Bucks Diary

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Bucks 10 Biggest Draft Blunders

10 Marcus Haislip (13th pick -- 2002 draft): To paraphrase Hollywood Henderson, this moronic lottery pick couldn't spell 'cat' if you spotted him the 'c' and the 'a'. The Bucks actually knew he had no game when they drafted him, but they foolishly believed they could develop his extremely raw skills. They were wrong. Moses himself couldn't turn this guy into a legitimate NBA player. Truth be told, though, I never got the impression he really wanted to be an NBA player anyway. It always seemed he was content to sit at the end of the bench and steal money until his guaranteed rookie contract expired. He was one of the most lazy underachieving players Milwaukee has ever seen.

9 Jerry "Ice" Reynolds (22nd pick -- 1985 draft): Ahh, the legend of "Ice" Reynolds. The "Next Paul Pressey". Hardly. No, he was just one of a long line of awful draft choices made by Dumb-Dumb Don Nelson. Nelson actually compared the Ice Man to Magic Johnson at one time. That's like comparing a beer hall to the Taj Mahal. This stiff never averaged more than 8.0 points per game in a Buck uniform. Here's what really hurt: the two picks after him, F AC Green and hometown boy Terry Porter, fared a little better wouldn't you say?

8. George Johnson (12th pick -- 1978 draft): Bet you never even heard of this guy did you? That's because he had absolutely no impact on the Bucks. He was the 12th pick in the 1978 draft and played only 64 games in a Buck uniform, averaging a mere 6.2 points per game. The twelfth best player in the draft was this guy? Did they even scout back then?

7 Russell Lee (6th pick -- 1971 draft): Bet you never heard of this guy either. Well, he represents the greatest missed opportunity in Bucks history. With the sixth pick in the 1971 draft, the one they used on him, the Bucks could have chosen G Paul Westphal. Think what kind of team they would have had with Westphal coming off the bench, nailing wide open jumpers when the defense sucked in on Kareem. I 'll bet they would have won at least one more World Championship, probably a couple more. But it never happened. Instead the Bucks chose Lee, a no-game nobody who lasted just 2 years and averaged just 2.6 points a game. Ain't that a shame.

6 Voshon Leonard/ Eric Snow (second round picks): Here are actually two very astute second round picks. So why are they on this list? Because after drafting them, the Bucks blundered when they decided not to give either a legitimate chance to make the team's roster. Both could have contributed value to the 90s Bucks; neither got the chance. Two of Mike Dunleavy's many franchise destroying mistakes as GM/Coach of the Bucks.

5 Ernie Grunfeld (llth pick -- 1977 draft): The thing that makes this pick so awful is the fellow chosen with the very next pick. That would be Cornbread Maxwell, who buy the way played essentially the same position. Two guys play the same position, one is clearly better than the other, so who do the Bucks chose? The worse one. Maxwell went on to win a championship with the Celtics. Grunfeld went on to... well, he's a pretty good GM.

4 "May Day" (8th and 23rd picks -- 1992 draft): Holding two picks in the first round of the 1992 draft, the Bucks were flush with optimism and poised to turn their ailing franchise around. It didn't happen. The Bucks selected the Arkansas duo of Todd Day and Lee Mayberry known collectively as "May Day", as in "May Day, May Day, this franchise is sinking". One was a shooting guard who couldn't shoot, the other was a point guard who couldn't make plays. As a result of this and other blunders the Bucks spent most of the 90s as an NBA joke.

3 Robert "Tractor" Traylor (No. 6 -- 1999 draft): This was a horrible pick, but not because of Dirk Nowitzki. Despite what many people believe, the Bucks never really had Nowitzki. I will explain that in my next post. For now, its enough to say the Bucks traded a first round pick to move up and draft this undersized, fat, lazy underachiever whom they knew to have a chronic weight problem. Why? God only knows. He lasted an uneventful two seasons in Milwaukee before the Bucks got real and let him go. They could have had G Paul Pierce instead. That's indictment enough.

2 Kent Benson (No. 1 -- 1977 draft): "With the first pick in the 1977 draft the Milwaukee Bucks select... KENT BENSON? Are you kidding me? The mustachioed white stiff from Indiana was the best player available in the summer of 1977? Huh? Instead of drafting one of the following, F Bernard King, C Jack Sikma, G Otis Birdsong, G Walter Davis, or F Cedric Maxwell, the Bucks decided to trust their future to this slow rec league player. He lasted only three seasons in Milwaukee, and did nothing. He has since taken his rightful place aside the legendary LaRue Martin and Michael Olowakandi as one of the three worst No. 1 overall picks of all time.

1 Shawn Respert (No. 8 -- 1995 draft): Many would argue with this, but for personal reasons, I think this was the Bucks biggest draft blunder of all-time. I mean, at least the team turned Kent Benson into C Bob Lanier. They got nothing out of Respert at a time when they absolutely couldn't afford to get nothing. On top of that, his selection represent one of the most bizarre personnel decisions in NBA history. First the Bucks GM, Mike Dunleavy, thought so much of this guy that he traded up to get him, then Bucks Coach, Mike Dunleavy, discovered that the GM's star pupil was of no value to the team because he was too short to play shooting guard and lacked the playmaking skills to play point guard. How did he not know this before the draft?! Didn't they measure him? Didn't they test him out at all? At 6'1'' and about a buck 50 of course he was too small to play the 2 in the NBA! An eyeball test would have told you that. Anyway, he was completely useless to the Bucks, and looked ridiculous trying to compete against the full grown shooting guards he had to match up with in the NBA. He's now trying to float the idea that a bout with abdominal cancer in his second season unfairly torpedoed his career. That is hokum. Had Respert been 100% healthy he was still not NBA material. That's not his fault. It is the Bucks fault for drafting him. I won't even go into the long list of effective players the team passed on to make this joke pick. Suffice it to say, while the other players were still contributing in the Association, Respert was seen trying to get into games at various Milwaukee area high school open gyms. Well, at least he is alive and healthy, which is more important than basketball anyway. But he still has the distinction of being the Biggest Draft Blunder in Milwaukee Bucks history.

Bogut now reminds me of former Cavalier Brad Daugherty

Earlier in the season I compared
FC Andrew Bogut to Hall-of-fame C Bill Walton. I withdraw that comparison. Bogut is not a young Bill Walton. I was wrong. Bogut does not quite have the same hyper athleticism and shot-blocking ability that the young Walton possessed, and his footwork is not nearly as good.

But after seeing Bogut play in person, I have a new comparison to make. Bogut now reminds me of former Cleveland Cavalier C Brad Daugherty. I know comparing a white player to a black player is unconventional, but other than skin color their skills, personalities, intelligence, and performance on the court are all quite similar. (I know Daugherty is long retired, but I am going to use the present tense when comparing him to Bogut just for simplicity sake.)

Photo Negatives of One Another

Physically, each player is listed at exactly 7'0'' and 245 pounds (though Daugherty seems stronger and bigger for some reason).

As for their games, they really share many of the same strengths and weaknesses.

On the negative side, both players appear to wear shoes made of lead, very heavy feet. Consequently, neither player blocks or intimidates many shots. And both have only average footwork and below average quickness.

On the positive side, both players are highly intelligent. And each is an effective scorer and rebounder despite his lack of "ups". Both catch the ball well, have a nice soft touch around the basket, and finish plays quite successfully. Both are excellent passers and each, surprisingly, runs the break very well for a big man. They are almost photo negatives of one another.

What the Future May Hold

If I am right in my analogy, Bucks fans should be optimistic about the future. Daugherty had an outstanding career. He averaged 19.0 points and 9.5 rebounds. He shot an outstanding 53.2% from the field, and dished out an admirable 3.2 assists per game. He led Cleveland to the brink of championship contention, and probably would have gotten a ring but for a certain inhuman North Carolinian.

What about rookie comparisons. Well, unlike the talented Bucks team that Bogut joined, when Daugherty began his career the Cavaliers were awful. Thus, as a rookie, he was already a focal point of the Cleveland offense and consequently averaged 15.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game on 53.4% shooting from the field. Despite Daugherty's exceptional rookie play, his Cavalier team still finished the season with a record of 31-51. But better times were ahead.

This year Bogut has averaged 9.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting a Daugherty like 53.9% from the field. The main differences between the two as rookies are shot attempts and minutes played. Daugherty averaged 11.7 shot attempts and 34.3 minutes per game as a rookie while Bogut is only averaging 7.2 shot attempts and 29.1 minutes per game. Again, the disparity has a lot to do with the quality of their respective rookie teams.

Let me know what you think of this comparison.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Bucks Bitten at the Buzzer

We feared it might happen. It now has. After an historic start, winning their first 13 games decided by six points or less, the Milwaukee Bucks have now lost three of their last four close games. Last night they lost to the rejuvenated Oklahoma City Hornets, 94-93, in Oklahoma City. Has their luck run out?

The Bucks could have easily won. They led the game by one point with 7.4 seconds left and had C Jamaal Magliore on the free throw line for a one-and-one. Unfortunately, Magliore does not shoot free throws well. Consequently, he missed. Oklahoma City grabbed the rebound and immediately called a timeout. Following the timeout, they advanced the ball to half court. After a Hornets player inbounded the basketball to G Speedy Claxton, Claxton passed it to West. When he caught the ball, West stood parallel to the the free throw line. He immediately let fly and sank a 15 foot jump shot that just barely beat the buzzer. After the shot went through the net, 0.1 of a second remained on the game clock. By rule, the Bucks did not have enough time to attempt a shot, and they lost the game.

The Bucks should not be ashamed, though. They played hard all night long, and they nearly defeated a difficult team in a very hostile arena. Once again G Michael Redd led the team in scoring with 32 points, but the Bucks' entire starting five played admirably, especially rookie FC Andrew Bogut, who recorded 13 points and 7 rebounds despite the pressure he must have felt playing on the home court of his rookie rival, OK City PG Chris Paul.

The bench, on the other hand, played poorly. In fact, they caused the defeat. They simply did not score enough points. All of the starters scored at least 12 points or more, yet none of the reserves could muster even 3. By contrast, backup Hornet PG Speedy Claxton not only scored 19 points in his reserve role, he also handed out the game winning assist. Given the intensity of the game, and the fatigue they felt playing on back-to-back days, the starters needed the bench players to produce well, at least as well as their Hornet counterparts, and they simply did not.

After I watched last night's game, I asked myself one question: Why would the Hornets ever leave the rabid faithful of Oklahoma and return to the indifferent and faithless of New Orleans? The Hornets, after all, are not like the Saints, they have no real roots in Louisiana. The Hornets would not betray any real allegiances if they simply stayed where they are most demonstrably wanted. In fact, should the Hornets move back to the Big Easy, they would be fools, and should NBA Commissioner David Stern decide to order them to go back, he would be either a sadist or a clown.

The dust country crowds the team has attracted this season have been like college crowds: loud and energetic. You just don't find that kind of mass enthusiasm in NBA arenas. Why would you leave such a unique situation behind? And for what?If they go back to the Bayou, all they'll get are a few nice words from the national media about how they did not abandon a city in distress. After that brief halo period is over, however, they'll have to live with years of half-capacity crowds and thoughts of what they left behind. Why?

I don't know what will ultimately happen with this wayward franchise. But I can guess which way the team's leadership is leaning. I saw Hornets owner George Shinn in the crowd last night. He was wearing cowboy boots.

Bucks Outslog Celtics

This year's traditional Sunday matinee game against the legendary Boston Celtics was not one that will make either team's retrospective highlight reel when the season ends. With each squad shooting a measly 31-for-77 from the field, the game was either an old school defensive struggle, or more likely a display of acute offensive ineptitude. But, it had a happy ending. The Bucks defeated the Boston Celtics 83-79 and recorded their second straight win at home. Some thoughts:

The Gunner's Motto

G Michael Redd has often repeated the mantra he lives by: "Whenever I'm in a slump, I shoot my way out." It seems all gunner's live by this creed. It can be both a blessing and a curse for his team, but it is becoming increasingly clear that in this case, it is a necessity. No one else will step up and deliver. On Sunday he struggled early, continued shooting, and luckily for Milwaukee faithful, he found the range in the nick of time, delivering key baskets down the stretch to help Milwaukee past the Boston Celtics.

ESPN Insider or Milwaukee Bucks Diary?

If you had paid your monthly rip-off, er, "insider" fee to ESPN.com, then yesterday you could have read the very same analysis you have already received twice (here and here) for free on Milwaukee Bucks Diary. That is, the Bucks "Expected Win Total" is much lower than their actual win total. To real Bucks fans, that's old news. The moral: When true Bangoheads want Bucks analysis, they don't waste their money on the national sites -- they get it here gratis, or they go to 5-Point Bucks. The national media has no love for the Bucks -- we do.

Redd Agrees with Bucks Diary regarding Bogut's low post game

A couple of posts ago, I wrote that Andrew Bogut appears to be having trouble getting good position in the low post. In an excellent profile piece on Bogut that appeared in Sunday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Michael Redd essentially said the same: "Those numbers (scoring) are going to increase once he knows more about positioning and getting stronger. He's 21 years old and it's all about potential."

Van Gundy impressed with Bogut

Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy has been impressed with Bogut as well. The JS article reported that Van Gundy was "amazed" at Bogut's progress since he last saw him at the NBA Summer League in Minneapolis. Van Gundy clearly considers Bogut a rare commodity: "He's a cerebral big man, and there just aren't many of those guys out there" Van Gundy told the Journal-Sentinel.

Bell tolls relief

With G Mo Williams back among the walking wounded, it sure was good to see G Charlie Bell back in uniform. I thought he was a very effective performer off the bench prior to his injury and a necessary component for success. His value was on display Sunday. He shot 4-for-8 from the field and contributed 12 important points to the Milwaukee cause. Welcome back Chuck.

The Big O on Kobe's farcical 81 point game

Like many, I was initially awed by LA Laker G Kobe Bryant's 81 point performance against the Toronto Raptors last week. But after digesting it for a while, my attitude turned a little sour. For one thing, many in the national media went overboard with their praise ("The greatest performance ever!"). How can you possibly consider Kobe's regular season performance against the lowly Raptors better than Michael Jordan's 63 point playoff performance against the 1986 Boston Celtics, one of the greatest teams of all time? More importantly, though, whenever a player scores a ridiculous amount of points, as Kobe did, there is always an element of farce to the whole affair. First, the scorer's teammates have to totally exclude themselves from offensive participation. Second, the opponent has to lay down like a pack of tired dogs. The great former Buck Oscar Robertson summed it all up beautifully when he said, "I was shocked no one fouled out guarding him. He didn't go down on the floor at all. Was the Toronto team happy he scored 81?"

Friday, January 27, 2006

Bucks Diary: Rosen warms to Bogut... sort of

This week we saw it again: the schizophrenic (sp?) nature of the 2006 Milwaukee Bucks. While the Bucks seem perfectly able to compete with the league's very best teams, losing close games on the road to both the defending conference champions, and beating the world champions at home, they cannot seem to handle the league's lesser lights, getting blown out by teams like Utah and Orlando, and just recently the struggling Houston Rockets.

But I don't get upset about it anymore. The Bucks are what they are. They'll bring it against the elite teams and they'll occasionally half-ass when they could be recording an easy win. I've guess I've accepted that. Terri Stotts sure has. A couple more thoughts:

Charley Rosen likes Bogut now... kind of

Earlier in the year Foxsports.com columnist Charley Rosen really took FC Andrew Bogut to task, calling him unathletic and nothing more than a career role player. But after watching him against the Pistons
he amended his judgment slightly upward. (He's never 100% positive about anyone unless its his sput buddy Phil Jackson or any of the Lakers).

His overall assessment was a little puzzling, though. Everything I generally thought was weak, he said was strong, and vice versa. For instance, he lauded Bogut's low post game, which I generally consider the most underdeveloped part of his jacket. Then, he gave Bogut low marks for his high post work which I think is one of the more impressive parts of his game.

Then he sort of drifted off into this bizarre critique of Bogut's rebounding. It was really esoteric, wanna-be coach speak. Not being a whistlehead, I couldn't fully understand his meaning, but from what I gather he thinks Bogut is a poor rebounder of balls that fall below his shoulders, but an excellent rebounder of balls above his shoulders. I still don't know what that means. (Aren't the vast majority of rebounds gathered above the shoulders?) What's really stunning, though, is he concludes his "Red on Roundball" analysis by giving Bogut an overall poor grade for rebounding! That's ludicrous. But, that's the danger of doing snapshot, one-off, breakdowns of a player's game like Rosen does -- its hard for him to truly distinguish between a poor performance and a genuinely poor performer. Thus he is led to make absurd generalizations based upon to little information and too few observations. Its a common logical error made by people all the time, known simply as the
"Hasty Generalization" fallacy. Though Rosen is a bright guy, he makes the error all the time. Bogut is an above average rebounder by any standard.

Will Mo ever be Mo again this season?

Don't pooh-pooh the impact of G Mo Williams' plantar fascitis. Plantar fascitis is one of those awful injuries that you can play with yet never seems to heal. Its painful and annoying. Clearly, Williams has been playing below the level he set early in the season ever since he suffered the injury. I'm worried it is just going to linger all season and Mo Williams will never be 100% again this campaign. That would be very bad for the Bucks hopes and dreams in this year. Its no coincidence their worst stretch of the season is occuring during his worst stretch of the season. Like I said earlier, as Mo goes, so go the Bucks.

TJ Coming Up a Little Short

When TJ first broke into the Association in '03, I remember reading one of those anonymous scouting reports in Sports Illustrated that basically called TJ useless because: 1. He couldn't shoot consistently from the outside; 2. He wouldn't be able to get to the hoop in the NBA because the defenses could neutralize him by flashing a big man at him whenever he drove; and, 3. He'd be a liability on defense because bigger point guards would be able to post him at will.

In '03 I kind of thought that was foolish hyperbole, but during Wednesday's game against the Pistons I saw all three of the weaknesses the scout mentioned on full display. TJ couldn't hit wideopen outside jumpers with any consistency; when he drove to the hoop the Wallace boys only needed to step at him to discourage him, and what they would do was after they showed themselves in the lane and frightened Ford, they would immediately flash back to their man, and in doing so they disrupted his dish offs as well. And on defense, it was painful to watch him try to cover Rip Hamilton. It looked like a little kid trying to guard his high school brother. It was an impossible mismatch. It hurt the Bucks all night long.

Gaines Nothing But a Cap Number

On Wednesday the Bucks had a crying need for a big point guard to matchup with the Pistons backcourt. And they have one on their bench. Yet 6'6'' Reece Gaines registered yet another DNP. Where did his career go so wrong? Or did it go wrong at all? Perhaps he was just another example of the vagaries and uncertainities of the NBA draft. I was curious why he was drafted ahead of people like Dallas F Josh Howard, Philadelphia F Kyle Korver, and the Bucks own Mighty Mo Williams. So I went back and looked at the scouting reports on him coming out of Louisville (
here and here are two of them).

The reports were glowing. You almost wonder who they were watching when they filed them. One report referred to Gaines as "a big point guard who can play the 2". One even had the audacity to compare him to the versatile veteran G Jimmy Jackson. They described him as an athletic, versatile player who could step in and run a team almost immediately. They called him, get this, a"natural playmaker". One report said he had "excellent ballhandling ability". Again, who were they scouting? Several of the reports said he was "a better shooter than you think." How wrong were all these scouts? Reece is a 32.9% field goal shooter for his career who has never run a team and has no ability as a playmaker. You'd never have known it in the run-up to the draft. He sounded like the new Oscar Robertson.

As a means of comparison, I dug up a scouting report on Mr. Gaines that was filed last season. Note the stark difference. The NBA report said of Gaines "if he works hard he might be able to hang around as a 12th man." Its assessment of his skills was blunt and somewhat shocking. It called him "a poor passer, not a point guard", and "a terrible ballhandler". It said he was a "disaster running the break", and that he "struggles mightly going to the hoop." Oh, and it said he "needs work on his defense." A point guard who can't pass, dribble, drive, shoot, or defend. The scouting reports coming out of college on this kid were, er.. a little off. Its clear now the former All-American is nothing more than a cap number to the Bucks, and one they will happily take off their books come the end of the season. Kind of sad.

Magliore's Offensive Ineptitude

Was C Jamaal Magliore wearing roller skates on Wednesday? His footwork was so terrible! Did you see how many times the Pistons pulled the old "remove the chair"# trick on Magliore? And when he wasn't traveling he was getting his pocket picked by even the token double teams the Pistons were bringing at him. They induced 4 turnovers on him. Our center! That's unacceptable. Magliore's problem is he has no balance. That's why he has no touch around the rim. Without a good base you can't get up consistent shots and you're bound to miss. Hit the jump ropes Jamaal, or take a dance class. I'm serious.

# Remove the chair: When an offensive player is backing a defender down by leaning on him, a clever defender will simply back off, thereby causing the offensive player to fall backward into a traveling violation -- unless the offensive player maintains good balance.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Stormtrooper Accuracy dooms Bucks

Remember the Stormtroopers from Star Wars? Even when they shot their weapons from ridiculously close range they always missed. It was so pathetic it was almost camp. Well, the Bucks were Stormtrooper worthy last night and that's being kind. In the vanguard of ineptitude were their big men, Bogut and Magliore. The duo combined to miss an astonishing 11 shots within 5 feet of the hoop. You have to really try hard to be that inaccurate. The thing that is particularly baffling is they did it against a Rockets' team that played most of the game without a true center. How can you be so awful? Well, at least they both earned their Masonworkers Union card last night.

The Barney Fife shooting display was not limited to the big men by any means. The team overall missed 45 of their 72 field goal attempts, including 17 in a row in the fourth quarter. 17 in a row. Consequently they finished the fourth quarter having scored only 9 points. Bad with a big B.

Moreover, the 17 point Rocket victory makes 9 losses by 14 or more points for the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2005-06 campaign. And six of those hideously large losses have come against teams with losing records at gametime. The Utah Jazz, the Sacramento Kings, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Chicago Bulls, the Orlando Magic, and now the Houston Rockets are all losers and have all blown the Bucks out this year. Of that lot, maybe the Lakers will make the playoffs. Maybe.

The news gets worse. The Bucks nine -14 point losses puts them in a tie with the Portland Trailblazers for the second most -14 point losses by any team in the Association this season. The only team with more than 9 is the Atlanta Hawks with 10. If you didn't know, the Hawks and the Blazers are the two worst teams in the Association. Bad company to keep.

The roller coaster season continues.

AP photos by Morry Gash

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bucks Weekend Review

It was all about TCB this weekend for the Bucks. Desperate for any wins they could get, the Bucks played effective, inspired basketball against two admittedly weak teams, the Hawks and the Bobcats, and pretty much did what they had to do -- they won both games. Both wins were comfortable, and each featured strong performances from Bucks reserves. The Bucks showed true professionalism by stepping on their inferior opponents' necks and refusing to let them up. More thoughts on the week in general:

Oh, wo, wo... Redd's on fire

Is anyone in the Association not named Kobe or LeBron currently playing at a higher level than the Bucks own Michael Wesley Redd? What a five game showcase he just put together. During that stretch he made 53 of his 103 attempts from the field (51.4%), including 10 for 23 (43%) from behind the three point arc. He averaged 28.5 points per game, highlighted by his last game against Charlotte in which he scored 35 points on 14 for 22 shooting.

What I have noticed during this hot streak is Redd's new-found willingness to aggressively attack the basket. If he can add that dimension to his game, look out. It will certainly lead to easier baskets, but also more free throws, and ultimately better looks from the outside. And its doable. I think he can get to the rack against most players in the Association (Did you seem him absolutely abuse Atlanta second year man Josh Smith? He went to the well against that guy at will.)

Glad to have Redd instead of Sugar Ray

Putting Ray Allen's 42 in triple overtime last night aside, it seems absurd now to recall there was a debate last year whether we should retain Redd or go after the former Buck icon. I love Ray but, due mainly to greater age and inevitable decline, he's no longer in Redd's league. Redd hasn't peaked, and Allen's all downside. In fact, Ray's about worn out his welcome in the Emerald City if some of these Supersonic blogs are to be believed. From what I read, a contingent of Sonic fans are convinced he's giving less than maximum effort or concentration since signing his maximum contract. The same can hardly be said of Redd. He has stepped himself up to another level this season. His is an inspirational tale of perseverance, going from a questionable second rounder to an NBA all-star. He did it mainly through hardwork (although if you listen to any of his postgame interviews, he'd probably give the credit to a certain someone else).

'That's a rebound machine right there, baby!'

That's how Brewer superstar Ben Sheets described Bucks C Jamaal Magliore during the Bucks Network's broadcast of Saturday's contest against Charlotte. Truer words have never been spoken. Against an admittedly depleted Charlotte front line, Magliore put up some Bill Russell numbers, scoring 13 points and grabbing an eye-popping 22 rebounds (of course, Russell averaged 15 points and 22 rebounds a game for his entire career). Its funny... if you set aside Magliore's lack of defensive prowess, his game and his frame are both quite similar to Russell's. Of course that's like Mrs. Lincoln saying " Apart from the assasination, it was a pretty good play."

Let's give it up to Jamaal, though. He may not quite be the second Bill Russell, but after a slow start he has really come on. Remember when the team was around -16 with him on the court. That's down to about -3, and falling. In fact, since the beginning of the New Year, according to 82games.com, he has been the most valuable Buck (by their statistical analysis) over the past 30 days.

Bogut doesn't post well

FC Andrew Bogut has been playing very well, averaging a double double over the last 5 games, but I've noticed lately he's having a very hard time establishing good post position on offense. His legs look a little tired. Consequently, he's having to catch the ball much further out than he would ideally like. Then, once he receives the ball, he's unable to back his opponents down. Watching him operate in the pivot occasionally reminds me of my grade school driveway one-on-one contests against my old man. I would try to back him down with my dribble but, because he was three times my size, I never ended up any closer to the basket. That's what it looks like is happening to Bogut. Not to worry. That can be corrected through weight training and simple maturation. Once he grows and develops physically (he's just turned 21 years old), he'll be able to anchor down there and get some back-to-the-basket scores more readily.

Welsch showing a pulse

I'm really pulling for FG Jiri Welsch to turn it around. He works very hard out on the court. Good news. This week he finally showed signs a resurgence may be possible. He shot much better than his season average, going 15 for 29 (51.7%) from the field, well above his season FGA (41.4%). He may have also uncovered a key to future success. Particularly against the Hawks, he began penetrating with the ball and getting baskets in the lane. He can do that, he's got good ball skills. Perhaps it will be his ability to take it to the basket that will open up his jump shot.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Maybe the Bucks' glass is half full

Watching the inspired, terrific play of the Milwaukee Bucks against the World Champion Spurs, I began to think: if they can compete with the Spurs in San Antonio, their blowout losses must be to some degree self inflicted wounds. If they are, then their overall point differential has to be considered misleading. It would then follow that any calculations made using that statistic, namely the team's expected future winning percentage, would have to be deemed unreliable. Here's what I mean:

The Pythagorean calculation is a generally accurate formula for predicting a team's expected winning percentage, but the formula must necessarily assume a consistent level of talent and effort. But what if that assumption doesn't hold? That would throw everything off, right? That could be the case with our Milwaukee Bucks. If the Bucks are "tanking" games once those games are out of reach, by my reckoning they are creating larger loss margins than their comparative abilities should produce. In turn, the gloomy prediction I made based upon the Bucks Pythagorean number is potentially inaccurate. The key question is: Are the Bucks blowout losses exacerbated by their situational lack of effort?

I'm beginning to think so. Consider the following: According to 82games.com, the Bucks are both the second best clutch offensive team and the second best clutch defensive team in the Association (clutch being defined as the final five minutes of games where the team is within +/- 5 points of their opponent). Obviously, in clutch situations the Bucks statistics -- particularly on defense -- are far superior to their overall statistics. The explanation for this discrepancy seems obvious. The Bucks must have a wildly fluctuating level of effort.

After all, the Bucks don't suddenly become a better team late in close games. That doesn't make sense (if anything the opposite would be expected). What does make sense is the Bucks must step up their level of play and their concentration when they think a game is winnable, and loosen it up somewhat when they don't.

I saw this phenomenon in living color on Saturday night at the Bradley Center when the team played Denver. In the first half, the Bucks played without any intensity whatsoever. They were lackadaisical on offense, and completely indifferent on defense. At halftime they were behind by 17 points. At the start of the second half they came out of the locker room with real passion and almost instantly cut the Denver lead to 5. During their rally, they shut down the lane defensively, challenged all shooters, and got out on the break. Their passing was much crisper. They were a different team. Just as quickly, however, it all went away again. You could feel it happen. The Bucks became discouraged when they were whistled for some technical fouls and Denver G Earl Boykins made some cold-blooded three pointers and the lead swelled back to double figures. The passion left the team. Their level of play diminished noticeably.

If this new theory is right, and a fluctuating level of effort does explain the strange coexistence of the team's winning record and the team's negative point differential, then it puts a whole new spin on my outlook. If the talent to compete with the elite teams is already there, the necessary effort for victory can come through motivation and increased maturity. Mental toughness usually develops over time. Stay tuned.

AP photos taken by Gloria Ferniz

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Bucks Ironic Promotional Giveaway

At Saturday night's game against the Denver Nuggets the Bradley Center turnstile operators were handing out rolled up posters. When you unrolled the poster it revealed a collage of Buck players with a superscript that read "2005-06 Bucks -- Buzzer Beaters" (shown above). It then went on to chronicle the Bucks series of last second victories. Nice little keepsake.

The poster was meant, I would suppose, to point out what an exciting team the Bucks are, perhaps even characterize them as a team of destiny. The irony, of course, is that the poster actually makes plain the most disturbing fact about the team's success-to-date -- their historically unprecedented and statistically improbable number of close wins.

Many Bucks fans have heard by now that the Bucks are the first team in NBA history to begin a season by winning their first 13 games decided by six points or less. What the team's public relations department doesn't seem to grasp is that the accomplishment is both impressive to Bucks Nation and at the same time extremely frightening. Bucks fans are smart people. They realize that had the team instead lost a statistically expected number of those games -- let's be generous and say 5 of the 13 -- then the team's outlook and image would be significantly different at this moment. In other words, had the the team's fortunes followed a far more statistically probable route, then its record would be a woeful 14-22 -- down there with the lowly New York Knicks.

Perhaps that's where the Bucks are headed. A few posts back, when the Bucks were a healthy 14-9, I warned Bucks fans that their actual winning percentage far exceeded their expected winning percentage as calculated by the historically reliable Pythagorean Method. With a heavy heart, but a sober mind, I predicted that a harsh correction was on its way. Regrettably, that prediction has thus far come true: the Bucks have since lost 8 out of 13 games (soon to be 9 out of 14 with a game in San Antonio tomorrow). And the worst may be yet to come. Consider the following:

If you look at the Bucks current point differential (Points Scored per game against Points Allowed per game), which is the number upon which the Pythagorean calculation hinges, it stands at a frightening -3.3. I bring this up because I thought the Bucks were in rough shape when I made my original dire prediction, and at that time the number was a mere -1.8.

It gets uglier. Such a miserable point differential puts the Bucks in some scary company. A quick look at the most statistically similar teams in each conference and you can see how fortunate the team is to be 19-17. To wit: in the Eastern Conference, the aforementioned New York Knicks have a slightly better point differential than the Bucks (-3.2), yet they have a much worse record (13-23). The awful Toronto Raptors have the exact same point differential as the Bucks (-3.3), and their record is even worse than the Knicks (13-25). In the Western Conference, the Houston Rockets have a much better point differential (-2.8) and an even worse record than the Knicks or the Raptors (12-24). If present statistics hold, you don't have to be Nostradamus to predict the future direction of the Bucks. Downward.

So next time someone associated with the Bucks brags about their series of heart-stopping wins think about the numbers laid out above, and then think about this: the Bucks are 2-10 in games decided by 10 or more points, and have lost by 14 or more points in an astounding 8 games. Those numbers are so ugly, and as a diehard Bucks fan, frightening as hell.

The poster should have been titled "2005-06: Lucky Bucks".

Photos taken exclusively for Milwaukee Bucks Diary

Monday, January 16, 2006

Saturday Night at the Bucks Game

Here are some random observations on a variety of Milwaukee Bucks topics, all of which occured to me while I was sitting in the Bradley Center watching the Bucks lose to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night, 100-93:

...Michael Redd takes a lot of bad shots, but I think its gotten to the point where the team is dependent upon those shots. On Saturday, even when Redd was missing, no one else got offensively aggressive. The other Bucks seemed to be looking to pass to Redd rather than attacking their defender. F Bobby Simmons in particular needs to be much more assertive on offense.

...Why do the Bucks have a banner hanging in the Bradley Center rafters commemorating their 2001 Central Division championship (pictured above)? That's weak. Considering the fact that the Bucks have won countless other division championships through the years that have no banners, that particular banner is not only potentially confusing, it looks a little desperate. The message it sends to me is "We've been so bad for so long, we can't be choosy about the banners we hang anymore". The Bucks are a proud franchise with a long history of triumph. They don't need to recognize petty achievements. Pull that thing down and make room for another world championship banner like the terrific one from 1971. We are not impressed by division championships, we shoot for world championships.

...Why in the hell isn't F Marques Johnson's number 6 jersey retired? That's an outrage. He was, in my opinion, the second greatest Buck of all time, certainly better and more productive in a Milwaukee uniform than G Brian Winters, F Junior Bridgeman, or G Jon McGlocklin, all of whom have their numbers hanging from the Bradley Center rafters. If you don't believe me, go to basketballreference.com and look at his stats as a Buck. They are superior, in my opinion, to the statistics of any other player who ever wore a Buck uniform save the great C Kareem Abdul Jabbar (no one will ever top what he did in this town). Consider that Marques never shot below 50% from the field while wearing a Buck uniform. That is a terrific achievement for a perimeter player. Today we don't have any perimeter player who even shoots at a 45% accuracy rate. Remember how Marques could kill a defender in so many different ways. He went to the hole with the same relentlessness that G Dwayne Wade displays today, and yet he also had a jump shot that was quite accurate. Not to mention he was a terrific rebounder! Let's right this wrong!

...As I walked into the Bradley Center I couldn't help thinking to myself, 'This is a beautiful building'. The atrium design in particular is first-class. Yet there is talk around town that the Bucks need a new facility; that the Bradley Center is hopelessly outdated. I know the Bucks need a better cut of the profits than they now recieve, but I just can't understand why the whole building has to be replaced. Its hardly dilapidated, and it does have skyboxes. What is it lacking?

...Did you read the postgame comments made by Denver coach George Karl? He said it felt good to slap the Bucks around. Or did he say spank the Bucks? It was something like that, and it ought to piss Bucks Nation off something fierce, considering the way his personality and the personnel moves he lobbied for almost destroyed the franchise.

...The food and refreshments that I sampled at the Bradley Center were awful. We sat in Section 101, so we had someone waiting on us (which is a ridiculously unneccessary amenity in itself -- are we all that lazy?). I asked her for a Pepsi and a Soft Pretzel. It cost probably around $9.00. The Pepsi came in one of those plastic bottles you can buy at the gas station, and it was almost warm. No cup, no ice. The pretzel was ridiculously oversalted and was so stale that it tasted like shoe leather. Man, it was awful.

...Why do NBA teams need so many assistant coaches? They have about as many assistants as they have players. And they all carry those folders that have the texture of a basketball. And they all seem to be taking notes during the game. Do they have that many complex thoughts that they have to take notes to remember them?

...Bucks fans love FC Andrew Bogut, that much is quite clear. He received a raucous ovation when he was introduced, and when the refs called him for some lame fouls I thought there was going to be a riot.

...Major Goolsby's restaurant is still the place to go before a Bucks game. Its a little less convenient than it was when the Bucks played at the Milwaukee Arena (its a city block away from the Bradley Center whereas it was right across the street from the Arena), but its worth the short cold walk just for the atmosphere, not to mention the terrific food and great service. Get there early if you want to find a seat, though.

...The Bucks, and indeed the NBA in general, have to find a way to make their sport more affordable for families. When I grew up my entire family of 6 would annually go to Bucks games, and we sat in pretty nice seats at the old Arena. If you tried to do that today you'd have to drop around 3 bills, and that's if you sit in those awful seats near the top of the BC. Those seats are closer to my deceased Grandfather than they are to the court. Its unconscienable what they charge for those seats. You could get Loge level seats at Miller Park for the same price. This pricing strategy is pure short term thinking. The Association is trying to squeeze all the money they can today at the cost of their fan base tomorrow. Pretty soon basketball will be nothing more than casual entertainment for corporate clients. You want to hear how dead the BC will be then?

Photos taken exclusively for Milwaukee Bucks Diary

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Bucks Looked Tired Against Denver

I was able to be on hand at the Bradley Center for Saturday night's game against George Karl's Denver Nuggets. The Bucks looked sluggish and fatigued in the first half and it showed in their woeful shooting. The Bucks couldn't put anything in the basket and fell behind by 17 at halftime. They rallied in the second half and showed alot of heart, but they simply didn't have enough in the tank to get it done. Plus, the refs did them no favors. FC Andrew Bogut was having an impressive second half but was forced out of the game early as a result of a series of ticky-tack calls. He was frustrated and so were the fans. After he fouled out, the Bucks momentum stopped. But, I was proud of the way they gathered themselves after their pitiful showing in the first half. Some thoughts:

The Grind Showed Early on Bogut

During the first half I thought Andrew Bogut really looked exhausted. He struggled to get a base when posting down low, he appeared winded on several occasions, and his legs betrayed him whenever he tried any lowpost moves. He showed me something in the second half, however, when he came out and fueled the Bucks early rally with some really exceptional play, highlighted by a spectacular dunk off of a beautiful feed from PG TJ Ford.

TJ was the motor

The box score doesn't show it, but TJ Ford played a huge role in getting the Bucks back in the game in the second half. I give him some hell for his poor defense, and he was abused by Denver G Earl Boykins, but he showed that when he bears down on the defensive end he can get it done. On one particular sequence, he got low and picked Boykins pocket. That was a huge play, but the Bucks just didn't have enough to make it payoff in a win. His speed, though, is the Bucks X factor.

Mo not himself

One of the big reasons the Bucks struggled was G Mo Williams, coming off an injury, just wasn't himself. His energy, his jumper, and just his overall game seemed to be a little off. The Bucks need him and Saturday night was proof of that.

Simmons can make a difference

F Bobby Simmons has been a disappointment, no question about it, but in the second half of Saturday's game he showed what a difference he can make when he is making his jumpers. When his shot is falling, it simply opens up the Bucks offense and makes them exponentially more dangerous. He has a nice looking stroke, and I now think he has a shot to turn around his woeful percentages.

Welsch continued to struggle

After Simmons picked up two immediate first quarter fouls the Bucks were forced to put in GF Jiri Welsch. He was helpless defending against Nuggets superstar F Carmelo Anthony, who finished the first half with, I believe, 20 points. Welsch just couldn't cover him, and his shot continues to miss. Let me emphasize though -- its not because of a lack of effort. He gives it on both ends of the court. He just can't get results. I'm not a shooting coach, but I think part of the reason his shot isn't falling is because he puts such a weird rotation on the ball. The ball comes off his hand with something of a sideways spin. Therefore, the ball has to be dead-on or it won't go in the hole. I don't know if he can do anything about that, though. As I said, he tries hard. Let's hope he can turn it around.
Exclusive Photos taken by Milwaukee Bucks Diary