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“What have you done for me lately?”
There’s no other cliché in sports that rings true about fandoms across the globe (or Al Davis) like the one above. It’s the best explanation why a year after Milwaukee Bucks GM John Hammond was riding high like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove, fan confidence in his abilities has dropped like the H-bomb at the end of the scene.
Is John Hammond the general manager that won the 2009-10 Executive of the Year, or is he the one that seemingly cast the Bucks into NBA financial purgatory? He’s probably somewhere in the middle, but the 2011 offseason will carry a lot of weight when discussing how to properly evaluate Milwaukee’s general manager.
Coming off building a surprising 46-win team, Bucks GM John Hammond was lauded as the man who could, at the very least, make the NBA relevant in a state dominated by football, baseball, and their respective offseasons. There’s no question his award was well-deserved; almost every button he pushed turned the Bucks’ water into wine (or beer, seeing as we are in Wisconsin).
Hammond’s latest accomplishment was building a playoff team around a 20-year-old rookie point guard and 25-year-old center, so bringing in established veterans as role players was met with optimism and general praise.
So Hammond rode that success to the bank while writing “Win now” in the subject line of the monster (at least for the Bucks) checks he handed to John Salmons and Drew Gooden. He brought in Corey Maggette to compensate for Milwaukee’s previous inability to draw free shots, and drafted Larry Sanders to give the team some raw athleticism and shot blocking ability.
Hammond’s 2010-11 experiment failed on nearly all counts, and it brings up justified questions about his team-building philosophy and whether the Bucks can overcome the NBA’s increasing shift towards star consolodation in bigger markets.
Now, Hammond enters the 2011 offseason with less money, fewer trade options, lower expectations, and increased skepticism that would’ve been considered near blasphemous just 365 days ago. Anyone that watched the Bucks this year knows few of the new arrivals had much of a chance to mesh together. But again, Hammond had lately built a 36 win team around a raw and unproven core surrounded by aging injury risks.
Realistically, John Hammond is not as awful as Larry Harris or as crafty as Sam Presti, but that’s what makes the Bucks upcoming offseason so intriguing. Hammond has limited resources to prove last season was an aberration, and his no-superstar team building philosophy is more than a one year wonder.
It’s too easy to say an executive, coach or player should be shown the door, but rarely are those declarations followed up by concrete suggestions for improvement. The fact is that Hammond and coach Scott Skiles have built a system that reached a level of success the Bucks have not had in over 10 years.
That alone is worth ordering the firing squad to stand down and give the Hammond a chance to fix what’s broken.