Monday, March 30, 2009

The Week Ahead March 29th-April 4th

Forgive me if I’m getting repetitive, but the Bucks had another rough March week. Fortunately the road trip ends Monday, but things get no easier with four tough games this week.

No one can be too surprised that things have gotten away from the Bucks lately, but we can all be a little dismayed. The past two years I’d be getting ready for Tankapalooza the rest of the way but no need to worry about that this year. Professionalism and pride have been restored in Milwaukee and (semi)competitive basketball will continue the rest of the year. I have only one message for Coach Skiles...

Free Joe Alexander!

He looked frisky in his early stint against the Heat. If he’s feeling comfortable with the first and second teams he’ll do even better. He looks hesitant to shoot unless he’s playing garbage time, so maybe this is a chance for him to put aside his hesitancy.

March 30 @ New Jersey (30-43)
In a battle of playoff pretenders Milwaukee and New Jersey reunite. The key for the Bucks will be defending the three tonight. The Nets have killed them from beyond the arc all year hitting 10 and nine threes in their last two battles. Ryan Anderson specifically lit up the Bucks at the BC not missing a shot all night and giving Marquette fans flashbacks to another 6'10 shooter who used to call the Bradley Center home. The Devin Harris Is Amazing bandwagon hasn’t been as loud lately, but he’s averaging almost 10 assists a game in March. Not bad. He’s making my earlier Ramon Sessions comparisons seem silly.

April 1 vs. LA Lakers (58-15)
At least we get to see Kobe. The Bucks will not soon think fondly back on their time in LA earlier this year when they were throttled and embarrassed in a 105-92 loss. The Lakers are an NBA blue blood. I just wanted to say that because I am so tired of hearing analysts call these Final Four teams blue bloods. Anyway, Kobe will likely give Mbah a Moute and Keith Bogans fits in a rough one in Milwaukee. The Bucks have surprised the Celtics once (almost twice!) so maybe they’ll put on a show against the Lakers. I won’t hold my breath. It’ll be nice to see Lamar Odom too, he’s always been one of my favorites and makes for a great passage in FreeDarko’s Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac.

April 2 @ Philadelphia (37-35)
Of all the teams that fired their coach immediately upon starting this season Philly has come out looking best. It makes sense, they had the most talent and most continuity from last season with regard to their roster. Philly got back to running and ran away from the bottom feeders in the East. I just hope we aren’t subjected to more three-point-shooting from Royal Ivey and Andre Miller. I still haven’t gotten over the shots they hit back in January to beat the Bucks.

April 4 vs. Memphis (18-54)
Hey this one could be a win. I saw Memphis on NBATV at a bar the other night and I remarked to my friends that I hadn’t seen Memphis on TV all year. As a matter of fact I don’t remember seeing them on TV since they last made the playoffs in 2003 or whenever it was. I’m looking forward to this though. Memphis has a lot of young talent and should be fun to watch. If they get Blake Griffin next year watch out. Matter of fact, watch out for whatever team gets Blake Griffin, he’s a phenom and will average a double double next year in the league.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

More Recapaction

I've done another recap over at Brewhoop.

And it was another frustrating Bucks loss.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

2008-09 Bucks Obituary

(If you don't think this is an attempt to reverse jinx the Bucks then you just don't know me very well.)

The 2008-09 Milwaukee Bucks were a plucky group that made us remember why we love basketball in Milwaukee. They took the cue from their new defensive minded leader Scott Skiles and scrapped and clawed their way through each game. When the injury bug continuously reared its ugly head they refused to make excuses, they just worked harder.

The Bucks were unable to channel a consistency to their newfound defensive prowess however, which provided us with high highs (wins over the Celtics and Spurs) and low lows (losses at home to the Knicks and T’Wolves).

Unfortunately the hard work would not be enough as the Bucks playoff hopes were laid to rest Saturday March 21st in Milwaukee. The cause of death was believed to be related to a past lack of fiscal responsibility and draft talent deficiency. The combination of the two is commonly known as LarrHarrasia.

Injuries wasted no time with the Bucks this year, claiming Michael Redd for a 14 game stretch in November and Andrew Bogut for three more at the end of the same month.

The Bucks stumbled to a 3-5 record out of the gate, but showed promise in losses to the Raptors and Cavaliers. By game 10 they would crawl up to .500 behind emerging point guard Ramon Sessions. Sessions was a mysterious DNP-CD in the Bucks first two games after a scorching finish to the season before. He wasted no time when reinserted into the rotation averaging over 17 points and eight assists in his first three games.

More surprising than the solid play of Sessions was the quickly blossoming second round pick Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Coming out of UCLA Mbah a Moute was thought of as a pretty strong defensive player, but no one in their wildest dreams thought he would instantly be the Bucks best defender. Injuries played a role in Mbah a Moute becoming a starter in mid-November, but no matter who was healthy it was clear that he needed to be playing 25 minutes plus already.

The Bucks finished November 6-11 against a very difficult schedule. A healthy Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd tandem provided the fans with some hope in December as they rolled to an 8-6 month. Things turned frustrating beginning on December 23rd as they went through a 14 game stretch where no two games resulted in consecutive wins or losses. It’s likely that this was the result of Bogut being benched again by a bad back for the early part of the new year.

It was around this time that Milwaukee fans realized just how important the Aussie was. Seeing the team struggle so much defensively and on the boards gave us all an appreciation of just how far Andrew Bogut had come as a starting center in the NBA. Either that or it shows us just how bad things can be when your backup big men are Dan Gadzuric and Francisco Elson.

You’ll notice that I have yet to mention key off-season acquisition Richard Jefferson. Well, that is because Jefferson did not do a whole lot to earn that key before off-season acquisition for the first few months of the season. Sure he’d occasionally lead them in scoring, but it seemed like when the Bucks needed a big hoop or stop RJ was nowhere to be found. That changed in February.

With the Bucks season quickly spiraling out of control after a 2-5 stretch near the end of January RJ got it going. He averaged over 23 points a game in February and shot 50 percent from long range. Between he, Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions, it seemed like the Bucks might just pull this thing out after all.

Villanueva saw a minute increase when Michael Redd went down for the season near the end of January and rewarded the Bucks with the most consistent offensive stretch of his career, averaging over 20 points in February. Sessions took the reigns as the starting point guard thanks to an injury to Luke Ridnour (even though we all know he should have been there from day one) and the three of them led the Bucks to over 106 points per game in February.

The Bucks lack of talented depth and difficult March schedule left them for dead as the cold Wisconsin winter began to defrost. After making it through most of the season in the eighth and final playoff spot the Bucks began to lose their footing starting with losses to the Nets and Bulls in the opening week of March and continued that trend through most of the month. A surprising victory over the defending champion Celtics allowed for a brief ray of hope, but subsequent losses to Orlando and Portland left them two games back against a very difficult remaining schedule.

These Bucks have little to apologize for though. They fought through injuries, rumors and inexperience to make for the most successful season in three years. They gave the fans a taste of the playoff race and provided the youngsters an experience of what the chase feels like. For guys like Sessions, Mbah a Moute and Villanueva, this was their first experience with any modicum of success.

A few days back in the Journal Sentinel, columnist Michael Hunt had this to say about these Bucks and their season:
But then came 1999, when the Bucks just squeezed in. Indiana swept them. The next year, they pushed the Pacers to the max in the first round. With all that postseason experience behind them, the Bucks came within 48 minutes of the Finals the following season.

There's no substitute for going through the process, Skiles said.

There is no better way, then, for the Bucks to expunge these last few miserable seasons than by exposing their long-term players to it right now. That first step gets you that much closer to changing the culture. You do it right now because deferring anything to an uncertain future by means of the lottery or any other rationale is a defeatist approach for a franchise that cannot afford to put off anything approaching progress.
I agree wholeheartedly with his sentiments. I can only hope that some of the lessons learned through the process of the race will be applied next year.

In addition to coach Skiles, the Bucks will be survived by Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut, Dan Gadzuric, Francisco Elson, Luke Ridnour, Charlie Bell, Joe Alexander, Malik Allen, possibly Richard Jefferson (I hear more trade rumors already) and maybe Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions (it’ll be an interesting off-season).

Memorial services will be held at Fourth and State on April 1st, 4th, 8th, 11th, and 13th.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Week Ahead (March 22nd-28th)

It turns out home was not very sweet for the Bucks. The Bucks end their six game home stand with two wins and four losses. Not exactly a playoff springboard. We knew this wouldn’t be a walk in the park home stand, but I was hoping for at least .500. The loss to the Knicks was a killer. At the time Frank at Brewhoop wrote:
Still, there's no way to sugarcoat this game--it was a huge, huge loss that we may very look back on as the decisive game of the season.
I’m ready to say it was that decisive game.

Now the Bucks have a difficult three game road stretch as time starts to run out on their playoff hopes and the gap between them and that final spot continues to grow.

March 25th @ Toronto(25-45)
Chris Bosh likely has April 15th circled on his schedule for two reasons.
  1. It’s tax day here in America.
  2. The Raptors nightmare season will finally come to an end.
No team started the season with more realistically high expectations that went unfulfilled. I mean we were talking about the Raptors as a team that could contend for a playoff spot in the four range. The free fall hasn’t ended even as the team has come together from a health standpoint. The Chris Bosh Watch started before the season and has only intensified as things have spun out of control. There is a better chance that the Bucks will have a title by 2011 than the Raps will have Chris Bosh. Here is the Bucks best shot at picking up a much needed win on this road trip. Good thing it's first, it could set the tone and maybe spur one last shot.

March 27th @ Orlando (51-18)
Must we do this again? Last game was more reminiscent of bugs hitting a car than actual basketball. Bucks were flying off the mighty Dwight Howard and balls were flying into innocent spectators. I still believe at some point in his career the NBA’s answer to Godzilla will cause the explosion of a basketball with his right hand. Earlier this year I thought the Magic were the likeliest of this year’s top teams to go out early in the playoffs, but now I’m having second thoughts on that. They have surrounded Howard perfectly and play crazy defense. I can’t wait to see them go up against the Cavs or Celtics in round two, that will be fun.

March 28th @ Miami (37-32)
D-Wade is making a historic MVP push right now averaging over 35 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds in March. What’s crazy is that even with that legendary type run he hasn’t secured pole position on the road to the MVP vote. That is as good a reason as any that Lebron should be MVP. MVP or not Wade will likely be more than enough to put the Bucks away in South Beach which is a phenomenal home court. The fans aren’t great but if I were a millionaire under 30 in South Beach I’d probably be a little preoccupied with my before and after game plans.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Things I've Done Right...Things I've Done Wrong

I'll be updating this list on and off for the next few days with how things are going in my NCAA Tournament Fan Experience.

(Updated 9:15 PM 3/22)

Things I Have NOT Enjoyed
  • Howie Long. He stands out alone here. I don't ever want to see another commercial involving Howie Long. Enough. I don't care what you have to say you smug bastard. If I had a truck I'd make sure it had that man-step just to spite you and your boxy haircut.
Things I've Enjoyed
  • Greg Gumble. Gumble worked up a sweat on Friday night throwing it back and forth between the Siena and Wisconsin games. Kudos to you Greg on a job well done. Speaking of the games they were terrific. I've been notably hard on Wisconsin before but that was a very gutsy and impressive performance. I've taken to calling Keaton Nankivil "The Anvil," I hope it sticks.
  • The Early Circle. My friend Chris decided to circle Wake as a winner about 10 minutes before the game even tipped off. Naturally Cleveland State proceeded to run off nine straight points to start the game and never looked back from there. The Basketball Gods do not like those who tell them what to do my friend.
  • Mormon Ball. I shouldn't really say I've enjoyed this, but I'd like to note that things did not go as planned for the Mormons these last two days. BYU, Utah State and Utah all fell. Street Toughs-1 Scrappers-0.
  • Dominic James. The game hasn't started but he's already a winner. He's like a chameleon, cut his foot off and it just grows right back.
  • The State of Wisconsin. Really impressive scrappy efforts from both state teams. Neither of them advanced, but they both put on shows and played their hearts out. They put some Madness into March and that's all you can ask for in the tournament.

Things I've Done Right

  • Gonzaga. The Bulldogs look feisty in the second half of their opener. In the opening night Jeremy Pargo may have had the dunk of the tournament over Froto on Akron. I'm feeling them as a Final Four team after round one considering Lawson's toe issue for UNC.
  • Flight Wright. A double double in round one looked nice for the high flier from Dayton. Best put by one Brian Bau, "The Wright Stuff is killing my bracket." Should have heeded my advice friend.
  • Greivis. Any time a player airballs a shot, gets heckled, steals a pass, drives for a lay-up and then puts his finger to his lips to hush the previously jeering crowd, then he's officially made a hell of an impression on me.
Things I've Done Wrong
  • North Dakota St. The dream was over before it began. They did give it their all though. It'll be fun to see Dayton beat Kansas I guess.
  • Illinois and Minnesota. Why did I pick Illinois and Minnesota? For years I've heard about how the Big 10 gets it done in the tournament. They play tough d, they don't turn it over, they make their free throws, blah blah blah. I should have known better than to trust a conference where they use medicine balls instead of basketballs.
  • Tennessee. Bruce you failed me. I thought for sure the Tennessee fun show would move into at least the weekend.
  • Memphis. I know they pulled it out in the end and there is plenty of time to recover, but yikes. A rather inauspicious start for the Tigers. Those free throw woes reared their ugly head again. I'm hoping they'll be able to beat Missouri in a 107-94 battle, but the structure has been shaken. Don't let me down Cap.
  • Tyrese Rice. Did no one tell him that he is suppose to be a jacker? Where did the 34 point half Tyrese go? 11 shots without a free throw in a tourney game? Really Ty?
  • Awfulzona. They are screwing everything up. Every year some team with a whole bunch of talent spends the regular season screwing around and not playing to their potential. Every year that team makes the tournament somehow or another and promptly gets everyone thinking they have a shot to make some noise since they were just underachievers, not under talented. Every year that team loses immediately reminding us all that champions win games, not underachievers. Awfulzona screwed that up by pasting Utah in round one. How will I know what to think from now on?
  • UCLA. The veterans did not come through like I thought they would. I still think Darren Collison has a bright future though. He looks like he could be a serviceable backup on the NBA level. Jrue Holiday could be a lot more than that. The Holiday takeover at the end of the VCU game was nice. That guy has arms for days. When he declares for the draft he'll be one of those guys we hear can open both car doors while sitting in the backseat.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Madness of March

A list of things I'll be watching during the tournament.

1. Dejuan Blair. When Blair is on the court it’s like seeing a bear playing with a bunch of people. He is so overpowering and dominating, it’s just fun to watch. When he Bruce Lee flipped Hasheem Thabeet he won me over for life. This is a guy who will send a message and do it without drawing a flagrant or tech, the anti-David West I suppose. If there is a God, Blair will meet Blake Griffin in the Final Four and they will put on a show. After that the Milwaukee Bucks will pass on both of them to take a foreign player who doesn’t want to be here. Oh, that’s right Larry Harris is gone, scratch that then.

2. John Calipari. He is a truth spitter. I can’t wait for the Tigers to get to the final four, just so I can hear Cap let everyone know how no one believed in them again. Rallying the troops has never been a problem for Calipari. He may be paying his guys, he may hire their fathers and friends as assistants, and he may even just be a douche bag, but if there is one thing John Calipari can do it’s coach college basketball. (Notice I say college, ask the New Jersey Nets about that.)

3. The Semi-Annual Bill Self Implosion. Used to the the annual, but it was averted last year. Kansas may have won the title last year, but make no mistake, Bill Self is not a good coach. He’s a terrific recruiter and a helluva salesman, but time and time again his teams fail to perform come March. As a bonus this year they are playing against one of my favorite sleepers in North Dakota State. The Bisons have plenty of veterans that have actually won meaningful games before. They boast victories over Wisconsin, Marquette and UWM in the past few years with this crew. The ghosts of Bucknell could be revisited. Shout out to my friend Chris for his perpetuating the Bill Self sucks idea.

4. No More Texas. Hopefully Texas will bow out in round one, because I just can’t take watching them on television any more. Is there some sort of national agreement that we must put Texas on ESPN once a week throughout college basketball season? What an awful team to watch. I realize that A.J. Abrams can shoot, but that’s all they have. Maybe Damian James and Earl Clark got together before the year and made a bet about who could hurt their draft stock more by having a worse year. I usually don’t like to see Big 10 teams winning games, but I’m all for Minnesota putting us out of our misery in the opening round.

5. Mike Anderson’s Missouri Tigers. I’ll be completely honest about this...I’ve watched about 10 minutes of Missouri basketball this year, but I’m convinced they will make the Elite 8. I was sure of that long before the brackets even came out. Not only can Missouri run and press and that good stuff, but I watched them blow apart a Baylor zone the other day with quick decisive passes. Beautiful basketball.

6. Tyrese Rice and Willie Warren. Possibly my two favorite guards in college basketball. Neither of them have any regard for situations or who is on the court or what else is going on when they have the ball. Their only objective is to find a way to put the ball through the hoop by any means necessary. Does that always lead to smart productive basketball? No. But it does lead to 34 points in a half.

7. Arizona One and Done. For all the reasons Arizona should have qualified for the NCAA tournament I have one reason they shouldn’t have. And it is a pretty significant example of a terrible teamWatch the first 15 seconds and then watch at the 3:45 mark. If that happens once, I may blame the players. But when something like that happens twice, it falls squarely on the coach. That was so ridiculous that it should have disqualified them right then and there. I was watching that game with my friends and did the run around the room screaming are you serious routine afterward.

8. Gonzaga. No one ever sees Gonzaga play since they are on the coast, but we all assume their probably good because we know who they are. From what I have seen I’m really feeling the Zags this year. If Jeremy Pargo has half the stones his brother showed when he tried to take over in the final game against the Spurs for the Hornets last year then the Zags are in good hands in crunch time. Everyone on Gonzaga can shoot it and they have Acid Trip Heytvelt holding it down underneath. Combine that with the potential that Austin Daye will remember he was talked about as a lottery pick before the year and I am excited to see them play some important basketball.

9. Chris Wright. His name rhymes with flight, which is appropriate. Youtube again does an admirable job of showing just why I’m excited to see this guy around again. I long for the days of James White when I see this young man. If only I lived in a city that had the D-League. As long as I’m mentioning Wright I would be remiss to leave out Stanley Robinson, Paul Harris, Wayne Chism and Al-Farouq Aminu.

10. Speaking of Chism...Tennessee Basketball. I just love to watch Tennessee. Run and gun basketball at it’s almost finest. If you’re a fan of jump passes and three point shots make sure you tune in to every one of their games because they are not shy about either. No matter what they will be in a fun game to watch though, and that is all you can really ask for.

11. Jarvis Varnardo. A shout out to those who block shots because it’s what keeps them on the floor. If Thabeet were had the pure shot blocking ability of Varnardo no one would even be able to get a shot to the rim against Uconn. Thabeet is pretty good though, I’m not trying to hate, just trying to get the point across that Varnardo is SERIOUS about blocking shots.

12. Greivis. His last name is Vasquez, but a friend of my always refers to him as just Greivis, like their old friends or something. I guess I’m starting to do it myself. Vasquez seems like he’s been around forever and no player in college basketball spills more of his emotion out on to the court, so maybe it’s appropriate that we refer to him like we would an old friend.

13. Purdue. They make white people happy.

14. Commercials. One in particular I’m looking forward to seeing throughout the tournament. The other day when I was on I four commercials where KG, Josh Smith, TMac and Dwight Howard all rocked college jerseys with teams they presumably would not have minded playing for. My favorite part was seeing Tracy McGrady look like Oprah Winfrey in his Louisville jersey. The thing was about to burst at the seems. At least walk on a treadmill or something dude.

15. My Final Four. Memphis, Loserville (Marquette fandom bleeding through), Pittsburgh, and the Sooners. Look for Pitt to take home the crown this year. I’m pretty good at predicting these types of things, I advanced to the finals of my pool four years ago only to lose to a girl who had never watched anyone other than should probably be listening to me.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Charlie V. Twitcident

This may be the first time all year that I've seen mention of a Milwaukee Buck or the franchise on the front page of ESPN.

Naturally it has nothing to do with basketball.

The fact that Charlie V. was "tweeting" in the locker room doesn't seem like such a big deal to me. Does anyone remember when Gilbert Arenas walked into and subsequently out of a shower with his uniform on, only to play in it minutes later? Or when Arenas said he played online poker at halftime to get focused?

This seems no more out of the ordinary than either of those things.

I'm sending text messages and emails from my phone all day at work, so I can hardly toss any blame at Charlie V.

Best of all is that he came out and scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Bucks to a crucial W against a great team. Where is the downside to any of this twitter in the locker room business?

I say let Charlie V. do whatever Charlie V. needs to do to get himself ready to play. The man is a professional and as long as he is showing up and giving the effort he has been for the last few months why does it matter.

Too bad the Bucks went the "we have to be professional" route.

The Immortal Damon Jones

I say this with the obvious understanding that I have spent exactly zero minutes in the actual immediate presence of the Milwaukee Bucks this year. I can only decipher their moods and manners based on what I see on the 94 x 50 foot platform I see on Fourth and State.

But from what I see...

Damon Jones is the best teammate in the world.

He is like Mark Madsen crossed with Chris Rock. A comedian who can wave a towel with the pros. Jones sprints off the bench during timeouts to cheer on and congratulate his guys. He never complains about his role (which is non-existent). He works the officials before, after and during games, all so his guys get the benefits of a call or two. Most importantly, Jones is hilarious. Next time you attend a Bucks game keep an eye on him from the moment he steps foot on the floor.

He knows he’s the coolest and funniest guy out there. He doesn’t wonder if someone he’s approaching wants to talk to them, he knows they want to talk to him. Whether they do or not. Maybe that’s just the kind of thing that happens when you’ve been on every team in the league. Regardless I’m just glad he is here now.

Jones is like the guy at the Y who everyone else calls Unc. He’s old, he can’t guard anyone on the court, and he shoots all the time, but you love him for all those things. He seems like he has all kinds of little drops of knowledge that he is constantly passing down to the younger guys. If he gained 50 lbs and showed up at the Y tomorrow and starting knocking down threes from the top and talking trash I wouldn’t bat an eyelash.

This is exactly the type of guy you need on the end of the bench. Someone to keep the guys loose and involved in the game. When Richard Jefferson caught the jump ball and made a beeline to the hoop against the Hornets, only to be rejected by the rim, I saw Jones in the background looking like he had to hold back the Bucks bench before he led them in an explosion. Not one person in the arena was as excited as Damon about the possibility of that lay-up going in.

What’s even better about Jones is that he has played on the same team as 95% of the players in the league. He’s always jabbering to guys on the court and not just Bucks. He knows exactly what to say to guys to get them riled or off their game. Isn’t that the kind of guy all of us like to have on our side?

I haven’t even mentioned the outfits. Oh my the bow ties. Between Jones and Andrew Bogut the Bucks have two individuals with unique styles. But those are the kinds of things that bring a team together. With the margin of error being as slim as it is for the Bucks even the smallest of things are crucial to their playoff hopes. If the Bucks had an Isaiah Rider (I could have said Marbury but everyone has beaten up on him so much this year, let’s bring back the original O.G.) type guy on the end of the bench stirring up trouble would they have any shot? Probably not.

Time and time again chemistry has proven critical to a team’s success. Important as it may be, it’s often overlooked. Perhaps that is why the Bucks and Jones took so long to come together this year. Jones had previously been seen by some as a prima-donna. His reputation took a hit a few years back when he refused to enter a game in garbage time. If I had to guess I’d say the Bucks wanted to take some time to make sure he was in the right frame of mind and understood what his role would be. The Bucks probably originally saw him as merely a salary cap throw in to be left at home, a Jamal Tinsley in Indiana only without the mutual hatred.

Now Jones sprints to the scorers table and hoists threes to his heart’s content when he enters. Whether they go in or not doesn’t really matter. Jones already made his contributions for the day, and that was long before he ever left the bench.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Week Ahead (March 15th-21st)

Today I was at work during the Bucks Celtics game. I was thinking I wouldn’t be missing much given the way things have been going lately. Around four I looked at my phone to see who played well in the loss and I actually made my shocked noise. The noise is like this:


That’s a long extended goo. Not go. Goo.

So I was pretty excited.

I’d say that I have a hard time believing that this really happened since I didn’t watch the game, but I need look back only to November to see that the Bucks key it up a notch against the Celtics–the champs will always get everyone’s best effort. Couple that with injuries to so many Celtics and the fouling out of Leon Powe and it’s believable (barely) that the Bucks could pull it out.

The question now is: What do we make of the Bucks big Sunday win?

Anytime you can win a game where you shoot 32 percent you must be doing something right on the defensive end. They will certainly need to continue that type of defense. The Magic are a team of long range bombers, a facet of opponents offenses that the Bucks have struggled with at times this year. The Celtics, Blazers and Magic present as big of a challenge as the Bucks have had in one week this year.

On the plus side Ramon Sessions is due for a big game or two the rest of this week after struggling against uber-athletic point guard Rajon Rondo and the point god Chris Paul. Charlie V. bounced back in the fourth against the Celtics to lead the Bucks to the W, so hopefully he’ll keep that up.

They passed the first test on Sunday so we’ll see if they have taken some of the luck of the Irish from the Celtics this St. Patrick’s Day week.

March 18th vs. Orlando (49-17)
Bad news for the Bucks is that Orlando shoots threes like they’re the Knicks. Except they are much better at it. Orlando has built their team with much attention to detail. They’ve essentially put a team of small forwards and shooting guards around Dwight Howard. Howard is a good enough defender to make up for many of their flaws–specifically when playing against the Milwaukees of the world. Problem for Orlando is that they currently have one-half of a power forward on their roster and his name is Marcin Gortat. I say one-half because I don’t know if he is from America, Sweden, Poland or Mars (I think it’s Poland).

March 21st vs. Portland (41-25)
For as much as we heard about the Bucks and Blazers making a deal deadline day I feel like I know everyone on Portland. Ask me Travis Outlaw’s strengths and weakness and I’ll tell you he has a mean mid range game and athletic ability, but can be inconsistent. Thank you Jason Quick. The most intriguing Blazer to me remains Jerryd Bayless. He looked like a super prospect to me earlier this year when Blake went down but has battled inconsistency like most rookies. I was pulling for the Bucks to take him last June so I feel like I have a personal stake in him. It’s always fun to have a guy like that and see how it turns out. The last guy I had like that was Marquis Daniels. That hasn’t turned out so well.

Friday, March 13, 2009


I did a recap on this evening's game over at Brewhoop.

Crappy game to rehash so go only at your own risk.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Will Charlie V. Play D?

Charlie Villanueva was on ESPN’s First and 10 Wednesday. The appearance reiterated a few things we’ve learned about him this year: he’s loquacious, he likes Twitter, and he dresses pretty well. We also found out that Charlie was named the nation’s most beautiful bald celebrity according to a contest sponsored by Eagle snacks.

How I missed that I don’t know, but there is something that we have yet to find out about Charlie V. and likely won’t for a few more years.

Can he be the future power forward on a playoff winning Bucks team?

Power forward is an intriguing and important position.

For years power forwards were looked to for rebounds, defense and blocked shots. Stepping out on the perimeter and jacking up three-pointers was not expected, encouraged or allowed for them. Even the scorers among them – Elvin Hayes, Kevin McHale, Karl Malone – were tough guy physical players. This is the mold of a Tim Duncan.

The seeds of change were planted in the late 80's though. Charles Barkley brought a new brand of play. His athleticism and power were combined with adept perimeter skills. While Barkley was 6'5, this style of play birthed the style that the Kevin Garnetts, Dirk Nowitzkis and Antoine Walker’s laid claim to.

If Barkley knew that one day he would influence an Antoine Walker to walk up and down the court shooting treys and doing that head dance I feel like he would have done some things differently though.

Villanueva clearly resides in category two. He floats around the perimeter a lot and does a good job of it. When he is hot, he is one of the more productive scorers in recent Bucks memory. On the plus side he often crashes into the lane for rebounds, averaging over seven per game since the first of January. At time Villanueva shows the ability to combine the best of the two worlds. At least on the offensive end.

At the defensive end Villanueva is a work in progress. He has the athleticism necessary to be a competent defender, but seems to get lost often. I wouldn’t say that his defense is anything that stands out while watching games though. That may be a product of power forwards often not being a first option though. And it does hurt the Bucks that he is not a capable shot blocker. With Bogut out they offer little challenge on the back-line thanks to the struggles in this area of Villanueva and Elson.

Overall it’s tough to judge how he has progressed considering he is not playing with a capable center. If Bogut were down low he would be erasing some of the mistakes made by Charlie V. (and most Buck defenders) leaving things looking much brighter. At the offensive end he would provide a nice yang on the inside to Villanueva’s ying on the outside.

I just can’t shake the nagging feeling that Villanueva is not the kind of power forward that starts on really good basketball teams. When I look at the power forwards on recent championship teams I see Garnett. I see Duncan. I see Udonis Haslem. I see Rasheed Wallace. I see Big Shot Bob. I’m seeing a lot of guys who are playing a lot of defense. What I don’t see is a sweet shooting gunner who offers little resistance and scrap on the other end.

What is nice about Charlie V is that he’s only 24. He has time to develop into a Horryesque defender. But I’d feel a lot better about the Bucks probable attempts to resign him if I got a glimpse of that before the season ends.

If not, I guess I’ll just continue to watch him Twit.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Week Ahead (March 8th-15th)

I was successful in one prediction last week: I still suck at predictions. My hope for a 3-1 week to jumpstart a playoff run quickly spun into a 1-3 drop out of the current playoff picture. If the Bucks are going to claim to be a good home team don’t they have to beat teams like the Nets at home? Tuesday's loss was very sad for a team attempting to pose as a good home team.

But there are more pressing issues at hand than my inability to see the future.

In recent memory has their been a Buck more clumsy with the ball than Keith Bogans? Here I thought the Bucks were getting a guy who could play some defense and shoot the three and they got a guy who does little of either of those things and has the ball mysteriously slip away from him fairly often.

Charlie Bell and Keith Bogans, thanks for your hard work and all this year, but can we see heavy doses of Joe Alexander for the rest of the year now? The Not-So Killer B’s tandem of Bell and Bogans equates into a fairly significant weakness any time either of them are on the court. Bell is more of a liability defensively than he ever gets credit for. How can he not be with a four-year-old hanging off of his right knee?

Bell and Bogans have PER’s of 9.82 and 8.59 respectively. To put that in perspective, another guy whose job is to come in and shoot, Kyle Korver, has a PER of 11.11 – in a down year. Bogans is a much better defender than Korver but I don’t believe there is significant evidence that Bell is. Who has lived off a reputation as a good defender longer than Charlie Bell? If he was good before he hasn’t been since he lost his right knee.

(Bell does offer some veteran leadership and is the Bucks player representative, which counts for something, but not enough to offset the poor play.)

Bogans has done most of his damage (he hasn’t really done any damage, I guess I should say most of the damage has been done to Bogans) as a member of the Magic so I’m less concerned about him. I think going forward the Bucks will realize as quickly as I have that he isn’t very good. When I thought he would be part of the Bucks playoff charge I was envisioning a Bruce Bowen type instead of a Bruce Banner (non Hulked up version) type.

Oddly enough this Saturday Bell and Bogans had their best games since Washington last Saturday. Bogans still stumbled around a bit though and Bell still missed enough open shots that I was bothered. It just seems to me that it would be more productive for the future of the Bucks if Joe Alexander was getting some of the time these two were getting. I know that may be admitting defeat and dropping out of the playoff race essentially, but at this point if you’re the Bucks why kid yourself? Onto the week ahead...

March 10th vs. New York (25-36)
The Knicks continue to chuck with reckless abandon. They’re averaging 28 three point attempts per game. That must be why they acquired Larry Hughes, to slow things down. Their defense continues to be for lack of a better term defenseless. In the month of February they were able to hold an opponent under 100 points just one time. Fortunately the Bucks thrive in these types of games recently, so this should be a win.

March 13th vs. New Orleans (39-22)
Remember when New Orleans was disappointing this year? What happened to that team? Suddenly they are third in the West and surging. Tyson Chandler has looked very feisty since returning from injury and his trade untrade fiasco. The Bucks certainly wish he had been gone in their last game in New Orleans. Chandler’s tip with time running down bailed out the Hornets after the Bucks fought back into the game during garbage time. Chris Paul continues to play point guard better than anyone anywhere and now that Chandler is healthy and springy again they are certainly looking dangerous.

Friday, March 6, 2009

What A Superstar Looks Like

I often think of superstars as stoppers. I’m not talking Bruce Bown or Ruben Patterson kind of stoppers. I’m talking the guys who hit the “SHUT UP” shots to swing momentum and do not allow for mistakes on the defensive end from their guys. Stoppers put teams in the playoffs.

Plainly put, the Bucks do not have stoppers. When the Bucks absolutely need points or free throws to stop a momentum shift, they cannot do it. When the Bucks need to make sure they take it up a notch on defense and lock down to prevent a run, they cannot do it. They are stopper less. That is what happens when a team is without a superstar. The Kobe Bryant’s, Lebron James’ and Dwyane Wade’s of the world can control the collective wills of their teams and will everyone else up a notch to make sure the team gets a stop on defense. They can then turn around and come back down the court and turn the heat up with timely buckets or free throws.

Were Michael Redd healthy you can’t help but wonder how he would fill the role offensively. Combined with the point guarding skills of a Ramon Sessions would Redd be more effective than ever? Even when he was healthy this year he rarely had Sessions delivering the ball to him. Would he be the offensive catalyst the Bucks need in games like the Bulls game when things began to slip out of hand. Instead of settling for long twos by a hit or miss Richard Jefferson.

It’s been proven time and again that this is a superstar driven league. Star players sense moments when they are needed and raise their games to another level when the time calls for it. As well as Ben Gordon played in this crucial game against the Bucks, I was even more impressed with Derek Rose. Rose has a clear sense of when it is time to take over and finishes so many important “and 1's” around the hoop. He carved through the lane time and time again against the Bucks at moments when it seemed the Bucks may be on the comeback trail. His strength and speed overwhelmed the Bucks and left them flailing their arms in an attempt to block his path. It was his wearing down of the Bucks that opened up the game for the Gordon’s and Kirk Hinrich’s.

During those moments that Rose realizes he is too quick for men his size and too powerful for those with his quickness it is scary. He has the LeBron ability to bounce off defenders as he gets in the lane and the skill to finish at the rim. Rookies are not supposed to do things like this. Even scarier is that this is all coming from a guy who really gets what being a teammate is all about. When Rose figures out a consistent form on his midrange and outside jump shot I don’t see how anyone outside of the LeBron-Kobe-Wade stratosphere will be able to stop him.

Along with their recently improved depth, Rose is the key factor in the playoff race. New Jersey has Vince Carter and Devin Harris and the Bucks have the ever improving duo of Charlie V. and Ramon Sessions, but superstardom is reserved for a select few. Rose has only begun to knock at that door, but if we remember Dwyane Wade and his phenomenal rookie year in the playoffs we know what those who hold that key is capable of.

Meanwhile, the Bucks will continue to search for their very own star. The only stopper they appear on the horizon of is a stoppage of playoff hope.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

It's A Little Colder Tonight

Winter nights are cold in Milwaukee. Yahoo! says it is 28 degrees out right now, I'd say it's closer to 10, probably because I endured the long miserable loser walk to the car after the Bucks game. It may be March 3rd but it feels like the depths of a long winter after a crushing loss for the Bucks.

This was a game they had in hand multiple times, yet let slip away time and time again.

Again the three-point shot was a harrowing enemy of Milwaukee's. In a crucial run in the final stanza the Nets sandwiched three long range bombs around a Devin Harris lay-up. Time and time again the Bucks inability to successfully defend the pick and roll stood out like a sore thumb as the Nets exploited it to find open shooters planted in the corners. How long have Ryan Anderson and Jarvis Hayes been so lights out? Is Ryan Anderson always this good? I just checked his stats and he plays less than 20 minutes a night and shoots under 40 percent. How did he turn into Nowitzki tonight?

As I was coming home from the game I turned on the radio to the post game show.

Bad idea.

I heard callers lambaste the Bucks inability to play fundamental basketball, claim they would never attend another NBA game, sing the praises of college and its terrific fundamentals (isn't that what WNBA fans say?), and pound the play of Luke Ridnour as the sole transgression that costs the Bucks the game.

Ridnour is not better than Sessions and shouldn't be starting. But Scott Skiles appears to realize that. He played about 20 minutes and was rarely in the back court with Sessions. I liked that move. I think the Bucks are a better team when Sessions is running the show with Bogans or Bell beside him. The problem tonight was that Bogans and Bell weren't playing well.

This was indeed a sloppy game but it was as hard fought a competition as I had seen in a while. The Bradley Center was disappointingly empty --I'd imagine due to high school games and UWM's tournament game -- but lively with the fans that made it.

This loss had little to do with poor fundamental basketball.

(Although at the start of the fourth quarter some lazy passes and mental lapses allowed the Nets to surge to a lead. The Bucks recovered and were up eight before the three-point Harris sandwich.)

Ultimately the team with more talent will usually win the game and the Nets simply had more talent tonight than the Bucks. Ryan Anderson, Jarvis Hayes, Vince Carter, Devin Harris and Brook Lopez were all former first round picks for a reason. They hit the shots that mattered in the fourth and the Bucks could not seal the deal. Despite rants from callers gone wild, there is still time to recover. Unfortunately this blow certainly sets the Bucks back and has me turning up my heater tonight.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Week Ahead (March 1st-7th)

If the Bucks want to continue to lose on the road and win at home I’ll take that. The Bucks have 12 home games left and 8 on the road, at the current pace the Bucks would end up pulling even by season’s end. (It's March so maybe I'll do this whole post in Green.)

Maybe not though.

The loss to New Orleans hurt. Coming back that much only to fall short on a tip in, I was sure would have residual effect for Saturday. I underestimated the terribleness of Washington. How can they be this bad? Is Gilbert Arenas that good? Does Brendan Haywood carry that much weight as a defensive force? At no point was Saturday’s game a contest. It could have been about halfway through the 4th, but my key to the rest of the season Keith Bogans drilled a big three. One of two he hit. I have hope.

The upcoming week screams OPPORTUNITY. New Jersey and Chicago are the Bucks primary competition for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. My prediction is a 3-1 week where the Bucks can begin to spring themselves into a playoff burst. Be forewarned; my predictions usually suck.

March 3rd vs. New Jersey (26-33)
New Jersey comes back to Milwaukee on Tuesday in front of what surely will be a lively crowd. The last time Jersey came into the BC Wauwatosa legend Devin Harris missed the game with an injury. That was a helluva game. Bobby Simmons let fly a three from the corner that seemed to put the game in New Jersey’s favor, before Luke Ridnour hit a floater with less than a second left to secure it for the Bucks. This weeks game obviously has a little more weight attached to it, given the Nets are only a game and a half back from Milwaukee. Given the way that Detroit has fallen off the map as of late, none of these teams scrambling behind them has really put too much pressure on them. It's a shame that Detroit has gotten away with this foolishness they're calling basketball.

March 4th @ Cleveland (46-12)
Can we cancel this game? Hasn’t Lebron done enough to harm Milwaukee recently. And now apparently Cleveland will be replacing the awful Ben Wallace with the still talented Joe Smith. Smith is in his “Scott Williams Stage” now but that means he can still can a baseline jumper and be an important guy. If the Bucks win in Cleveland they should be granted a playoff bid right then and there.

March 6th @ Chicago (27-33)
The rivalry continues. I should say semi-rivalry. When Chicago last visited things got a liiitle chippy and there was actually some crowd noise involved. I’m not saying the Cubs and the Brewers need to watch out for this rivalry becoming king of the Milwaukee Chicago sports universe, but at least an interesting under current appears to be developing. I’m glad these two are battling for a playoff spot, that can only add to the distaste. I'm thinking things may get testy again with the playoff spot still on the line. The New Jersey Chicago matchups this week will go a long way towards deciding who's playing in late April and who is sitting at home waiting for the 13th pick in the lottery.

March 7th vs. Golden State (20-39)
It’s always fun to see Don Nelson and his lovable brand of up-tempo basketball running up and down the court. Nelson has recently decided to sit one of his veterans every game to make way for a younger player. Seems like he might just be trying to piss off some guys, but you never really know what Nellie is thinking. Golden State has a ton of young guys who are fun to watch. Anthony Randolph might be a star one day. Marco Bellinelli used his last game Milwaukee to create a highlight tape. This could be the Bucks toughest game of the week or easiest game of the week. You never know what you’ll get when Don Nelson brings his brand of fun into town.