Bucks Diary

Monday, April 30, 2007

Has conditioning betrayed Shaq?

With Dwayne Wade at only about 50% productivity, the Miami Heat desperately needed Shaquille O'Neal to step up in their series with the Chicago Bulls. He did not, and as a result they became the first defending NBA World Champions to be swept away in the first round of the playoffs since the '56 champion Philadelphia Warriors were swept 2-0 in their best of three first round series with the Syracuse Nationals in 1957.

How bad was Shaq? In Eff48 terms, Shaq's playoff numbers were barely better than Andrew Bogut's regular season numbers (25.02 vs 24.89). Those are not dominant numbers from a player once considered the most dominant center in the game.

And his numbers during the regular season were way off his career numbers as well (28.26 vs. 37.29).

Is this merely a natural decline in productivity for an aged center? Not necessarily. If you compare Shaq's numbers at age 34 (he is currently 35, but for comparative purposes, he started the season at age 34) with the numbers produced at age 34 by some other elite centers in NBA history, you see that Shaq's overall numbers are the lowest in the group, and the dropoff from his career numbers are the greatest.

Here are the comparative numbers, with each center's Eff48 numbers for the regular season they started at age 34 followed by their career numbers and then the percentage decline from their career numbers:

Production of Elite Centers at Age 34

Abdul Jabbar..........................37.03 (40.34) (-8.2%)
Chamberlain...........................35.33 (43.49) (-18.7%)
D. Robinson............................33.97 (38.08) (-10.7%)
Olajuwon...............................33.24 (36.53) (-9.0%)
Ewing...................................31.61 (32.76) (-3.5%)
Russell..................................30.21 (35.98) (-16.0%)
O'Neal...................................28.26 (37.29) (-24.2%)
Source: databasebasketball.com

Clearly, lack of physical conditioning has hurt Shaq. All those years of neglect have come home to roost. Consider that the best of the elite centers at 34 was Kareem, the master of yoga. He always kept himself in marvelous condition and he was able to extend his years of elite productivity well beyond age 34. In fact, Kareem was 34 when the 1981-82 season began. That means he still had 4 championships he would earn from that point to the end of his illustrious career. By comparison, I doubt Shaq will earn even one more.

Kidd is destroying TJ

Most of my first round prognostications are going pretty well, save for one. I took the Nets in 7 against the Raptors, describing it as the most competitive series on the boards for round one. My analysis was wrong. There are many reasons for this but one stands out starkly: Jason Kidd has eaten TJ Ford's lunch and then charged him for it.

One of the arguments made around BucksNation in favor of trading TJ Ford to Toronto for Charlie Villanueva was that TJ would never be a championship point guard. He's a winner in the regular season and a huge liability in the postseason. Last year with the Bucks he was exposed in the playoffs by Detroit, whose bigger guards ate him alive. The same has happened this year. While Ford -- to his credit -- is playing about as well as he can play, he is still helpless against a point guard the size of Jason Kidd. And as a result, Kidd is having field days against him.

Watching the Nets destroy the Raptors last night, the thing that struck me visually was the size difference between Ford and Kidd. Ford looked like a little kid trying to guard a full-sized man. And while Ford clearly has the quickness advantage, Kidd has smartly negated this by playing way off Ford and thus forcing him to be a jumpshooter rather than a penatrator. How many times last night did we see Ford merely dribble to the right wing and start the offense way out there, with Kidd sagging way off? As a result, Ford's penetration has been almost nonexistent throughout the series. Meanwhile, on the other end, Kidd hasn't even been bothered by Ford's defense.

And its shown in the statistics. Kidd is second in the NBA in playoff Eff48 (40.20), just behind Phoenix's Amare Stoudamire (41.66). And Kidd's improvement over his regular season Eff48 (29.11) is much higher than Stoudamire's (34.29), suggesting that Kidd is benefiting greatly from his matchup with TJ Ford.

Thus, what looked like a competitive series has turned into a complete mismatch. The Raptors have been lucky to win one game, and it looks like they will go out in 5. The point guard disparity, as much as anything else, is the reason for this.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ted Davis on the Bucks future

Ted Davis, the radio Voice of the Milwaukee Bucks, had some interesting things to say on WTMJ AM 620 regarding the team's future direction. I'll briefly summarize his talking points (from memory as I heard them driving in my car):

1. His first point, when asked directly about it by the host, is that BucksNation should remain fundamentally optimistic about the team's future. Ted said that in his 23 years working in and around the Association he never encountered a team as injury-riddled as the Bucks were this season, and thus he said the team's record did not accurately reflect its competitive disposition (one nitpick point -- he kept saying "this is not a 24-58 team" and as I'm riding around in my car I kept thinking "No, they're not, they finished 28-54, Ted." But, cut him a break, we all get a moment of dyslexia once in a while). He said further that the team has plenty of cap flexibility to improve their roster and that they will most assuredly add an impact player in this year's draft. He said scouts are telling him this is the first draft in a long time that goes 10 or 11 deep in impact players.

2. He thinks that if they land the top pick they should draft Greg Oden. He made the same fundamental case for Oden I've kicked around in my mind for months: The Bucks are in desperate need of a guy who can defend the rim, and that is Oden's forte. According to Davis, Oden's presence alone would immediately improve the Bucks team defense... an area in desperate need of improvement. He also made another point I've thought about lately: If I were an NBA GM, I would pray that I got the No. 2 pick. That way you can always say your hand was dealt to you.

3. He says that if the Bucks land below the money picks they should draft a power forward (tells you what he thinks of Charlie Villanueva at the 4 spot). He specifically mentioned names I concur with: Al Horford of Florida and Brandan Wright of North Carolina. I was pleased that I did not hear him include this name on his list: Joakim "No Don't!" Noah of Florida.

4. Ted said the Bucks should use their cap room to go aggressively after one of the following three defensive-minded free agents: Gerald Wallace of Charlotte; Andres Nocioni of Chicago; and Mickael Pietrus of Golden State. He said their major focus should be on landing Wallace because Wallace will bring you scoring, rebounding, and shot blocking. If you read my post on this topic you will know that I agree with Davis wholeheartedly.

5. Finally, Davis says that while the Bucks absolutely must improve on defense, he doesn't believe they have to become "the San Antonio Spurs". He rightly points out that with the Bucks offensive fire power they can make a substantial improvement in their record by simply moving themselves from rock bottom to around the middle of the pack when it comes to defensive efficiency.

All very interesting insights from a guy I think the Bucks are lucky to have announcing their games on their radio network.

I'll do my own Bucks season report card in the next few days. Right now I'm really into the NBA Playoffs.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Darko's baseball bats: More notes on the NBA playoffs

Here's my third diary entry on this year's NBA Playoffs:

Rockets vs. Jazz (Rockets 2-0)

When did I realize my pick of 'the Jazz in 6' had gone totally wrong? It was at halftime of last night's game when Craig Sager, the TNT courtside flake, err, reporter, was interviewing Jazz F Carlos Boozer. Boozer told Sager he was playing more inspired basketball in Game Two because of some disparaging comments TNT analyst Charles Barkley made about him following Game One. "I did it for you, baby!" Boozer said to Barkley... and then he winked.

Are you shitting me? Boozer, a purported All-Star, is telling us he needs some cable television analyst to inspire him to play hard in the playoffs? The playoffs!!! Oh my God! Where is his head at? Why does he even give a shit what Barkley says? Why is he even paying attention to that at this point in the season?

Barkley, to his credit, didn't take the cringeworthy sychophantic bait. "I hate when guys say we 'called them out", Barkley said in studio, "If you're an All-Star, just play like an All-Star". Barkley is often annoying, but on this count, he was exactly right.

And I didn't even mention Kirilenko's complete mental meltdown. The Jazz look finished.

Pistons vs. Magic (Pistons 2-0)

I love old school boxing. Whenever ESPN Classic does one of their "Ali Marathons", I always tune in.

Before his suspension from boxing in the late 60s, Ali often had a habit of "carrying" opponents he didn't like (see for example, Ali-Patterson I and Ali-Terrell). Instead of knocking out these clearly inferior opponents, Ali would keep the fights going, ostensibly to "punish" them. The motive was always the same. They refused to call him "Muhammad Ali" and instead referred to him as "Cassius Clay".

Anyway, I got the same sensation watching the Pistons-Magic game last night as I get watching those old Ali fights. It looks like the Pistons are "carrying" the Magic. They seem to only play hard when they need to, and never seem to want to put the Magic away when the opportunity is clearly there. What their motive is, I have no idea.

They threw baseball bats at Darko? Really????

During the Pistons-Magic game last night, the TNT sideline reporter assigned to the series, whatever her name is, said former Piston Darko Milicic wasn't bothered by the boos he was hearing from the Detroit crowd because back in Serbia he played in games where the crowd would "throw baseball bats". Huh?

First of all, my neighbor is of Serbian descent, and he once asked me on a December day -- I shit you not -- if the Brewers played that week. My point is, most Serbians don't follow baseball at all. And I would be stunned if anyone in Serbia even owned a baseball bat. And if they did, would they really bring the bats to a basketball game? Where would they hide them? And then they would supposedly throw them on the court? The whole story made zero sense. I can't believe the sideline reporter didn't check herself before she repeated such a blatantly false anecdote.

Don't forget the "The Breaks of the Game"

Yesterday a great literary voice was silenced when the world lost author David Halberstam in a California automobile accident. All of the tributes to him that I have heard and read thus far have been fitting and proper but I think one of his greatest books is getting shortchanged.

I'm referring to his sports masterpiece entitled The Breaks of the Game, originally published in 1981. It is Halberstam's engaging chronicle of the implosion of a dynasty that never was, the 1979-80 Bill Walton Portland Trailblazers. I've read many of Halberstam's works, including his political books like The Best and the Brightest and his baseball books like Summer of '49, and his period chronicles like The Fifties. The Breaks of the Game stands up against all of them. I would give everything to write something that good just once in my life.

It was the first sports book I ever read, and it still stands as the second best sports book I ever read, just barely behind Roger Kahn's classic The Boys of Summer. In fact, in its own way, Halberstam's book is the basketball version of The Boys of Summer. Its sports journalism in its finest form.

So if you love basketball, and if you're on this site I assume you do, I urge you to read it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Notes on NBA Playoffs Opening Weekend

Here's some follow-up notes on my initial playoff prognostications:

Bulls vs. Heat (Bulls 1-0)

Ironically, this is where I think my analysis is most shaky. I took the Bulls in 5. I actually thought this was going to be my safest pick. The Bulls were the far superior regular season team, they were hot coming into the playoffs, they gave the Heat a hard fight last year, and the Heat were wounded this year. So why am I nervous? Well, the Bulls won Game One, true, but they played a terrific game, and the Heat had nearly everything go wrong for them, and yet it was still a close game. Shaq had a shockingly easy time scoring on Ben Wallace, and had he played a more sensible game (eg what the fuck is he doing trying to take Bogut-like charges? And, btw, Shaq, both of those blocking fouls they called on you were totally proper, so quit whining) the Heat might very well have stolen Game One. That said, the one area where the Bulls can play better is at the point. Hinrich and Duhon were collectively awful. They should be able to do more against the ancient Gary Payton and the defenseless Jason Williams.

Raptors vs. Nets (Nets 1-0)

The Raptors had a not unexpectedly shaky game in their opener. They'll bounce back and take Game Two. But give New Jersey credit. They were pretty much on their game, with the exception of Vince Carter (although Carter's fingerroll to ice the game was a beautiful move that brought to mind the work of Dr. J in the 80s). That's what experience will do. And props to Jason Kidd. Kobe should watch him play. When his shot wasn't falling, he concentrated on getting the ball to his teammates. By himself he practically outassisted many of this weekend's other participating teams. His leadership was the difference in the game, I felt. He's a throwback to the 80s, when superstars looked to make their teams better.

Pistons vs. Magic (Pistons 1-0)

The Pistons pretty much did what I thought they would do. This game was not as close as the 8 point ending deficit might lead one to believe. The Pistons were never threatened, and this is despite the fact that the Magic basically shot the lights out (except at the free throw line, where they were inexplicably atrocious). I was reminded after I did my analysis that the Pistons always drop one game in the first round, but I don't think they will this time.

Cavaliers vs. Bullets (Cavaliers 1-0)

The Cavaliers basically slept walked through this one, and it still wasn't close. This series isn't even worth watching. The New York Times made the interesting observation that the Bullets are, without Agent Zero and Caron Butler, basically a 23-59 team (if you extrapolate their record without the pair and apply it over an 82 game season). If I were the Cavs, though, I would be worried. If they don't pick up the intensity, they will get buried in the second round.

Rockets vs. Jazz (Rockets 1-0)

I picked the Jazz in 6. Looks bad right? I don't know. The Jazz played as bad as they can possibly play, and yet they led by 9 at halftime. I think they will bounce back. I still don't think McGrady will continue to dominate, and at some point I think Yao will go soft. I'm not worried about this pick yet.

Spurs vs. Nuggets (Nuggets 1-0)

Where was the Spurs intensity? This game wasn't so much won by the Nuggets as it was completely lost by the Spurs, in my opinion. If, however, the Spurs difficulties were in the main the product of the Nuggets newfound love of defense, then Denver could be a very tough out, because they have all the offense they need to beat anyone.

Suns vs. Lakers (Suns 1-0)

This was the Lakers game to win. The Suns were way off, and the Lakers did not take advantage. Kobe continues to alternate between carrying the Lakers and killing them. Until he stops doing the latter, you can't put him in the same sentence with the Jordans and Birds of the world. Those two dominated the ball for their teams, just as Kobe does for the Lakers, but when those two made their moves, their teammates seemed to know exactly where to go to take advantage of open spaces, and Jordan and Bird knew exactly how to find them. That's how great music is made on the hardwood. By comparison, Kobe and his teammates seem to be singing out of completely different hymnals. How many times did it appear as though Kobe's "passes" to his teammates were nothing more than desperate heaves he threw only because he couldn't get his own shot? No wonder he had only one assist. His teammates aren't carrying their fair share, that's true, but he only looks for them when all else has failed for him. Totally dysfunctional.

Mavs vs. Warriors (Warriors 1-0)

I said the Mavs would have troubles with Nellie and Golden State, but frankly, given all the talk about how much trouble they would have, I expected Dallas to come out with some real fire in Game One. They didn't. That was shocking. It leads me to question their makeup. I still think they will win the series, but you have to wonder how this team is going to summon anything like the championship mettle they need to get through the "First to 16 Wins" NBA postseason tournament. And Mark Cuban, how about laying off the carbs a little. Did you see how pudgy he's gotten? It seemed a metaphor for his team -- soft.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Bucks Diary's NBA First Round Predictions

The NBA Playoffs have arrived! Cue Wagner's "O Fortuna". Its time to get it on for real.

Just in time, I have completed my first round prognostications. This year, for some reason, it was a tricky proposition. Btw, if you're planning on relying on this for anything other than entertainment purposes, be forewarned. I finished 23rd out of 26 in the March Madness pool I entered.

In my defense, though, I hate college basketball. Hate it. Save for watching the Badgers, or seeing interesting Bucks prospects, I never watch it. I live by the old school CBS jingle ("You'll see the best in basketball, when you watch the NBA, when you watch the NBA on CBS...").

Anyway, here's what I got:

(Pick: Bulls in 5)

I'm having a hard time figuring out why people think the Bulls are the underdog. The Bulls have a better team this year than the one that pushed Miami hard last year, and Miami's team is clearly weaker. On top of that, the Bulls were much better than the Heat in the regular season, both overall and head-to-head, and now D Wade isn't even close to full strength. And even when he is at full strength, no man on the planet messes with his game better than Bulls G Kirk Hinrich (dating back to Marquette's painful loss to Kansas in the Final Four). Thus I would be stunned if the Bulls didn't have an easy time with the Heat.

(Pick: Nets in 7)

In my opinion, this will be the most competitive series of the first round. Almost a pick 'em, but I'll take the Nets in 7, only because they are the more experienced team. But you could almost flip a coin. The overall numbers slightly favor the Raptors, and the head-to-head numbers slightly favor the Nets. The stakes are high -- the winner would probably be my favorite to advance past the Cavs.

(Pick: Pistons in 4)

The Pistons should not lose a game to the Magic. The overall numbers skew heavily in favor of Detroit, and the head-to-head numbers aren't even close either. The Pistons should walk right through Orlando. If they lose anymore than one game they should be ashamed of themselves.

(Pick: Cavaliers in 4)

I hate picking sweeps, because even clearly superior teams usually let down in the third game. But once again, I see no reason Cleveland should lose even one game to the depleted Bullets. Its sad, really, because I think the Bullets could have taken the Cavaliers this year had they been at full strength. At least it would have been quite interesting and entertaining to watch Agent Zero go shot for shot with LeBron.

(Pick: Jazz in 6)

I don't know about this pick. It runs contrary to logic. The Jazz are imploding, and the Rockets have the superior overall numbers, a stifling defense, and a soaring Tracy McGrady. All the same, I'm going with the Jazz in 6. First off, I have no faith in the mental or physical toughness of Yao Ming. Yao had the best overall numbers in the NBA when healthy, but the image I have in my head is him wimping down from contact, even against the 5'7'' Nate Robinson. I think he will shrink under playoff pressure. And McGrady, well... he hasn't done squat in the postseason. Beyond that, the head-to-head numbers favor Utah, so they're my pick.

(Pick: Spurs in 7)

This is going to be a killer series. And not just because of the old school "Remember the ABA" appeal. I came in thinking Spurs all the way, but after looking more closely at Denver's numbers, especially head-to-head, I think this series could be quite competitive. The head-to-head numbers are nearly dead even. The only thing that scares me is George Karl. He has the reputation, whether its fair or not, of being a poor postseason coach. And Popovich is about as good as it gets. That said, I think Camby will give Duncan problems, and I think Melo will give the Spurs defense fits. But San Antonio will have just enough to prevail.

(Pick: Suns in 5)

This one should, by rights, be a lopsided series. The Suns are highpowered and highly focused, while the Lakers are banged-up and basically a one-trick pony. But the Lakers have shown the ability to slightly slow the Suns machine in their head-to-head matchups, so I think they will be periodically competitive throughout the series, and I think they will be able to take one game from Phoenix.

(Pick: Mavs in 7)

This is easily the weirdest series I have ever encountered. If you look at the overall numbers, you would have to conclude it will be the Mavs in a walk. But then when you look at the head-to-head numbers, the Warriors dominated (even given the fact that the Mavs layed down for their third matchup). Plus, after last year's Finals, I question the Mavericks heart and intestinal fortitude. To paraphrase Bode from HBO's The Wire "They rattle". Plus, no one can scheme a playoff series like Nellie... no one! (Didn't he basically invent the Point Forward position specifically to exploit a Celtics weakness in one of the 80s Bucks-Celtics postseason matchups?). But even with all of that, I can't pick the Warriors. In basketball, upsets of this magntitude just don't occur... especially in seven game series. They just don't. And so, no matter what the head-to-head numbers say, the Mavericks have proven themselves the vastly superior team over the long 82 game haul, so they will prevail. But they will get a scare.

Hollinger: Bucks would take Kevin Durant

For what its worth, John Hollinger of ESPN.com thinks there is no question whom the Bucks would take if they were fortunate enough to have the choice between F Kevin Durant and C Greg Oden. Hollinger is certain the Bucks would take Durant. He believes the Bucks are not prepared to draft another center after having taken Andrew Bogut number one overall just two years ago, and therefore would almost certainly opt for Durant. When asked whom he thought would be the better professional player, he hedged. He said Durant would certainly have the more immediate impact and would be an All-Star if not in his first year then certainly by Year Two.

Playoff Picks

I'm working on my first round playoff predictions. I'll have them before the end of the day.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bucks have the third spot

Atlanta's offensive explosion last night against the declining Indiana Pacers rendered tonight's Bucks finale at Cleveland meaningless from Milwaukee's standpoint. The Bucks have finally sewn up the race for third worst. In doing so they have guaranteed themselves no worse than the sixth pick, and most likely a top 5 pick in what many analysts are calling the best NBA draft in living memory. With that done, we can now, mercifully, watch this painful Milwaukee Bucks campaign fade to black. Its a good day in BucksNation.

In celebration of this day, I did another 20 Spins (its addictive!). Once again, however, I didn't get the results we in BucksNation would call positive. I landed only 5 of my spins in the money picks. Most of them (65%) landed, as they always seem to, below the Bucks third spot. And this time the fourth pick was my most frequent result (40%).

My "Money Pick" Winners

Yesterday I kept track of the top result for each of my Spins. But, as we all know, there are probably two high impact players in this year's crop. So this time around I decided to keep track of the top two results in each of my Spins -- what I call the "money picks". Here's are the results I got (I would say, based on my results, the Wolves might want to seriously consider tanking their game tonight with Memphis):

Memphis: 12
Boston: 9
Milwaukee: 5
Atlanta: 4
Minnesota: 4
Portland: 2
Seattle: 2
Chicago: 2

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What's at stake in Cleveland

Since the possibility now exists that the Bucks may fall to the fourth worst record (with a win over Cleveland, a loss by Atlanta, and a loss of a coin flip#), I decided to do a Bucks Diary 20 Spins game as though the Bucks were the Hawks/Suns (the Suns own the pick if it falls out of the top three). The results, if you compare them to my latest real Spin game, are startling.

Now, again, I don't think the Bucks will fall to the fourth spot since the Cavaliers have something to play for, and since LeBron James has promised us all he will not let his team fall into any "booby traps" -- his words, not mine. But, if the Bucks were to set such a booby trap, and the Cavs were to fall into it, and if the Bucks luck continued to run bad and they lost the coin flip for third worst, my Spins show what might happen.

Playing as the Hawks/Suns, nearly all of my results fell at or below the fourth pick (85%), and a scant two fell in the money picks (10%). This is obviously an anamoly, but it does graphically illustrate the potential cost of having fewer pingpong balls.

Here's an interesting side note to the whole thing: playing the game as the Hawks/Suns, I never did better for the Bucks! Six of my 20 Spins as the Hawks/Suns won the lottery for Milwaukee! I've never gotten that kind of great result playing the game as the actual Bucks. Again, a complete anamoly I'm sure... but I'm beginning to wonder what kind of luck I bring to BucksNation.

#Footnote: This business about the flip of the coin determining the third worst spot comes from what I heard Dennis Krause say would happen in the event of a tie when he was doing color commentary on the Bucks Radio Network's broadcast of Saturday's loss to the Bobcats. This doesn't square with what happened last year (I believe they split the pingpong balls in the event of a tie) but I trust Dennis, so I am presuming the NBA changed the rules.

Bucks Diary's 20 Spins (with a twist)

With the Bucks loss, er, win against the Hawks last night, they have managed to make the race for the third worst record in the Association interesting. Nothing is easy in BucksNation, so I anticipated that tanking the final weeks would not be either. Alas, thanks to the Bulls, Cleveland has something to play for in their last game, so I think the Bucks are still safe in the third spot.

But will it matter? My latest game of 20 Spins, and my first one on the new souped-up ESPN Lottery Generator, produced, basically, the same old depressing results. 65% of my spins fell below the third spot, and only 25% fell in the money picks. The most frequent results were the fourth and fifth picks (30% each).

This time, however, I also kept track of the winners of each of my spins (I list them below). Memphis won 5 times, as it should be. But, as you can also see, the Hawks, Timberwolves, Kings, Blazers, and THE BULLS (Holy Shit if they won, look out!!) all "won" my lottery spins as many times as our Milwaukee Bucks did (twice each). And the Celtics, for all their blatant tank jobs (what the hell was Al Jefferson suddenly doing back in the lineup last night? And Bill Simmons cried about how Milwaukee was tanking!!), won no more of my spins than any of the above.

Spin Winners (by number of wins)

5 wins: Memphis
2 wins: Bucks, Atlanta, Boston, Sacramento, Chicago, Portland, Minnesota
1 win: Seattle

Friday, April 13, 2007

Well, somebody had to win

Can you remember a more uninspired end to a Bucks season? I'm sure there have been plenty, especially of late, but this ending just seems to, like, suck the wind out of you, doesn't it? You don't even know what to root for, or why you should even care. I mean, I guess you're hoping the Bucks lose, because that's good, because they'll get more pingpong balls, but, then again, even if they get those extra pingpong balls its still more likely they'll get stuck with the fifth pick on lottery night, but, of course, they'll likely fall even farther if they win, so...oh, my God. It gives me a headache! I can't take it anymore, and I'm not even compelled to watch. How would you like to be in the position of either Jonny Mac or Paschke (did you hear Paschke after the game tonight? "Well, the Bucks win...that's...pretty good...I guess." He can't even summon the strength to care.)? Pure torture.

For what its worth, the Bucks beat the Celtics on Friday night... it seemed like they won by a lot, but they actually only won by two, if that makes sense. Anyway, with the Bucks victory and the Hawks loss to...whoever the hell they played, it doesn't really matter...the Bucks "lead" in the race for third worst narrowed to two games with three to play.

So, the Bucks play the Bobcats at home, whom they might beat given that the Bobcats are sitting Gerald Wallace, the Hawks at home, and then the Cavs on the road. I was going to check and see who the Hawks play, but then I thought "What the fuck does it matter?" Name one team you feel confident the Hawks will beat (they don't play the Grizz). I can't. They'll fuck the dog against the Washington Generals at this point. For that matter, so will the Bucks.

And, if the Bucks defeat Charlotte...welcome to David Stern's nightmare: the Bucks vs. Hawks. It will surely set basketball back at least a couple of decades. In fact, I predict the only good that will come out of it is it will provide the Urban Dictionary with a much-needed fourth definition for the gerund "cadillacing".

Actually, I may get tickets. On second thought, I think I'll schedule an elective root canal. Or I may try out my new eyeball needle. I haven't decided yet.

Footnote: I didn't post at all last week because I caught a nasty case of bronchitis over the Easter weekend and was a little too weak and feverish to get my thoughts together. I still think I should have attempted to post, though. Those would have been some trippy reads. Almost Waltonesque.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Bucks Diary's 20 Spins: Lucky 13

The Bucks lost to the Hawks. (I'm merely going to acknowledge it, not glorify it -- see below for explanation why). As such, the team greatly improved its chances of maintaining the third worst record in the Association.

And, looky, looky... I had my best Spin game ever. In fact, I landed so many results in the 2nd spot, I thought the ESPN Generator was broke. As it turned out, I landed a total of 9 spins (45%) in the money picks (1st or 2nd picks), and landed only 8 (40%) below the Bucks rightful third spot, with none landing any lower than fifth place. And, for the first time ever, the 2nd pick was the most frequent result I obtained (35%).

Feelin like a lottery slut

I feel dirty. All this "cheering for losing"stuff is starting to warp my brain and skew my perspective. Its turning me into a lottery slut.

BucksNation was once a nation committed to -- in the words of Johnny Drama --"Victory!!"uber alles... and it will be again some day very soon. But all of my Oden/Durant lust made me lose sight of that. No more.

From here on out, I will no longer glorify losing. I will instead acknowledge Bucks losses and their impact on the race for third worst, but I will no longer write Bizzaro World posts like the one I wrote the other day ripping Pearl Boykins for playing well. Those have no place in Bucks Nation. In BucksNation losing can -- under narrow circumstances -- be tolerated, but it should never, ever be glorified, especially not for something as uncertain as the lottery. Then we become no better than the Hawks.

Besides, what is all the "cheering for losing" getting us anyway? Slightly better odds on what will still be a sucker's bet? No matter how many games we lose, the lottery will still more likely end in disappointment for Bucks fans. And then how will we feel about all our "losing is great!" attitudes, huh? Like lottery sluts, that's how.

When and why did I have this change of heart? It happened tonight when I saw the Bucks result and started whooping and hollering. "What happened," my girlfriend asked. "The Bucks lost!" I told her. "How is that good? I thought you were a Bucks fan." Her naivete' put everything back in order for me.

I am a Bucks fan. A Bucks fan who got temporarily sucked into the upside-down world of David Stern's lottery, partly because, at the moment, there is really nothing in BucksNation interesting to write about.

Because of that, I'm taking a couple of days off from blogging. We'll see you around the middle of next week. Happy Easter, Bucks Nation!

Its a two-horse stumble

With Charlotte's improved play of late, the vaunted "Battle for Third Worst" record in the Association appears to be a two horse stumble pitting Milwaukee's current NBA team -- the Bucks -- against Milwaukee's original NBA team -- the Hawks. (Each team's original Milwaukee mascot logos appear above).

The home stretch starts right now. The Bucks venture south tonight to face the Hawks in yet another pingpong showdown. Unlike Wednesday's game against the Celtics, however, tonight's game is a must lose for the Bucks. The Bucks hold only a slim 1/2 game lead over Atlanta, and neither team appears to have many wins left in them. So any win, especially a head-to-head win against the Hawks, could severely jeopardize Milwaukee's lottery standing. Here is a breakdown of each team's remaining schedule, with remaining opponents winning percentage in parenthesis :

Hawks (A)
NY (H)
Orl (H)
Ind (H)
Bost (A)
Char (A)
Hawks (H)
Clev (A)

Bucks (H)
Phi (A)
Bost (H)
Wash (H)
Clev (A)
Bucks (A)
Ind (H)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Grayer's airballs: Urban Legend or Fact?

The only entertaining moment during last night's game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics occured when Bucks C Jared Reiner left his free throw attempt five feet short. Bucks color commentator Dennis Krause said "He just shot an airball... embarrasing."

Then the television voice of the Bucks, Jim Paschke, said Reiner's freethrow airball doesn't even come close to being as embarrasing as a pair of freethrow airballs shot by former Buck Jeff Grayer. According to Paschke, Grayer had one airball that didn't even make it to the dotted circle five feet in front of the free throw line, and he had a second one that went behind him.

Now, I don't doubt Paschke, but I also do not recall seeing either of those airballs, live or on tape. Can anyone out there confirm that these hard-to-fathom shots actually occured?

Way to go, Pearl, you frickin'...

Here's the memo I forgot to fax to the Bradley Center last night:

TO: Earl The Pearl Boykins
FROM: Mke Bucks Diary

Earl, I realize you will have Sebastian Telfair checking you tonight. I further realize he plays nothing even remotely resembling defense. However, we need this loss badly. Please, please, please, do not go off on him. Please do not attempt to victimize him. Again, to reiterate, we need this loss. Thank you for your anticipated cooperation.

How bad was last night's "game"?

The only thought going through my mind during last night's NBDL, err, NBA game between the Bucks and the Celtics was this... at one time in their lives most every player I'm watching on the Bradley Center court was a high school superstar. People would arrange their Friday nights to watch these guys play. So how come none of them seem capable of making a wide-open jumpshot, or a simple bunny lay-up, or a two foot putback? How come none of them seem able to play defense? Why do they all suddenly look like YMCA rejects? What happened?

How bad was the level of play during last night's pingpong showdown at the BC? Well, on my cable system the Bucks Television Network is Channel 31. ESPN is Channel 30. On ESPN they were showing the Chicago Bulls against the Detroit Pistons. From time to time, just to entertain myself, I would flip between the channels. The difference was shocking.

The energy, the effort, the execution... it looked like they were playing completely different sports on the two channels. On Channel 31, everyone was standing around, looking incompetent. No one was bothering to even get into a defensive stance. On Channel 30 they were running around, looking like professional basketball players. They were pressuring the ball. They all appeared to be in classic defensive crouches. It was a stark contrast.

Bucks Diary 20 Spins: Volume 12

Last night's win, and the effort level shown by the Boston Celtics, makes it almost certain the Bucks will not get any lower than the third worst record in the Association. That said, here is the latest edition of Bucks Diary's 20 Spins.

First, the bad news. Once again, the most frequent result I got was the 5th pick (35%). Now, the good news. For the second straight Spin game, I landed 6 in the money picks (30%). And, 5 of those money pick results came in my first 10 spins. Also, unlike yesterday, none of my spins landed in the sixth pick. So, it looks like should we stay at third worst, the lowest we will fall is the 5th pick.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Bucks Diary's 20 Spins: Volume 11

Another loss, another 20 Spins. If this game is teaching you anything, Bucks fans, it should be this: Brace yourselves for the Big Screw. Although my money pick results (1 or 2) were improved (30% -- exactly the results Frank's math suggested), I still landed the decided majority of my spins below the Bucks rightful 3rd spot (60%). And once again, the most frequent result was the 5th pick (40%).

Are you beginning to understand what I posted earlier? Namely, that for the worst teams, the NBA Lottery is really just a fool's gamble (meaning it has more likely downside than upside).

Say No to Noah

If you notice on the ESPN Lottery Generator, Chad Ford has the Bucks selecting Florida's Joakim Noah if they should land out of the money picks. That is my worst nightmare, and I can't believe they would do it.

If you want a saner reading of the draft prospects, I urge you to read Aran Smith's article he just posted on Nbadraft.net. I am pretty much in agreement with his skeptical assessment of Noah's pro potential, as well as his measured assessment of Hibbert's potential, and glowing assessment of Oden's.

Clarification: This year's Lottery is only a fool's gamble for the two worst teams. For a team like the Bucks, in the third worst spot, it is still a good risk. That is because, for them, the potential benefit of moving up into one of the top two picks far exceeds the potential cost of moving down, even as far as the 6th pick. That is not the case for the two worst teams. They have no upside in the Lottery, only a steep, steep downside.

Pingpong Showdown

There were some nervous moments last night in the Bucks makeup game against the NOK Hornets. For a while there, it looked like the Bucks were going to make a game of it. Finally, they put my mind at ease with a fourth quarter collapse which widened their deficit from 4 points to 20. I could relax. The loss was in the bank and earning interest.

Now they have closed to within two games of the Boston Celtics, just in time for their pingpong showdown tonight at the Bradley Center. I am interested to see how tonight's game will transpire. The Celtics, by all rights, should win. With a healthy Paul Pierce, and a highly productive Al Jefferson ready to go, there is no way they should lose to the Bucks in the Bucks current state. But you never know with Doc Rivers. He has a way to pull defeat right out of the jaws of any victory.

No Worries, BucksNation

I do the Bucks Diary 20 Spins (I'll take another 20 Spins around noon), and focus on Durant and Oden, because its fun for BucksNation at a time when we need some fun in our lives. But the fact is, we are about to enter one of the deepest drafts in NBA history. I have faith that, no matter where we land, Larry Harris will select a high impact player. As Laserbomb commented, we shouldn't get so invested in Durant/Oden that we are ready to jump into Lake Michigan if we don't land one of the money picks. Getting Durant or Oden would be cherry, but we are going to add a big piece either way.

The difference I think is this: If we land Oden (especially after what I saw Monday night), we may be headed back to the early 70s. But if we merely get a high impact player, we will more likely be headed back to the 80s. The early 70s were the pinnacle years in BucksNation, but the 80s were pretty great too.

Suspension of Eff48 Boxscore

I began the Eff48 Boxscore to provide Bucks fans with a shorthand method of determining who actually played well, and who didn't. If you understand how to read the statistic, it eliminates the need to read the entire boxscore and weigh it in your mind. With Eff48 you can tell instantly who produced for the team and who produced for their opponent.

Since I did all the calculations myself, it was kind of a bitch to put together. And since we are now cheering for losses, it seems a bit pointless. So I have suspended it for the remainder of this season, and will resume publishing it at the beginning of the '07-'08 campaign.

Footnote: I realize my pingpong ball graphic is slightly out of date (I think the Clippers have slipped into the 8th spot in the West). I will update it from time to time, but for now, I'm just going to leave it as is. All of the relevant parties are represented.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Top 10 Bradley Center "Do's and Dont's"

In gratitude to Frank for his mathematical work, I have fulfilled his request for a post of my "Top 10 Bradley Center Do's and Dont's". I did this in about 10 minutes off the top of my head, so by all means, if other readers have any do's and/or dont's to add, or if they disagree with mine, please comment. Anyway, here's what I came up with:

1. DO: Sit in the Lower Level. It costs a fortune, and the real fans are up in the Upper Level, but if you only go to a few games a year, its worth it. The lowest Upper Level seats are pretty good, but I personally think that if you go any higher you’re better off watching the game at home, because it seems like you’re miles from the court (forgive me, Bucks sales staff).

2. DO NOT: Order the soft pretzels. They serve them cold, and they are as tough as shoe leather. I kid you not, I had my last one last year, and it tasted like 8 week old bread from Erberts and Gerberts. On the other hand…

3. DO: Visit the Klement’s Grill. It’s a little stand in the concourse by one of those Dippin’ Dots. Its not one of the regular concession stands. They have the best value for the money, and the brats there are outstanding.

4. DO NOT: Park up the hill west of the BC if you have a nice ride. Now, its perfectly safe around the BC in my opinion, so I don’t want to be a fear mongerer, but, if the exorbitant prices charged by the lots around the BC tempt you into parking for free up the hill, think twice. I do it all the time, but talking to fans on the way in, I have heard several anecdotes about cars being broken into during the game. On the other hand…

5. DO: Look for a free parking spot behind the BC. Next to that metal shop, near where the players' park, I have found some sweet spots. And they are in well trafficked, well lit areas.

6. DO NOT: Deal with the Kilbourne scalpers unless you have knowledge of the BC and are a good negotiator. I love those guys, but they are savvy and smart, and if they see a “mark” they will move in for the kill (bourne). Remember, Upper Level seats are numbered “400” and Lower Level seats are numbered “200” (the old switcheroo is one of their classic cons).

7. DO: Eat at the legendary “Major Goolsby’s” before the game. I ate there for the first time in the 80s when my old man took me to a game at the old Arena (right across the street), and I try to stop in there every time I go to a Bucks game. Its right down the street from the BC, the atmosphere is great, and its Bucks all the way (sometimes the waitresses will wear “71 World Champs” shirts).

8. DO NOT: Boo unless you sense lack of effort. That’s just a personal preference, but I hate when fans boo former Bucks who were traded or boo just because the other team is better and is kicking the Bucks around. Now if they’re out there half-assing, let them have it… with the price of tickets, you deserve a maximum effort.

9. DO: Visit the Bradley Center Souvenier Store. Its on the second level, right after you get off the Atrium escalator. I’ve gotten some cool Bucks stuff there. If you love Old School Bango like I do, or anything Old School Bucks, it’s the best shop in America. Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, over Xmas I got my nephew Charlie a home jersey Bango there.

10. DO: Check out the displays in the Atrium. The atrium is cool to begin with, and they have some must see display cases there if you’re interested in Bucks history. (Those Bucks jersey display pictures I post from time to time are from the atrium – not my closet).

Correction: Pressey has corrected me on my sense of direction. I originally said you shouldn't park east of the BC. East of the BC is obviously the Marquette Interchange. I meant west of the BC, which is where the hill resides. Also, he mentioned the band that plays cover music in the Atrium before each game. That definitely merits a listen on your way into the BC. (At the last game I went to the band they had played a killer version of "American Girl". My girlfriend immediately downloaded the original Tom Petty version of the song when we got home).

Who would you take, BucksNation?

I realize this is putting the cart way, way ahead of the horse, but going into last night's college championship game, I would have said that, given the opportunity, the Bucks would select Texas F Kevin Durant over Ohio State C Greg Oden. But after last night's monster showing by Oden, how could anyone pass the guy up?

Last night Oden basically bi**hslapped one of the best frontlines in college basketball history. He treated Noah, especially, like a child. To my mind, Oden looked exactly like a bigger version of a young Bill Russell. The athleticism. The shot blocking. The old guy face. The ambidexterity. That funny jump hook that always seemed to land true. It was #6 all over again.

After last night, I seriously do not know who you would take. But I know this. Anyone would have a hard time passing on Oden, even with Durant's demonstrated brilliance.

Who knows what will happen between now and pingpong ball time. The Lounge Lizard may never face the hard choice. But as Bucks fans, let's hope to hell he does. He almost can't go wrong.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Bucks Diary's 20 Spins: Volume 10

We have just as many pingpong balls today as we had yesterday, but my results, for some reason, just get worse and worse. Today I only got 3 results in the money picks (15%). And, get this, a whopping 15 of my results were below the Bucks rightful third spot (75%). Again, the fifth spot was the most frequent result.

One thing I didn't realize when I was doing my earlier post -- Atlanta's number one pick is owned by the Phoenix Suns. The Hawks, therefore, have no incentive whatsoever to play down to the third worst spot. That should help the Bucks, at least marginally.

A scary thought, though... what if Phoenix lands one of the money picks? Could you imagine them with Oden or Durant? It would be the equivalent of the Lakers getting Magic when they already had Kareem or getting Worthy when they already had Magic and Kareem. Or, of course, what the Celtics might have been had Len Bias lived. At any rate, they look like they will become an even bigger monster next year.

Correction: A very helpful reader has corrected me. It turns out the Hawks in fact DO have an incentive to play down to the third worst spot. The reader informed me that the pick they traded to the Suns is top three protected. That means the Suns haven't got a shot at Oden or Durant, and the Hawks have an incentive to increase the odds that they will land in one of the top three. But if the Hawks pick isn't in the top 3, the Suns still more than likely will get a very good player to add to their roster.

The Bucks in March

Another bad month for the Milwaukee Bucks in what has been an horrendous calendar year. Do you realize the Bucks have now lost 31 out of 40 games since New Year's Day?

No Buck had a very exceptional month of March, but once again, old reliable SF Ruben Patterson is the Buck of the Month. Through all the muck and mire, he just keeps putting up what are for him very good numbers. Consider what an upgrade he has been from last year's primary SF Bobby Simmons. Simmons never had any month in '05-'06 that was as good as any of the months Patterson has had in '06-'07.

On the downside of March, Mo Williams was awful. He has a weird habit of putting up great months early in the season, and then fading as the season wears on. Earl the Pearl Boykins didn't play much last month, and didn't do much when he did play. Michael Redd was either spectacular (see the Mavericks game) or well below his par (see the Rockets game). As I suspected, though, he was hurting, and is now day-to-day. I say 'Why not shut him down for good?' There's no use playing him anymore in these meaningless games.

Here are the Milwaukee Bucks Eff48 numbers for March:

1. Ruben Patterson..................................25.81
2. Andrew Bogut.....................................25.58
3. Lynn Greer........................................24.92
4. Michael Redd......................................24.17
5. Ersan Ilyasova.....................................23.74
6. Charlie Villanueva................................23.59
7. Brian Skinner......................................18.83
8. Charlie Bell.........................................18.08
9. Mo Williams.........................................16.10
10. Earl Boykins.......................................16.06
11. Jared Reiner......................................13.69
12. Damir Markota....................................13.40
13. David Noel.........................................10.34

What the hell is Eff48?: Eff48 is a statistic found on NBA.com that measures the sum of positive statistics a player produces for his team without regard to playing time. It rewards sustained all-around productivity, and penalizes one-dimensional play and indiscriminate "gunning". The Eff48 formula is (points + rebounds + assists + steals + blocks) minus (missed field goals + missed free throws + turnovers) divided by minutes of playing time and then multiplied by 48. Here's a rough estimate of how to read the statistic: <20.00: Poor; 20.00-25.00: Okay; 25.00-30.00: Above Average; >30.00: Outstanding; >40.00: Spectacular.

Update on the Race for Third Worst

Even without Caron Butler on the floor, the Bucks were able to hold off the Washington Bullets yesterday and lose their crucial matchup to maintain their one game lock on the third worst spot. Seattle has fallen off the chart with an untimely winning streak, and the main competition appears to be the Atlanta Hawks, who are, like the Bucks, in a death spiral. The more intriguing question is: Can the Bucks catch the Boston Celtics? With 10 games remaining, including a pair against the Celts, the Bucks have moved within 2.5 games of the second worst record. Stay tuned.

1. Milwaukee Bucks (--)
2. Atlanta Hawks (1.0)
3. Charlotte Bobcats (2.0)
4. Portland Trailblazers (3.5)
5. Philadelphia 76ers (3.5)