MILWAUKEE (AP) – The Milwaukee Bucks are putting together a talented lineup even without a head coach.

Coveted free agent Michael Redd agreed Thursday to re-sign with the Bucks and play alongside No. 1 draft pick Andrew Bogut and T.J. Ford rather than return to his home state of Ohio to serve as LeBron James’ sidekick.

Redd accepted Milwaukee’s six-year offer for between $90 million and $96 million, his agent, Kevin Poston, told The Associated Press. The Cleveland Cavaliers offered $70 million over five years, the most they could offer.

“Money is important, obviously, but there were other factors involved,” Poston said. “Michael is really comfortable in Milwaukee and the Bucks gave him a shot to make it in this league. And they obviously showed that they want to keep him around for years to come.”

The 6-foot-6 shooting guard from Ohio State averaged a career-high 23 points last season and has averaged 17.7 points since Milwaukee drafted him in the second round in 2000.

“It was a tough decision between the Bucks and the Cavaliers, but Michael’s heart is in Milwaukee and he’s excited about his future there,” Poston said.

Redd is enthusiastic about playing with Bogut, the former Utah center who pleaded for Redd’s return only seconds after his selection as the top pick in last month’s NBA draft, and for the Bucks’ next coach, Poston said.

“Michael and Andrew have spoken at great length, and are really looking forward to starting something special in Milwaukee,” Poston said. “We also know who the Bucks are focused in on to be their next coach, and Michael is very comfortable with him.”

Former Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders was the presumed front-runner following Terry Porter’s firing last month, but speculation now has shifted to former Atlanta Hawks coach Terry Stotts, who served on George Karl’s staff in Milwaukee and was a finalist when the Bucks job went to Porter two years ago.

Bucks general manager Larry Harris said in a statement: “We are engaged in free agent negotiations with Michael Redd. We intend to enter into a player contract with Michael once the moratorium period has ended.”

Redd, who became a free agent on July 1, cannot sign the deal until the free-agent signing period begins on July 22.

The top remaining free agent available, Redd met with James and Cavs officials in Cleveland on Wednesday, one day after meeting with the Bucks.

Milwaukee slipped to 30-52 last season without Ford, their dynamic point guard who sat out the whole year while recuperating from a cervical spine injury that occurred on Feb. 24, 2004.

Two weeks ago, Ford received medical clearance for full contact basketball for the first time since the injury, which required surgery.

The Bucks hope for a quick turnaround with the return of Ford and Redd, and the addition of Bogut to a lineup that includes veterans Joe Smith and Desmond Mason.

AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Detroit contributed to this report.

AP-ES-07-07-05 1752EDT

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