Posts Tagged ‘Ekpe Udoh’

Q&A: Bucks’ Udoh On His Book Club


By Jonathan Hartzell,

The NBA and Twitter have a wonderful relationship.

The sport is ideally suited for live tweeting and this has allowed writers, bloggers and fans to easily join together in an increasingly large online community. Seldom mixed into this community, however, are the players themselves.

Enter Ekpe Udoh.

The Milwaukee Bucks’ fourth year big man out of Baylor University has quickly created a niche for himself within “basketball Twitter” thanks to his willingness to interact with fans. His latest online adventure is one rarely associated with professional athletes: a book club. The club started last week with the first book being The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.

As a member of the book club, I talked with Udoh about his plans for the group, the value he places on fan interaction, and what he expects from the Bucks this season.

*** Let’s start with the obvious question: Why did you decide to start a book club?

Udoh: This past year I actually started reading books more. I really haven’t been the one to sit down and read. And you know? I started to like it. You learn about people’s struggles and their mindsets. It just became something I wanted to do. I never thought about being in a book club, especially as a kid when I thought it was nerdy. But now I’m starting to realize you need to read. Especially with all the down time I have. Why not grab a couple of people to do it with me? Why’d you pick the book The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch?

Udoh: One of my former assistants when I was at Golden State (Lloyd Pierce, now with the Philadelphia 76ers) recommended it to me. How are you enjoying the book so far?

Udoh: I like it, man. Somebody spoiled it and told me he really died. That’s tough. It’s actually his last lecture and his last book period. Any of your Bucks teammates reading the book?

Udoh: No. You try to get any of them?

Udoh: Not yet. I just limited the number of members to 10. But I may open it up again if I don’t get Twitter interactions on Fridays. But I’ll invite them all. They’re going to see me reading more and more and they’ll be like, “Hey, man. What you reading?” Do you plan to have this run solely through Twitter?

Udoh: I’m just going to stick to the Twitter and if it starts to gain in momentum then we’ll see. I want to get to the point when summertime comes I can set up a trip through my corporation to get everybody together in one city. We can rent out a conference room in a hotel to have a day about books and life. Sounds great. Glad I’m in the club.

Udoh: [laughs] Now you want to be my friend. [laughs] Now I’ll finish the book. How many people are in the book club?

Udoh: It’s 11. Have you though about what the second book is going to be?

Udoh: No I haven’t. I’m just going to randomly ask somebody. What are you hoping to get out of this experience?

Udoh: I don’t know. Just reading books with other people and talking about life. They may be going through struggles and hopefully this can ease that struggle a little bit. Make the book club something to look forward to doing. Especially come summertime. You also have the Hangout Squad on Twitter (a group of Udoh’s Twitter followers who occasionally join Udoh in a Google Hangout). How important is fan interaction to you as an NBA player?

Udoh: It’s very important to me. I know growing up as a kid, we didn’t have the resources, but you wouldn’t think a kid could get on a video conference call with an NBA athlete. So I think that’s a special thing I can do and I ran with it. They enjoy it and I enjoy it as well. Have you thought about any other ways to interact with fans you’d like to start doing?

Udoh: I might make another squad. Maybe start a podcast?

Udoh: You know, that would be interesting. Call it ‘Tuesdays with Ekpe’.

Udoh: [laughs] I might have to hire you. That sounds like a good thing. You’re starting to get more active on Instagram, too.

Udoh: Oh yeah, man. When Instagram first started all I thought it was for was for stunting. Like showing off what you have and what you’re doing. And I wouldn’t get into that even though my friends always wanted me to join. But one of my good friends showed me his Instagram and it was nothing like that. So I decided to have a fun Instagram with crazy stuff or pictures of me and some of my people. Are you gunning for a few NBA TV Social Media Awards?

Udoh: I haven’t even thought about it. I don’t strive to do that. If it happens, it happens. I’m just going to be me and make people smile or laugh. Moving on to basketball, what was your offseason goal?

Udoh: Work harder than I have. I gave up drinking so it’s all natural energy now which will allow me to keep my energy up.  I just focused on getting my conditioning right. Do you feel like you could’ve tried harder the past few seasons?

Udoh: I mean conditioning is really the key to everything. I probably wasn’t as conditioned as I would have liked. But I’m pretty good now after conditioning this summer. One of the themes I just read in The Last Lecture  was about the value of “brick walls” in life and how they’re built to be conquered by those who want it badly enough. I feel like this applies well to your first few years in the league as you have, in my opinion, faced more unusual circumstances and obstacles than most sixth picks. You’re facing challenges again this year with the Bucks additions of Miroslav Raduljica and Zaza Pachulia this summer. How did these signings affect your motivation?

Udoh: I’m just going to work hard and be aggressive offensively and defensively. It’s the business side of the game and I don’t really get into that. But I did take notice to it. I’ve just got to come out and show what I’ve worked on. What would you say your role is on the Bucks right now?

Udoh: Come in and be the defensive presence that I’ve been. Be more of a communicator on defense and rebound better.  When I get the opportunity to be aggressive with the ball, I have to take that avenue. How’s the team chemistry feeling this year compared to last season?

Udoh: It’s good. I think right now it’s better. We’re just growing as a team which is most important. Has there been much difference between Scott Skiles and Larry Drew?

Udoh: For the most part. To get to this level you’re already a pretty serious coach so it’s about the same. Just some things will be done differently. What have been the major changes to the team’s style of play?

Udoh: You’ll have to wait and see. I can’t spoil it. I’ve seen the numbers Drew focused on at practice and it seems like you guys will be running.

Udoh: Running and gunning and doing all of the above. What was it 25 assists? Yep. 25.

Udoh: Yeah, I mean. That’s something special. We had a streak of about three or four games two seasons ago when we had 30-plus assists. So when you’re playing like that, unselfish and giving the ball, it’s pretty impressive. And I think that style will help us this season.

Ilyasova Still Searching For His Game

In spite of can be a good thing, if the outcomes are happy even when the inputs are sad. And for a while, the Milwaukee Bucks were doing just fine in spite of Ersan Ilyasova.

But Milwaukee’s 6-2 start was turned into a 6-4 mark after road losses this week at Charlotte and at Miami. Now the Bucks face a home-and-home test against their Central Division rivals, the Chicago Bulls. And Ilyasova is running out of cover, it not quite time.

He was, after all, a big-expenditure guy for a team that doesn’t make big expenditures readily. Milwaukee re-signed Ilyasova when he hit free agency, committing to the 6-foot-9 forward in a five-year, $40 million deal. It was based as much on potential as performance, earned by what Ilyasova did last season (enough of a bump in scoring, rebounding and 3-point accuracy to finish second in Most Improved balloting) and by the promise that held with him in a bigger role.

Trouble is, Ilyasova’s role so far in 2012-13 is smaller, not bigger. His impact is too, according to Charles F. Gardner’s story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Ilyasova’s numbers are way down across the board through the first 10 games, all as a starter. He is shooting 31.3% overall and just 25% from three-point range and 42.9% on his free throws. He is playing 22.5 minutes per game and averaging 6.3 points and 4.7 rebounds.

In 60 games last season he played 27.6 minutes per game and averaged 13 points and 8.8 rebounds while shooting 49.2% overall.

“The main thing is I can’t find my rhythm yet,” Ilyasova said. “We’ve got a lot of big guys. Coach has tried a lot of rotations. It’s not the same as it was last year.

“We had just three or four guys last year and we knew our minutes. It was kind of stable.”

The Bucks, particularly coach Scott Skiles, aren’t about to apologize for stiffer competition up front. They were seriously undermanned last season after center Andrew Bogut got hurt in January and traded in March, and with added size have boosted their rebounding and shot-blocking production. Larry Sanders, Samuel Dalembert, Ekpe Udoh and rookie John Henson have pushed Drew Gooden, the veteran thrown into duty at center in Bogut’s absence, completely to the bench. Meanwhile, Ilyasova shooting and bouts of tentativeness have him spending more time there, too.

It’s early still, and Ilyasova – never the most forceful at asserting himself – might grow his game with a few encouraging stats lines. For the moment, though, he is in that funky class of player such as Chicago’s Carlos Boozer and Indiana’s Roy Hibbert (to name only two) who gets paid more yet produces less. The season unspools too quickly to wait around for guys like that, and even when their coaches seem to forget about them, their team’s fans generally don’t.

And if the team falters, in spite of can become an ugly because of rather quickly.

Five Teams On The Rise

The start of training camp is just days away.

There are 30 teams that believe deep down this is the year they do it. This is the year that it all comes together. This is the year that they win it all again in Miami, finally win it in Oklahoma City or finally break through and make the playoffs in places like Sacramento, Detroit and New Orleans.

The power of positive thinking will be on full display around the league when players convene for the initial stage of the 2012-13 season.

Not all of those hoop dreams will be realized, though, and there will no doubt be teams that are convinced they are prepared to take that next step this season when they simply are not.

But we’re focusing on the positives today, peering into our crystal ball and trying to identify the teams with the goods to make good on whatever promise they’ve shown in recent seasons, Drafts and in the offseasons (in free agency and trades).

There are no guarantees, of course. Injuries and other unforeseen issues can alter the fate of a team at any time.

We’ve checked the radar, though, and the skies are clear for HT’s Five Teams On The Rise … five lottery teams with a chance to move into the realm of playoff contention:

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, 21-45 last season

They were supposed to go away for five or six years after the departure of Lebron James and rebuild quietly. Then Kyrie Irving showed up and forced us all to reconsider. The roster is slowly but surely being fortified to surround a budding star like Irving with a supporting cast capable of making a little playoff noise at some point in the near future.

Anderson Varejao looked like his usual pesky self in London during the Olympics and Tristan Thompson showed significant promise last season as well. They’ll form the foundation of a frontcourt rotation that will include rookie center Tyler Zeller and rugged workman Samardo Samuels.

The only thing that worries us about the Cavaliers is whether or not rookie Dion Waiters is ready to assume his role as Irving’s backcourt sidekick. We were a bit surprised to see him picked where he was in the June Draft, but we were forced to reconsider when a handful of coaches and two league executives we trust gushed about him after the Draft.

Bottom line: With the fearless Irving as the ringleader (he learned from the best in Las Vegas this summer), the Cavaliers have a fighting chance this season.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS, 31-35 last season

Bucks general manager John Hammond was the league’s Executive of the Year in 2010 for a reason. If he believes that the Monta EllisBrandon Jennings combo is the key to getting this team back to the playoffs, we’ll ride with him. And it’s not like we needed to be convinced. Ellis has always been on our most underrated list and Jennings continues to do his thing without the respect he deserves for the improvements he’s made since entering the league.

Hammond wasn’t afraid to recognize that Andrew Bogut wasn’t the right fit for the franchise, a move that will either look like a disaster or pure genius depending on how things for turn out for Bogut and the Golden State Warriors this season. The Bucks, instead, are opting for the big-man-by-committee approach this season with Sam Dalembert, Drew Gooden, Larry Sanders, Ekpe Udoh and rookie John Henson manning the paint.

Ersan Ilyasova was a bit of a revelation last season and should give Bucks fans another dose of hope about this season and the future of the franchise. It’s not often a team stumbles onto a gem like Ilyasova, an unselfish worker bee who is effective on both ends of the floor with the range to shoot from deep and the size and versatility to guard as many as three different positions.

Bottom line: The pressure is on and Bucks coach Scott Skiles usually does some of his best work in those situations.


Draft Comparisons: Barnes, Lillard, Drummond and Waiters

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — As Draft time rolls around and we learn about the next class of NBA rookies, there’s a desire to compare each to players we’re already familiar with.

No two players are exactly alike and some players are more unique than others. But you can find comparisons by watching video, crunching stats or matching measurements. For this exercise, we did the latter two.

Listed below are four of the top picks, along with the current NBA players they compare with most. For this exercise, we looked at 10 stats from each player’s last season in college, and eight measurements taken at the annual pre-draft combine.

Because we used college numbers and combine numbers, the only current players we could compare this year’s prospects to were the ones who played in college (so no LeBron James or Dwight Howard) and participated in the combine since 2000 (Rajon Rondo is one notable name missing in that respect).

The following comparisons aren’t gospel, of course, but they’re one way to get read for the draft on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). (more…)

A Dramatic Change From The Bucks

NEW YORK — In one of the most important games of the season, the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks combined for 43 turnovers and 36 percent shooting. It was a gruesome display, and somewhat emblematic of this crazy and often ugly season. It was not, however, emblematic of the way the Bucks have played this year.

Really, these are not the win-ugly, lose-ugly Bucks that we’ve come to know and love over the last couple of years. Yes, Scott Skiles is still the coach. But this year, his team isn’t very good defensively. It’s getting by mostly with offense. Hard to believe, I know.

Bucks efficiency under Scott Skiles

Season W L Pace Rank OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
2008-09 34 48 95.2 11 103.8 23 104.9 15 -1.2 19
2009-10 46 36 94.0 21 102.0 23 100.9 3 +1.0 15
2010-11 35 47 92.1 25 99.0 30 99.9 4 -1.0 17
2011-12 22 27 95.8 6 101.7 17 103.0 20 -1.3 22

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

No team has increased its pace from last season more than the Bucks. No team has improved more offensively. And no team has regressed more defensively.


Blogtable: Most Impactful Recent Trade

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Not counting Dwight staying in Orlando, what recent move at the trade deadline will make the most difference this year?

Steve Aschburner: Milwaukee adding Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh. The Bucks already were rolling, winning four in a row before adding the two Golden State acquisitions to their rotation, but now they’ve made it six. That infusion of talent where there was none – Andrew Bogut was forever in the trainers room, Stephen Jackson in the doghouse – and what coach Scott Skiles will do with it over the final month trumps, for me, a temporary Woodsonity bump in New York. One caveat: Milwaukee had better start playing defense not just like a Skiles team but like a playoff team, period. And that won’t be easy with an Ellis-Brandon Jennings backcourt.

Fran Blinebury: It certainly didn’t make a lot of coast-to-coast headlines, but the Spurs pulling the wild and crazy Stephen Jackson back into the fold gives them another scorer and makes them a tougher out in the playoffs.  Coach Gregg Popovich would much rather deal with Capt. Jack’s idiosyncrasies than Richard Jefferson‘s disappearing act.

Scott Howard-Cooper: Stephen Jackson will be a boost, in energy and play, to the Spurs. And he will not be a problem, not going back to an organization he loved being part of before and not being reunited with a coach he respects. Plus, San Antonio will save about $11 million in the deal, at the cost of a first-round pick that will probably be in the 20s. (more…)

Ekpe Udoh: Difference-Maker

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Fans of the Milwaukee Bucks are probably pretty happy with Tuesday’s trade after their team’s 120-98 win in Golden State on Friday. Monta Ellis helped his new team score 120 points on his old team and keep pace with the New York Knicks for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Ellis is the biggest name from the five-player deal that got the trade season started. Andrew Bogut, if healthy, is the best player. But the other guy the Bucks got (not the expiring contract of Kwame Brown) in the deal was the one with the best numbers.

No, I’m not talking about points, rebounds or assists.

Ekpe Udoh averaged just 4.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 96 games for Golden State. But the Warriors, who were 45-51 in games Udoh played, outscored their opponents by an incredible 255 points in Udoh’s 1,856 minutes, and were outscored by 512 in his 3,944 minutes on the bench.

The advanced numbers show that Golden State was much better on both ends of the floor when Udoh was in the game.

Warriors efficiency with Udoh on and off the floor, last two seasons (prior to trade)

Udoh on/off floor MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
On floor 1,856 94.7 107.8 99.6 +8.2 +255
Off floor 3,944 97.3 103.5 109.6 -6.1 -512

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Ellis was the Warrior teammate who shared the floor most with Udoh. The two were a plus-179 in 1,270 minutes together. Without Udoh, Ellis was a minus-465 in 3,322 minutes with the Warriors over the last two seasons. (more…)

Warriors Next Move … Shut Curry Down?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — A day after kicking off the trade deadline season with the Monta Ellis deal, the Golden State Warriors have people wondering what comes next.

Matt Steinmetz of believes shutting down Stephen Curry for the remainder of the season could be that next move, allowing the oft-injured guard to heal completely with their playoff hopes in doubt after the trade:

Curry has been in and out of the lineup for approximately two weeks, and his right ankle has been an issue since the preseason.

He’s tweaked the ankle several times this year and last, and nobody has come up with a reason as to why it keeps happening.

When Curry was asked about his status for the rest of the season, he responded: “I’m just trying to get healthy. I’m getting fed up with dealing with the same thing over and over again and trying to push through it and not being able to produce like I want to on the floor.

“That’s my main goal, to get healthy. What that means I’m not sure yet. I’ll continue to do my rehab and my treatment and listen to the (training) staff. I’m sure we’ll have a better idea what we’re going to do going forward later.”

Trading Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh – two starters – to the Bucks indicates that the Warriors have given up their pursuit of the playoffs. If that’s the case, it likely also makes sense for the Warriors to shut down Curry.

The rest would help Curry and all but end any flickering playoff hopes the Warriors are holding onto!

Let The Trade Deadline Madness Begin

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks kicked off this trade deadline season with a bang, agreeing tonight on a five-player deal that will send guard Monta Ellis, forward Ekpe Udoh and center Kwame Brown to Milwaukee for center Andrew Bogut and guard Stephen Jackson. The deal, first reported by Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, was also confirmed by TNT’s David Aldridge

If the magnitude of this first move is any indication — Bogut was the No. 1 pick in the 2005 Draft, Ellis is one of the league’s top scorers and Jackson, despite his issues with Bucks coach Scott Skiles, remains one of the league’s most dynamic backcourt performers when he’s playing in an environment he likes — we could be in for a wild ride the next 24 hours.

Ellis has been the subject of trade rumors in Golden State for the past three seasons, with the reasoning being as nuanced as his game. Bottom line, just like Bogut and Jackson (who had expressed their own desires to be shipped out of Milwaukee from whatever restrictions they felt Skiles’ system placed upon their respective games), Ellis is being moved at his own behest.

The only problem? You can bet Ellis didn’t have the Bucks at the top of his list, not with the chatter about him joining Dwight Howard in Orlando heating up in recent days. The addition of Ellis also raises questions about Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, whose name has also surfaced in trade rumors in the past few weeks. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported yesterday that the Bucks don’t have any plans on moving Jennings, which should make some chemistry issues down the stretch this season for Skiles with an Ellis-Jennings backcourt.

Jackson presented a unique set of challenges, same as he always has for whoever is coaching him. A backcourt with two offensive-minded guys like Ellis and Jennings should be as exciting as any combo in the league, but will they defend the way Skiles demands?

We’ve got it covered for you from every angle …


Arrested Development?


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — John Wall is struggling.

Maybe you’ve heard.

In addition to his shooting issues, he was taken to the shed Wednesday night in Chicago, not by Derrick Rose but John Lucas III, who had  25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. No offense to JL3, but this was a new low for Wall, the former No. 1 pick who came into the league with “star” stamped on his forehead.

If it’s any consolation to Wall, he isn’t alone. A few other young-uns are finding it rough as they try to take that next step to being established and bona fide stars. And why is this? Maybe they played too many summer league games during the lockout.

Maybe they were overhyped.

Or maybe they just need time.

Whatever, here’s a sampling:

— DeMar DeRozan, 22 years old: Double D is shooting 41 percent and had three straight games where he didn’t get double figures. The Raptors were hoping he’d be at least a borderline All-Star this year, and he might still break out. But it’s coming very slowly at the moment for a guy with obvious skills. Here’s DeRozan on his issues, courtesy of Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun:

“I just got to play better,” DeRozan said after an 11 point game that saw him hit just one of his first 10 field goal attempts.

“I take a lot of the (blame) when we’re not doing as well because I got to step up and start being consistent on both ends of the floor.”