The Exasperating Bucks
The Bucks give me a headache, and I think I know why.
When an established thought or belief a person holds in his or her mind (in my case: that the Bucks are a good team) is consistently challenged by contradictory information (in my case: The Bucks string of blowout losses and/or bad losses to weak teams), the person is thrown into a state of confusion marked by sharp anxiety as he or she attempts to reconcile the conflicting notions. Its called "cognitive dissonance" and that's what the Bucks have induced in me.
Every time they record a convincing win on the road or they defeat a legitimate contender, and they have done those things often, I want so badly to believe they have turned a corner and come of age as a contending team. Just when that belief starts to lock in, they have nights like Saturday where they walk out onto their home court in front of their home fans -- hard working people who shell out a lot of dough to watch them play -- and they humiliate themselves by losing to a team like Utah that is not only mediocre, but also contains only one player that I have ever even heard of (Okur, for what its worth).
And its not just the loss, its the way they lose. They put out no effort at all on defense. That's not the mark of a contender. They don't even look like their trying. If you watch, many of them (I'm talking to you TJ Ford) don't even bother to get into a defensive posture (the sort of squatting position good defenders use to enable themselves to beat their man to a spot or, if guarding the ball, to move laterally to cut off drives to the basket). When you see that you know they don't even give a shit.
A Litany of Defensive Sins
I could go on and on about the mistakes the Bucks make on the defensive end. They refuse to move their feet to cut off drives to the basket, they won't fight over screens, they won't harass the man with the ball, they never crowd shooters, they won't take hard fouls to prevent easy baskets, and they stupidly gang collapse on any drive to the basket which almost always leaves the driver with an easy dish to a wide open teammate, and one who is generally in position to score a slam dunk.
Just watch next game. Instead of rotating in an orderly manner to cut the driver's path to the hoop, while at the same time obstructing the driver's ability to pass the ball to an open teammate, the Bucks will either not rotate anyone and provide the driver a clear path to the basket (Dwayne Wade had a huge scoring night the other night and every one of his baskets was a layup or dunk) or they will haphazardly run several players at the driver, leaving the driver with several easy options should he decide to pass the ball.
Effort alone would make a difference
The net effect of the aforementioned lapses is bad enough. But its the team's approach to defense (established by the head coach) that has the greatest effect on the opposition. The Bucks entire body language on the defensive end can only be interpreted as indifference. What this passive attitude does is put the other team's players into a comfort zone, which makes them exponentially better offensive players than they actually are. Its a proven fact, established in several studies: Your opponent's attitude alone (as conveyed by his actions and his body language) has a profound effect on your effectiveness as a competitor.
Think about the times you play pick up basketball. Guys at the Y don't play very aggressive defense and, obviously, since the teams are chosen at random their is no organized pattern of rotation. Consequently, it makes you feel comfortable: You don't rush your shot, you think before you pass the ball, you make wise decisions, etc.
Now compare that to games you play in organized leagues against any team that cares enough to put out a legitimate effort. Its a whole different world. Suddenly you've got a guy in your face when handling the ball -- and even if he sucks his spastic aggressiveness alone can unnerve you and effect your level of play. Suddenly guys are moving to cut you off, and their hands are extended making passes difficult -- thus when you drive you have to make a decision under duress. And, if the team consistently challenges your shot, you find yourself rushing even wide open shots. It all adds up.
What I'm trying to say is the Bucks lackadaisical approach to defense actually makes the opposition better offensive teams.
That is why its so unforgivable. If the team would just put some effort into it, that would make things harder for the other team. But they won't do it. Effort is painful. Its work. It hurts. Therefore it must be motivated by either pride or pain. I'll let you decide the pride question, but I'll say unequivocally their is no evidence of pain. Player after player loafs on defense and Terri Stotts just stands their like a statue or a mime who is doing an excellent impersonation of a piss poor basketball coach.
This bum is the worst coach in Milwaukee Bucks history; and yes, I remember Frank Hamblen. This guy is worse.
AP Photos by Charles Krupa