-year, $111 million contract last summer but has yet to play in a game because of a knee injury.

The Magic faced a similar situation when Grant Hill was in Orlando, and Smith said all a team could do was to wait it out.

"You have to be smart," said Smith. "From a fan perspective, hopefully they understand he's not healthy and he can't play. From a management perspective, you want him back 100%. Having him back at 75% isn't going to do anybody any good."

Do the math

Recently signed free-agent center Nenad Krstic has joined an overflowing stable of centers/power forwards in Oklahoma City that includes Robert Swift, Chris Wilcox, Joe Smith, Nick Collison and Jeff Green - all clamoring for playing time.

"There are 15 guys on every NBA team and they all feel they should play," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "I was a player. I understand the mentality of players. They would rather have 100 teams and five players to a team. You want guys who want to play, but there's only 240 minutes you can spread out."

Star wars

Houston's Tracy McGrady says that, considering how poorly he's playing, it's "crazy" he's second among Western Conference guards in the all-star balloting.

"It's tough," he said. "You think about seven, eight years being on top. Being one of the elites and then you have a big letdown. A big drop-off from being one of the elites to being just average now and people writing you off. That's frustrating."

Mission accomplished

Near the end of the Lakers game against Portland last week, the Lakers public-address announcer read the final scores from around the league, something that is never done at the Staples Center. It was probably just a coincidence that Cleveland and Boston had both lost that night. Lakers fans erupted into a "Boston (stinks)" chant after the Celtics' score was announced.

Fast breaks

* Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy on Miami center Jamaal Magloire: "His role is to beat the hell out of people."

* Assistant coach Sidney Moncrief has left the Golden State Warriors to become a consultant for the Beijing Ducks of the Chinese Basketball Association.


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Added: January 11, 2009


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