Friday, January 30, 2009
He can also be the guy who scores 0 points in 11 foul plagued minutes. Throughout his career he’s had a love affair with the three point line. His defense has been the only consistency he’s shown, and it’s been putrid. There are times when it honestly looks as if he doesn’t even care about the game he is playing.
But has the switch been flipped?
Villanueva has put together the most consistent stretch of his career in the month of January. His averages of 19.9 points and 7 rebounds are the highest he has ever had for a single month. His three point shooting has been one of the most obvious factors. A career 32% shooter from behind the arc, Villanueva has shot a staggering 43% in the month of January. And it’s not as if he’s shooting less, he’s shot twice as many threes than any other month of the season. It’s possible that he is becoming more comfortable with his role as a scorer since Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd have not been in the lineup together much this month. Comfort is not something Villanueva has been familiar with thus far in his time in the League.
As Villanueva was entering the league teams weren’t sure if he was a shooting four or a big three. No one questioned his offensive gifts, but their have been persistent questions about his defense and effort. The effort switch has been on full this season in Milwaukee, but the defense still lags behind. Similar to his first three years in the league Villanueva has seen extensive time coming in off the bench to provide a scoring punch. This seems to be an easy way for coaches to say that a player cannot play defense. Many thought Villanueva had no chance with Coach Skiles this year, given Skiles preference for gritty players who work hard on defense and take solid shots on offense. It appeared to be a match made in hell. When injuries once again decimated the Bucks Skiles hand was forced and Villanueva made his way back to the lineup to provide much needed scoring help. Now it appears the Bucks have found the power forward they have been looking for.
And it could not have come at a better time…for him or the Bucks.
Villanueva very well could help save the Bucks playoff chances and earn himself quite a payday in the process. Judging from the Raptors game, it looks like the Bucks are in full on chase the 8 spot mode. Skiles rode what he has apparently deemed his top eight all night and played Charlie V. an unheard of 41 minutes. Until two nights ago, Charlie V. hadn’t cracked 40 minutes all year, and now he has done it twice in one week. Coach Skiles has instilled his trust in Charlie V…much to Chuck’s delight I’m sure.
See this is where things get murky: it’s a contract year. Charlie V. is due for a raise next year…sort of. He’ll be a restricted free agent, meaning that the Bucks can match any offer he receives, but he’ll likely want a nice raise and extension if he carries the wobbly Bucks into the playoffs on the strength of his scoring. The Bucks will have to wonder if he is truly worth it. They don’t want to fall into their own trap again and overvalue their own players. It could be like that Simpsons episode where Sideshow Bob keeps stepping on the rakes. Is Charlie V. only now producing because he is only now receiving consistent minutes or is his effort now more focused due to the light at the end of the payroll tunnel?
I’d imagine there is almost no chance he will be traded considering how badly the Bucks want to make the playoffs, but how eager will they be at the end of the year to re-up with him will remain an intriguing issue to watch. This seems like a great situation for him. He has a coach who will keep on him to gain consistency at the defensive end and can slide in between Bogut, THE defensive epicenter of everything the Bucks wish to do, and Mbah a Moute, an all time effort and defense guy already in Milwaukee. The pieces are lining up right for Charlie V. So will he be terrorizing opponents for years to come in a Bucks uniform, frighten away fans with more lackadaisical efforts or show up one or two times a year wearing the uniform of a competitor and haunt us Milwaukeeans with what couldabeen.
Only time will tell.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
TJ FORD HAD 34 POINTS!!
The same TJ Ford who left Milwaukee 3 years ago sans a jump shot still does not have one folks. Everything he was getting was the result of the gaping hole Andrew Bogut has left in the lane for the Bucks. Charlie V. is doing his best to keep the Bucks offense afloat, but when he is the crunch time center, it will almost always result in a loss. The question for seven games now has been the same; When will Andrew Bogut return? Well I'm not getting my hopes up for soon.
“Who knows how long it’ll be?” said Bogut after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s day to day. Hopefully it’ll feel better tomorrow and maybe I can play Friday ... The problem is that I still have a problem changing direction…sliding and that type of stuff. I don’t have a problem running. I can run in a straight line all day, I just can’t change direction too well. It starts tightening up when I do that.”
I'm not a professional player, but at every level of basketball I ever played, changing directions was instrumental to defense. In his absence the Netherlands have provided fans with some unsightly replacements in Dan Gadzuric and Francisco Elson. Gadzuric lacks the size to hold up to much and is often left hacking away at the man he is guarding in an effort to show that he does play defense. While Elson falls down like his shoes are permanently tied together. With no Bogut or Redd on offense the Bucks have been forced to rely on Richard Jefferson to "step his game up" and pick up the slack.
This has not happened.
Not even a little bit.
In the two games that have been played since Redd's injury Jefferson has scored 29 points. Total. If my math is correct that averages out to 14.5 points per game. Which is almost 3 points lower than his season average. 13.2 million just doesn't go as far as it used to. I hate to pick on RJ because he seems like a class act, but the comedy of errors that has left the Bucks in the position at which they are currently in has been frustrating to experience as a fan. How many times are we going to get this kind of performance out of Richard Jeffersons, or Anthony Masons, or Tim Thomases or Gary Paytons? How many pretend stars can one team go through?
It's almost as if karma has descended upon this team to punish them for never taking the proper steps to rebuilding. Making foolish signings and overvaluing their own players perhaps seemed like shortcuts to the NBA gods. I don't know, I'm just baffled that a franchise can appear this snake bit. If Bogut is unable to consistently be in the lineup the rest of the year that may just be a bit too much to take. I'd be just fine with a rebuilding project, but the trigger has never been completely pulled. I know that the team will think that injuries just got the best of them again this year and basically come back with the same squad next year. The big difference would likely be that it would be sans Charlie V. and/or Ramon Sessions due to the salary cap and luxury tax. Those are two of the three young assets the Bucks have. This is like reverse rebuilding.
Something needs to change between now and the trade deadline. I can already see those clouds circling back up, it's looking like it's going to get a little rough.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Check Redsarmy.com for results!
Sunday, January 25, 2009
1. Francisco Elson
What got into this guy yesterday?? Elson played his finest game as a Buck yesterday. As a matter of fact I dug around a little and I’d say this was the 4th finest game of his career. (Dude had 21-10 against the Lakers once!) If he’s "The Zombie" then yesterday he was one of those I AM LEGEND zombies that ran around all over the place like Michael Johnson. How many inbound passes has Elson stole in his career? That had to have been his first one right? But for all you Bucks fans who insist he should be starting ahead of Gadz while Bogut is out...please. And I mean puhhhleeaaasse. Elson isn’t very good. This will be the high point of his season. He falls down more than Dwyane Wade, but takes 5x as long to get up. He is a capable third string center. Gadzuric is a crappy second string center. I’ll still take Gadz over him. They both seem to think they can hit turnaround jumpers though, which is confusing to say the least. Gadz is a much better energy guy though and just an all around better player. I’d say the only thing Elson does better than him is be large. Kudos to Francisco on that.
2. Ramon Sessions
I’ve given my two cents on the Michael Redd injury so I’ll refrain from dipping back into that pool but I forgot to mention how this will impact everyone’s favorite second string point guard. We all remember earlier in the year when he averaged nearly 16 and 6 with Redd out. I’d expect him to get the same opportunity now and have similar results. I know I’m excited to see him get additional burn. He looked real good last night and was noticeably more aggressive after Redd went down. For what it’s worth the Bucks are 7-4 in games where he reaches 7 assists this year, with the losses being close games to Toronto, Orlando, Atlanta and Cleveland.
January 26th vs. Minnesota (14-27)
Break up the T’Wolves! They have been on fire in the month of January. Who would have thought they would improve so much after dumping legendary coach Randy Wittman. McHale has guided them to a 10-12 record since taking over. He probably doesn’t get why everyone dislikes Kevin McHale the GM. If Bogut returns on Monday that will coincidentally be the second time this season that he makes a return from injury against the Wolves. That game was a three point shooting clinic put on by the Wolves as they finished 13-22 en route to a 2 point win. Rodney Carney of Memphis fame was especially productive that game going off for 22. He’s averaging 10 points a game this month, which equates to the best month of his career. For fun here’s a quote from Rashadmccants1.com about Rashad himself.
"Once you open it up and start to read it, you find out things that you've never really seen or heard before. And I think that really describes me." – Rashad McCants, comparing himself to reading The Bible
January 28th @ Indiana (16-27)
Most of the season Indiana has been looked at as a hard luck team. They’ve had a BRUTAL schedule and lost a ton of close games this year, signs of a hard luck team. Well I’m just going to say they aren’t very good. I don’t care about all the excuses that are being made for them, they aren’t good. Every year Troy Murphy puts up numbers on bad teams, probably because he is bad. Same with Mike Dunleavy. At least before the Pacers could stay in the news when their players got arrested, now they are putting together a collection of school boys and losses both. They are no longer even the butt of a joke, just the butt of the league. Congratulations I guess. The moustache homage last week was funny though. This is the kind of road game the Bucks should win though.
January 30th @ Toronto (17-28)
Jermaine O’neal trade rumors and Jose Calderon’s free throw streak. That sums up what Raptors fans have to look forward to for the rest of this season. The Craptors aren’t likely to make a run at the playoffs. Not with the antics of Jamario Moon. I’ve been saying for over a year now that they need a real player at the 2 or the 3. Seriously, like anyone that can play basketball would do. Is this that hard to fill? There is no one in the D-League that is better than Moon or Joey Graham? They played Anthony Parker at the 1 last week while Calderon was out, it’s like training camp all over for them again. Another one of those bad team road games the Bucks need to win to get into the tourney.
January 31st vs. Atlanta (26-16)
As usual the Bucks will be shorthanded against Atlanta. Well they’ll be shorthanded against everyone for the rest of the year, but each game against the Hawks this year someone has been missing. What got into the Hawks bench the other night? Damn. It's pretty unlikely they'll match that effort, but the Hawks starters are still a handful. Al Horford will probably be back for Saturday, and he was lethal earlier this year when Bogut was out. Bogut-Horford should be an intriguing match up. Atlanta is definitely good enough to come into the Mil and take one, so the Bucks will need to bring their A, B, and C game and roll them up into one on Saturday.
Redd out for the season?
Emotions are conflicting inside of me.
Michael Redd is the premier scorer on this Bucks team, like it or not. That fact was never more obvious than in the first month of the season when Redd was hurt. The team had little from behind the arc and didn't have what I call an "offensive stopper". Every team that is worth anything has someone who can get them a bucket when they need one. When momentum is shifting teams need a guy who can hit the "SHUT UP" shot. Redd was that guy for the Bucks. He's the most viable threat from behind the arc they have. After him it's probably Charlie Bell, but he is not someone you want in there for more than 20 minutes a game. This month Redd's been filling it up to the tune of 24 a game on 45% shooting. He's even rejecting shots like Mutombo (2 this month alone!). Redd is THE guy on the Bucks.
But what has that meant?
Redd has been THE guy for for the last 5 years. The Bucks have made the playoffs once in that time frame. They have had some of the worst seasons in Bucks history. This has not all been Michael Redd's fault by any means. By now everyone knows Redd's shortcomings, he's not a great defender, he doesn't do a lot of other things besides score, and he holds the ball a lot on offense. To put it simply, Redd is a star portraying a superstar.
I personally have been advocating a Redd or Richard Jefferson trade for some time, due largely to the cap relief it would provide and picks/prospects the Bucks could net in return. Obviously that will be rather difficult now that Redd is apparently going to miss a lot of time. But I do see this as a perfect opportunity to start over. If Redd is going out the same time that Andrew Bogut is returning to the lineup, it's time to hand the keys to 'Drew. He got the large contract this off season and he's been the most important defensive player and rebounder on the team all year. And when I say he's been the most important defensive player I mean that in the most vivid way. For this season's Bucks playing defense without Bogut has been akin to trying to lock a door, only without the luxury of a lock. They have been trying to keep the door closed, but it's hard to hold back opposing offenses with Dan Gadzuric manning that door. This is the chance for the Bucks to turn the team over to Bogut offensively and see what he can do.
Earlier this year when Redd was out, Bogut was not overly assertive. Scott Skiles even had a talk earlier this year with Bogut about being aggressive. This may be because Bogut still felt like this was Michael Redd's team, and with him out it became Richard Jefferson's team. The Bucks have been perimeter oriented since Kareem walked out that door Bucks fans. Someone needs to let Bogut know it is time for a change. If that message gets across to him and the big man gets fed...then I'll be ok.
Friday, January 23, 2009
-Dan Gadzuric is a cautionary tale for the Amir Johnson's and Joakim Noah's of the world. When you have an athletic big guy who can run the floor and the one IF is IF he can develop an offensive game he'll be pretty good, it's important to remember that is a capital IF.
-Charlie V. is 4-4, Al Harrington would be pleased.
-I'd make the See Joe comment about his blocked shot, but I think we can put that one to rest at this point.
-I was at Saz's (Milwaukee what!) earlier this year during the month where Ramon Sessions was killing the competition and insisted to my friends that Sessions was a force at point guard. In my rant I asked them to name point guards who they thought were superior and when someone said Mike Bibby I scoffed at the notion. I'd like to use this forum to retract my statement regarding the comparison of Sessions to Bibby. I was wrong.
-At the end of the first quarter the Hawks ran the last second play that I detest, the one guy on top 4 guys along the baseline isolation. Why do this? Why not run guys on curls off screeners or something? To make it even worse they ran it for Flip Murray. Yikes.
-Speaking of Murray...I once read that he was nicknamed Flip because of his resemblance to Bernie Mac, who famously (or not so famously) portrayed the bum Flip in Above the Rim. I stumbled upon Murray's Wikipedia page the other day and it claims he is referred to as Flip because of his childhood penchant for gymnastics. I'd love to know the truth. UPDATE: I researched it further on Wikipedia, the gymnastics win. He does look like Mac though.
-I can't imagine why a Bucks team with Francisco Elson, Ramon Sessions, Tyronn Lue, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Richard Jefferson in the game can't score.
-Marvin Williams takes every inch of a step that he can on his forays to the hoop. Personally I think he travels more often than not.
-Charlie V. probably doesn't want the first half to ever end.
-Oh my goodness everything Charlie V. is shooting right now is going in. I think I saw a flame come off his hand on his last shot. Cue the NBA Jam music. UPDATE: Almost immediately after I typed that he airballed.
-After Gadzuric stops some up-tempo play with a foul here is Jim Paschke, "Gadzuric says I'll just stop all this with a foul."
-Since my last Charlie V. comment he is 0-2 with a turnover.
-Flip Murray and Mo Evans are making me feel pretty stupid. They are filling it up off the bench.
-Just went to espn.com to check on Murray and Evans and noticed that Elson is -16 for the game. No surprise there, he moves like he is a zombie from Dawn of the Dead.
-Murray and Evans: 9-11, 21 points.
-Speaking of the Zombie, he now has two goaltends tonight, which is surprising because I didn't think he could get up high enough to block a shot.
-Bibby just threw up a wondrous lob to Josh Smith for 2. Looks like good night Bucks.
-And to make it official a Damon Jones sighting. Good to see Damon again, though not the pleasant circumstances they were when he made his debut the other night.
-Damon wastes no time in hoisting up a three of course.
- The Hawks have really dominated the paint, thanks to the absence of Andrew Bogut. I really can't stress enough how important he is. The drop off in play between him and the backups is like a fall off a cliff.
-A 4 point play by Flip Murray. Yikes. After that he gets pulled so the 50 fans in attendance can applaud his effort tonight. Nice crowd Atlanta, you know this is the best team you've had in a decade right? What a joke.
-Brewhoop, I can't wait to see what positives you guys pull out of this one. Charlie V. and nothing else tonight. Usually we get some garbage time highlights, but uh, not so much tonight.
-Johnny Mac likes Slumdog Millionaire as a dark horse for best picture everyone.
-Murray and Evans: 15-21, 40 points. Jerks.
-Next game tomorrow at home against the Kings, but not on TV. How about a big crowd at the BC tomorrow, what do you say Milwaukee?
Let’s begin with who’ll miss out and why.
We’ll probably see Charlotte’s chances gone by the time next Friday has passed. I put them on here because they are only 2.5 games out of the last playoff spot, impressive considering the start of their season. The Boris Diaw trade was a rejuvenation for him, he can do a lot of things in the East that he wasn’t able to do in the West because of the strength of the power forwards there. However, they are about to embark on a very difficult 5 game western trip, and if that doesn’t kill them they’ll still have 19 road games to go! Including ANOTHER trip out west in February to play the rest of the best out there. This is more of a developmental season for them anyway, even though they aren’t that young and Michael Jordan continues to make terrible draft picks. I think there only good young player is DJ Augustin. It’s actually a positive thing there that Larry Brown wants to trade everyone away like he always does, because most of the team sucked when he got there. I really liked the deal for Desegana Diop. I know his contract sucks and he sucks, but at the very least he can play some D. If you’re a big man and have the skill to block shots it helps a ton. Anyway, if they make a good draft pick they’ll probably contend for a spot more seriously next year.
The biggest problem in Chicago is that Vinny Del Negro is their coach. He looks like he has to beg the players to do anything and he might start crying at any second. He has such a desperate look in his eyes. Players aren’t going to respect that, but I imagine they went with a "players coach" because Scott Skiles rode them too hard, like he always does, and they wanted the opposite of that. Well it doesn’t look like they are responding to this either. So if it’s not the coach what could it be? A bad mix. The Bulls have the most gifted rookie point guard since Chris Paul and aren’t even scraping .500 right now. Tyrus Thomas continues to disappoint, but at what point are they going to just say "Screw it, lets see what this guy can do" and give him consistent minutes for like 30 games? He has to sink or swim. To make matters worse they are 5-16 on the road and leave for a 7 game road trip out west on Sunday. Adios playoffs. I can’t even figure they are a lock for next year either, considering they refuse to address any of their roster deficiencies they have had for 3 years now, not that I’m complaining.
Ahh the feel good story. Wisconsin’s favorite NBA alum Devin Harris has had THE breakout year in the NBA this year. Scoring at will and getting to the line like never before, Harris is in a perfect situation. He has even taken some of the crunch time scoring pressure off the always shaky Vince Carter. Vince had a good run, but I’m glad we’ve stopped mentioning him in the superstar category, it was just never meant to be. The Nets have a slew of young big men capable of development, including Brook Lopez who is doing some serious damage. They just don't have enough defense and up front presence at this point. They'll be a team to be reckoned with in a couple years though. I like the Nets. I’ll like them even more if they can move to Brooklyn and get LeBron. I wonder why they don’t do more involving Jay-Z? Shouldn’t he do there pre game music? Maybe personalized songs for each guy after they score? Wouldn’t more guys want to play there, just for a personalized Jay-Z song?
I’ve now effectively eliminated 3 teams. No surprise there, no one thought much of these teams to start the season anyway. Of the three I would certainly say New Jersey has the brightest immediate future, but Chicago clearly has the brightest star in Derrick Rose. But Chicago has the Cubs, so that’s unfortunate for them.
Who would have thought the Knicks would be back so soon? I guess I shouldn’t say they are "back", but there not god awful anymore. They sure do like to shoot some threes. There like the Magic, but without the accuracy. That is what you expect out of a team with Al Harrington, Quentin Richardson, Tim Thomas, Chris Duhon, Nate Robinson, and coached by Mike D’Antoni. The problem when facing the Knicks is, "What if they get hot?" If they do get hot it can be a long night. They have offensive firepower, although I expect them to continue making trades, and possibly dealing David Lee. If David Lee goes, the playoffs go with him. He is a terrific player. If the Bucks got him everything would be so much better in Milwaukee. Beer would taste better, it wouldn’t be as cold, and the Bucks would be TOUGH. Alas, he probably won’t be coming here anytime soon, but I don’t expect the Knicks to hold it together long enough to make the playoffs.
Leaving us with...
I’m still having flashbacks to that three Andre Miller hit to put the nail into the Bucks coffin a few weeks back. He’s really not a good shooter. What’s crazy is that appears to have been the catalyst for a bit of a shooting surge for him. Philly has apparently figured out that they are a much more effective team when they run and play up tempo. I thought they figured that out in the second half of last season? I guess Elton Brand screwed that up. When EB gets back we’ll see how it all works out. John Hollinger at ESPN.com has been begging them to put him at center, it seems like the most logical move. That’s sad because that will mean less Sam Dalembert, which will surely bum out the rest of the league. They are a super effective running team though, especially Thad Young. Philly has a 7 game home stand coming up to ease transition back to Brand. That should give them a chance to build momentum before a 5 game trip out west near the end of February. Fortunately for them they’ve played most of their tough road games, with the most difficult ones left begin a Houston, L.A., Portland, and Cleveland. And if they are close with Milwaukee at the end I'm sure the NBA will put the fix on to make sure that Scott Williams gets suspended if he puts Allen Iverson on the line at all.
Milwaukee (Light it up, Light it up)
I’m slotting Milwaukee into the 7th seed. Why? They only have 15 road games left, they are done going out west, of their 37 remaining games they have only 18 left against projected playoff teams, they have 8 back to backs left with only 2 in February and 1 in April, Michael Redd is back to normal, Joe Alexander has shown a pulse as of late and probably won’t hit the rookie wall since he hasn’t played, this should make him ready when Mbah a Moute hits the wall...should I keep going? Yes? Andrew Bogut is getting adequate time to rest his creaky back, and Charlie V has played the most consistent stretch of his career as of late. Ramon Sessions also showed life last game which was nice. They’ll have a good opportunity in the last month to lock up a playoff spot, and management WANTS to make the playoffs this year more than anything for those extra ticket sales. The Bucks may even have what it takes to leapfrog Miami into the top 6 with this schedule. If that does happen don’t be surprised if the Magic fall to 3 and the Bucks give them a run in round 1.
An entrenched Bucks source does not believe Michael Redd will be traded this season.
"We need to make the playoffs this season to regain our fan base," the source informed.
Yet the vultures continue to circle.
"Everyone is interested [Portland, San Antonio and Dallas, etc.], but their offers are pure [garbage]," said Deep Dish.
Well, it looks like Redd isn't going anywhere. If that source is credible I would like to punch them in the face. We don't want playoffs! We want CHAMPIONSHIPS!! Portland is probably making offers based around Serge Rodriguez and Travis Outlaw, and they suck. I'm curious what the other offers are though. Keeping Redd to get in the playoffs is silly, but trading him just to trade him would be worse. I have to think somewhere someone is willing to give us young talent and cap relief right?
Thursday, January 22, 2009
5. 2008-2009 Marquette
Everyone knows the stats by now. They average a ton of points, they’re all closing in on George Thompson (Except Matthews, damn you Tom Crean!!). These guys are serous, but the story goes on for this Marquette team. As great as their backcourt is, they could run into some serious trouble when the schedule picks up. These other back courts all advanced to the Sweet Sixteen or better, and 2 won national titles, but with at least some kind of help from the front line. Matthews McNeal, and James are all doing incredible things this year, but they cannot do it alone. If history tells us anything, Dwight Burke or Joe Fulce will need to provide something in the front and if they do this could be a very special year for Marquette. More importantly are we sure Scott Merritt doesn’t have any eligibility left? Maybe like 5 games in March?
4. 2005-2006 Villanova
Ahh yes Villanova. Kyle Lowry, Allan Ray, Randy Foye and...and...that white kid. About a month ago a friend of mine called me looking for the name of the white guy, the first thing that came to my mind was Steve Blake. I thought he looked like Blake, but I knew Blake was from Maryland and a lot better. I had to call someone else, the Internet got involved and we all remembered, oh yeah Mike Nardi. He’s not all that memorable, but Nardi could fill it up, he shot 40% on threes in this season. Post man Curtis Sumpter injured himself either in the end of the previous season or at the start of this one and was unavailable, making for a unique 4 guard look. Of course the real stars were the other three, with Foye emerging as leading man. Foye averaged a healthy 20.5 with Allan Ray chipping in to the tune of 18.5 per game. Lowry (who I always call Mike, then remember that is Will Smith from Bad Boys) ran the point and played the same stingy defense that has earned him playing time in the NBA. They lost in the Sweet Sixteen to eventual champion Florida, but may have done better had Allan Ray’s eye not popped out of the socket just a week before the tournament began. Yikes.
3. 1999-2000 Michigan State
Meet the Flintstones. Mateen Cleaves, Charlie Bell, and Morris Peterson will always be remembered for their name and no one will forget where they are from. They put Flint on the map during their championship run in 2000. A memorable game against Florida in the National Championship painted Mateen Cleaves as an incredibly gritty, determined leader and probably put him in the first round of the draft later that year. He took a backseat as a scorer to Morris Peterson but handed out a hefty 6.9 assists per game. Cleaves would go on to be a hall of fame towel waver in Sacramento. Peterson was money from downtown, shooting 42.5% and averaging 16.8 points per game. Bell was the same steady player he is now, playing in every game and hitting free throws and threes, while providing perimeter defense. The numbers for these guys aren’t as flashy, but National Titles never lie, they were tough. Jason Richardson was a freshman who didn’t contribute a ton, but would later be leaps and bounds better than all of the Flintstones.
2. 2004-2005 Illinois
The closest to an undefeated team many have seen in their lifetime Illinois was a Matt Sylvester miracle away from being undefeated heading into the National Championship. Alas they’d end their season with 2 losses. Most teams would be fine with 2 losses, I feel like these guys would have preferred one come at a different time though. Deron Williams, Dee Brown, and Luther Head, led a very versatile Illinois team into the National Championship game with one loss, but ran into an all time great powerhouse in North Carolina. Carolina would go on to have 4 first round picks off that team, while Illinois barely got 4 into the NBA. But rest assured 3 came from that backcourt. Williams took over in the NCAA tournament, showing serious range and clutch shooting ability, and defense. Brown was a one man show on the fastbreak, leaving everyone in the dust and Head provided lethal outside shooting.
1. 1996-1997 Arizona
Without question, THE backcourt to which all others are compared to. Marquette can look to these guys for inspiration. Arizona had a 4 man big rotation, with Eugene Edgerson being the 4th at 6'6 and full of scrap. He’d later have a hellvuan afro. Jason Terry has probably had as much practice as anyone at the role of 6th man and it started here when Mike Bibby came aboard as a freshman starter. Not that Terry could complain, as Bibby averaged 13 and 5 and made life easier for everyone else. Michael Dickerson and Miles Simon were the main scoring threats on this team at 18.9 and 18.4 points per game. Simon missed the early part of the season with an academic suspension and the ‘Cats went only 6-4 in their final 10 games. But this team just found ways to win. Even though they did not win a tournament game by more than 8, they won the National Championship. When you have great guards it gets a little easier to squeak out games at the line. Everyone but Simon later did serious damage in the NBA. On the plus side for Simon he is an all time great CBA player, and great free throw shooter.
I'd like to give a shoutout to statsheet.com. What a site. If you love college basketball or refs, go here now.
Monday, January 19, 2009
"It's wrong," the 7-foot Spaniard continued. "I wouldn't trade Mike. You're looking and you're trying to do something to fix this, but that isn't the right thing. There's more to what's going on."
In an article by Memphis Commercial Appeal Grizzlies beat writer Ronald Tillery Marc Gasol passionately insists that giving up on Conley would be a mistake.
"There are many reasons. First you're starting, and then you're out of the lineup," Gasol said. "And sometimes you're not playing as well. The important thing is how you are inside. What are you trying to accomplish on the court? Are you working? Are you doing what coach is asking you to do? Are you helping your teammates? Mike is always trying to do the right thing."
Tillery compares Conley's early stats to that of other point guards who flourished later in their careers such as Steve Nash, Tony Parker, and Devin Harris, saying that the system he currently is in does not allow for his full potential to shine through.
But would Milwaukee be any better?
The Bucks have a lot of success in an up-tempo offense, but only average 2 more possesions per game than Memphis. They usually like to feed Andrew Bogut early in games and then have a tendency to get stagnant with Michael Redd and Richard Jefferson in the half court offense. They certainly have the tools to be an effective running team, but Scott Skiles has a tendency to be a bit overbearing. He has hesitated to let the younger Sessions take control of his team. He is a very defensively demanding coach, which could cause a problem for Conley whose Memphis team performs 8 points better every 100 possesions with him off the court than with him on the court defensively.
Oddly enough it's the point guard he battles for minutes for currently, Kyle Lowry, who would seem to be more of a fit with Skiles defense first philosophy. Lowry is regarded as one of the better defenders on the point in the league, and it seems like Memphis is recognizing that more, as his minutes have increased to almost 30 a game in January. Lowry is an affordable 2 million next year with RFA the year after.
Rumblings have quieted on the deal in the past few days since it was reported to be on Senator Kohl's desk, so this might be all for not, but the passion Gasol has for Conley is at least one bright side to the proposed deal. If there is one thing the Gasol brothers know, its that Memphis has made some bad trades.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
January 19th @ Portland (24-16)
Portland will be a tall task to say the least. Portland has one of the most imposing front courts in the NBA with 3 very productive players 6'11 or taller. LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden, and former Buck Joel Przybilla give teams fits clogging up the lane and gobbling up any rebound that comes their way. Match them with a backcourt featuring burgeoning All-Star Brandon Roy, the clutch Travis Outlaw, and rookie phenom Rudy Fernandez, and Portland is one of the up and coming teams in the NBA. They will be without the services of former Buck Steve Blake, but that is likely a blessing in disguise. Once Blake went down they got a chance to take a closer look at summer league star Jerryd Bayless. Blake may be the sturdy veteran but Bayless is their future at the position. He has a lot of upside and looks like he could be the explosive scorer they need next to Roy.
January 21st vs. Dallas (23-17)
72% of Dallas’ shots are jump shots. What is crazy is that they don’t have particularly good jump shooters. Obviously Dirk has a world class shot, but after him who is hitting shots for them? Jason Kidd? Josh Howard? Erick Dampier? I know Jason Terry can fill it up when he gets hot, but if he is your #2 option you’re screwed. Word is the Mavs are working on a Josh Howard-Shawn Marion trade that may succeed in making them even worse than they already are...stay tuned. I was watching a Mavs game earlier this year and jotting down notes on the team and looking back through them my favorite was, "Antoine Wright has no one within 15 feet of him and still can’t get anything going. He started tonight." That sounds promising.
January 23rd @ Atlanta (23-16)
The Hawks should be well rested by the time the Bucks come to town on Friday, having two days off before hand. Center Al Horford may gain the most with their up coming lighter workload after missing the last 4 games. He could be ready to go by the time the Bucks come to town. A return by Horford should provide a boost as the Hawks have lost 3 of 4 without him. Depth is not their strong suit. I have a friend who uses the Hawks pretty much every time we play NBA 2K9 and I’ve never seen him go to the bench. Why? When you’re relying on noted jackers like Flip Murray and Maurice Evans to provide your second unit boost, you know you’ll be playing your starters quite a bit. The Hawks do have some stingy D though, so be prepared for a low scoring affair here.
January 24th vs. Sacramento (10-31)
The Bucks meet their friends from Sac-town a week after a shootout back west. Redd was able to slice through the Sacramento defense for 3 quarter last week putting up a robust season high of 44. I wouldn’t expect this game to be the same high scoring affair with Bogut back in the line up, the Bucks are likely to slow it down some. John Salmons and Kevin Martin were pretty lethal from deep last game and everyone from Sacramento was eating from the line. Sacramento played some of the worst defense I’ve ever seen in the NBA last game so the Bucks will need to continue to exploit that if they hope to pull this one out...not that I think that’ll be a problem.
This could be a tough week for the Bucks. If they drop 3 here they’ll be looking at 5 games under .500 with another long week coming up next. Getting to .500 before February starts would be ideal, considering they only have 4 road games in the month. Bogut's return should help, but iff they could come out of this week 2-2 it would have to be considered a success. Though I’ll say the Sacramento game is a must have no matter what.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
I've been thinking about this one for a few weeks. I don't remember if I read it somewhere, so if you've seen this comparison already and have another photo that is superior let me know. Personally I love this one and it makes me laugh every time I look at it. Add this to the obvious Sideshow Bob-Anderson Varejao look alike, and the Cavs are quite the cartoon.
Saw this over at fearthebeard.org and loved it. It's an older video, but nonetheless it's a great example of why Willie Warren has been the best freshman in the country thus far (with apologies to Greg Monroe). It's been a weak class, but in the most recent ESPN Magazine they say Warren is a little taller than Ben Gordon and a little better too.
Friday, January 16, 2009
-Michael Redd is completely locked in. What’s nice about it is that he is getting a lot of his points in transition and off good looks. He hasn’t forced much.
-If the Bucks are going to win games without Bogut this is how they’ll have to do it, the pace will need to be furious.
-Everyone on the Bucks team had to yell to Fransisco Elson to shoot the ball at the end of the first half before he realized he had to put it up...so naturally he canned it.
-Johnny Mac is in rare form tonight, from the lack of calls for the Bucks, to his admonishing of the Bucks for the FT’s they are allowing, he is full of fire tonight. Actual quote after easy dunk by Charlie V., "Now that’s just stupid...you can’t find your man, DON’T LOOK AT SOMEONE ELSE GO FIND HIM! They have NO DEFENSE!"
-Luke Ridnour does have quite a knack for sticking threes when the Bucks look like they are going to flounder. He must have Sam Cassell’s old locker.
-Kevin Martin is deadly if he gets an inch.
-I feel a lot better about Charlie V.’s three point shooting when it comes from the top of the key or right near there.
-Damon Jones had three terrific bench moments. First was on a layup by Alexander when Jones did the "grab the guy next to me like I’m going to collapse because I’m so shocked/excited" move. Then when Ridnour came to the bench later he and Jones bumped fists and "blew it up" which was great. How long have they been working on that? In the fourth when no one on the Bucks realized that Jason Thompson was completely unguarded under the hoop Jones jumped out of his chair and started screaming at everyone that he was there. He almost took the initiative to get on the court and guard him himself.
-Brad Miller took a hard spill near the end trying to block Charlie V.’s shot, he’ll need to find a way to get his mind off of that one.
-Almost a huge blown game, turns into a huge relief. Hopefully the Bucks can unlock a formula for success without Bogut from this game. Yes the Kings suck, I've noted that before, but when the Bucks were forcing turnovers and getting into the offense quick they looked really good. When they are missing their inside presence they need to run on everything; misses, steals, turnovers, and makes. Getting into the offense quick allows for better looks. They don’t necessarily need to shoot right away, but getting into things quickly will be a key to success without Bogut.
Great players are a different breed. Chris Paul’s above quote seems like something that any player would say, but the difference with guys like Paul, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, and Kobe Bryant is that they really mean it. There presence on the court creates a different atmosphere in the arena and a different game on the court. Each of them is so talented and special, that they can dominate the game in a different way. Aside from their collective will to win each of these guys shows uncanny ability to make decisions. Howard may lag behind in this category, largely because he is not a ball handler, but each of the guards do a tremendous job of making the correct decision in important moments.
Tonight on ESPN fans were treated to a double header featuring each of these MVP candidates. Game 1 pitted Chris Paul’s New Orleans Hornets heading into Cleveland to take on LeBron James’ Cavaliers. In the pregame highlight montage Bucks fans were reminded of an especially ugly sight, LeBron’s block on Ramon Sessions from a few weeks back. LeBron is like Danny Almonte, except he isn’t lying about his age and the kids he playing against look like 3rd graders. James is the most physically gifted player I have ever seen. 6'8 270 and able to move like that? I think I know what happend. God is a Cavalier fan, and all the moves he tried to make didn’t work. Like if you’re playing a video game and you’re doing everything fair and it’s still not working out. Well God said, "Forget it, I’ll just create a guy who’ll crush everyone." And that is how we end up with LeBron James, the genetic freak. LeBron asserted his punishing physical style early bouncing Chris Paul off of him as he grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back up for 2. James also did a great job in the game early of letting the game come to him. It all comes back to making decisions. He took an active role in facilitating for the rest of the team early when the Hornets brought pressure on him. He decided to get his other guys involved, knowing that later in the game would be the time for him to force the action and take over. What troubled me about LeBron in the game the other night against the Bulls was when he didn’t take over at the end of regulation. He hit some shots to keep it close and got a good look at the hoop to win at the buzzer, but when you are LeBron James that is when you waltz on down to the hoop and attempt to rip the rim off of the backboard.
This game was an indication of how great Chirs Paul is though. (I realize he played poorly and was ejected, but that doesn’t change my point. Also Byron Scott ran possibly the worst offense I’ve ever seen for the entire 4th quarter.) Watching the rest of his teammates can be painful at times. I know that David West was an all-star last year, but is he even better than Udonis Haslem? At 82games.com it shows that West and Haslem use jump shots to account for 72 and 71 percent of their shots respectively, while hitting 42.8 and 42.6 percent. West just shoots a lot more, because Chris Paul isn’t taking a free throw every other possession like Dwyane Wade. (Sorry, I can’t control the D-Wade 2003 finals hate. I was really riding the Dirk bandwagon then, at least before he missed those free throws and Wade was gifted a ring.) West’s career skyrocketed after Paul was drafted. He didn’t see a lot of playing time before Paul arrived, but since Paul has adopted him as pick and roll partner he has been shooting wide open midrange shots ever since. I don’t think it’s a bad shot for him by any means, or that he is a bad player, but he isn’t the number 2 guy on a championship team. The fact Paul put them in that discussion last year speaks volumes about his skill for making others better. I mean they almost went to the championship with a 2 guard situation featuring Mo Peterson, Devin Brown, Jannero Pargo, and Rasual Butler. As long as I’m talking about the supporting cast on New Orleans I have another question...why does everyone think the Hornets are so young? As of opening day, they were the second OLDEST team in the league!! What is young about that? Because they have Chris Paul everyone thinks there some young bunch of go getters, there not, they have one player who brought a bunch of role players to the brink of the title last year. At halftime Jalen Rose gave a speech about how they’ll get better when they get older, although it sounded much different because when Jalen Rose speaks, it sounds like a sedated Ahmad Rashad.
Much like LeBron James, Dwight Howard has a game built around intimidation. He may not be as quick as LeBron, but he is built like a house. Actually more than a house, Howard is built like an arena and super quick off his feet for a guy who is 6'11. The strides Howard has made defensively are what makes Orlando a team knocking on the door of the elite. When a team has someone like Howard to defend the rim, it’s such a luxury to their perimeter defenders and allows them to play much more aggressive and feel more confident. On top of that Howard grabs 13% of all offensive rebound opportunities and 25.6% of defensive, 2nd and 4th in the league respectively. Simply said, he dominates the rim on both ends of the ball. In his first few years in the league he relied solely on his athleticism to get him by offensively, but he has evolved nicely. He still won’t step out very far and be effective, but he has added and array of spins and jump hooks that make him worth a double team. And when Howard can draw that double team the Magic get lethal. Now that they’ve added even more firepower with that guy who used to go to Duke that disappeared for a while they are really shooting the lights out (check out his last 5) Another plus for Howard is that he is hilarious. He picked up Kobe on a switch in the fourth quarter and while Bryant was dribbling on the iso Howard engaged in some serious trash talk. He coerced Kobe into a contested jumper but then was so excited when Kobe missed he forgot to go get the rebound, much to Stan Van Gundy’s dismay. Howard and Bryant continued their battle at the free throw line and Howard had a huge smile on his face the whole time. As much as I love Tim Duncan, Howard is like the anti Duncan, he just loves everything.
Kobe Bryant has a whole different kind of dominance. Don’t get me wrong, Kobe is a hell of an athlete, but that is not what is so overwhelming about his game. Kobe has more shots in his repertoire than anyone in the entire league. As I’m watching the Orlando Los Angeles game, I just saw him bust out a left handed shot that I hadn’t seen before and a not so new but equally awesome scoop shot finger roll. (Also something I hadn’t seen, Marcin Gortat get crowned, but Tervor Ariza did that and then some with a nasty flush on his dome). Where he has grown in addition to that is how he knows when it’s time for him to bust out the tool box full of offensive maneuvers and when to get it going for the rest of his team. With guys like Odom, Bynum, and Gasol on his team now he knows to get them going early because a lot of their game depends on their confidence. If they are able to get involved in the offense they can be trusted to be aggressive later rather than simply deferring to Bryant and watching. (This actually happend in this evenings game when Odom went to the rack a few times in a row with about a minute left and kept getting fouls. Naturally he was 50% on free throws, and on the first shot he hit in this stretch he had a look on his face like he was a 10 year old kid who couldn't believe he did something right.) When the rest of his team is standing and watching, that is when Kobe can’t be at his full power. Part of his arsenal is changing his mind while he is in the air and making the correct decision, and there is just no answer when a guy can do that. And he juggles all these skills and responsibilities while being a look-down defender who can guard any player from 1-3 when needed.
Ultimately between James great strides on the defensive end and his teams dominance of anyone who even parks in their parking lot, he has the upper hand at MVP. Personally I feel like he deserves it the most, but with Chris Paul a close second, because I can’t think of more than a few point guards who could step into his place and keep them in the playoffs. But I can’t think of ANYONE that has the impact on a team that James has on both ends of the court on his teams ability to play and mind set about the game. When you have LeBron James you come into every game with the best player, and that is a feeling that leads to success for everyone on the team. And in the end, that’s what makes him the best of a different breed.
The Grizzlies want to deal second-year point guard Mike Conley to the Milwaukee Bucks, and receive guard Ramon Sessions and swingman Joe Alexander in return, but the ball doesn't appear to be in their court. Milwaukee is apparently weighing the proposal as talks are ongoing, based on conversations with people knowledgeable about the trade discussions.
A team insider said the Griz wouldn't be devastated if the deal didn't come to fruition because no one mentioned in the transaction is established. Plus, Conley has already shown an ability to bounce back from a string of poor performances. -- Memphis Commercial-Appeal
Much has been said about this trade and it's recapped quite well at Brewhoop and The Bratwurst, but I have some different questions about it.
Everyone acknowledges that this trade is a largely a salary cap deal. (I'll say however that if the Bucks also land the Grizzlies first round pick from this season in this supposed deal it would make it more acceptable. There will be a pretty healthy class of point guards this year.) Sessions will be a RFA this off season and Alexander will get a bump in year 2 of his rookie deal. If we dump them we should be able to remain under a luxury tax, even with the league expecting the cap to decrease from last year. So this is more a "business decision" than basketball decision. Okay, it's Herb Kohl's team and he can do whatever he wants with it. If he doesn't want to pay luxury taxes I understand, the economy sucks. I'm left with one troubling question though...how will this serve to better the business? In any business scenario in Kohl's life has he ever acquired lesser talent to do the jobs he needed done because they were cheaper? If the Bucks insist on dealing Sessions due to his impending semi-free agency, why don't the Bucks work out a deal where Redd can be taken too?
For a long time I've felt like the best move the Bucks could make is dumping Redd on Cleveland for Wally Sczerbiak, JJ Hickson, and a pick. If Cleveland is willing to give up anyone right now I'm not sure, because their chemistry this year has been terrific. I can't imagine a team KEEPING Wally Sczerbiak for chemistry reasons though, because from all accounts he is one of the worst teammates in the league. Listen to Bill Simmons podcast with Marc Stein and Rick Bucher for further info on that. The fact that I haven't heard even a whisper about Redd or Richard Jefferson being moved is a bit hard to take, considering how productive it would be to swap them for a power forward. Wouldn't Toronto immediately take Redd and Gadzuric for Jermaine O'Neal at this point? Doesn't that give Bosh incentive to stick around past 2010? The Craptors have been without a swing man since Vince Carter left, this gives them a scoring threat who can create. O'Neal is not the same guy he used to be, but he can be used as a trade chip, or just fill a hole at power forward while allowing some of the Bucks younger guys minutes at the swing positions. I have created a three way deal where the Bucks also get the best tattoo in basketball...Stephon Marbury’s head! I would gladly put up with Marbury for a few months to be rid of the huge contract Redd has. I think it would work subbing Jefferson in for him also, there pretty close. Plus the Bucks get David Lee! Think of the potential!! These next two seasons need to be about growth and development, not holding on to false hope that Redd and Jefferson will get a team anywhere. Parting with them will be tough and likely hurt the Bucks chances to make the playoffs this year, but it is for the greater good.
If recent league history is an indicator, putting salary cap before basketball can be costly. Could the Suns use a reliable back up point guard right now? Absolutely. Unfortunately for them they sold their draft picks instead of using them on Sergio Rodriguez or Rajon Rando. Not to mention they gave away Kurt Thomas AND 2 first round picks for a second round pick, so they could get under the salary cap. Think the Bulls could use an athletic young guard who can shoot the lights out and dunk from any where? Too bad they traded J.R. Smith for Howard Eisley’s retiring contract and 2 second round picks. I know they had a log jam, but that was a free up cap space move if I ever saw one. Acquiring him was just a way to get out from under Tyson Chandler’s contract. Basketball trades need to be about basketball first. When the Sonics moved out of Seattle much was made about them losing money and fans being apathetic to the team. They claimed all kinds of losses and noted how poor attendance figures were, but lead city attorney Paul Lawrence made a great point
“The key to whether the team is going to make money or not, regardless of whether they’re in Seattle or Oklahoma City is how well the team does,” Lawrence said. “If the team has a turnaround like the Boston Celtics...I assure you they’ll make money no matter where they are.”
And that really is what it all comes down to. To run a successful business, you need a successful product. In the coming weeks Bucks fans will know whether or not the Bucks leaders grasp that idea.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
It's not the best shot here, but this is the Bucks after yet another three by Dequan Cook. Again the Bucks struggled with defending the three. Sort of. The Heat opened up 8-8 which had a lot to do with luck and a lot to do with Dwyane Wade. Part of the problem a guy as great as Wade presents is that he is such a superior decision maker. He knows when to give it up, and he knows when to fall down to draw a foul...I mean shoot. His ability to draw defenders was giving great looks to Dequan Cook, who was eating it up. I told a friend of mine after the game that if we were playing in a video game and Dequan Cook hit 6 straight threes I would be checking the difficulty level and throwing a fit. Cook was "Rookie Level Hot". Throw in a couple other lucky shots and the Heat were on fire (what a pun).
The loss was especially frustrating because of the defense played on Wade. For all the bad things people have to say about Michael Redd (myself included), he has really brought it in the two games against Miami this year on the defensive end. I don't know if Wade gave him fits in practice during the Olympic runs or what, but he gets AMPED when he sees that guy on the other side. The Bucks need him to channel his inner Bobby Bousche and see Wade's face on everyone. Wade is without a doubt a top 5 guy right now, and has some of the sickest body control in the league. It would seem as though that is the reason behind his addiction to jump passes. Wade is constantly jumping in the air, hanging for a minute and then finding a guy in stride. That probably would account for the high turnover total though. The one problem I really have with Wade is the royal treatment he gets. Does anyone in the league get as many calls as Wade? Even when LeBron goes truckstick on everyone in his way he at least gets the travel called once in a while. If anyone looks at Wade funny its practically a technical foul.
Over at Brewhoop they said that RJ's performance tonight would likely push him the in lead for "Guys the Bucks Need to Trade" in the eyes of many fans. Not only did it push him in the lead, but I think I just saw him lap Charlie V. Although I can't be sure because I haven't seen Charlie V. in a while. Why haven't I seen him? Because Richard Jefferson makes too much money that's why. RJ played 38 minutes and logged reasonable numbers, but he makes terrible decisions and seems to hate basketball. He is a Tim Duncan all star complainer when a call does not go his way, and lets it effect his play on the other end, as evidenced by the technical he picked up a possession after a supposed bad call. Jefferson and Redd both create stagnation with the ball, but I'm not sure I've seen Jefferson more than one time pass after putting his head down and going to the rack on one of his patented, "Wow that's a tough shot" drives. Alexander played the best game of his young career and numerous times made nice finds underneath to Bogut for easy buckets, something Jefferson rarely does. He capped off a game of poor decisions with a terrible shot Marion quickly snuffed out with the Bucks down 2.
On the plus side another home game meant more Damon Jones bench antics. It's hard to see him on this picture, but he is at center court bartering with the refs for a few more tenths of a second on the clock. The way Jones talks to teammates and stays involved with the game even on the inactive list just SCREAMS future coach. He usually takes a seat next to Ramon Sessions, which can likely lead to good things for the youngster.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
This was the capper on a 20 some point comeback by the Bucks. If memory serves me correct this was before the "Malice at the Palace" and was against a Pacer team that was vicious. It was also calender night so the few fans that remained were throwing calenders every which way. Made for quite a scene.
This was the greatest sports moment of my life that I can remember. Or at least it was, this years Brewer team did a pretty awesome job competing for my attention. I'd never been at a clinching playoff game, much less a game 7. Also I thought Baron Davis was pretty badass before this, so it was satisfying to see him go down.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
January 12th @ Washington (7-29)
Looks can be deceiving. It’s easy to look at a Washington team at 22 games under .500 and think the Bucks should win in a laugher, but upon analyzing who the Wizards have beat, things get confusing. With wins over Utah, Houston, Detroit, and Cleveland, the Wizards have shown they can at time be frisky. There really is no reason that this team should be as bad as their record. Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler are two physical, tough players that should alone be worth 20 wins. The rest of the cast is playing horrible basketball, led by the reliable underachiever Andray Blatche. When your trading FOR Mike James you know things are bad. Mike James and Damon Jones should have plenty to talk about after the game though, between them they have been on 19 teams (I’m considering each season a different team for each franchise) in 19 seasons. Speaking of James...he was on Supernanny! Watch at the 45 second mark, you will not regret it. He knows his math. If the Bucks can contain Butler and Jamison, they should be able to come away with one here, having already beat Washington once at home using that plan. Much like Homer Simpson, the Bucks will be trying to leave those two saying "Can’t someone else do it!?"
January 14th vs. Miami (19-16)
Sure to be one of the Bucks chief competitors for a back end playoff spot, the Dwyane Wades come to town on Wednesday. The Marquette alum is sure to draw a larger crowd than usual for the home team, which will hopefully work out in Milwaukee’s favor. Hell, even I have broken my 5 dollar rule for this game and bought lower level seats. (The 5 dollar Rule is basically my plan on getting cheap tickets. Every game arrive minutes before the game starts and negotiate with scalpers from a position of power. The most I’ve paid is 5 dollars. The best I’ve done this year is 3 tickets for 10 dollars, I implore all of you to do the same). Wade has been incredible this year, but is doing everything practically by himself. Shawn Marion was a product of SSOL in Phoenix and former college double double machine Mike Beasley has been underwhelming, averaging just 13 points and 5 rebounds per game. There isn’t a center on the roster, unless you count Joel Anthony or Jamal Magloire, and personally I don’t count either. Obviously stopping Wade will be the priority, but the Bucks need to do a better job of defending the three when a guy like him drives. Why do Charlie Bell, Michael Redd, and Richard Jefferson insist on helping out off their man? Your not really helping guys. Your not stopping the drive, your not defending the post, and your giving up an open three. Pretty soon I think Skiles will pop off the bench and show them what he wants, like one of those high school scrimmages between teams where coaches could manipulate the action.
January16th @ Sacramento (8-29)
The stretch of winnable games continues with a trip toward the left coast to face the worst they have to offer. Sacramento has Beno Udrih starting at point guard. Another classic case of a team over valuing a player because he is there player and they’ve had good times together. Udrih got 8 million a year this off season after not getting 8 minutes when he was in San Antonio. If a guy is given up on by San Antonio, doesn’t that mean he probably isn’t very good? Isn’t it clear that they have a pretty good idea what they are doing there? Regardless, Sacramento has perpetually underrated Kevin Martin and his disgusting jump shot. Speaking of Martin, is he the worst player to play with in a video game? He’s so good and it’s so tempting to shoot with him, but you know it’s going to get blocked because it looks like he shoots from his knees. His shot is the exact opposite of Redd’s slingshot. Anyway, the Kings suck.
January 17th @ Los Angeles Clippers (8-29)
The Clip show is a show no one wants to watch. They made moves this off season that many people thought would make them competitive. Why they thought that I’ll never know. I might be the biggest Baron Davis fan on the planet, but he was surrounded with guys who simply aren’t a good fit. Not to mention he has played like garbage, to be kind. Zach Randolph brought a spark for a couple weeks, but the Clips continue to lose games like its their job. They did that job very well when Milwaukee laughed them off the court near the end of December. The noose around Mike Dunleavy’s neck continues to tighten.
It’s always tough to go out west, but these are the kinds of games that playoff teams win. This is the second week of a two week stretch where the Bucks had a good chance to make up some ground on the .500 mark and put themselves in good position for the playoffs. Week one did not go great, week two awaits.
We’ll start with James. Dominic James burst on the scene as a freshman averaging 15 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and a few seasons worth of highlight dunks and blocks. He had picked up where Dwyane Wade had left off a few seasons before. Marquette was desperate for another star after a few less than stellar seasons wrought with injury and little at guard after Travis Diener. After a sophomore season that was not quite as stellar as his entry into the college world (To be frank, he didn't see a shot he didn't like all season. I think once the ball came to him on the bench and he threw up an airball), James declared for the NBA Draft. After going through the pre draft camps and workouts James quickly found that his lack of jumpshot and shaky point guard skills were not going to get him any higher than the second round, if that. He quickly withdrew his name and is now playing in his senior season. James has seemed a new man this year, working relentlessly on the defensive end, and doing more to get his fellow guards involved, while at least appearing to try and dribble less. Despite his athletic ability, one of the drawbacks on James is his diminutive stature. Listed at a mere 5-11, James would likely struggle to guard a lot of bigger guards in the NBA. However it seems that it has always been those point guard skills that have been holding him back in the eyes of scouts. If he keeps developing those this season, he seems a lock for a second round pick. For fun, lets look at players 6 foot or less in the NBA this season.
NBA Players 6 Foot or Under
If James is able to turn around his jumpshooting and free throw woes, while maintaining his explosion and defensive effort, there is no reason he shouldn’t be able to carve out a Chucky Atkinsesque niche on a team. At the very least, if Dee Brown is able to keep grasping onto 10 day contracts, one has to think James could do the same.
Few players have made greater one year strides in Marquette history as Wes Matthews. After being the forgotten man to an extent the past three years, Matthews has taken over the show this year averaging a robust 18.9 points per game. His new found assertiveness can be seen especially at the stripe where he has had at least 5 free throws in every game except 3 this year. Most impressive about Matthews is his shooting percentage, which has skyrocketed almost 10% this season. Perhaps it is a coincidence, perhaps not, but since Tom Crean has left Marquette, Matthews game has gone to another level. Could it be because the new coach is a little less about himself? Who knows, but if I had to guess I'd say Crean lived in a house with lots of mirrors and Buzz might not even own a home. Personally, I'd rather play for the second guy. With the way he is shooting threes this year, combined with his overall improvements on the offensive end, Matthews has certainly thrown his name into the draft discussion. He will at least garner looks in the second round, perhaps carving out a Charlie Bell type role after a few years. Players who play as smart as him and are as smooth offensively and work that hard defensively usually find a way to stick around.
Now onto the crown jewel of the Marquette backcourt, Jerel McNeal. McNeal has been a terror on the defensive end since he entered college. Playing the passing lanes to perfection and locking up anyone he was assigned to. I doubted McNeal earlier in the year and was treated to this quote by a friend of mine:
In Sports Illustrated, when referring to Jerel McNeal, Connecticut point guard A.J. Price, "He never gambles. He only goes for a steal when he's sure he can get it."
McNeal is not just a defender in name only, he gets after it. When watching the second half of the West Virginia game the other day my dad treated me to a bit of wisdom himself. "I figured it out, I know who he reminds me of, Sidney Moncrief!" Naturally I doubted him without ever having seen a minute of Moncrief play and proceeded to look up Moncrief on basketballreference.com. Moncrief has almost exactly the same measurements as McNeal. I attempted to verify the comparison on youtube and found this Moncrief Interview. The few highlights they have on there do a pretty good job of proving his point. McNeal seems hellbent on proving himself as a future pro this season. He has taken more threes than free throws, as if to say, "HEY GUYS I'VE BEEN WORKING ON THIS, I CAN SHOOT NOW!!!" I'll give him credit though, he has been hitting at a much more regular clip than any of his firs three seasons. The deciding factore in getting a guy from that first round bubble into a secure pick is usually tournament play. If "McSteal" is able to get Marquette deep into the tournament, I think he has a great shot of securing a round one pick and working his way into a NBA rotation. Taking a page from the book of the recent great guard groups of Illinois and Villanova, it looks like the Marquette backcourt will not let their stars burn out in college.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
DO NOT STRAY FROM THE PLAN!
Rebuilding is the name of the game in Milwaukee. Michael Redd will be remembered as a great scorer and awesome guy, but by all means Redd needs to continue to be dangled, especially as he begins to heat up. Between Redd and Richard Jefferson the Bucks have commited 28.9, 31.24, and 33.3 million dollars in the next three years. That represents nearly 50% of the payroll over that time period. When half of an NBA teams payroll is invested in two players who are neither 1's or 2's on championship teams, something needs to change. The problem is not only that these two are not even top 10 players at their positions, it’s the positions that they play. Very few shooting guards or small forwards are even worth elite money. For the things that Redd and Jefferson do at 30 million, wouldn’t the Bucks be just as well off with say, Roger Mason and Josh Howard for 15 million?
Giving giant contracts to wing men is seriously illogical. The positions that require big money are point guard and center, with center becoming less important as the game evolves into more of a point guard game. Going forward point guard seems to become more important with each passing year. Shouldn’t the Bucks be doing everything in their power to get in position to make a play for Brandon Jennings or Ricky Rubio this year? Even if they are not able to move up, stock piling draft picks can never hurt. The biggest problem the last regime had was their apparent disregard for drafts. The only way to successfully build toward a brighter tomorrow is the draft! Free agency has proven time and time again it is not the answer. Look at the most high profile signings from this off season:
How well are those guys working out? Development is better than instant solutions. Oklahoma City looks like they are pathetically run, but they are just following the blueprint for a future that Portland laid out.
I am just as excited as anyone to see the Bucks winning again. The games this week against the Raptors and Nets were thrilling contests that the Bucks did a lot of things right in. Winning games against competitive Eastern Conference opponents without their most important player was a significant sign of development in the 2008-09 Milwaukee Bucks. The thought of returning to the playoffs is an inviting one, after the atrocities of the last two seasons. The recent string of consistency from Charlie Villanueva has been another plus. It would be very easy to get sucked into a line of thinking that says the Bucks could be a pretty strong team if he has finally figured out how to bring the same game every night. But even if the Bucks roll out a top lineup of Bogut, Charlie V., Jefferson, Redd, and Ridnour, where will that get them after this season? After Bogut and Charlie V., none of those guys are going to get any better than they already are. This is not Major League Baseball in the late 90's, guys don’t suddenly become superstars after age 30.
It’s a lot of fun to see a team competing hard at the defensive end, hitting big shots, and winning games against good teams. I recognize that Redd and Jefferson don’t necessarily need to be dealt tomorrow. Their contracts extend long enough that the brain trust can take their time and wait for the right deal, whether that comes this week, next month, or next season. If I say that they need to have patience, then Bucks fans need to do the same in waiting for the right moves to come along. But this is not the season for the Bucks to tool up with bad contracts or silly trades. Any trades they do must be based on acquiring future assets, not players for this season. Hammond and Skiles are doing a great job, and I’ll enjoy the ride that the Bucks are on for now and hope that they are able to avoid any of those big trees that block their vision of the forest.