HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The Charlotte Bobcats received plenty of praise for their Draft night haul, which included picking up two fresh faces in raw big man Bismack Biyambo and playmaking former UConn star Kemba Walker.
What the Bobcats gave up, however, was the real prize — at least for the Milwaukee Bucks.
And if you need proof, drop into Bucks training camp and ask Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings how happy they are to see Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston and Beno Udrih.
Jackson’s a volatile sort, but check with his teammates at every stop and they’ll swear by him. Livingston, one of HT’s all-time favorite Draft prospects when he entered the league as teen phenom and 6-foot-8 playmaker in the mold of Penny Hardaway, proved last season with the Bobcats that he is still a factor even after that catastrophic knee injury he suffered as a Los Angeles Clipper during his third season. And Udrih provides the sort of quality depth at point guard that Luke Ridnour did two years ago, when the Bucks were one of the surprises of the league with the then-rookie Jennings as their starter.
As promising as the notion of exciting draft prospects might be to some, attaining proven veterans with something to prove is what helps a team go from a 35-win outfit that spends the playoffs window shopping back to an eager and able postseason participant.
It’s hard to do anything but enjoy Jackson, who described his colorful journey through the league in the way only he could when introduced publicly in Milwaukee Wednesday:
“I’ve never been in any trouble in my life until I got to the NBA,” Jackson told Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel. “I’m an assassin on the court, but at home I’m a nun. I can see why people would see me in the wrong light.”
Bucks general manager John Hammond and coach Scott Skiles know exactly what they are getting in Jackson, Livingston and Udrih.
So does Jennings:
“I feel like we got a piece in here that can control the locker room, a vet that is well-respected and wants to win,” Jennings said. “And he won an NBA championship before (with San Antonio).
“And a guy I know personally before I even started hooping in the NBA. It’s just going to be great for us. He’s going to bring a lot of scoring here, something we missed last year.
“And I think you’re just going to see a different Bucks team, overall. Just our attitude is going to be different and our passion.”
Scoring should no longer be a problem with Jackson joining Jennings in the backcourt and Livingston giving Skiles all sorts of lineup options, since he can play three positions and immediately becomes the Bucks’ best passer.
Bogut won’t have to worry about toting the leadership mantle by his lonesome anymore either, not with Jackson around. He tried to wear that hat for the Bobcats last season, but they opted to go younger on draft night, a move that both sides agreed would not work for the future:
“Deep down inside, they didn’t want me there on a rebuilding team,” Jackson said. “And I didn’t really want to be a part of that.
“I think this was inevitable. Winning now is important to me, and this is a great place to win now. I know what it takes to get to the playoffs, and I think definitely we’ll be there come the end of the season.”
Skiles spoke about Jackson’s competitive edge and what it could mean to the Bucks.
“The season is so long and all the players want to win,” Skiles said. “But the really highly competitive guys can make a difference and get you through the season.
“And Stephen has always been that.”
We predicted big things for the Bucks this time a year ago, when they were coming off of a solid draft night after a seven-game first-round playoff series against the Hawks, only to see them buckle under the pressure of expectations (internal and external). We had them challenging the Chicago Bulls for supremacy in the Central Division, a prediction that proved to be only half true.
Call us crazy, but we’re going to try it again … given these new additions.