Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thoughts While Splitting Time Between Bradley Center Tenants

• I come in a minute and a half late and the Bucks are already up 5...I like that.
• Another Jim Chones evening. I like Johnny Mac as much as anyone, but I’ve grown to like the dry assessments Chones has brought to the table.
• Ramon Sessions blows a wide open lay up and the Mavs hit a three on the other end. It seems like it always works out like that.
• Uh-oh Charlie V. is looking hot early.
• Jim Paschke refers to Charlie Bell as “kind of a Vinnie Johnson type lately” based on his recent work off the bench. Can any player put together a stretch whey they are scoring pretty well off the bench without being called a “microwave like Vinnie Johnson”? That may be the most used comparison in the NBA. I can only imagine how often it comes up in the local Detroit broadcasts when Rip Hamilton comes into games.
• A stop OR a bucket would be fine at this point. 16-0 run for Dallas right now. Coincidentally enough Marquette gave up that same run against Connecticut early tonight. That does not bode well for the Bucks.
• Chones on Antoine Wright’s technical foul: The refs don’t want to hear from you until you score 20 points more than once every six nights.
• Charlie V. is running risk of injuring his back this evening given the way he’s carrying the entire offensive burden thus far. Bucks 23 Charlie V. 19.
• Three techs in the first quarter on the Mavericks. What is going on? They got rung for one after Dirk was given an and one. I don’t remember the last time I saw that.
• Holy Villanueva. Bucks down 33-23 after the first quarter.
• Holy fouls. Mbah a Moute has three in five minutes.
• Poor Elson. He drops a nice pass from Charlie V. and then catches an earful about it. Seems like he gets yelled at more than anyone else on the team.
• Ramon Sessions and Luke Ridnour are in the game together and Sessions is taking the role of primary ball handler. ALL HAIL SCOTT SKILES.
• The Bucks are effectively using Charlie Bell with the point guards. I don’t know if this is the key to future success, but I’m feeling it right now.
• When Dallas is throwing three athletic guards/wings out there like Kidd, Antoine Wright and Josh Howard, that puts the Bucks at quite a disadvantage. Especially when Ridnour and Sessions are out there together. They just don’t have the size/athleticism to match up.
• Maybe a little defense fellas? 59-41 Dallas. Skiles looks like he’s about to strangle someone.
• Bucks down 65-41 at half. Yikes. Charlie V. was held scoreless in the second quarter, so much for that bright spot.
• Dallas is getting to all the loose balls and showing all the effort in this one. They were flat against a beat up San Antonio team yesterday, so this type of effort was to be expected from them. Hopefully the Bucks will follow suit on Friday in New Orleans.
• Luc Mbah a Moute is the only Buck starter with a positive plus minus right now. I don’t know if that is due to his defense or his inability to stay on the court today.
• Charlie V. gets back on the scoreboard in a big way with a Chris Webberesque dunk.
• Little is being done by Milwaukee to curtail any penetration - off pick and rolls or otherwise - by Dallas. This is leading to open jump shots off kick outs and easy dishes for lay-ups.
• The Bucks have trotted out a defense that has finally led to some confusion at the least for Dallas. Zone up top with match-ups in the back. It’s been more effective than it sounds, at least until Josh Howard hits a three with 11 seconds left in the quarter. It was contested though.
• Jim Chones plea for the Bucks to cut the deficit to 10 by the beginning of the fourth quarter will go unanswered. He’ll have to settle for 17. 90-73 Dallas.
• Keith Bogans is doing his best to make me regret making him a reason the Bucks will make the playoffs. He gets stripped of a rebound and then loses his dribble out of bounds on a spin move on the next possession.
• Three-pointer from Charlie Bell in the corner. Uh-oh. Gap is closed to 11.
• James Singleton does everything but stick a knife in Charlie V’s back and does not get called as Dirk grabs an offensive rebound.
• Back to back lay ups for Kidd and a fall away jumper by Dirk sandwiched around a Bucks timeout push the lead back to 17.
• Make that 22. Now an 11-0 run.
• Eddie Gill is in. That’s my cue to exit.

No Love From The Glove

There is a bit of a brouhaha brewing in Brewtown. (How about all those Brew noises I just made your mind say.) I noticed this on a JSOnline thread. Apparently the Bucks are not happy with former Buck Gary Payton, who is now working on NBA TV doing a show with Ahmad Rashad and Chris Webber.

He has received his share of text messages from players after his dressings down, and teams, most notably the Milwaukee Bucks, called the league to complain about Payton's assessment of Ridnour. Still, his on-air chemistry with former All-Star Chris Webber and host Ahmad Rashad is improving.

This seems a bit silly. I don't know exactly what GP has been saying about Ridnour, but I bet it's been hilarious. Is there anyone that hasn't been roughing up Luke this year? I can't recall one thing I've read this year that has said he is deserving of holding his starting spot over Ramon Sessions. Maybe GP just misses Milwaukee and is jealous of Ridnour...probably not though.

What's unfair though is that Ridnour has actually done a pretty good job. Just not as good as Sessions. That's awfully nice of the Bucks to come to his aid. I'm guessing Ridnour either doesn't watch or doesn't care what GP has to say if the article claims the Bucks and not Ridnour contacted him. Knowing what I know of Gary Payton I'm sure these spats only fuel his fire.

I've found a clip of GP that I feel is a pretty good demonstration that he's doing a great job. If you watch Chris Webber he certainly thinks Payton is worth watching. Skip to about the one minute mark to really see things take off.

Tell me that man is not hilarious. If anyone knows what the apparent riff is over I'd love it if you'd drop a comment about it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

5 Good Reasons to Expect Playoff Basketball

Almost to the day a month ago I did my best to break down the Eastern Conference playoff race. I was looking for a term to describe it when the comments section did it's best and I was rewarded with "flaccid sword fight". Thanks to "Cookies" for that one. Well the fight has changed a bit so I thought it may be a good time to rehash the Bucks chances going forward. Since I'm still firmly entrenched in the position that the Bucks will be in the tournament I thought I'd give my top five reasons why they will make it.

(And as long as we’re here I’ll take a moment to gloat about the success of my previous playoff picks. I slotted Milwaukee into 7th just ahead of Philadelphia with New York, Chicago, New Jersey and Charlotte missing out. Currently Philadelphia sits in 7th ahead of Milwaukee with the aforementioned teams missing out. I had New York and Chicago flipped, same with Milwaukee and Philly. Pretty well done. Of course I’ve also announced the death of the 2008-2009 Milwaukee Bucks 38 times, but we’ll forget about that for now.)

5. Keith Bogans
Huh? I know, I know. Keith Bogans is a relative nobody in terms of the NBA. He’s a journeyman, semi-three point specialist and semi-good defender. But Luc Mbah a Moute is wearing down. He’s still doing his best to bring his usual hounding defense, but the rookie wall has robbed him of virtually any offensive game. For the first few months of the season Mbah a Moute was shooting roughly 45% from the field and 77% from the line. As they say in golf, that’ll play. Since February began and minutes have begun to add up a bit, Mbah has shot 38% from the field and an even more frustrating 48% from the line. Bogans is a veteran and very fresh from the few minutes he was getting in Orlando and should be able to take a lot of pressure of Mbah. Bogans hasn’t shot the lights out from the field but the man hasn’t missed a free throw as a Buck yet! 15-15. I’d count on his shot coming around before Mbah.

4. Three Point Shooting
When Michael Redd went down one of the most significant things it was assumed he would take with him was any scoring behind the arc the Bucks had. Charlie Bell is an okay shooter, but simply wouldn’t be effective enough doing everything else to take a lot of minutes behind Redd. Charlie V. and RJ have never been known as outside shooters so it seemed like a long shot that they would be of great help here. Well they’ve been of great help. Did they have some quick Lasik done or something? What has gotten into these dudes? Before this year Charlie Villanueva was a 32% shooter from behind the arc. In the last two months he’s shot 43%! He hit SEVEN on Sunday! I feel like I’m watching Tim Thomas from the 2000-2001 season. If I see a newspaper headline in July that says the Notorious C.H.A.R.L.I.E. with him signing a 60 million dollar contract I’m going to faint. Jefferson has been even better than Charlie V. in February, shooting a scintillating 58%. I haven’t even been able to throw hatred at RJ lately - he’s just been too solid. They’ve certainly been getting a lot more good looks, which brings me to my next point...

3. Ramon Sessions
I don’t want to beat a dead horse here...but have I mentioned that I think pretty highly of this guy? Is it a coincidence that the Bucks have averaged over 112 points per game since he’s taken the reigns as the starting point guard? I’m not the only one who thinks this guy is pretty good. Here’s an excerpt from a John Hollinger chat on on February 12th.

Jeremy (Milwaukee, WI): Does anyone outside of Milwaukee even know who Ramon Sessions is?
SportsNation John Hollinger: No, but they're going to find out pretty darn fast. It's criminal that he was left off the sophomores' roster for the rookie game, and it's equally perplexing that the Bucks kept him behind Luke Ridnour for half a season. I continue to be extremely impressed by what I've seen from him.
I’ve wrote thousands of words about Sessions already, so I’ll refrain from my usual Sessions poetry, but the man is for real. It’ll be fun to see him against Chris Paul this week. Not on ESPN though. Jerks.

2. Scott Skiles
Here is one hope I have for the rest of the season from Coach Skiles: Please do not play Ramon Sessions at the two guard any more. If you’re going to insist on playing Ridnour and he together, just put Ridnour at the two. It makes a lot more sense. Ridnour is a much better mid range shooter and has some three point skill. Sessions ENTIRE game is based on penetration. All he’ll serve to do at the two is clog it up. There is statistical evidence that Sessions has no business playing the two. I’m confident Skiles knows this and will change things. I’m so encouraged that he has left Ridnour behind Sessions on the depth chart that I’m willing to believe he’ll either stop playing them together or will play Ridnour off the ball. Prove me right coach.

1. Andrew Bogut
Bogut has been in and out of the lineup so many times this year that betting on him making a return is a risk. But If this season was a movie I feel like Bogut is the character who comes back in the end to save everyone. He is Red in Pineapple Express. You keep thinking he is dead and gone, but no, there he is jumping in to save Saul. Saul would be Francisco Elson. Elson always has this goofy stoner look on his face. Speaking of goofy, I never really said anything about it, but Andrew Bogut must have lost a bet or something a few weeks ago, because he had the most ridiculous looking white suit of all time on. I found a picture of it at Words can’t explain. Anyway, if Bogut comes back with everyone else firing on all cylinders like they are now, that makes the Bucks a for real serious playoff team. Think if only he were manning the middle right now and not Elsonzuric. They wouldn’t even need to feed him in the post and he’d still get 16 and 10 a game with the tempo right now. He would feast on rebounds and put backs from Sessions penetrations. I’m holding out hope for an April stretch run comeback on the big man. And if that happens I’ll be seeing much more April basketball than I expected in November.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Damn You ESPN

I'm outraged.

ESPN takes a pass on Bucks-Hornets.

Sometimes it really sucks to live in Milwaukee.

Detroit is playing some of the worst basketball in the league right now and ESPN has decided to reward them with yet another nationally televised game. I can't help but recall when the Knicks began their descent into the depths of the cellar of the Eastern Conference, only TNT and ESPN refused to take them off the air, because they were from New York.

I know that market size and all that fun stuff usually outweighs good basketball games when national networks are deciding who they want on, but it still stings. No one who really loves the NBA would rather see Orlando v. Detroit over New Orleans v. Milwaukee. Orlando is a fun team to watch, with their peculiar blend of hard nosed defense and love for the three point shot, but Chris Paul against Ramon Sessions is like a battle between the best point guard in the league and the best point guard no one knows about. The Bucks have been putting up well over 100 points for almost three weeks now! This is exactly why no one knows who Ramon Sessions is! Exclamation point!

This could serve as motivation if the Bucks are pissed about this.

I know I am.

The Week Ahead (February 22nd-28th)

I picked a helluva weekend to go out of town.

Friday and Sunday will probably go down as two of the most eventful Bucks games of the year. First, Lebron James puts his hit man gloves on and methodically destroys the Bucks to the tune of 55-9. I caught most of the 4th quarter of this one after receiving 300 text messages letting me know that Lebron had put his Dell Curry hat on for the night and even though the Bucks lost, I saw something I liked.

Now, I know it sucked that Charlie V. got himself booted. The Bucks were within three and may have had enough left in the tank to make a run, so timing really wasn’t great for a flagrant two, though I’ll say that kicking him out was extremely harsh. It did not appear malicious when Charlie V. took down Anderson Varejao and if anyone escalated the situation it was Zyndrunas Illgauskas. But I really liked the way the Bucks stood together during the mini melee, particularly Luke Ridnour. Milwaukee as currently constructed is not known for being a team of tough guys, but none of them were afraid to get their noses in there and stand up to the Cavs. I feel like this will serve them well in the future.

Second, the Bucks played the always rare Sunday game, which I don’t love because those games are rarely on television unless they make it to ABC, which the Bucks rarely do. Sunday games can be tricky. Players aren’t used to playing on Sunday and they are used to going out Saturday night I’m sure. From the recap I read of Sunday’s game at Brewhoop it sounds like it was a slopfest. That sounds like a typical Sunday game, even though this one had the slightly later 4:00 start time. Players bodies are not in the routine to do well at early hours like that, especially if they are only playing four or five games in that time slot all year. Any win over a team as good as the Nuggets is impressive and it’s always wonderful to see Charlie V. and Ramon Sessions up to their ways. The Sessions Ridnour minutes battle will be interesting to watch the rest of this year. Sessions only played 22 minutes against the Cavs, but was back up in the 40's against Denver. As I’ve said before, handling this will be a true test of Skiles coaching acumen. Without further ado...

February 25th @ Dallas (33-22)
Dallas has rebounded pretty nicely after a pretty bad start to the year. My favorite thing about Dallas is the way Mark Cuban denies that trading Devin Harris AND TWO first round picks for Jason Kidd was a mistake. He can’t really say it was a mistake with Jason Kidd still being his starting point guard and all, but making up new statistics to help your case can’t hurt. The Bucks always have a difficult time defending the three point shot, I feel like this may be a problem on Wednesday. The Mavs don’t shoot a ton of threes and don’t make a ton either, but they certainly have guys who can get hot out there. Historically the Bucks have played well against Dallas though and Jason Terry will still be out, so if the Bucks are going to win either of their Western Conference road games this week, I think this would be the one to take down.

February 27th @ New Orleans (32-22)
Milwaukee will close out it’s Western Conference road schedule for the year against New Orleans on Friday. This is a big game for Milwaukee because....wait for it....IT’S ON NATIONAL TELEVISION!! THE BUCKS ARE ON ESPN!!! Kind of a strange game for the Bucks to make their national tv debut, I guess Chris Paul is a strong enough player to carry the whole tv audience, but we’ll take what we can get. I’ve said time and time again, the Hornets aren’t very good. Their front court without a healthy or motivated Tyson Chandler is possibly worse than Milwaukee’s without Andrew Bogut. After the James Posey deal, the most significant free agent signing the Hornets made this off season was for Sean Marks. If you’re addressing your big man needs by signing a guy who has never played in 30 games in an NBA season, due to ineffectiveness not injury, then you’re probably in trouble. Regardless of how bad their big men are, Chris Paul keeps them afloat and relevant.

February 28th vs. Washington (13-43)
What happened to Ernie Grunfeld? I was genuinely upset when he left Milwaukee, I thought he was a pretty good GM. When he first got to Washington it seemed like he was making sound moves that made a lot of sense for that team. And then it all went to hell. Now he’s throwing huge dollars at his own guys and overvaluing their worth. I just don’t know when he became Larry Harris. I really thought he was going to move Antawn Jamison at the trade deadline. What are they waiting for? The Wizards need to scrap everything and start rebuilding around Gilbert Arenas and Javale McGee. McGee because he has crazy potential and Arenas because they absolutely have to since they threw all of their money and more at him, even though he stole Charlie Bell’s knee and made it worse.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why Keeping RJ Is Ok (For Now)

Trade deadlines are like the panic holiday. All these GM's whose team's are under performing feel like they need to make moves to "shake things up" or cut costs. That's how guys like Tyson Chandler end up getting shipped away (almost) for nothing. The trade deadline leaves us with legendary failures like Steve Francis in New York. Typically the NBA trade deadline is on a Thursday. I think it'd be cooler if they made it the same number day every year like the MLB trade deadline. It'd be easier to remember for us common folk. I think the way it is constructed now is that it's the Thursday after the all-star game, but I could be wrong. Anyway, typically that Thursday becomes the day everyone trashes their team's GM or lauds them with praise. The Bucks, for example, were supposed to be active today. Richard Jefferson was supposedly a hot commodity, yet the trading deadline has passed and Richard Jefferson is still a Buck. This is where I may be inclined to rip into John Hammond for not getting a deal done. Yet I sit here conflicted.

On one hand Hammond has possibly turned the rest of this season into The Ramon Sessions Farewell Tour. Without saving the money owed to Jefferson next year the Bucks are facing a tall task in trying to resign Sessions. Jefferson's contract is an albatross. As has been stated, Jefferson does not represent the future for the Bucks. He was at his peak a year or two ago and is heading down right now. Trading him and Luke Ridnour for the package that Portland supposedly had on the table would have been ideal.

But how realistic was that?

Everyone that really follows the Bucks was getting a little too excited about the prospect of that trade. So doesn't it stand to reason that Portland - with a very astute general manager in Kevin Pritchard - knew they weren't getting enough by having Jefferson as the center piece of the deal? That would explain the rumors that they wanted the Bucks to include either Sessions or a first round pick to sweeten the deal. They realized that they were doing the Bucks a favor by taking back Jefferson and his large deal. Granted it was a favor that helped them in the process by giving them an established wing scorer but it doesn't push them over the edge into the pool of title contenders or anything.

Now we're at the other hand.

As it stands the Bucks could still make a deal before the draft and create cap room to resign Sessions. If they traded Sessions with Jefferson they leave themselves without the talent or the youth required to interest other parties in deals. Giving away a draft pick would indicate once again that they are a team without a direction. They aren't competing now and by trading away a draft pick with Jefferson they would be trading a future asset all in the name of saving money. To me this lack of a deal says it's not necessarily all about the money in Milwaukee. Hammond appears to see that payroll is not as important as building a winning team.

At it's best the lack of a trade shows not only the idea of a plan, but that John Hammond isn't going to be a sucker . At worst it costs the Bucks Ramon Sessions. I'm thinking John Hammond isn't going to panic about that worst case scenario, he knows what he's doing.

The John Hammond Progress Report

When I was in elementary school we had detailed report cards. I wouldn’t even call them report cards, they were never that harsh. Report cards have letter grades and little feedback. On these everything was all checks and pluses and if a teacher really wanted to send a message they’d put a minus next to the check. Another difference between these and the cruel A-F system of junior high and high school was the detail. Sure, you may get a comment about what is going well and what needs attention in high school, but in grade school there was a detailed breakdown of each part of each class. There was a spot reflecting my listening, a spot for teamwork, a spot for time management, all of the skills I practiced and did not practice were rated. That sort of in depth analyzation was appreciated. It felt like my very own baseball card, except that I didn’t have my picture on the front and I’d hide it under the couch so my parents didn’t see it. With that in mind, and the “first half” of the season done and gone I’m thinking it’s time to take a look at Bucks General Manager John Hammond. I’m not ready to anoint him executive of the year, Milwaukee basketball savior, or barer of doom, there just has not been enough time to really judge the job he’s done. This is merely an update on the moves he has made and the impact they have had in the time he has been here.

Hires Scott Skiles: Check Plus
Thus far this has been the bet move Hammond has made. Skiles has brought a defensive intensity that Milwaukee has been missing since....umm....Sidney Moncrief? To this day I have a hard time believing that a Don Nelson coached team really had much defensive intensity, but we’ll be safe and say since then. Lately Skiles has really looked great. Without three of the team’s best players the Bucks have not missed a beat and are playing with more passion and energy than they have had all year. This is such a far cry from the last few years when Terry Stotts and Larry Krystowiak were in charge and the team tanked and tanked further when the stars went down. Skiles is known for his quick rebuilds and fiery manner, which has come back to haunt him as the years with teams go on, so we’ll see where things go in the coming years. For now, Skiles was the perfect man for the job.

Drafts Joe Alexander and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: Check and Check Plus
One is a rousing success story and the other a mystery. First round picks are given a ton of leeway and a ton of criticism. No one ever wants to give up on a player with potential, but everyone wants to criticize them when they don’t live up to it right away. When Alexander was taken it was done with an eye to the future, especially once he was buried behind Jefferson on the depth chart. Alexander remains a tantalizing prospect for now, with a ceiling only he could jump to and a bottom dangerously low. Mbah a Moute has been an unbridled success. When a team gets any more than minimal production out of a second round pick it’s seen as a great find. When a team gets a reliable starter and it’s best defensive player out of a second round pick IN THEIR FIRST YEAR that is off the charts. Second round picks essentially have no risk involved, if they suck no one cares and they’re cut right away, so Mbah a Moute to me isn’t as great of a move as Skiles, but it’s pretty close.

Acquires Richard Jefferson for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons: Check
This move is very difficult to judge. Easy Yi probably won’t ever be a star, he’ll probably actually never be as good as Jefferson. On the surface it seems like a no brainer. I’ve been harping on Jefferson all year about not being the star he is paid like, but that is not his fault. He is a two or a three guy on a pretty good team, not the number one option on a playoff team. When Redd kept going down and then Bogut went down that really forced Jefferson to be miscast as The Man. He’s handled that very well lately, likely, and not surprisingly, since Ramon Sessions and Charlie V. have stepped to the forefront of the Bucks. When Sessions took the reigns it also sped the game up a bit on offense and led to more transition, the offense Jefferson thrives in. The success of this trade will ultimately depend on what happens at the deadline with RJ. If he’s swapped that will likely lead to the Bucks being able to hold onto Sessions and Charlie V. And I’d much rather have those two guys than Easy Yi and Bobby Simmons.

Acquires Luke Ridnour and Damon Jones for Mo Williams and Desmond Mason: Check
This is a double edged sword. On one hand I love everything about the way Damon Jones has carried himself on the bench since arriving in Milwaukee. He’s invested in the game, he clowns with the refs and his teammates, he wears ridiculous bow ties on occasion when not suited up, the players seem to love having him around, and when he gets in the game he reminds me of some of the old guys at the rec league I used to work at. He’s always clapping his hands in disgust after missing a shot, like the three he bricked is a lay up for him and he’s so surprised he missed it. And watching him attempt to guard anyone anymore is a sight to behold as well. Jones looks like a future coach to me and that future should be sooner rather than later. But Luke Ridnour brings something of a dilemma. He hadn’t really played poorly before getting injured, but he still stood in the way of the obvious point guard of the future. It may have been good for Ramon Sessions to sit on the bench for a while this year, focusing on bringing energy and scoring rather than running a team. He’s developed even further as a scorer and now is looking very comfortable running the team. Would he have been displaying these skills all along? I don’t know. In spurts he looked great, but I think he needed more fine tuning. I think around January he was ready to take over. When Ridnour returns what will happen though? This will be the first major player rotation test Skiles will have. The early injuries made him go down the bench some, but he made all the obvious moves then. This will put his coaching acumen to test.

Signs Tyronn Lue: Check
Lue is little more than “just another guy”, but he ended up being pretty useful once injuries hit. He allowed Sessions and Ridnour to share the court and gave serviceable minutes as the backup point guard. His acquisition also gave them flexibility to acquire a wing guy better than anyone they could have had at an affordable rate last summer in Keith Bogans.

Acquires Keith Bogans and cash for Tyronn Lue: Check Plus
It’s always funny to me when I see “cash considerations” in a deal. I get the image of Keith Bogans having to bring with him a big bag of money to give to John Hammond. The only problem I’ve had with Bogans thus far is that it took this many months to get him. He offers exactly what the Bucks as currently constructed need, three point shooting and defense. On the shrewd scale this deal ranks a seven. The cheap deals the Bucks used to get Toni Kukoc to sign were nines on the shrewd scale by comparison.

Signs Francisco Elson: Check
Elson and Gadzuric have been left to hold down the fort since the injury to Andrew Bogut...and they haven’t been great. Gadzuric has had three-four moments where he’s appeared at the least competent this season, and Elson has had probably four-five. Since Elson makes 1/300th of the money Gadz makes, it seems like a steal. Realistically he’s an average backup guy. You know what you’re going to get, not much, and you aren’t going to pay more than two million. He knows his limitations and shows up to play hard every game. No complaints.

An important thing to remember is that Hammond is dealing with a pretty hands on type owner. Kohl wants to know what is going on and put his stamp of approval on things. It seems like there is a lot of pressure on Hammond to get this team back to the playoffs quick, which is a band-aid type move by the organization. Regardless, there are some general managers who fall into the extreme categories. Isaiah Thomas was EXTREMELY bad, whereas Sam Presti in Sea...Oklahoma City has been EXTREMELY good. Hammond is not an extreme guy. None of his deals have been real bad or real good, they’ve just been sound moves. He doesn’t seem to have the “get the most talent regardless of fit” complexity that some guys have, which is a huge plus. The one complaint I’d register is that he’s yet to take a stance on where this team needs to go. Either trade the young guys before you lose them (bad idea) or trade the overpaid sort of kind of stars making too much (good idea). He seems to be closer to the latter than the former, a good sign

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Week Ahead February 15th-21st

After yet another Buck free All-Star Weekend the Bucks head to Detroit to begin the “second half” of the season. Watching the introductions to this game I can’t help but notice the once again expressionless face of Tim Duncan. Dwight Howard did a dance, Lebron did a dance, KG did a dance, almost everyone did something, but Duncan looked up stone-faced as ever and nodded his head. I’m sure Bill Russell was proud. Shaq had quite a routine with the Jabbawokies (I think that is their name). I think he stole a lot of that from his jam session dance-off with Dwight Howard last year, but I’ll still give him an A for effort.

I’ve grown accustomed to not having anyone to root for on these occasions, but miss the days when the Bucks were vying for three all-stars with Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson, and Sam Cassell. Perhaps next year at this time I’ll be beaming as Andrew Bogut catches a lob from Ramon Sessions while representing the finest the Eastern Conference has to offer.

If the Bucks can resign Sessions.

There have been some rumbles that the Bucks are interested in making a deal with Portland involving Richard Jefferson and Luke Ridnour. This would be a coup for the Bucks, as it would free up enough cap space to allow them to bring back Sessions and Charlie V. assuming their contract demands are reasonable. I wouldn’t hold my breath on this one though; I just don’t see why the Blazers would be that interested in making that deal. Does it make them a contender this year? No. Does it push them to the next level next year? No. They could use the benefit of RJ’s expiring contract in a few years when some of their young guys are up for extensions, but that seems like an unrealistic reason for a deal getting done.

Over at Brewhoop Frank Madden does a great job of breaking down the Bucks cap situation with an eye on how to avoid the luxury tax.

The week ahead is a very central themed week for the Bucks. Starting with a trip to Detroit, the Bucks follow with home games against Chicago and Cleveland. Without further ado…

February 17th Bucks @ Detroit (27-24)
I hope I’m not jinxing this, but Detroit is only three games ahead of Milwaukee in the standings. I almost want to start thinking these new look Bucks could make a run at them…and then I remember that these are the same Pistons that deal the Bucks heartbreaking losses time and time again. The most recent was especially difficult. The Bucks had chances to put away the Pistons, but for every free throw or lay-up by Ramon Sessions there was a Rasheed Wallace three waiting on the other end. Past successes being as they are the Pistons are still a shell of their former selves. Rodney Stuckey looks pretty good, but Wallace has had far fewer standout performances this year, and the acquisition of Iverson leaves them missing something defensively. The Pistons still have been too much for the Bucks this year, and I don’t expect a lot to change this week. That last sentence may or may not have been an attempt to reverse jinx the Pistons. I’ll decide that Tuesday night after the game.

February 18th Bucks v. Chicago (23-30)
I made two points about Chicago when I was looking at the Bucks playoff chances near the end of January. My first point was that Chicago was terrible on the road and their seven game road trip would destroy their playoff chances. Wrong. They somehow went 4-3 and easily could have gone 5-2 if not for a heartbreaker against Minnesota. The Bulls were a miserable road team before this, so how’d they get their act together for a midseason seven game roadie? That takes me to my other point – Tyrus Thomas. I said it was foolish for the Bulls to not throw minutes at Tyrus Thomas and see if he could be anything. Over the road trip Thomas averaged 32.5 minutes and responded with 14.7 points and 9.7 rebounds a game. Thomas seems like the perfect running mate for Derrick Rose, that is, unless Amare Stoudemire comes to town. Thomas is the Splenda to Stoudemire’s sugar. The Bulls now look like they’ll be making a serious run at that last playoff spot. At least they aren’t the Cubs.

February 20th Bucks v. Cleveland (40-11)
King James comes back to Milwaukee. I actually found the ball from the shot Ramon Sessions put up that James rejected rolling down my street a few weeks ago, so that was cool. Mo Williams will be fresh off his first (and I’ll bet only) all-star appearance. Mo is putting up similar numbers to the ones he had last year, just with a far superior team. He’s pretty much in a perfect role for himself, a complementary player responsible for hitting shots and keeping the ball moving. It’s mysterious how his defense has managed to improve so greatly though, it must be something in that Cleveland water.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Time for a Re-Session

In the very first piece I posted on this site I questioned whether or not Ramon Sessions was capable of being a great (or good) NBA point guard. Earlier in the season he was prone to bizarre turnovers having to do with a seemingly undeveloped ability to dribble the ball. Dribbling is probably the most basic part of a point guard’s job and something that he has surely been doing since he began playing basketball. I wasn’t sure earlier this year if this was a correctable problem, but fortunately as the season has gone on, I haven’t seen these silly turnovers nearly as much from Sessions…and now I’m afraid I won’t see him at all next year.

What I have seen from Sessions lately is a terrific all around game, game after game. Not only is he looking like a very good NBA point guard, but he’s looking like the point guard of the future for the Milwaukee Bucks, permitting they can afford to keep him around. Look at the numbers Sessions has put up since Michael Redd’s injury.

Minutes Points Assists Free Throws
38.7 21.6 6.1 7.9-9.3

Those aren’t bad. In fact, Devin Harris, an all-star, is averaging eerily similar numbers on the year. Harris is being seen as a franchise cornerstone for years to come in New Jersey. Harris is one of two players I thought of when trying to find a comparison for Sessions. The other is Tony Parker. I realize that Sessions lacks the quickness of Harris or Parker, or Harris’ springs, but like them he is not an accomplished jump shooter. I’ll also point out that Sessions athleticism is much better than given credit for. It’s not like this guy is being out run by Shaq and out jumped by Yao Ming. He can hold his own. But I digress. Here are the second season numbers PER numbers for the three as brought to you by John Hollinger of Sessions obviously hasn’t finished his second season yet, but if anything his numbers will likely be going up.

SEASON FG% FT% P/40 R/40 A/40 TS% Ast TO Usg Reb PER
2005-06 .469 .716 17.4 3.9 5.6 54.4 23.0 10.9 21.1 5.9 17.51

SEASON FG% FT% P/40 R/40 A/40 TS% Ast TO Usg Reb PER
2002-03 .464 .755 18.3 3.1 6.2 54.2 24.0 11.0 22.1 4.5 17.17

SEASON FG% FT% P/40 R/40 A/40 TS% Ast TO Usg Reb PER
2008-09 .451 .806 18.4 4.6 7.2 54.0 26.6 10.2 22.2 6.9 17.80

One thing that stands out to me is how good of a free throw shooter Sessions is for a second year guy. A lot of players take three or four years before they find the right groove at the NBA stripe, he’s been able to do it right away. Aside from that his numbers stack up very well with both these guys. Parker is a multiple all-star guy and Harris looks as though he will have multiple by this time next year. Parker had the luxury of playing pretty big minutes almost immediately whereas Harris (Jason Terry) and Sessions (Luke Ridnour) had to sit behind guys who weren’t very good point guards (Terry is a very productive fill it up scorer off the bench).

The one thing Sessions does not have in common with these two could be listed in a different, but very important, category: wins. Both Parker and Harris played on better teams, but were critical to the success of those teams. Parker would go on to win a Finals MVP and Harris probably should have if the Mavericks would not have been screwed in the Dwyane Wade series. It stands to reason that if Sessions is “let loose” wins will follow for the Bucks.

I guess that's my whole point. Sessions is probably the most important player on the Bucks and the one most likely to sustain any importance league wide. Since taking the reigns at point guard Sessions has guided the team to two games over 120 points and a 1-1 record against two very good teams. He may not have a great outside shot or blinding speed, but Sessions is a very very good basketball player at the most important position in the NBA. Point guards have more to do with wins and losses than anyone else on a basketball court (unless Kobe and Lebron are on the court, but they really become point guards whenever they want anyway). I realize the cap situation will be tight for Milwaukee this off-season but it seems clear that the Bucks must do whatever they can to keep Sessions.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

9 Things I Learned from Milwaukee v. Houston

I was fortunate enough to land some pretty good seats to last night;s game courtesy of a friend of mine. It allowed me to see some things I usually would have missed from my typical perch up in the rafters of the BC. Or in the front row of the upper level since no one ever shows up up there.

1. Ron Artest is Crazy

Artest being crazy is nothing new, I mean he jumped into the stands. But this is the first experience I've had with it up close. The best example came in the third quarter with the Rockets down 22. Artest got fouled on a shot, earning him two free throws. Right after the foul was called he yelled "LETS GO!!" as loud as he could and pounded his chest two or three times. I was terrified. His teammates weren't as enthused with the situation and didn't even respond to this bizarre sight. Which brings me to my next point.

2. The Rockets Don't Like Ron Artest

I've heard so many different tales with the theme that Artest was actually a great guy in the locker room. People have always said he's just so uber-competitive that on the court he's insane. Well I'd guess that there is some friction in this locker room, aside from what we already know. My example here took place in what I believe was the second quarter, but don't quote me on that. The Rockets were about to line up to shoot a free throw and Artest began chirping at Brent Barry about something. Barry didn't even move his head in Artest direction, just looked ahead and nodded. This was not enough for Ron-Ron and he moved closer to Barry and continued to jaw at him about something. Barry eventually gave the response that I used to give to my mother when she was nagging me about something when I was 14. He just agreed with whatever Artest was saying and kept repeating okay over and over until Artest left him alone. To say Barry seemed annoyed would be an understatement. It looked like any conversation had with Artest would be similar to this, he's a man of last words it seems.

3. Luc Mbah a Moute Plays Serious D

This is nothing new as well. And you don't need to be in any kind of nice seat to see that this guy locks down. But last night in the early going against McGrady he made life impossible. Everywhere TMac went Mbah a Moute followed close behind, using his extended limbs to bother any shot McGrady put up. Now I know McGrady is not what he once was (see above) but the way Mbah a Moute started off on him took him out of the game from the get go. McGrady never recovered and against other defenders seemed to not be all that interested in taking it to the hole, doing a lot of passing and little attacking. This all may have a lot to do with his knee situation obviously, but let's give a hand to The Prince anyway.

4. Shane Battier Politely Disagrees With That Call

Battier is not adverse to arguing with a ref. This makes him like every other NBA player to ever lace up a pair of sneakers. What makes him different is the manner which he argues calls. It's almost as if Battier is always trying to see things through the eyes of the ref when they are talking. I can't even say he really argues with refs, he discusses things that just happened. He usually does all of this with a smile on his face that says, "I know you're trying your best but I feel as if you may have erred on that call. I'm sure you'll get 'em next time though sir."

5. Moving Yao Is A Project

I've seen it written that Yao is better than Dwight Howard. Not only do I disagree with that, but I don't see how that is physically possible. There is no way Yao could ever function in any type of offense that was built around transition. I've seen semi-trucks change direction quicker than Yao. The poor guy gets assaulted every time he is on offense too. No one ever calls fouls on his assailants though, because they are covering a man who makes them look like a child. In addition to his transition struggles it takes Yao so long to execute any post move that by the time he is done his much smaller defender has leaped up and met him at his peak. The basketball life of Yao Ming seems difficult and painful judging by the grimace constantly on his face. And for all the offensive problems he has then he gets yelled at by Dikembe Mutombo when he gets back to the bench.

6. Joe Alexander Is Here To Shoot

Alexander was in the game for the last six or seven minutes of the game and he shot every time he touched the ball except once. The results? Usually either a swish or an airball. Alexander has a lot of highs and a lot of lows when he plays. At least it's exciting. The fans seemed pretty excited to see him enter the game, good that Milwaukeeans have yet to give up on him.

7. Ramon Sessions and Charlie V. Are Very Good

It's no longer amazing to me when these guys put up 20+ points and dominate the game. What I love about these two right now is that they are scoring all these points while keeping everyone involved in the game. Charlie V. once again dished out four assists to go with his 25 points and didn't force anything. Sessions continues to dominate the paint at will. After getting to the line an astonishing 21 times against the Pistons, Sessions made 12 trips last night. Nasty.

8. Richard Jefferson Has Something Left In the Tank

Jefferson showed that he still is capable of being an effective player. For as much as I rag on him about his performance this year, he turned it up a notch yesterday. If the Bucks can continue to play more of an up-tempo game that should suit Jefferson better. He can still get out in transition and finish. Now he just needs to hit his free throws.

9. Scott Skiles Can Coach

I need to stop looking at the Bucks in the scope of the Bucks of the last few years. Scott Skiles is not Terry Stotts. Scott Skiles is not Larry Krystowiak. Scott Skiles will not allow this team to pack it in like the Bucks of yester year. No these are not quite your father's Bucks of the 70s and 80s, but they are not your slightly older brother's Bucks either. Every time I expect the Bucks to pack it in due to the injuries they seem to come out playing even harder than before. It's possible that the Bucks have extradited any of the veterans who have not brought the correct attitude in the past during the stretches (cough cough, Mo Williams, cough cough). I don't think enough credit has been heaped on Skiles for the job he has done to keep this group competing hard and working together. Not to mention finding the key to unlock the power of Charlie V. Now if he sticks with Sessions when Ridnour comes back I'll really be impressed.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Below Average Player Signing Alert

As I'm sure you've read elsewhere, the Bucks have signed semi-veteran Eddie Gill. I'd say he is a veteran, but he's played less than three full seasons of games in the League. Over at Ridiculous Upside (see link above) and BrewHoop they have similar takes regarding the move: blah. I agree. Why bother signing some guy who is just some guy. For all of the good young players there are floating around various leagues right now, why bother with a guy who couldn't stick at any of the six stops he's had. The only thing he's really done well in the NBA is shoot free throws, coincidentally what Ridnour usually did at the end of games. Gill is a career .355 shooter, not overwhelming.

Essentially it looks like the Bucks want to go with a veteran guy who'll be able to hold down the backup spot for ten minutes each game. One thing sticks in my mind at this time: Haywoode Workman. Workman was a journeyman who was out of the league for a year when the Bucks signed him as an injury fill-in during the 1998-99 season. He provided the Bucks with a pretty good boost, considering the circumstances, and even helped get them into the playoffs.

Something tells me Eddie Gill does not equal Haywoode Workman.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Week Ahead (Feb 8th-14th) The Injury Edition

Everyone associated with the Milwaukee Bucks needs to watch out. The injury bug is out for blood it appears. Yes, for the Milwaukee Bucks last week was difficult. What began as a possible launching pad into the playoffs, spiraled into a tough realization that once again a season will be wrecked due to injury. The Bucks woke up last Sunday sitting on a two game winning streak for the first time in over a month. Their focal point, Andrew Bogut, had returned and the schedule had softened. It seemed as though the allusive lady luck had finally touched down.

Then they ventured to New Jersey…without Andrew Bogut. There were rumors that his injury may be more than back spasms. The rumors become news on Wednesday when it was announced Bogut would be out for 8 weeks. Tough as that news was to swallow at least the Bucks had been down this road many times this season. They hadn’t won without Bogut and Michael Redd in the lineup, but made an attempt to counteract the Redd injury by acquiring Keith Bogans on Thursday for Tyronn Lue. It seemed like an okay move at the time. Lue was riding the bench and the Bucks had been searching for perimeter shooting and defense ever since Redd was ruled out for the year. Bogans is a guy who provides both of those things in small doses, and gives a little more size to a Bucks team that has painfully small guards.

Then Luke Ridnour broke his hand. 4 weeks. Lady Luck must have taken a Sunday flight out of Milwaukee. The Bucks are now left with one point guard, six wings, three bigs, and a guy with six fouls to use every night. Gadzuric doesn’t really warrant a position; he just is six fouls to be used on a nightly basis.

The positives this week? That one point guard left is Ramon Sessions. Sessions punched Detroit in the mouth over and over Saturday night, earning 21 trips to the line and totaling 44 points. On top of that he dished out 12 assists and snatched five rebounds. He was a beast. Charlie V. is just as much of a positive. I’d say Charlie V. continued his trend of strong play, but can we even call it a trend anymore? We’ll just say Charlie V. was doing his usual thing, and then some, putting up 33 points and grabbing seven rebounds. These two are looking hella good over the past month and a half.

The negatives this week? Aside from everything I listed before the last paragraph, Richard Jefferson. I’ve been singling him out for most of the season and I think I’ve got a pretty good case. I know with Charlie V. and Sessions doing serious damage that it’s hard for RJ to put up numbers, but really? Since Redd has gone down RJ has gone over 20 points just one time. If John Hammond trades him he should win executive of the year, (even though he did trade for him originally) anyway, onto the week ahead…

February 9th vs. Houston (31-20)
At least this games at home. The Rockets are a pretty punishing team inside with Yao, Luis Scola, Ron Artest, and Carl Landry. Those guys had a field day against the Bucks on New Years Eve…and that was when Bogut was playing. This one could be ugly folks. The Rockets really should be a top 5 team. Not only do they have guys who are immensely talented, but they have a ton of great role players. Scola, Landry, Brent Barry, Aaron Brooks, Diekembe Mutombo, Shane Battier, and Chuck Hayes are all great glue guys. They all have specific roles and skills and do them very well. I realize that their three main guys are rarely healthy at the same time and that is what is holding them back, but with all those role players I think they should be doing better than they are. I guess 31-20 isn’t all that bad though. Speaking of Chuck Hayes, I was watching a game earlier this year on TNT and Reggie Miller was tearing him apart. He made it seem like the Rockets should have called a time out every time they got a stop on defense when he was in the game, just to make sure he didn’t play on the offensive end. I can’t imagine what seeing a guy like that would be like. Dan Gadzuric Dan Gadzuric Dan Gadzuric.

February 11th vs. Indiana (20-31)
I still don’t get how T.J. Ford put up 34 against the Bucks. Two games later he put up 36 on the Knicks, which doesn’t count the same, but at least it removed the Bucks from his record book. When he first started on the Bucks I predicted he’d one day average 11 assists a game. He now averages five. Why does this little guy shoot so much? I see that his percentage is pretty good (.445) but how effective can a team be when he’s putting up 12 shots a game? The Pacers play pretty up-tempo, so if he’s at five assists now, he’ll probably never average more than six again in his life. Sad. He even has shooters around him and a go to guy in Danny Granger. Danny Granger has been so monstrous this year. He’s like one of those creatures you put into an empty two liter bottle of soda with water and just watch it grow to like 10x its size. That has been his season in a nutshell. He’ll put 40 on the Bucks on Wednesday, I can already feel it. You heard it here first.

I’m just hoping that I don’t break anything going to the games this week.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What Can Be Done?

If you're reading this blog you probably are a Bucks fan. If you're a Bucks fan you probably know by now that Andrew Bogut will be out for roughly 8 weeks, and I'd guess the rest of the season considering the Bucks will have been eliminated from playoff contention by then. I'm not here to describe how it feels to have heard that news. We all know Bogut was the most important player on the Bucks this year and without him a lot of things look grim for the immediate future of the Milwaukee Bucks. What I'm interested in currently is figuring out what could be done to prevent Bucks fans from having to watch more of the current backup center combination. I've scoured the free agent market and searched the D-League for hopefuls and compiled a list of players I would rather see, at least temporarily, than Dan Gadzuric and Francisco "That's fun to say" Elson.

1. Lance Allred
Idaho Stampede
Lance is a D-League all star. I've never seen him play, but as I look at his picture I get the idea that he is a "scrapper". A real Scott Skiles kind of guy. Skiles played Aaron Gray pretty frequently in his rookie year, could this guy be any worse? Lance's numbers have improved in each of his three years in the D-League...except for this year. But still, he's an all star. I'm not certain that either Gadzuric or Elson could make the D-League all star game. And last year in the playoffs Mr. Allred put up 24-17 in one game. That would be a weeks worth of Gadz numbers.

2. Chris Hunter
Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Michigan has a plethora of ex-players floating around the D-League. Hunter, Brent Petway, Courtney Sims, and Jamal Crawford are just a few. Actually Golden State still might be in the NBA, in which case Crawford would still be in the League. Anyway, this Hunter guy seems like a player. 17-9 and he is 6'11. Sign him up. Expectations are not high here folks.

3. Walt Waters
Lawton Fort Sill Calvary
Is this name familiar to anyone? Waters was a big juco recruit back in Bruce Pearl's heyday at UWM. He was suppose to be a force inside for those teams after Dylan Page left. I actually remember seeing this guy on campus, he was HUGE. Further research says he was the 86th ranked player in his recruiting class. He was ranked ahead of Paul Millsap!! He's now playing in the CBA. I think. Their web page is not the most useful tool in the world. They have some sort of statistics page that says Galen Young is the leading rebounder though. I thought that was funny. It's possible that those statistics are from the 2003 season for all I know though.

4. Richard Hendrix
Dakota Wizards
Hendrix case is made here. I remember getting a first hand look at how good this guy was his Freshman (maybe sophomore?) year in college against Marquette in the NCAA tournament. That was the Noel Felix game. Speaking of Felix he is doing quite well in the D-League himself. Jerk.

5. Nick Fazekas
He kicked around the league with Dalls and the Clippers but didn't stick. I remember him being pretty good in college. I feel extra bad for him because Dallas waived him to resign Keith Van Horn to that stupid deal so he could be part of the Jason Kidd trade. That whole thing was a sham. Poor Nick Fazekas deserves another shot in the L just for that.

6. Kevin Pittsnogle
I was thinking Pittsnogle would be a great guy to stretch the floor and give the Bucks some offense. I didn't get why he never got more than one or two looks in the league. Looks like he's been out of the game for sometime and has developed something of a medical related weight condition. Here's to him keeping his health together, he provided us all with many cool memories of people getting "Pittsnogled".

Alas I'm sure the Bucks will go with option seven, none of the above. They'll likely ride it out with the veterans and let the season waste away into another year with no development and no regression. Milwaukee: Where Nothing Happens.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Thoughts While Wishing Jim Chones Was the Backup Center

-No Andrew Bogut AND no Johnny Mac tonight, I'm bummed.
-I'd say I was surprised that Yi and Bobby Simmons both weren't playing tonight but then I remembered who they were.
-There were more people at the Super Bowl party I was at on Sunday than there are at tonight's game in New Jersey.
-A whole lot of missing going on early including airballs from The Zombie and RJ.
-Speaking of the Zombie, he fell for the first time today with 6:36 left in the first quarter.
-Active hands early for the Bucks. If they were the Louisville Cardinals the announcers would be screaming about them charting deflections right now after Charlie V. and then Ridnour each poke the ball. Doesn't every team chart deflections now? Why did Dickie V. keep pounding that point home about the Cardinals yesterday? Is that really that big of a deal? When Dwyane Wade played at Marquette the same things were said.
-RJ is looking ultra aggressive today. Too bad he isn't finishing. You can tell this game means a little more to him by the way he's playing. End of the first: 23-16 Bad Guys.

-Sessions blows a breakaway layup and Gadz gets called on offensive interference. Jim Chones says to win on the road, "you have to make shots". Great insight.
-Gadzuric hits an elbow jumper, this is as far out as I've seen him make a shot this year.
-Josh Boone responds with a tip slam. The Nets are doing a terrific job on the offensive board it seems like. My suspicions are correct: 6 offensive boards early for the Nets with 9:30 minutes left in the first half.
-With Bogut out we've now seen Gadzuric and Alexander already in the game with 7:00 minutes to go in the first half after not playing in the last two games.
-It's funny listening to Chones. He clearly hasn't watched a Bucks game all year and it gives him a very "fresh" perspective.
-Keyon Dooling is on fire. He's hit three treys thus far. He's been in the league nine years? I remember when the Clippers got him as part of that ultra athletic group of swingmen they were assembling. He was the missing piece brought in to play point guard. That all didn't work out so well.
-I can't believe how many layups just haven't fallen for Milwaukee tonight. Sessions gets fouled and justmisses the layup. He's getting to the line though, 5-6.
-The Bucks D is looking SCRAPPY. Already a 7-1 edge in the steal department. The Bucks need to be active on the perimeter to have a shot without Bogut. Active hands we always call it in NBA 2K9. If you like basketball and have XBOX or Playstation you should really have that game. I can't stress enough how fun it is.
-Jim Chones really likes what he sees from Luke Rindour thus far. Ridnour certainly does a good job of limiting his mistakes.

-45-37 Bad Guys at half.
-A lot of talk at half time about how the Bucks sink in to defend the lane and give up the three because of it. That is all due to Bogut not being in. If Bogut is in that makes it easier for everyone else to stay on the perimeter and let him handle guys one on one. There is no way Brook Lopez would have eleven points and six rebounds if Bogut was in.

-Ryan Anderson and Richard Jefferson are trading threes. RJ looks like he is going to make a play at taking over this game. That would be a treat. When he is shooting threes he in theory should be very difficult to stop, given his hellbent on getting to the line mentality when driving.
-Wow there is no help on the screen and Elson can't ever recover in time to stop Brook Lopez from dunking. Lopez is looking so solid right now. I wish his uniform were red and not white.
-The rare four point play by Keyon Dooling. That was daggerific.
-The Bucks cannot string more than a basket or two together. Every time they seem on the edge of making a run the Nets have an answer. Usually the answer is Ryan Anderson.
-If someone told me earlier today that Devin Harris would have fifteen and Vince Carter would have ten, I would have been doing backflips.
-Sessions and Ridnour make for an okay back court, but have an obvious weakness, Sessions doesn't spread the court. Everyone knows that Sessions won't be shooting when he catches off a Ridnour drive and it makes it that much easier for the defense to stay in and pack the lane. That, more than anywhere else, is where Michael Redd is missed.
-Keyon Dooling is a great example of that last point I made. He can stay out and shoot the three and that opens it up or gives them great outside looks.
-Luc Mbah a Moute getting mere garbage minutes this evening. Skiles must be afraid of some rookie wall action going on.
-This is the second time I've done this and the second time the Bucks have gotten lit up. This wasn't as bad as the Hawks game, but they still had no answer inside without Andrew Bogut. Fortunately the Bucks have three days off before Detroit comes in on Saturday, hopefully Bogut will return for that one.

The Legacy of Michael Redd

Begrudgingly or not most sports fans admit that they feel like other forces are sometimes at work in their favorite sports. Be it the legendary “Curse of the Bambino” in Boston or “The ball don’t lie ref” after a player shoots a free throw on a questionable call in basketball. I’ve heard announcers over the years admonish players for excessive celebration and refer to the gods of sport as keepers of the game. The John McGlocklin’s and Bob Uecker’s have often times said stuff like, “the basketball/baseball gods will take care of him for that”. And it’s those kinds of lines that have me thinking right now. Do the gods of sport really keep track of legacies? Do they know what records could be forever tarnished? The timing and ensuing circumstance of Michael Redd’s injury seem very important to me. Have the basketball gods intervened to make sure Michael Redd does not become too prominent a figure in Milwaukee Bucks lore?

Currently Redd sits at 11,295 points. That sits him 5th in Bucks history between Bob Dandridge and Marques Johnson. He would have needed only 716 points the rest of the season (roughly 21 points per game) to leapfrog Glenn Robinson for the number 2 spot in franchise history. With 2 years left on a difficult to move contract, and only 2200 more points needed after netting the second spot on the all time list, it’s easy to think had he not have gotten hurt this year Michael Redd had a very good chance at becoming the all time leading scorer in Milwaukee Bucks history. That means two hundred years from now when someone from a planet far away from here finds a Milwaukee Bucks media guide from 2012 it very easily could have listed Kareem Abdul-Jabar’s name AFTER Michael Redd on the scoring list.

I just don’t think the basketball gods would have been okay with that. The Michael Redds of the world should not be celebrated. Scoring like gangbusters on a crappy team should not elevate you unto elite status. Had Redd eclipsed the hallowed scoring record he almost certainly would have needed his number retired. No way could Brian Winters and Johnny Mac be sitting up in the rafters while the all-time leading scorer wonders when his time will come. I mean, if Glenn Robinson is even in the conversation, which would have to be solely based on his contributions as a scorer and the team’s success during his years, Redd would have been guaranteed a spot in the rafters.

Given the Bucks current salary cap situation, Redd’s penchant for injury over the past few years, and my expectation of a playoff surge sans him, Redd will likely be shopped with great fury this offseason and into next season provided he can show that he has recovered from his injury. Sources had said that other teams were inquiring on the availability of Redd this season, but I feel like the Bucks thought they would need him to make what they deemed a necessary playoff run. Now that they will know they can be competitive without the man who was once thought to be their cornerstone, Redd will likely be gone long before his contract in Milwaukee is up.

Oddly enough Redd is probably a much more accurate figure to represent the Bucks than Kareem. The Bucks being as forgettable a franchise as Milwaukee is a city Kareem was a star far too big for Milwaukee, he was made for Los Angeles or his hometown New York.

"Live in Milwaukee? No, I guess you could say I exist in Milwaukee," Abdul-Jabbar said in an early magazine interview. "I am a soldier hired for service and I will perform that service well. Basketball has given me a good life, but this town has nothing to do with my roots. There's no common ground."

Redd is a small town workhorse guy, the underdog who rose from second round wannabe to Olympian. Unless you’re a certifiable NBA fan or Milwaukeean, Kareem is, was and always will be a Laker. Even when the Bucks get it right they can’t win. Yes, Redd seems to fit the city right, a star with limitations. Milwaukee is an okay city, but it is not a Chicago or New York. Nothing in Milwaukee is "larger than life". Milwaukee will forever be associated with the Michael Redd's and Ray Allen's who never could be the centerpiece of a great team. Milwaukee is home to the Sidney Moncriefs who get the most of their abilities and never say die. Milwaukee had the Mecca, but that didn't mean it was destined to be the epicenter of the NBA. But the basketball gods don’t care about all that. They don’t care about player preferences or how large a city is, they just care about keeping things in order. And now that order will likely never be:
1. Redd
2. Abdul-Jabar

Redd will likely go down years from now as a productive scorer on crappy teams, and a forgotten Olympian on a team of shining stars. Just as the basketball gods planned.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Week Ahead (February 1st-7th) (Going Streaking Edition)

Look out in the gymnasium because the Bucks are coming through the quad, yes you guessed it…


Bring your green hats because it is 2 in a row as of today. I never thought I’d see it again this year, but riding the force known as Charlie Villanueva, the Bucks are on a roll. The return of Andrew Bogut has been a welcome sight. In limited minutes he has fortified the defense and allowed the wings to stay out and cover the three. Bogut’s return obviously came at a great time with Redd having just gone down, but it always comes at a time when the Bucks schedule takes a turn for the better. In the up coming week the Bucks have only two games, with one coming on three days rest. Yes, three days rest. That should give the creaky backed Aussie plenty of time to be ready to log at least twenty minutes for a home game against Detroit, assuming he suffers no setbacks beforehand. Oddly enough the last time the Bucks were afforded three days rest this year was before the Detroit debacle at home where Coach Skiles pulled the plug early and went with a motley crew for the entire fourth quarter.

In the recent surge (Yes I’m calling consecutive wins a surge. That’s what happens when the supposed franchise player goes out and the team hasn’t won back to back games in more than a month.) Skiles has been in playoff mode, adjusting his bench to an eight man rotation. The losers in this: Joe Alexander, Dan Gadzuric, and Tyronn Lue. All of them have gone from guys who looked like they’d be the beneficiaries of more playing time due to injuries to guys who will be relegated to a mop up role for the rest of the year. The message from top down this year in organization de Bucks has been PLAYOFFS…in big capital letters like that. I have a feeling Skiles has been told, or maybe just knows, that burning his guys out just to get there is okay. Welcome to Milwaukee, where planning ahead is no longer the plan because the Bucks may not be in Milwaukee soon.

Regardless, Charlie V. for one has responded well to a consistent role. Ramon Sessions is looking like a good partner for Luke Ridnour in the back court, outside shooting be damned. Two point guards mean lots of ball movement and chances for open looks. Boy, two wins sure can change an outlook fast. Last week a friend asked me if the Bucks would win ten more games all year, and with the way it was looking for Bogut I was not sure. Now I’m getting ready to plan my approach to securing tickets for playoff games.

Onto this week’s games…

February 3rd @ New Jersey (21-27)
New Jersey has cooled of late but someone forgot to mention that to Brook Lopez. I didn’t think much of him coming out of Stanford, the twins act was not so successful when done by the Collins’, but he has been a force as of late. His scoring has improved every month and he’s blocking nearly two shots a game on the year. This guy is a force. His quickness could very well give Andy Bogut some serious problems. We might see a lot of time spent horizontally on the sidelines for the Australian while the Zombie and maybe possibly Gadz get some cracks at slowing this guy down. New Jersey is stockpiling some serious potential post guys. Lopez, Ryan Anderson, Josh Boone, Easy Yi, and recently D-Leagued Sean Williams all have some skills and could really develop. I guess they figured usually guys don’t work out, but if they get enough some of them probably will and they can just axe or trade the rest. Rod Thorn is a pretty good GM. Just ask Dallas. Devin Harris did make the all-star team by the way, no word on whether or not Jason Kidd will suit up for the skills competition.

February 7th vs. Detroit (25-21)
It just cannot be as bad as last time. The Bucks shot thirty percent and had few answers for anything the Pistons did. Boos rained down from all corners of the BC that miserable December night. Coincidentally that is also the last time the Bucks had a winning streak. Things are getting a little eerie. The Pistons have always been a tough match up for the Bucks so this would likely be a pretty big confidence booster if the Bucks were able to pull it out. The Pistons have been nothing special in the months since the Iverson trade, often times forcing bad shots and having their once intimidating defense sliced through. If anyone could let me know why Jason Maxiel doesn’t play thirty minutes a game I would love to get a reason. I’ve never seen him do anything wrong and I’ve been watching him since his Conference USA days. Another thing about Detroit is Rasheed Wallace. Wallace is the prototype for a guy who has everyone's ultimate respect and admiration simply because of what he is capable of. You rarely here anyone question the fact that Wallace puts up pretty average numbers every year and really doesn't win all that many games for them. I have two opinions on this guy though. When I see the team rally around him before games I think, wow he's worth so much just by being the team's emotional center. But then I see him have games of 4 points and 5 boards and don't understand why he doesn't dominate. As much as everyone says his emotion helps things I think he lets it take him out of games more often than it gets attributed. He's the ultimate enigma.