After nine years in Milwaukee, Michael Redd knows a thing or two about the city. But if there is one thing Redd longs to get more familiar with, it's the faces in the Bucks' locker room.
"It feels like we have eight or nine new guys every year," Redd said. "It's a little like a high school team."
The past year has been a difficult one for the former All-Star shooting guard. While his Olympic teammates were riding a wave of momentum from their gold-medal performance in Beijing to MVPs (LeBron James) scoring titles (Dwyane Wade) and NBA championships (Kobe Bryant), Redd was enduring the most trying season of his career. A right ankle sprain cost him 14 games in November. In January, Redd suffered the first significant injury of his career when he tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in a game against Sacramento.
"I've never experienced anything like that," Redd said. "It was tough. Really tough."
A rigorous rehab had Redd back on the court in September, several months ahead of schedule. Upon his return, he found a team that was considered a potential playoff contender last fall gutted. Out were starters Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions. In are rookies Brandon Jennings and Jodie Meeks, along with Ersan Ilyasova, Hakim Warrick, Carlos Delfino, Kurt Thomas and Roko Ukic.
Despite the Bucks' massive overhaul, the 30-year-old Redd says he never considered asking for a trade.
"The Bucks' organization has been good to me," Redd said. "And [Milwaukee general manager] John [Hammond] told me he has a plan to turn things around. The NBA is a business and I understand that. Sometimes changes have to be made."
Still, Redd left the door open for finishing his career in another uniform.
"I've been here a long time and a big part of me wants to finish my career here," Redd said. "But, yeah, there is definitely a part of me that wants to play for a winner."
Redd is scheduled to make $17 million this season and has a player option for $18.3 million for next season. When he becomes a free agent in 2011, contenders likely will line up for a veteran guard with one of the smoothest strokes in the league. Cleveland, which courted Redd in 2005, is a strong possibility for the Columbus, Ohio, native -- assuming LeBronis still in town.
For now, Redd is charged with keeping the Bucks out of the Eastern Conference basement. Redd and center Andrew Bogut (who is returning from a back injury) are Milwaukee's two most reliable weapons. Redd has had his ups (18 points on 7-of-10 shooting against Houston) and downs (five points on 1-of-6 shooting against Chicago) in the preseason and expects to have a few more of them as he rediscovers his timing.
"We're going to look different," Redd said. "And we are going to have to find a way to come together as a team quickly. That's going to be the key to our season."
On to your questions, all of which came via my Twitter feed ...
Do you think the Bucks will pick up Joe Alexander's third-year option? Does he have any trade value at this point?-- @jakemyers
Tough call. Alexander was a tremendous disappointment (4.7 points, 1.9 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game) as a rookie and hasn't played a minute this preseason because of a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, classmates Brook Lopez, Anthony Randolph and Courtney Lee -- all picked below Alexander at No. 8 -- have shown that they have the skills to be productive starters. But Alexander's option is only $2.26 million, and the belt-tightening Bucks may want to keep a young, cheap player. And rarely do you see a team pass on a draft pick's third-year option. Busts such as Patrick O'Bryant and Yaroslav Korolev are two exceptions.
Best guess? They elect to keep him. Alexander was GM John Hammond's first draft pick and he may not be willing to cut ties so quickly. But with Carlos Delfino and defensive maven Luc Richard Mbah a Moute entrenched at small forward, a trade isn't out of the question. And there would be a few teams willing to take a flyer (a la Adam Morrison) on an athletic small forward like Alexander.
What kind of impact do you think DeJuan Blair will have this season?-- @Stan_TheCaddy
First, great Twitter handle. Second, I can't go to one city without hearing something positive about Blair. The New York Times' superb reporter Howard Beck was at the Spurs-Thunder game this week and tweeted that Blair was "the future of rebounding". A columnist for the Austin-American Statesman, after seeing Blair play, called San Antonio's second-round pick "the biggest NBA steal since the Lakers ripped off the Grizzlies for Pau Gasol."
Scouts love his physical play and think that his offensive game -- while raw now -- will develop quickly, especially with Blair under the tutelage of Tim Duncan. Blair is averaging 14.7 points and 8.2 rebounds in the preseason, making the Spurs look like geniuses (again) for locking him up with a four-year, $3.8 million contract. If Blair can be a more offensive-oriented version of Kurt Thomas this season, San Antonio is going to be a very tough out in the playoffs.
Do you think that Ron Artest is trying to fit in a little too much, which is why he has been playing so passively thus far?-- @Frank_White217
There's some truth to that. Artest has been making the media rounds recently, and every time I hear him speak he's talking about fitting in. It's good to try to fit in, but the Lakers didn't sign Artest to be Trevor Ariza. Their skill sets are totally different. What the Lakers need from Artest is a physical, on-the-ball defender and someone who plays under control on offense. There are going to be nights when Artest goes a little wild offensively, and Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson are going to have to rein him in. But if those nights are few, the Lakers are going to be scary.
Of greater concern is Artest's desire to be a Hollywood star. Artest has talked openly about a reality show, and you know his rapping career is never far from his mind. Will that become a distraction? Remember, the last time Artest got caught up in his off-the-court endeavors was 2004, when he showed up at Pacers training camp at 260 pounds and asked for time off to recover from the months he spent promoting his first album.
How do you see the Lakers' point guard minutes shaking out among Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar? Fisher struggled on defense against quick point guards in playoffs, but hit big threes.-- @TimCary
Fisher is still the starter; regardless of any defensive deficiencies, the Lakers need his leadership and clutch shooting on the floor as much as possible. Plus, he's one of the few players Bryant won't hesitate to pass to in key situations. He's also in the last year of his contract and has a strong desire to play beyond this season. So he's motivated.
Who gets the backup minutes is a murkier subject. Brown played well after coming over to the Lakers (along with Morrison) from Charlotte in February. He's an explosive scorer -- just ask Mikki Moore. Farmar, though, is a more seasoned player with a greater understanding of the Lakers' offense. It's going to be a battle, and it could get interesting if the odd man out starts griping about his role. But with a savvy player like Fisher in the mix and with a locker room full of veterans, I doubt if it will become a significant issue. More likely, the competition will bring out the best in Farmar and Brown, with one perhaps emerging as a replacement for Fisher after this season.