MILWAUKEE (AP) — Bucks general manager John Hammond took the time to look over the list of names for NBA executive of the year, including Hall of Famers such as Jerry West and Red Auerbach.
So he felt his name was a little out of place.
"I kind of think what's John Hammond from Zion, Illinois doing sitting here right now?" he said Saturday, with the award sitting just to his right, before the Bucks played the Atlanta Hawks in Game 3.
Hammond becomes the first Bucks executive to win the award, after Milwaukee finished the regular season with 12 more wins than last season and earned its first playoff berth since 2006.
Bucks owner and U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl hired Hammond, who had been Joe Dumars' assistant in Detroit, just over two years ago to rebuild the floundering franchise.
"It's just God's grace that I'm sitting here," the GM said. "I believe there's a lot of good, qualified people in this league that can have jobs like this and have opportunities like this. I was just chosen."
Hammond received 12 of 30 votes from a panel of fellow NBA executives. Oklahoma City's Sam Presti was second with nine votes and Cleveland's Danny Ferry took third with two votes in results the league announced Saturday.
Despite losing Michael Redd to a season-ending knee injury in January and season-ending injuries to Andrew Bogut earlier this month, the Bucks finished 46-36 to earn the sixth seed in the East and a first-round matchup with Atlanta.
"He made some good moves in midseason that changed the flow," Bogut said. "It wasn't just offseason. He was active in the trade window, he was active signing Jerry (Stackhouse). He made moves for a team that was supposed to finish last, and we're battling here in a playoff series."
Hammond's decision to select Brandon Jennings with the 10th overall pick of last year's draft paid off when the guard earned a starting spot in training camp and went on to average 15.5 points during his rookie season. Hammond believes Jennings should be the NBA's rookie of the year.
"I've said that for a while," Hammond said. "I don't know what better argument I can make but the fact that he's playing. He's playing tonight."
The Bucks have emphasized defense since Hammond hired Scott Skiles as the coach when he took over, going from allowing 103.9 ppg in 2007-08 (23rd) to 96.0 ppg in 2009-10 (seventh).
"You make the decisions, you hope they work. We've been fortunate this year a few of the things have worked," Hammond said. "It's about the fit, it's about the chemistry of this team. These guys like each other, they play well together and Scott's done a great job with them."
Charlotte's Rod Higgins, Dallas' Mark Cuban, Memphis' Chris Wallace, New Orleans' Jeff Bower, Portland's Kevin Pritchard, Sacramento's Geoff Petrie and Utah's Kevin O'Connor each received one vote.