The honeymoon period is over for the Milwaukee Bucks and their losing ways and I’m not all that surprised by the timing.
As I mentioned in an article earlier this week, general manager John Hammond has now made it known that his priority is to give big minutes to the young nucleus of players in hopes of developing a team capable of contending sometime beyond 2013-14.
Even though those words may have been music to the ears of the group of supporters at SaveOurBucks.com, it seems reasonable to assume that the message was not as comforting to Bucks’ forward Caron Butler.
On Thursday after practice, Butler did not mince words when asked about his role and the direction of the team this season. The comments by the 11-year NBA veteran and native of nearby Racine, Wis., are on display at FoxSports.com in a piece by Andrew Gruman.
Butler, a 6’7” forward, welcomed the opportunity to play in his hometown after being acquired by the Bucks in August in a three-team trade – but the plan did not unfold as he expected.
While the 33-year-old knew that winning would be a process, he was also going on the understanding that he would play a major role on a team competing for a playoff spot.
Just last season, despite winning 38 games and finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks’ front office decided to overhaul the roster by bringing in 10 new faces. Even so, it appeared as though the team would be able to remain competitive without neglecting the goal of player development, based on the additions of Butler, along with O.J. Mayo, Gary Neal, Luke Ridnour, Carlos Delfino and Zaza Pachulia. The remarkable thing, though, is that even with that influx of experience and leadership, the Bucks are the sixth youngest team, with an average at of 25.1.
The general manager admitted that he had higher expectations for this roster, but has since changed course for the obvious reason that the team is not winning.
Now Butler, who has seen his average playing time plummet from 29.1 minutes per game in November to 17.3 in January, has decided to speak up. All of Butler’s comments in Gruman’s article were significant, especially his thoughts on shifting the emphasis from winning to draft positioning:
“You should never look ahead because those things just don’t happen like that,” Butler said. “I mean, teams that look ahead and lose games intentionally or even unintentionally, that’s not the way to go about it because there’s no sure thing. You can lose games and get the seventh pick. You are playing with fire either way.”
Perhaps Hammond and his management team thought they were carrying out their plan in privacy, but now the curtains have been pulled aside. One player – unwilling to subdue his competitive nature and desire to win now – has voiced his opinion and, inevitably, others may follow his lead.
To be fair, Butler does see the benefit of developing players and knows that he can help with that, but he doesn’t think that process has to come at the expense of winning games this season.
Butler has not publicly asked to be traded, nor is he rumored to be on the block; but if his wish to win games now is granted, it may very well be with another team.