But who has admitted to tanking? Not even the Sixers who won’t even bother to hire a coach (yet). Or the Suns/Jazz/Magic/Celtics/Lakers, etc.
No GM will ever say that out loud. It’s as honest as David Stern’s ‘basketball reasons.”
Brandon Knight was introduced as the Milwaukee Bucks new point guard on Tuesday, replacing another Brandon (Jennings) after last week’s big trade with the Detroit Pistons.
Knight has two years of professional experience but is still just 21 and will not turn 22 until early December.
But Bucks general manager John Hammond said the team’s burgeoning youth movement should not be mistaken for surrender.
The Bucks are facing a revitalized Central Division with Derrick Rose returning to Chicago, new faces in Cleveland, a strengthened Indiana team hoping to take on Miami, and an improved Detroit team featuring Jennings and Josh Smith.
“Some people use these words like ‘tanking,’ so to speak,” Hammond said at a news conference to introduce Knight and small forward Khris Middleton, also acquired in the trade. “We’re by no means in that mode whatsoever.
“We’re trying to remain competitive. I think we can be a competitive team. But also we really want to start focusing on the youth of this team and start talking about things like a championship-caliber team. Can they develop into a core like that? I think they can.
“We’re going to have to have the right kind of people, people that say I want to be a part of that and I’m going to work hard to become that.”
Hammond said he is confident Knight wants to be an all-star. The Bucks general manager looked directly at Knight and waited for a response.
“Absolutely,” Knight said.
Knight played 141 games the past two seasons with Detroit and started 135 times. He averaged 13.1 points and 3.9 assists but said he has plenty of room to improve.
“I’m not going to sit here and say I’m perfect,” Knight said. “Me as a player, I work on a lot of things. I can improve defensively, pick-and-rolls I can improve offensively. I can be more efficient. Those are three things right off the top of my head that I’ve been working on.
“Even shooting at the free throw line, decision-making, there are a lot of places I can improve. I embrace that and I know I’ve taken steps this summer in those areas.”
Knight has worked out diligently in the Fort Lauderdale area this summer and is eager to get to work with his new Bucks teammates.
“I’m very excited,” Knight said of his new teammates. “I’ve been working out with Gary (Neal) the past couple days. He’s a great shooter. And O.J. (Mayo) as well. I know O.J. a little bit. I think it’s going to be very fun.”
Knight said he sees himself strictly as a point guard and Bucks coach Larry Drew weighed in on the matter and supported that stance.
“What he brings to the table is what a coach looks for at that position, the speed, the quickness,” Drew said. “The ability to make shots, the ability to get to the lane. The ability to make other people better.
“I don’t know where this, ‘Is he a point guard, is he a shooting guard?’ came from. He’s always, in my eyes, been a point guard. A point guard that has the ability to score, and that’s a big, big luxury. At 21 years old he’s played a lot of games already in the NBA.
“With the mix of players we do have, I think we have guys that are really going to help his game a lot. I feel very good with the changes we made and bringing Brandon in, we really have solidified the position with him and Luke (Ridnour).”
Knight has had some individual battles with Jennings in the past. Now they are trading uniforms but not changing roles.
“It works both ways,” Knight said. “He’s a good player and I’m sure we’re going to see each other a lot more.
“We just switched places. It’s a business. It happens. I’m happy to be here. I’m excited to show what I’ve been working on this summer and how much I’ve improved.”
MIddleton played sparingly as a rookie in Detroit last season but made an impact late in the season. He will be part of a small forward group that includes veteran Carlos Delfino and 18-year-old rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Middleton said. “I just want to keep improving and go for that spot right there. I think I can get it and I can run with it also.”
Middleton was hampered by a torn meniscus in his final year at Texas A&M and it dropped him from a potential lottery pick into the second round (39th overall pick) of the 2012 NBA draft.
“Now I’m concentrating on my whole body and not just focusing on one part,” Middleton said. “I’m not thinking about it anymore. I’m over the knee phase where I just go out there and play, not worry about it.
“It was tough not playing (as a rookie). It was a reality check that I still have to put the work in and keep improving. I think it definitely helped me out to finally get that spot at the end of the year.”