Let's rewind the clock back to the Summer of 2005. Yes, there were other summer's where big, hefty contracts and max deals were bandied about before this whole 2010 hyped-up, media frenzy dawned on us a little over 24 hours ago. This is the summer that Michael Redd first began to cast his big, dark, never ending cloud over the Milwaukee Bucks franchise and set it back for nearly half of a decade.
It was the Summer of 2005, that Michael Redd signed his six-year, $91 million max contract. I know it's a very distasteful memory to re-hash, but as a life-long Bucks fan and the misery of the last few years up until this most recent NBA season, I would like to take the time to elaborate and explore Redd's contributions to this organization since pilfering this franchise for a cool $73 millions so far, with another, ah, roughly $18 million on the books for '10-'11. Let's start from the top.....
Opening night '09-'10: Just as quickly as Brandon Jennings dazzled in the home opener to rejuvenate the city of Milwaukee and Bucks basketball, Michael Redd re-injured his left knee that was hurt in 2007 following a dunk attempt. Early in the third-quarter of the Milwaukee Bucks' action-packed home opener against the Detroit Pistons, Michael Redd went where many-a players boldly go on a nightly basis in the NBA... the rim! Redd dunked home two of his nine points and consequently re-aggravated an old injury. He 'toughed' it out, and ground out the majority of the third- quarter before retiring to the locker room for the remainder of the game near the end of that very same third- quarter. He was initially projected to miss about two weeks. At the time, I wasn't buying it, and neither was the city of Milwaukee. In a poll conducted by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel after the injury was reported, an eye-opening 92% of the 936 respondents believed that Michael Redd would miss more than the allotted two weeks, with 74% thinking it would be a month or longer. The masses were right, as the injury lingered for weeks, until he made an attempted comeback about three weeks later and came off the bench for games at San Antonio, New Orleans and Oklahoma City, before going on the shelf again. He returned in mid- December to mixed results before going on the shelf for good on January 10th in a game at the Los Angeles Lakers. For the season, he played in 18 out of 82 games and posted 11.9 PPG/3.0 RPG and 2.2 APG in 27.3 minutes per game. He shot a woeful 35.2% from the floor and a dreadful 30.0% from three-point range for an apparent three-point specialist. Now that we can all agree his '09-'10 season was a complete disaster, let's knock the dust off of the previous four years of his max contact.
Arguably the only season he earned the contract he put his John Hancock on, was his first season after signing it. He played in 80 games in '05-'06 and led the Bucks to the playoffs. That season he averaged a workman-like 39.1 minutes a night and knocked down 45% of his shots and was 39.5% from beyond the arc. He put in 25.4 ppg while also getting on the boards for 4.3 per night and handing out 2.9 assists per game. At the time, it looked like the Bucks did the right thing by not letting Redd leave. Who can argue with that sort of production?
Redd followed up that banner year in '06-'07 by playing in 53 of the 82 games. 29 missed games. The dunk. The knee injury. In the games he did play, he put in 26.7 ppg. Impressive? Sure. But 29 missed games is the key stat. His rebounding total went down to 3.7 per game as did his assists, down to 2.3. Evidence of a 'me-first' player, not a franchise player. The Bucks didn't qualify for the playoffs.
Coming off the injury the previous year, and presumably with something to prove, Redd played in 72 of the 82 games in the '07-'08 season. Raise the roof! He shot a respectable 44.2% from the floor, his three-point shooting was down to 36.2%, still a reasonable clip, and he clocked out at 22.7 points a night. He showed some unselfishness by distributing 3.4 assists per night and also got on the glass for 4.3 rebounds per game. In my opinion, a more complete season than the banner '05-'06 season, but his shooting was down a little bit from '05-'06 and again, most importantly, the Bucks failed to qualify for the playoffs.
By far his worst season since signing the max deal, until of course the most recent NBA campaign, was his 2008-'09 season. He managed to play in only 33 games that year after the devastating MCL and ACL tears in his left knee ended his season in late- January at Madison Square Garden. When he went down, he was averaging 21.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg and 2.7 assists per game. He was shooting 45.5% from the floor and 36.6% from beyond the arc. He proved fragile yet again however, and the Bucks missed the playoffs for the third straight year with him as our 'franchise player.' And yet another season with far too many games missed by Redd.
Simply put, franchise players are; tough, reliable, don't miss chunks of games year-in and year-out and commit themselves to winning. Max salary players look to get their teammates more involved in the game, they're play makers. Redd was always a shooter first, shooter second, play maker third, passer fourth. It's not a knock, it's his nature. A franchise player is a leader, plays aggressive, hard-nosed defense. Is Michael Redd any of those things? Simply put, no. When you mortgage the future of a franchise on a player, as the Bucks did with Redd, you just simply need someone who brings more to the table than Michael Redd does on a night to night, game to game basis.
Make no mistake about it, the soon to be 31- year old guard out of Ohio State, is an outstanding shooter (45.1% career), a prolific scorer (20.5 ppg career) and I firmly believe a tremendous second or third option. He's just not a franchise player. Never was, never will be. The Bucks organization made a mistake. They didn't properly analyze his skill set. Put him on a team where all he has to do is put the ball in the bucket, and there's no one better outside of Ray Allen, than Redd. That's why Redd was a great fit on the 2008 Olympic team. Imagine if Redd signed with Cleveland and teamed with LeBron James in the '05-'06 off season, which was Redd's second choice? Redd playing 'Robin' to LeBron's 'Batman'. That would have been a match made in heaven. Redd may have stayed healthy. The Cavs may have a championship or two by now and not dealing with this whole Summer of 2010 mess and the prospect of losing LeBron James. The Bucks may have had a legitimate franchise player well before the drafting of Jennings. They'd certainly have had cap space to work with the last few years and more than likely for this bally-hoed free agent Class of 2010. But that's not what happened. We're stuck with this muddled mess of the present and one more year left on Redd's contract.
Am I blaming Michael Redd for all of this? No. By all accounts, Redd is a great guy and a good citizen. Who wouldn't pen his name to a $91 million dollar contract? The Bucks brass is the guilty party here. Just a poor basketball decision that setback this franchise the last few years. It happens to most organizations at some point. Post- MJ Bulls, anyone?
In conclusion Bucks fans, hope the best for Redd, cheer him on and support him in his recovery. Hey, think of the bright side of things, in less than 12 months, if not sooner, this six- year Michael Redd hangover will be gone for good, and rightfully so, as we've been seeing Redd for far too long.