Bucks and Salmons agree on deal
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By Charles F. Gardner
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
It didn't take long for the Milwaukee Bucks to land their two primary targets in free agency - shooting guard John Salmons and power forward Drew Gooden.
On Friday the Bucks reached an agreement in principle with Salmons on a multiyear deal, with parameters in the five-year, $40 million range, according to league sources.
The 6-foot-6 Salmons, 30, played a key role in helping the Bucks reach the playoffs during the past season after he was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. He opted out of the final year of his contract on Tuesday, but Bucks general manager John Hammond moved quickly to keep the sharpshooter on the Bucks' roster.
Gooden, a 6-10 forward and eight-year veteran, earlier agreed to a five-year, $32 million deal, according to sources. He spent time last season with the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers.
Free agents cannot sign contracts until Thursday.
The Bucks released a statement from Hammond late Friday that said: "We are engaged in free-agent negotiations with John Salmons and Drew Gooden. We intend to enter into a player contract with John and Drew once the moratorium period has ended."
The Bucks have remodeled the roster in quick fashion in the past two weeks, adding size in Gooden and 6-11 Larry Sanders, the team's first-round draft pick, to go along with 6-10 Ersan Ilyasova and 6-8 Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who ended last season as the starter at power forward.
They also were able to bolster their wing play by agreeing to terms with Salmons and acquiring 6-6 Corey Maggette and 6-7 Chris Douglas-Roberts in trades.
Salmons was helping the Bucks win games before he even had a full practice with the team. In his first game with Milwaukee on Feb. 19, he hit a clutch three-pointer over Ben Wallace to help the Bucks hang on for a road victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Milwaukee went 22-8 with Salmons in the lineup as it secured the sixth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and a first-round matchup against Atlanta.
The Bucks then took a 3-2 lead in the series against the Hawks before losing Game 6 at home and Game 7 on the road. Salmons averaged 17 points in the series.
After the season Salmons talked about how much he liked playing in Milwaukee and that he would be open to returning.
"When you get traded, you never really know what to expect," Salmons said after the season, reflecting on his nearly three months with the Bucks. "You just go in there and hope everything goes well.
"Chicago wasn't going well, but coming here just turned my season around. We made a great playoff run."
Hammond said the Bucks understood Salmons would opt out but were prepared to make an offer early in free agency.
"I'm one of the lobbyists to have him come back and be a Milwaukee Buck," center Andrew Bogut said at the end of the season. "He's been huge for us."
Salmons also said he was looking for a bit of stability after playing for Sacramento, Chicago and Milwaukee during the past two seasons and being traded twice.
He averaged 18.3 points with the Kings and Bulls during the 2008-'09 season and 15.4 points with the Bulls and Bucks last season, including 19.9 points in 30 games with Milwaukee.
He shot 46.7 percent from the field and 86.7 percent from the free throw line with the Bucks.
The contracts with Salmons and Gooden will put the Bucks over the salary cap for next season but below the projected luxury tax level - exact numbers for the 2010-'11 season will be released next week.
The salary cap number for next season is projected to be at $56.1 million. But teams are allowed to exceed the cap to sign their own free agents (under the Larry Bird exception), a rule that applied to Salmons. Teams over the cap can use the mid-level exception (estimated around $6 million or the league average salary), a rule the Bucks used in agreeing to terms with Gooden.
The twin moves by the Bucks mean it is unlikely they will be able to re-sign free agent point guard Luke Ridnour, who served as an able backup to rookie Brandon Jennings last season.
Ridnour was paid $6.4 million last season in the final year of a contract he signed when he was a member of the Seattle SuperSonics.
The veteran guard could be in demand by teams searching for point guard help, and it is expected the Bucks will be in the market for a backup point guard.
So while plenty of other teams are just beginning their free-agent maneuverings, the Bucks could be nearly done. They will be able to do more next summer when Michael Redd's $18.3 million expiring contract is erased from the payroll.
But the Bucks now have a lineup that could feature the 7-foot Bogut at center, Carlos Delfino at small forward, Gooden at power forward, Salmons at shooting guard and Jennings at the point.
A strengthened bench could contain Maggette, Mbah a Moute, Ilyasova, Douglas-Roberts and Sanders, with room for a few additions.
Whether Redd will have a role next season or be able to make a comeback from his knee injury is uncertain.
Hammond has worked to upgrade the team's frontcourt by adding the athletic Sanders, Gooden, 6-8 Darnell Jackson and second-round draft pick Keith "Tiny" Gallon in place of Dan Gadzuric, Primoz Brezec and veteran Kurt Thomas.
(c) 2010, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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