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NBA PM: Rocky Road To Playoffs For Bucks
Posted By Bill Ingram On April 12, 2013 @ 5:00 pm In NBA | No Comments
The 2012-13 NBA season has not been an easy one for the Milwaukee Bucks, who will enter postseason play as the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed and meet the defending champion Miami HEAT in the first round. As dubious an honor as that may seem, the Bucks are just happy to be in a situation where they’re planning for the playoffs instead of immediately looking ahead to the draft. The team’s very up and down season has been accompanied by plenty of movement both on the court and in the front office, where general manager John Hammond was rewarded with a three-year contract extension earlier this season.
“In this business you appreciate opportunities and I appreciate this opportunity to come here and be a part of this organization,” Hammond told HOOPSWORLD. “Then to now be extended and to have a chance to continue to work and have this opportunity, I’m very grateful, to say the least.”
The news that Bucks owner Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) was retiring from the United States Senate could have meant Hammond’s job would be a little bit tougher if the former chose to take a more hands-on approach with his newfound spare time. Hammond, however, is happy to have additional input from his owner.
“No, you know, I have good communication with the Senator,” Hammond said. “I really enjoy working with him and our relationship is a good working relationship, so he is going to have some more time on his hands, but I personally view it as a good thing for me and the organization.”
One major change that happened mid-season was the mutual decision between the team and head coach Scott Skiles that he would relinquish his duties as coach. The Bucks were 16-16 and riding a four-game losing streak when Jim Boylan took over.
“Jim’s done a nice job with the team and I think we’re all seeing these situations that have occurred,” Hammond said. “It’s not a rarity in the NBA to have something like this happen. It’s not normalcy, but it’s not rarity by any stretch, so it happens. Most of the times when these sort of things happen, the situation goes south and goes south very quickly, but Jim has done a great job of working with our guys and communicating with our guys and motivating them to play hard. He deserves a lot of credit.”
Along the way the Bucks also benched center Samuel Dalembert. That situation could also have been a huge negative for the team, but Larry Sanders has responded in a big way to the resulting increase in minutes. After struggling like so many young players do in his first two seasons, Sanders is coming into his own in year three of his NBA career.
“Yeah, that’s so true,” says Hammond. “You draft Larry with the 15th pick and you’re hoping that when you used a first-round pick on a player that they turn out to be a location guy or better yet a starter, and Larry has turned out to be a significant piece of our team and a part of our team. Obviously, he’s one of the better shot blockers in the NBA. It’s been great for Larry, but he’s just taking advantage of the opportunity, and I think his game still has a chance to change and grow, and he’ll continue to develop as a player.”
The Bucks also made a significant trade right before the NBA trade deadline that changed the make-up of the team to a certain extent. Gone were some of the younger, up-and-coming players like Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb, and coming in from Orlando was veteran sixth-man J.J. Redick, who brought NBA Finals experience to the team, as well as Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith.
“We were hoping to make the playoffs,” Hammond explained. “We thought adding a piece like J.J. Redick could help solidify that opportunity for us and he has. He’s been a great addition to our team. We’re also happy to have Gustavo and Ish Smith. It might be easy to forget about Gustavo and his abilities. We like him as a player, but it was a difficult trade to make to say the least. To move a piece like Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb; we like both those players, both good young players, but we felt at that time it was the right thing for our organization.”
The playoffs are now a reality for the Bucks, who will enter postseason play for just the second time in seven years. They may be facing a juggernaut in Miami, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t happy to be taking part.
“We’re going to have play someone, obviously, we’re in,” Hammond said. “It looks like today the potential could be Miami, and they say you’re matched up against maybe the best team in the NBA. We had to play that way from almost the beginning of the season to the end of the season here, so it’ll be a tough match-up but you’re always grateful for an opportunity to be in.”
There are some big questions to answer this summer as the Bucks contemplate their long-term coaching situation, what to do about a backcourt that contains potential restricted free agent Brandon Jennings, free agent to be J.J. Redick and Monta Ellis, who has an Early Termination Option in his contract. So far, Hammond and his team have done a solid job of adjusting on the fly, so it’s reasonable to expect that whatever happens in the first round, the Bucks will be back and much-improved next season.
Up Close: Mouphataou Yarou
Former Villanova big man Mouphataou Yarou has the look of an NBA lottery pick. Standing 6’11 and weighing in at 255 pounds, he looks like the kind of player who could really make a difference for a team right away. Unfortunately, his game doesn’t quite live up to his physical presence. He is a physical presence in the paint to be sure, and can bang and rebound as well as or better than any college senior at his position. The problem is that his extremely limited offensive game makes him a hard sell in the first round and perhaps even in the second. HOOPSWORLD caught up with Yarou at the Portsmouth Invitational and here is what he had to say:
NBA Green Week: Significant Part of David Stern’s Legacy
Today concludes the NBA’s annual Green Week initiative, which means we’re going to observe our annual tradition of talking with Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Scientist Allen Hershkowitz, who has been the NBA Green consultant since they launched the program back in 2007.
“NBA’s Green Week is unique in the world of sports,” Hershkowitz told HOOPSWORLD. “There is no other professional league in the world that dedicates an entire week towards educating fans about environmental stewardship. The NBA is using its cultural visibility, its marketing influence to educate tens of billions of people about the benefits of environmental stewardship and they’re also using their marketing influence to educate their business partners, their sponsors, their vendors about environmental stewardship. This is really a unique experience worldwide and the NBA should really be applauded for this wonderful initiative.”
The fact that the NBA has a Green Week at all makes them unique, but the NBA has not been willing to just enjoy that distinction. They are constantly looking for ways to broaden the scope of the Green initiative, and this year they have done that in a couple of huge ways.
“This year is really a historic year for the NBA,” Hershkowitz said. “First of all, they are offsetting all league carbon that associates with electricity use at all arenas playing games this week. That results in over 10 million pounds of carbon pollution not going into the atmosphere. That is one of the largest single initiatives from a professional sports league ever in history and that’s a wonderful accomplishment that the NBA should be very, very proud of. Also, perhaps even more lasting, this Green Week the NBA has announced that the NBA is rolling out a data gathering system, an environmental data gathering system for energy use, water use, recycling and waste use and paper use at all NBA arenas. Henceforth, the NBA arena operators where the NBA plays will be asked, ‘How do they use that energy? How do they use their water? How much waste are they generating? How much paper are they saving using recycling?’ which is very important. As you know, when you measure, you open up more ways to improve it. The NBA is partnering with arenas and of course all the teams to help educate them about environmental stewardship and that’s a wonderful thing. Also this year, there has been a great embrace about NBA Green Week by arenas throughout the country. At the Staples Center, the Rose Garden arena and the Barclays Center, we’ve seen much higher numbers of arena participation. The outreach from the league office to all the arenas about this issue has been very substantial and enhanced.”
There are many different kinds of carbon offsets, some more sustainable than others. The NBA invests in one of the best offsets available, essentially subsidizing the research into wind power technology so that we can advance the technology to help get away from the burning of fossil fuels.
“Carbon offset is an investment into a renewable energy project that is equal to the amount of energy that is being powered by fossil fuels,” Hershkowitz explained. “When you’re investing in carbon offset, you’re investing in wind, solar or other types of renewable energy, but the NBA’s offsets are 100 percent wind and they are investing in the future energy structure to get rid of fossil fuels. In some cases, wind and solar are not competitive with fossil fuels. All energy systems require subsidies; the nuclear industry has huge subsidies, the coal industry has enormous subsidies, the oil and gas industry has huge subsidies. All energy systems get subsidized, it’s not a level playing field. Unfortunately, wind and solar have not had the political pull to gain as many subsidies from government as have the fossil fuels industries. That is one of the reasons that wind and solar industries have not remained competitive with fossil fuels is that they have not had the economic support from the government the way fossil fuels have historically have. What carbon offsets do is pay a certain amount per megawatt of electricity consumed in an arena and that gets invested into a clean project and the energy replaced by a clean project is relocated to the arena.”
Most of the energy that is currently being used in America is a mix of various sources, including renewable resources like wind and solar. When a carbon offset is purchased, it assures that a particular amount of renewable energy is directed to the outlet purchasing the offset. In the case of the NBA, they are actually buying more than they need to make sure they aren’t underestimating, as well as working to put new technology in place to more accurately measure resources used.
“Typically, when we look at the energy consumed at NBA arenas, we don’t know exactly how much energy is associated with NBA games at an arena, which is why the data gathering program for NBA arenas that the NBA just put in is so important, because over the next couple of years we’ll know much more precisely how much energy is involved with producing an NBA game,” Hershkowitz said. “This year, we estimated that 75 megawatts of power are averaged at an NBA arena, which is a gross overestimate about how much energy is actually consumed at an NBA arena. We’re being very conservative to buy more offsets than we needed and make sure that we are covered. So for every NBA game playing this week in every NBA arena, we’ve bought 75 megawatts of wind power, a renewable energy credit by the NBA to direct wind power to NBA arenas for this week of games. Now at the Rose Garden, where the Portland Trailblazers play, they’ve actually bought renewable energy credit for the whole season, so all electricity and energy used at the Rose Garden for NBA games is coming from renewable energy. The renewable energy sources are reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency that is a directory that is called Green E Certified. The NBA purchased Green E Certified offsets, which is the gold standard of all the offsets.”
Right now buying carbon offsets is not an inexpensive option, but with continued development of alternative energy and increased use of existing money-saving and environmentally sustainable practices, going Green will eventually become the smartest business decision a company (or sports league) can make.
“Right now, it’s an expense,” Hershkowitz admitted. “What the NBA is encouraging is having energy efficient initiatives and this is where the data gathering for the energy use measurement systems comes in. We have seen literally millions of dollars saved for NBA arenas around the league, stadiums around the country where energy efficiency audits have been carried out. There are opportunities to decrease your lighting cost, there are opportunities to decrease your heating and air conditioning costs and this is done through the energy efficiency audits. Right now, the carbon offsets are paid for by the NBA, but the idea behind the carbon offsets and the energy efficiency audits is to encourage teams to start looking at their energy use, to start shifting to renewable energy and to decrease the amount of overall use of fossil fuel initiatives. This is just wonderful work for a professional league to be doing this. With Green Week, the NBA has solidified itself as the most socially responsible league in the world and I could not be more proud than to be collaborating with the NBA on this work. Let me remind you that 13 percent of Americans follow science, 61 percent of Americans follow sports. So the way that the NBA is using their cultural visibility, their marketing visibility to educate people on this is really remarkable. It will clearly be one of David Stern’s lasting legacies.”
There is, of course, a lot or work still to be done. Green Week is a great start, but the ultimate goal of league-wide energy sustainability is still a ways off.
“Well, that’s the Holy Grail of our work,” Hershkowitz said. “How do we make environmentally responsibility costs competitive? How do we out-compete the bad stuff? How do we get energy efficiency and renewable energy more cost-effective than fossil fuels like coal, nuclear or natural gas, how do we do that? How do we get recycling to be more cost-effective than insulation? How do we get water efficiency to be at the level where you’re not drinking the same water from your urinal? That’s the Holy Grail and that’s what the NBA is trying to encourage. Not all cities own arenas where the games are played; not all teams own their own arenas. So the league office itself is not in the position to buy all these offsets that could increase operational issues. That’s why Green Week is so important, because the NBA is stepping up and using Green Week really as a week-long educational seminar where arena managers know that environmental responsibility is important to plan it and there are ways to figure out how to reduce energy use, how to buy offsets, how to shift to environmental energy and make it cost effective. The league is educating all these teams and the arenas on how to do that. The energy infrastructure that gets energy to the arenas has been built up over many, many decades. The coal plants, the power plants, the natural gas plants and shifting that infrastructure takes time. Market shifts are not done overnight, but we have to start somewhere and the NBA is encouraging that market shift. This is a long-term project and I started working on it when I helped the NBA launch its Green Program in 2007-early 2008 and we expect it to go on forever.”
The NBA may be a just a game to fans, but the league recognizes its responsibility to the people and the communities it serves. There are a wide array of events throughout the year through which the NBA gives back, but none are as important or as ambitious as the Green Week initiative and the larger Green movement it represents. As Dr. Hershkowitz said, this may turn out to be one of Commissioner David Stern’s biggest legacies. It is certainly his most important.
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