Samuel Dalembert was supposed to be the big man the Milwaukee Bucks so desperately needed.
In an attempt to at least partially fill the huge void left by center Andrew Bogut, who was traded to Golden State last March, the Bucks acquired Dalembert during the offseason from the Houston Rockets.
The Bucks sent three players ó Jon Brockman, Jon Leuer and Shaun Livingston ó along with the 12th pick (Jeremy Lamb) in the 2012 NBA draft to the Rockets for Dalembert, the 14th pick (John Henson) in the 2012 draft and a future second-round pick.
The 31-year-old Dalembert opened the season as the starting center and was a solid contributor, scoring 14 points on two occasions and 15 points on another in the first eight games.
But Dalembert quickly and inexplicably fell into former Bucks coach Scott Skilesí doghouse. Dalembert didnít play from Dec. 12 until Wednesday night ó a stretch of 13 games ó when new Bucks coach Jim Boylan played him two minutes against the Bulls in Chicago.
After the game, a delighted Dalembert could be heard singing, ďWho Let the Dogs OutĒ, an obvious reference to his situation.
In a one-on-one interview, Dalembert discussed at length his already long and trying season and how he fell from Skilesí graces.
Have you already noticed a difference with the change in head coaches?
SD: Most of the time when there are changes, they are for the best or for the worst. So far, it seems to be a better solution. We won two games in a row (and three of four after Boylan took over). Everybody is enthusiastic there was a change. At this point, I think itís working for the team.
It was pretty apparent you didnít have a good relationship with Skiles. Did Skiles call you after he was relieved of his duties like he apparently did with everyone else on the team?
SD: I havenít checked my answering machine yet, but whether I got it, yes or no, thatís his prerogative. To me, in life, business is business. Weíre not in this business for friendship.
At the time you were traded to the Bucks last summer, you said you were ecstatic to be with the Bucks.
SD: I was. When I came into town, we (He and Skiles) went and had dinner and everything seemed really nice. Then, when the season started and throughout the season, with no warning or whatsoever, everything changed. When everything changed, I was just amazed. I was like, ĎWow, OK, letís see how long this is going to go.í Obviously, it was going and going. Sometimes in life, you go through some tests. This was a test for me. Things happen for a reason.
Why do you think Skilesí attitude toward you changed?
SD: We had a talk briefly at a shootaround; I forgot where it was. I think it was in Boston. After that talk, everything went downhill.
After the game in Chicago, you said Skiles had attacked your integrity in that talk. Can you elaborate?
SD: He told me some different things and I explained to him that Iím a happy person. And the reason Iím happy is I grateful for coming from where I came from, Haiti, and Iím grateful for every single day of my life. Iím grateful to wake up and see Iím able to have a home here, a home there and be able to help so many kids go to school back home (through his foundation) and help my family. For that, itís a blessing. To me, being a happy person, I donít think thereís anything wrong with that.
Can you be more specific about what Skiles said that upset you?
SD: No, I really donít want to go into detail. I donít want to go into it because it really hurt me. I had to express myself. I had to let him know where Iím coming from, the root of who I am today, what is defining me. Itís my country defining me. Anybody who knows me, you can ask any of my teammates, I am the most enthusiastic, happy person coming in the morning. Iím the player where I am always very respectful. I donít know what happened between us. Iím not going to say that conversation was 100 percent the reason for what happened (not him being demoted) but for some reason there was nothing said to me again and everything went downhill. There was no explanation. There was no conversation. Nothing was said to me. He didnít say, ĎHey, this is what I want you to focus on or anything like that.í
It wasnít just me. Other guys were going through the same thing with him, guys who have been here way before me. So you can only imagine what they were going through. For me, it was new. I never got a chance to know him or what he didnít like about me.
Did you approach Skiles and ask why you werenít playing?
SD: No. I never asked him. I mean if you brought me here and made all these changes I think itís the least he could do to let me know the reason why.
Are you looking forward to playing with a new coach?
SD: The only things I can do right now is things I can control, which is get myself ready, do what is asked of me and still be a good teammate. The last thing I want to be is a negative player. I have seen players who turn to negativity and I have seen how they affected the teamís focus. I donít want to be one of those players. We have a good group of guys. We hang out together on and off the court. We are able to communicate with each other and thatís what itís about. Weíll see where it goes from here.
You may have heard the rumors that it was your fault and not Skilesí fault for your demotion, that you were reporting late to games and practices, etc.
SD: Listen, Iím not the only one whoís ever been late for a game. At some point in an 82-game season, somebody is going to be late. I wasnít the only one on the team. But thatís not the reason for all of this. That one (where he was allegedly late), there was a cutoff time and I was in the hallway on the phone. I had something important to talk about and then I came back (in the locker room). Thatís not being late for the game. But thatís got nothing to do with this. If I was late for one game, it was because of miscommunication. Ever since that time, Iíve never been late.
There have also been whispers that Skiles reprimanded you because of some off-the-court incidents, that you were partying too much and not taking your job seriously.
SD: Wow. I was partying too much? Where at? I would like to know where I was partying too much. I know where I go to restaurants. But partying too much? What off-the-court issues do I have? At the end of the day, people can say whatever they want to say. They can use whatever excuses they want. Thatís why I donít go on the internet and read all that stuff. You got haters and lovers. You canít convince people who already hate you.
I have been in the league long enough. I know what you can do and canít do. I have been around players who do a lot of crazy stuff. At the end of the day, itís easy to pick on someone. People can say anything they want to say but like I tell the young fellas: be professional. It comes down to one thing: can you get the job done when you have the opportunity to get the job done. To me I havenít had the chance to get the job done here. But Iím not going to get mad as long as we keep winning. Iím not going to be upset. Larry (Sanders) has really been tremendous for us. At this point on, my main concern isnít about Sam not playing. Itís about winning. Thatís the most important thing.
In light of the problems you had playing for Skiles, how would you describe your feelings now about him?
SD: I never try to keep hate in my heart for anyone because itís not healthy. To me, I wish him and his family well. I donít wish bad for anyone.