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Posted: Friday April 11, 2008 1:03PM; Updated: Monday April 14, 2008 1:51PM
Ian Thomsen Ian Thomsen >
INSIDE THE NBA

Weekly Countdown (cont.)

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Owner Sen. Herb Kohl's Bucks haven't won a playoff series since 2001.
Owner Sen. Herb Kohl's Bucks haven't won a playoff series since 2001.
AP
Ian Thomsen will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
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4 Questions rescued from the spam

4. I thought for sure I'd see the Bucks as one of the least efficient franchises [in last week's Countdown column]. But no buzz, as usual. Your thoughts on the Bucks' future? A candidate to replace the Sonics in Seattle someday?
--
Jeff, Green Bay, Wis.

The Bucks have created a lot of gossip around the league, as teams do when they're looking for a new coach or GM. The impression I get from several executives is that it's going to be hard to win so long as owner Sen. Herb Kohl doesn't change the way he runs the franchise. At the moment, most of the business of the team is channeled through a couple of attorneys who know little about basketball. But it's common knowledge around the league that former GM Larry Harris, who was let go last month, was forced to run trade proposals through the attorneys, who also offered trade suggestions of their own.

It's hard enough to compete with the likes of Detroit's Joe Dumars and San Antonio's R.C. Buford under normal circumstances, and harder when amateurs occupy a senior role in the basketball administration. Last year the Bucks had Mike Conley in for an impressive predraft workout. "I can't believe this kid shoots the ball so well with his left hand,'' one of the attorneys said to Sen. Kohl.

"It's because he's left-handed,'' Harris said.

If the reports are true that Pistons vice president John Hammond has reached a deal to run the Bucks, then Milwaukee has made a wise hire. But he will have a hard time succeeding without a direct communication line to the owner.

"My understanding is that the senator has people around him who have the power to make decisions but are not held accountable for those decisions,'' says a rival Eastern conference executive.

P.S. The Bucks won't be moving to Seattle.

3. How do the teams make their money? You have tickets, food and parking, but where is the real money to pay these high salaries and make money for the owners? I know TV, radio and jerseys, but, for instance, take the Celtics -- Kevin Garnett makes $24 million alone this year, and it's another $32 million combined for Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Forty-one of the games are at home, so half the season is on the road. Plus, don't the players get per diem money on the road? It seems by the time you pay all the players, coaches, employees, etc. ... where is the money?
-- Anthony, Los Angeles

The majority of each team's revenue comes from ticket sales. "I'm going to guess that tickets account for 55 to 60 percent for each team,'' a team executive said.

Each team started the season with $10 million from the national TV contracts. More revenue comes from local TV and radio, luxury suites and merchandise sales, as well as signage in the arena and other forms of corporate sponsorship.

"When small-market teams say it's hard to compete, they're not exaggerating,'' the executive said. "The money that MSG [Madison Square Garden] makes from its local TV contract with the Knicks blows away what most teams get. That's why they [the Knicks] don't care about spending money, while the rest of us are counting pennies. That's why we have to have a salary cap, because a team in a small market will never be on the same level of earnings as the Knicks or Lakers.''

2. With all your talk about money, I was wondering something. Would it be better for a veteran player to force a trade in the final year of a contract and then re-sign with the new team to a max deal, or hit free agency with potentially only one or two teams that can afford you? I would think forcing a trade would allow the player to pick his team and avoid accepting the highest bid from a bad team.
-- Dylan Phelan, Green Bay, Wis.

It depends on which teams have the cap space. The dysfunctional Hawks are not an attractive franchise for a max player who wants to contend for the championship. On the other hand, a max free agent could sign with the Blazers in 2009 with the realistic goal of reaching the NBA Finals within three years.

If the player has a good agent, he'll know which teams are in position to bid for him and whether he's likely to receive an offer from the team of his choice. It's obviously against league rules for rival teams to negotiate with pending free agents, but there are all kinds of back-channel means of communication through intermediaries, and everybody in the league engages in it.

1. Is Kobe Bryant the best player never to win the MVP award?
-- Jim, Newark, N.J.

Only 26 players have been league MVP. Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Isiah Thomas, John Havlicek and Rick Barry never won the award. I don't know if Bryant is a better player than guys like West or Baylor, but I think the question is going to be moot because Bryant is going to win the MVP sometime in the next two or three seasons -- probably this year.

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