NBA Q&A: Bucks GM John Hammond

Posted by Unknown on Friday, January 24, 2014 with No comments
Courtesy of Mike De Sisti

Q.When the season started you never expected to have this record. What happened?
A. Probably similar to other teams in the league that are having disappointing seasons, one thing we have in common is injuries. The first one was Carlos Delfino. We didn't expect Carlos to potentially be missing the entire season. We didn't expect Brandon Knight in the very first game, in the first 2 minutes of the game, to go out for an extended period. We didn't expect Zaza (Pachulia) to have the injuries. We didn't expect Ersan (Ilyasova) to be hurt. The Larry Sanders issue, Larry being out. We've had 10 players, and that leads the league, in games missed. A lot of it has to do with the injury issues.
Q. One of the themes of the first half is the team's youth movement. John Henson, Khris Middleton, Sanders, Knight, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nate Wolters all have been key figures. Are the young players showing encouraging signs?
A. We were forced into it. It wasn't the plan. Sometimes you are forced to change in midstream, so to speak. That's kind of what happened to us. We've put the young players out there. We're excited about their progress. The most important thing is they continue to improve now as the season progresses.
Q. You selected Antetokounmpo with the 15th pick in last year's draft, taking a chance on the youngest player in the draft, a raw talent from Greece. He has moved into the starting lineup at just 19 years old. Are you happy with your selection?
A. We're really excited. We talked before the season started that we wanted to expose him (to the league) but not overexpose him. We didn't want him to lose confidence and have those around him lose confidence in him. Nearing the end of the exhibition season we looked at our stats and realized he was one of our leading scorers, he was one of our leading rebounders. He was our leading shot blocker. He was leading us in free throws attempted. Just little things like that, we started thinking to ourselves, is he even more ready than we realize? Even with that being said, we probably didn't envision this happening. I know it's a great opportunity for Giannis and it could be the right thing for our organization. There have been some ups and downs, and they're probably going to continue. But there's no greater teacher than actually getting the time on the floor. We feel very good we picked him at 15. I think he's potentially a keeper piece and a piece you can build with.
Q.Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings departed in the off-season, Ellis in free agency and Jennings in a sign-and-trade deal with Detroit. Did you expect to be without both for this season and how has the Jennings trade worked out so far?
A. Monta was unrestricted so it was his decision. Brandon was restricted (free agent). We had a decision to make there, to bring him back, to extend him, to have him come back and play the final year, or try to find an opportunity for ourselves we think could help us. And we made the move with Detroit and acquired Brandon Knight. Brandon (Knight) has been very good for us. And I'm happy for Brandon Jennings. He's playing well in Detroit. Brandon (Knight) is a man of outstanding character, an extremely hard worker. He's still a young player, only 22 years old. I think he's got plenty of time to continue to develop and grow as a player. I think he needs to be playing the point guard position. He has nice size at the point. He's almost 6-foot-3; he has great strength. He's a very good defender at the point guard spot, a very good rebounder. He can score. There's no question his decision-making process needs to improve, and that's something he's very aware of. And I think he will improve. He's an extremely bright person also.
Q.It seems everyone is talking about the June draft and where the Bucks may land, what type of player you may be able to obtain. How much work is the staff putting into this draft and how vital is your first-round pick?
A. I can say for myself, I'm out (scouting) more than I have been in the past. What we're looking at at this point is a potentially prominent pick. Our hope, like any other team in a position like this, is to add a player that can help us and be a building-block piece. We've had a chance to see the top-tier first-round players and we will continue to do so as the season continues. This is the most important time. You have chances to watch guys (college players) practice and watch guys play.
Q.The Bucks finished six games below .500 last season after being a .500 club much of the season. Now there's a big fall-off from that point. How soon can the team be competitive again?
A. You can look around the league and see how teams have done it, teams that have done it through the draft. It usually doesn't happen overnight. Sometimes you have to be very patient, and that's not always easy to do. If you're a larger market team and you have the ability to go out and sign the marquee free agent, you can call the rebuilding process the reloading process. The direction we're heading in right now is we are going to try to build through the draft. This would be the first step in doing so, this season. You hope it happens as quickly as possible but also you don't want to rush the process. Rushing the process is when mistakes can occur. If you draft wisely and continue to have a sound financial structure and some flexibility within that, the process can happen. It may take some time to do it right, to build a team that can win long-term.
Q.Some of the veterans brought in last summer have voiced frustration over their roles in the last few weeks. Is this cause for concern and can they still be productive?
A. Look, I understand. I understand completely. You have guys nearing the end of their careers and they want to continue to play. You have other guys at the midpoint of their careers and they want to keep their value at a certain level. I hate the fact that some of them are going through that. But we're not the only team in the league with these sorts of situations. It happens. It is important to have guys who want to be here and understand the process we're going through. For the most part this season, I think the veterans, even though frustrated, have been supportive through the process.
Q.Do you think Carlos Delfino will play again and fulfill the second year on his contract after undergoing another surgery on his foot in Argentina?
A. Right now we understand the surgery did go well. I think Carlos feels good about it. I know he has a desire to play again, and I think that's probably the most important thing. We're looking forward to having him on the roster next season.
Q.What are the team's primary goals for the second half of the season?
A. I said before the season started that I hoped we would be a better team at the end of the season than we were at the beginning. We didn't know we were going to be in this position. But it still holds true. We want to continue to improve. We want to be a team that is going to play hard, play unselfishly. We want the people who support us and come to our games to see that we do have future pieces we can build with. Every time you take the floor, every player wants to win; every coach wants to win. I want to win. But at the end of the day, we want to make sure our guys are improving. If there is improvement from within, we'll win our fair share of games.
Q.What is your assessment of coach Larry Drew (and the staff) in his first season with the franchise?
A. I think Larry has done the best job he can do in a very difficult situation. When Larry came here as coach, we didn't hire him and say, "Oh, by the way, we're going to go through this rebuilding process." Our hope was to have a competitive team, a playoff team. We made some moves in the off-season and we included Larry in those decisions. Signing Carlos, signing Zaza, signing O.J. (Mayo), trading for Luke (Ridnour) and Caron (Butler), you make those moves because you're trying to put a competitive team on the floor. That was the plan going into the season. It's easy for me to sit here and talk about changing in midstream but very difficult for the coach when he's on the floor facing it every night. I think he's done an excellent job in a very difficult situation.