News » NEAR MISS Time is running out for disappointing Joe Alexander

NEAR MISS Time is running out for disappointing Joe Alexander

NEAR MISS  Time is running out for disappointing Joe Alexander By CHARLES F. GARDNER

A significant decision awaits the Milwaukee Bucks by the end of the month, and it's not an easy one.

Bucks general manager John Hammond faces an Oct. 31 deadline to decide whether to renew the first option year on forward Joe Alexander's contract. Alexander would be owed $2.76 million next season if the Bucks pick up the first of two option years on his rookie-scale contract.

Complicating the choice is the disappointing performance turned in by Alexander during his rookie year in 2008-'09 and the injuries that plagued him in training camp a year ago and again during the current preseason.

Alexander worked hard during the off-season at the Bucks' training facility and performed well in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, but on the first day of training camp, he was standing on the sideline due to a strained right hamstring.

The 6-foot-8 Alexander has not been able to practice yet or play in the Bucks' first five exhibition games, a huge setback for a player trying to gain coach Scott Skiles' confidence and battle for time at the small forward position.

Hammond declined to comment Tuesday on the Bucks' intentions.

It is rare for a lottery pick to have the first-year option declined under the current rookie-scale system, which began with the 2005 National Basketball Association draft. First-round picks are signed to two-year deals, with teams having the option to re-sign players for a third year and a fourth year.

Alexander was the eighth selection in the 2008 draft, taken immediately after the Los Angeles Clippers chose guard Eric Gordon and before the Charlotte Bobcats took guard D.J. Augustin. The former West Virginia star was the first draft pick selected by the Bucks under Hammond's watch, after he became the general manager in April of that year.

The most prominent example of a lottery pick not being renewed in the third year of his deal was 7-foot center Patrick O'Bryant, an underachiever in two seasons with the Golden State Warriors. O'Bryant was the ninth selection in 2006.

Yaroslav Korolev, picked 12th by the Clippers in 2005, also was not re-signed for a third season.

Alexander does not have a long-term injury and has been able to do some jogging and shooting, but the timetable for his return to full contact is unclear.

"It's unfortunate that Joe has missed, in our opinion, the most important time for young players," Skiles said. "It's totally critical.

"The whole foundation of everything we're trying to do is put in (during camp). We've got new players, new teammates. He had a very good summer. The hamstring injury, even when you're green-lighted to play, generally you don't come right out and go 100%.

"There's going to be a period of reconditioning. When he gets back, we'll just have to take it day by day and see where he's at. We hope it's going to be sooner rather than later. And we hope when he gets back, we can get him into the mix somewhere."

Carlos Delfino has impressed in his turns as a starter at small forward, and 2008 second-round pick Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a reliable defender who also will play that position.

That could leave Alexander on the outside when minutes are passed out, even if he is healthy.

"There's tremendous competition there," Skiles said. "We just keep our fingers crossed for Joe, hope he can come back soon and get ready quickly."

At power forward, Kurt Thomas, Hakim Warrick and Ersan Ilyasova are dividing the majority of the playing time.

Alexander suffered a groin injury in training camp a year ago that hampered his development, and during the season he had to fight for playing time while Mbah a Moute was starting or playing a prominent role off the bench.

If the Bucks would decide not to renew Alexander's option, it would make him an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2009-'10 season.

Alexander's contract number is hardly huge, but NBA general managers are facing more difficult decisions with every dollar in anticipation of a shrinking salary-cap number in future seasons. The Bucks did not re-sign two free agents during the summer, Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions, and they traded Richard Jefferson in an effort to gain control over future roster moves and their player payroll.

And the Bucks still may be considering their chances of signing free agents next summer to bolster their roster. Bucks officials met in Milwaukee with restricted free agent Josh Childress during the past off-season, and Hammond took a trip to Cleveland on Monday to watch him play for his Greek team, Olympiakos, in an exhibition against the Cavaliers.

The Atlanta Hawks retain the NBA rights to Childress, a 6-8 wing player who has an opt-out clause again next year in the three-year deal he signed with Olympiakos in 2008.

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Added: October 15, 2009


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