MILWAUKEE (AP) -Larry Harris knows what might be at stake if the Milwaukee Bucks don't perform up to expectations next season: his job.
The Bucks' general manager said on Tuesday that he was ``completely 100 percent on board'' with earlier comments from the team's owner, Sen. Herb Kohl, who said Harris' future will depend largely on how well the team plays next season.
``If we do what we're expected to do, you'll see my shining face,'' Harris said. ``If not, then we go in a different direction. And you know what? I'm comfortable with that.''
Kohl said Monday that he is optimistic that Harris, who has been the team's general manager since 2003, will make the right moves.
``In that case, his future will be assured,'' Kohl said. ``I think he understands, although I haven't talked to him, he understands that this coming year is a very important year for him.''
But Kohl didn't say anything about a contract extension for Harris, whose current deal expires after next season. Kohl said it would be a ``nice problem to have'' if the Bucks must try to re-sign Harris after a successful season.
Harris said the uncertainty wouldn't affect the way he approaches an offseason in which he will have to make a high-profile pick in the NBA draft and decide which free agents to keep or pursue.
``I want to go on record, without hesitation, that I'm completely 100 percent on board behind what Senator Kohl said yesterday about myself,'' Harris said. ``You know, I love Milwaukee. This is the only place I've ever worked. I'm completely comfortable with one year left on my contract. It's what he said, perfectly: This season will play itself out.''
Kohl said Harris has not been perfect, but still has ``the potential'' to be a good general manager.
``People in this organization like Larry Harris, and I have a working relationship with him,'' Kohl said. ``I am assuming he's going to be successful. If he's not, I'm not. If he fails, I fail.''
Two of Harris' most visible moves as general manager - trading guard T.J. Ford to Toronto for forward Charlie Villanueva last offseason and signing free agent forward Bobby Simmons two years ago - have so far backfired because of injuries.
Simmons missed the entire 2006-07 season because of foot and ankle injuries, and Villanueva played in only 39 games because of a nagging shoulder injury that eventually required surgery.
Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut also missed significant chunks of the season because of injuries.
``All in all, the injuries did play a part in it, but I'm not going to use that as an excuse at all,'' Harris said. ``We did not get the job done. We let our fans down. We let the organization down. And next year's going to be different.''
Harris said the team will have the financial flexibility to re-sign some of its own potential free agents - a group that includes Mo Williams, Ruben Patterson, Charlie Bell and Earl Boykins - and perhaps pursue free agents from other teams.
But Harris said getting Simmons and Villanueva back healthy will be just as critical.
``Those are exciting pieces to me,'' Harris said. ``So the No. 1 priority is get ourselves back to where we thought we were going to be when we were healthy at the beginning of the season, and add the top draft choice.''
The NBA draft lottery will be held May 22, and the draw will have a major impact on the Bucks' plans in free agency.
``Obviously, the draft is going to drive it,'' Harris said. ``That's the first thing. That will kind of set the table.''
Regardless of whatever personnel moves they make, Harris and the Bucks are counting on new coach Larry Krystkowiak to stoke a tougher defensive mind-set.
Krystkowiak, who was promoted after Terry Stotts was fired in March, met with all the players before they left town and stressed defense.
``We tried to pick their brains in terms of why we were poor defensively,'' Krystkowiak said. ``It was a pretty common response, really. It's an accountability thing.''
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