For years, the Milwaukee Bucks have had a problem in July. Free agency is in its second day, and they haven't made a splash to replenish a 15-win team other than their formal introduction of Jason Kidd as coach on Tuesday.
A bit like the Wizards until last season, when they made the playoffs for the first time in six years and advanced out of the first round for the first time in nine, the Bucks can't win. Unlike the Wizards, the Bucks aren't located in an attractive destination.
The parallels end right about there.
"Milwaukee has a lot of great things to sell," Kidd told reporters at his news conference, alluding to landing free agents in the future.
Good luck with that.
The one thing a disadvantage franchise can use to its advantage is its culture such as how it treats its players, coaches and staff. Destinations such as the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls have stars cycle on and off their rosters like busboys at a restaurant. Their deeper pockets because of more lucrative TV revenue can help them absorb a luxury tax -- see the team Kidd bolted, the Brooklyn Nets -- to always beat out a team such as Milwaukee in the chase for free agents and coaches.
"No one is perfect and I will be the first to admit that," Kidd said. "It's about if you make a mistake, being able to own it."
Long after Kidd leaves Milwaukee, this reputation will stick with new co-owners Wes Edens and Marc Lasry who negotiated with Kidd while Larry Drew -- in the war room when the team took Jabari Parker at No. 2 overall in the draft last week -- had two years left on his contract and no idea his job was in jeopardy. Kidd lost his power struggle to get a front-office role added going into his second year with the Nets, but according to the N.Y. Daily News his yearly salary increases from $2.6 million to $4 million-$5 million on a three-year deal. The Bucks have to build through trades and the draft, so giving up two future second-round picks as compensation is more significant than it would be for other teams.
It's understandable that when new ownership is in charge, they'll want to bring in their own staff to establish the culture as they see fit.
This just isn't a way to do business.
Exhibits A and B on how smaller markets compete: San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.
They contend for championships every year. How? They retain their stars. They're able to lure quality free agents, and in some cases they take short money for the prospect of long-term winning to join them.
These franchises value chemistry, especially in the locker room, coachable attitudes and image. They will not even consider signing certain players who may be of higher quality on the court but of questionable character off it. They'll go with a lesser talent who is a better fit. And they'll never do to a coach what the Bucks did with Drew.
The Wizards have begun to fully understand this method. Instead of ditching Randy Wittman after leading them to a 44-win season in search of a "name" coach, he received a three-year, $9 million deal. They were able to retain Marcin Gortat in free agency on Monday and are hopeful that Trevor Ariza will soon follow and that stability will have a trickle-down effect.
When vets such as Andre Miller and Al Harrington, who are at the tail end of careers and have no reason to pull punches, sing your praises for being first class in how they were treated, that's says plenty.
When these endorsements become contagious, they'll do work for a team in times like these. All the Wizards have to do is keep winning, take care of those who grind for them and keep the drama such as what was created in Milwaukee to a minimum.
This misstep by the Bucks will be used by other teams competing with them for talent for years to come. As it should be.