Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The End of the Hammond Era (Three Years After It Actually Ended)

John Hammond is gone from the Bucks, having accepted a position as Orlando's general manager.  Good for him; "who cares?" for the Bucks.

When Jason Kidd was hired in summer of 2014, it was clear that Hammond's time as the Bucks' top personnel executive was over.  The initial reporting of Kidd's Nets-to-Bucks move cited Kidd's inability to gain control over player personnel.  Whatever bridges Kidd may have burned in Brooklyn, it was implausible that he would come to Milwaukee as Just Coach.

It is unclear exactly how much sway Hammond held since Kidd arrived, but there is plenty of evidence to support the theory that Kidd was in charge.  The Bucks seemed to acquire a lot of players who excelled when playing either for or against Kidd.  They also seemed to hire a lot of players represented by Jeff Schwartz, who is Kidd's long time agent.

Then there were the rumors.  Brandon Knight being traded for Michael Carter-Williams, rumored to be because Kidd wanted a big, pass-first point guard in his own mold.  Rashad Vaughn being drafted over Bobby Portis in 2015, rumored to be because Kidd was worried that a young, active Big like Portis could retard Jabari Parker's development.  (Kidd may have had a point.  Who knows how much the drafting of Ray Allen affected Big Dog, a fellow jump-shooting Wing.)

Whatever the level of Hammond's control, it now seems clear that he wanted out from the moment Kidd arrived.  Hammond was just turned down for Orlando's top front office position.  Now he'll be number two.  Only Hammond knows for sure, but from where this blog sits it appears that Hammond simply wanted to make sure that he maintained the G.M. title, no matter the circumstances.

If we remove the Kidd era, then Hammond's reign lasted from 2008 to 2014.  It's a checkered history. For every Giannis, there's a Larry Sanders (who, it must be said, I loved).  A Joe Alexander for every Brandon Jennings, a Charlie V for every Monta and a JJ Redick for every John Salmons.  And, heck, even the good ones end well, though we expect Giannis to.

As with any Bucks employee from the Herb Kohl era, one has to wonder how much influence The Senator had over Hammond's performance.  Kohl was noted -- perhaps notorious -- for wanting to compete every year.  Hammond alluded to this after drafting Giannis, noting that the Bucks had to find a way to procure an All-Star.  The clear implication being that Kohl would never let the team bottom out intentionally.

It all makes for a complicated calculation of the man's Bucks legacy.  We don't know exactly how much control he had.

From this blog's perspective, there is a temptation to forgive all of Hammond's mistakes because he got us Giannis.  Billy McKinney, the head of scouting, apparently was the guy who sold Hammond on Giannis, but Hammond still pulled the trigger.  The 2013 Bucks were a Playoff team -- through, granted, not a very good one -- and Hammond still had the guts to draft a complete project who had no chance of helping the 2014 Bucks be better.  That's big.

Is that enough?  Can Giannis make up for the frustrating (2009), inspiring (2010), disappointing (2011), maddening (2012), bickering (2013), awful (2014) legacy of Hammond's six seasons in charge?  Not to me.

John Hammond will always be in the Bucks Forest dog house.  He surely has reasons and regrets.  Any decision maker does.  Ultimately, too many of his decisions went wrong.  That's why he'll be second banana in Orlando instead of the man in charge.

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