Report: Bucks asking to interview Stefanski, others for GM job

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks have expanded their search for a new general manager, and have reportedly reached out to several teams for interviews, including Memphis Grizzlies executive Ed Stefanski.

Stefanski has connections to the Bucks, at one time working alongside special consultant Rod Thorn and coach Jason Kidd while he was still playing for the Nets. Those are both reasons Stefanski is gaining favor in Milwaukee.

Other front office members being considered by Milwaukee include Pacers Vice President Pete Dinwiddie, Nuggets assistant general manager Arturas Karnisovas, and Hawks GM Wes Wilcox, who was reported to be on his way out of Atlanta earlier this month.

Last June, the Bucks hired Justin Zanik as their assistant general manager, with several reports that he’d be the eventual successor to John Hammond. While he’s been given the interim tag for the time being, it appears as though Milwaukee is doing its due diligence with the job search despite no league rule requiring them to do so.

Report: Bucks opening up GM search to external candidates

MILWAUKEE — Despite initially receiving the moniker “GM-in-waiting,” Justin Zanik will have some competition if he wants to become the next general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Zanik was hired away from the Utah Jazz last summer to work alongside John Hammond, who signed a five-year contract to take over as general manager of the Orlando Magic. In an interview with the Wisconsin Sports Zone Network last June, team president Peter Feigin gushed about Zanik as a “terrific hire,” but never committed to Zanik as Hammond’s replacement.

Hammond signed a contract extension two summers ago, taking him through the 2017-18 season. In the June interview, Feigin expected Hammond to eventually be on the same payment schedule as coach Jason Kidd, which would keep him on board through the 2019-2020 season.

“If you ask the owners, the intention would be that we’re making a commitment long-term…to have a plan and get somewhere in these first three to five seasons [under new ownership],” Feigin said. “…So there’s a plan to keep everyone intact.”

ESPN’s report about the Bucks’ GM search includes a detail stating that Milwaukee’s “special consultant,” Rod Thorn, would lead the way in the hiring process. Thorn cut his teeth in the NBA as a former GM of the Bulls and Nets, where he was responsible for trading for Michael Jordan and Jason Kidd, respectively.

Bucks GM John Hammond leaving for Orlando

Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond is moving on after all.

A day after the Orlando Magic tabbed Toronto’s Jeff Weltman as their new president of basketball operations – a job Hammond interviewed for – word came that Weltman wanted Hammond to be his general manager and he’s gotten his wish.

The Magic released a statement early Tuesday afternoon announcing the hiring of the 62-year-old Hammond.

“John brings tremendous experience and is a great talent evaluator,” Weltman said in the release. “He has experience in everything from day-to-day operations to player development. He built a great team in Milwaukee, and won a championship while in Detroit. We are very fortunate to have him as part of the Magic family.”

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Hammond’s new deal is for five years.

“We are very excited to join Jeff and be a part of the team in Orlando,” Hammond said in the release. “The Magic are a first-class organization all the way around and we look forward to this tremendous opportunity.”

Hammond had led the Bucks since 2008, and his contract ran through the 2017-’18 season. Wojnarowski reported that Hammond made the move with the blessing of Milwaukee’s ownership.

“I want to thank the ownership in Milwaukee — Wes Edens, Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan — for their support and I certainly wish them well,” Hammond said.

Both Stein and Wojnarowski reported Milwaukee will likely turn to assistant general manager Justin Zanik to take over management of the roster. He was hired in the summer of 2016 after three years in the same position with the Utah Jazz.

Bronson Koenig rolls ankle, leaves Bucks practice early

ST. FRANCIS, WISCONSIN | Thursday was supposed to be a day of opportunity for former Badger men’s basketball player Bronson Koenig. But at one of the Milwaukee Bucks pre-draft workouts in St. Francis, Koenig sustained an ankle injury. He had to leave the facility on crutches.

The injury occurred about three quarters of the way through the workout. Koenig and Virginia’s London Perrantes got tangled up, causing Koenig to roll his ankle pretty badly. Speaking to reporters after the session, Koenig admitted some disappointment in getting just 75 percent of the workout done but felt he showed his passing & shooting ability before the injury.  Koenig said he has more workouts planned, but with rolling his ankle today, he’s not sure how much he can do. He says he’ll just take it day by day.

Unlike his former Badger teammate Nigel Hayes, Koenig was not invited to the recent 2017 NBA Draft Combine. He did get invited to workout with several teams including his home state team the Milwaukee Bucks.

Milwaukee  has the 17th and 48th selection in the NBA Draft this year.

Giannis Antetokounmpo named to All-NBA Second Team

MILWAUKEE | Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was named to the All-NBA Second Team, the league announced today, giving him yet another achievement for his play during a stellar fourth season in the NBA. Antetokounmpo is the first Buck to be selected to an All-NBA team since Andrew Bogut was an All-NBA Third Team selection for the 2009-10 season. Sidney Moncrief was the last Buck to be named to an All-NBA Second Team, earning the last of his five All-NBA honors during his Bucks career following the 1985-86 season.

In 2016-17, Antetokounmpo was the driving force behind the Bucks earning their second playoff berth in the last three seasons, and the team’s first winning record (42-40) since the 2009-10 season. He averaged career highs in nearly all statistical categories including points (22.9), rebounds (8.8), assists (5.4), blocks (1.9) and steals (1.6) per game while shooting a career-high 52.1 percent from the field. Antetokounmpo made history by becoming the first player in the NBA to finish a season in the top-20 for total points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals, and became just the fifth player all-time to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals per game over the course of a season.

In February, Antetokounmpo became the youngest Buck to start an All-Star Game, and the first since Moncrief in 1986, as he made his first All-Star Game appearance at the 66th NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans where he scored an Eastern Conference-high 30 points.

Antetokounmpo is the 10th player in franchise history to be named to an All-NBA Team and his selection this season marks the 21st time a Buck has found his way onto an All-NBA First, Second or Third Team. Isaiah Thomas (Boston), Stephen Curry (Golden State), Kevin Durant (Golden State) and Rudy Gobert (Utah) joined Antetokounmpo on the All-NBA Second Team.

The All-NBA Teams are chosen by a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Voters select two guards, two forwards and one center for each team, choosing players at the position they play regularly. Players who received votes at multiple positions were slotted at the position where they received the most votes.

Courtesy: Milwaukee Bucks

Raptors eliminate Bucks despite Antetokounmpo’s 34 points

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks went on a 34-7 run to erase a 25-point deficit, but were eliminated by the Toronto Raptors 92-89.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 34 points on 13-of-23 shooting, but he made perhaps a critical error that could have provided Milwaukee a better chance to win. Down by three with less than 11 seconds remaining, Antetokounmpo dribbled out the clock at the top of the key, but instead of setting up a three-point shot, he drove in for a dunk with 3.5 seconds left.

DeMar DeRozan drained a pair of free throws on the other end to extend Toronto’s lead back to three points and Milwaukee’s in-bounds pass was intercepted, handing the Bucks their third-straight loss in the series.

Milwaukee was leading the series 2-1 before heading back to the BMO Harris Bradley Center for game four. It’s the first time in Toronto history the Raptors have won three straight games in a playoff series.

Khris Middleton returned from an illness to score 19 points in 42 minutes of action. Matthew Dellavedova was next on the team in scoring with 12 off the bench.

Raptors blow out Bucks in Game 5 to take series lead

TORONTO — All five starters scored in double digits as the Toronto Raptors blew past the Milwaukee Bucks 118-93 in Monday night’s game five of the NBA playoffs.

Norman Powell had a playoff career-high 25 points to lead a Raptors team that shot nearly 58 percent from the field. Serge Ibaka followed with 19 points, six rebounds, and three blocks.

Fighting through an illness, Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton only contributed eight points in Milwaukee’s losing effort. Giannis Antetokounmpo poured in a game-high 30 to go with his nine rebounds.

Milwaukee started out sluggish, turning the ball over three times, while Toronto opened up an early lead. That lead grew to 19 late in the first half, but the Bucks were able to close it to six just before intermission. But coming out of the locker room, the Raptors slowly built the lead back up, grabbing 40 of the game’s 63 rebounds.

The series moves back to Milwaukee for a possible series-deciding game six on Thursday, with the Raptors holding a 3-2 series lead.

Turnovers, poor shooting hurt Milwaukee in Game 4 loss to Toronto

With their season seemingly on the line, the Toronto Raptors responded with an 87-76 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 4 of their best-of-seven series on Saturday.

After not making a field goal in a blowout loss in Game 3 on Thursday night, Toronto All-Star DeMar DeRozan was the best player on the court, scoring 33 points, grabbing nine rebounds, handing out five assists and collecting four steals.

But Milwaukee didn’t lose the game on the defensive end. The series is tied at two games apiece because the Bucks couldn’t take care of the ball and couldn’t make a shot. Coach Jason Kidd’s team turned the ball over 20 times, including seven by Giannis Antetokounmpo, while shooting just 37 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Antetokounmpo had a series-low 14 points, while guard Khris Middleton could manage just 10 points on 4 of 13 shooting. Defensive specialist Tony Snell led the team with 19 points, including hitting all five of Milwaukee’s 3-pointers.

The loss gives Toronto home-court advantage back as the series now because a best-of-three, starting with Game 5 on Monday at the Air Canada Centre.

Bucks cruise to a 104-77 win over the Raptors in Game 3

Game 3 was no contest for the sixth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, as they rolled over the third-seeded Toronto Raptors 104-77 Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

From the opening tip the crowd inside the BMO Harris Bradley Center was roaring, and the Bucks responded in kind, outscoring the Raptors 57-30 in the first half on the way to their biggest margin of victory in a playoff game since 1984.

“We know they’re going to come back on Saturday afternoon ready, just like after (losing) game one,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said of the Raptors. “Bu I thought the guys did everything we’ve prepared them to do. Defense is what we’ve always concentrated on and sharing the ball on the offensive end. The guys did that.”

Guard Khris Middleton led the way for Milwaukee, scoring 20 points and handing out seven assists, while forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had 19 points and eight rebounds. Center Greg Monroe added 16 points off the bench for a Milwaukee squad that shot 52.7 percent from the field and 52.2 percent from beyond the arc.

As good as the Bucks were on offense, they were just as good, if not better, on the other end of the court. They limited the Raptors All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozen to 21 combined points on 4 of 18 shooting, including the latter going 0 of 8, the first time he’s been held without a field goal in his playoff career.

The win gave Milwaukee its first 2-1 lead in a playoff series since 2001.

Game 4 is set for Saturday in Milwaukee. Tip time is at 2 p.m.

Milwaukee comes up just short against Toronto in 106-100 loss

Kyle Lowry hit a tough jumper with 8.9 seconds left to help Toronto even up their best-of-seven series at one against Milwaukee with a 106-100 win on Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre.

With Bucks guard Malcom Brogdon right in his face, the Raptors All-Star was able to get just enough separation and buried the shot, taking with it Milwaukee’s hopes of heading home up two games to none.

“If I would have missed it, I still would have been happy, because I got to my spot,” said Lowry, who finished with 22 points. “I was going to try to make it.”

Lowry’s dagger came after Milwaukee got two open looks at 3-pointers in the final two minutes and trailing by just two. But both Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova couldn’t get their shots to fall.

“It was in and out,” Brogdon said of his shot. “It was wide-open. I was hoping it would drop, but it didn’t. That’s what happens sometimes.”

Milwaukee trailed by as many as 12 in the final quarter, but continued to fight its way back into the game only to come up just short in the end.

“It would have been easy to let go of the rope,” coach Jason Kidd said. “We got down, but they kept playing. We had an opportunity there. We got some great looks. The ball goes halfway down and comes out. That’s just basketball. It can be nice or it can be cruel.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for Milwaukee with 24 points and 15 rebounds, while Khris Middleton added 20 and Greg Monroe had 18 off the bench.

Toronto was paced by DeMar DeRozan’s 23 points.

The series now heads back to Milwaukee for the next two contests, with Game 3 taking place Thursday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.