Posts Tagged ‘Ersan Ilyasova’

Bucks’ Dream Comeback Is Bulls’ Nightmare Collapse

CHICAGO – Jon McGlocklin, Milwaukee Bucks guard-turned-broadcaster, got stopped courtside the last time his team played at Madison Square Garden. It was Spike Lee, the hardcore Knicks fan and occasional movie director, tugging on McGlocklin’s arm.

“He said ‘Jon, I want to talk to you about that game!’ ” McGlocklin recalled Monday night in the bowels of United Center. “I didn’t even know he knew who I was. I told him, ‘Aaargh, I don’t want to talk about that.’ ”

The game in question: New York’s comeback from an 86-68 deficit deep into the fourth quarter, convulsed into an 87-86 victory when the Knicks scored the final 19 points on the night of Nov. 18, 1972. Pulled off against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and the rest, it generally is considered the most famous regular-season NBA game in Knicks history, ranking right behind the two championship clinchers for lifelong fans like Lee.

McGlocklin recalled it anew Monday, after the Bucks wound up on the other side of something equally improbable: A comeback from 27 points down deep in the third quarter, 78-51, engineered by an all-bench crew that outscored the Bulls 42-14 over the final 14:29. On the road. With McGlocklin there to flash back.

“You’re flailing around like in a dream,” he said of his Bucks way back when and the Bulls just moments — nightmarish moments — earlier. “You can’t quite reach the ball. You try to take a step, and it’s like an out-of-body experience.”

That was the Chicago side of things Monday, as the Bulls starters saw what had been a cushy lead cut to 17 points by the start of the third quarter. Then — whoosh! — to 10, 80-70, just 96 seconds into the fourth on Beno Udrih‘s 3-pointer. Another Bulls turnover, a run-out dunk by Ekpe Udoh and it was 80-74.

A jumper by little-used rookie Doron Lamb, whose defense on Rip Hamilton was equally important; A 3-pointer by Ersan Ilyasova, moved to the bench after 11 starts as coach Scott Skiles searched to spark him; And another one from the arc, this one by Mike Dunleavy, after Chicago let a defensive rebound bounce and wind up back in the Bucks’ hands.

That made it 82-82 with seven minutes left. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau already knew what was coming.

“In an NBA game, you can lose 10 points in a minute,” Thibodeau said, his sideline growling over for the night. “Everyone says that doesn’t happen, but I see it all the time. If you don’t play tough with the lead, this is what happens.”

Said Dunleavy: “When it was 27, it was like, ‘This is almost physically impossible.’ But when we got it to [17] at the end of the third, we felt, ‘This has happened before.’ ”

Chicago had gone through something like this three years ago, when Sacramento came from 35 points back to win at the UC. Even though Udrih was a part of that epic comeback, few of the Bucks could recall being involved in something similar — and so satisfying.

“I was in a game once with Phoenix where we came back from 27 down, I believe it was to start the fourth,” Skiles said. “It was at Miami and [Dan] Majerle hit a 3 for Miami with like 50 seconds left. We came all the way back but got beat. … You know, this doesn’t happen that much. It’s hard to do. You’ve got to play perfectly, and then you need some help from the other team. Kind of both things happened for us tonight.”

Several things, frankly, happened for the Bucks Monday. They put behind them the sour memories of their loss Saturday to Chicago, a game in which they got pounded on the boards while Skiles played bigs Samuel Dalembert, John Henson and Drew Gooden a total of 1:18.

They got a performance for the ages from the bench crew, outscoring their Chicago counterparts 56-10. They shook off the rust or whatever it was hindering Ilyasova’s game since his return from free agency. His fourth quarter — 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting, four boards, an assist, a steal and a block — seemed better than his first 47 quarters this season combined.

“There’s a little bit better flow with that unit,” Dunleavy said. “That probably enabled him to relax a little bit — make his shots, make his plays. It didn’t feel like he was having to find his way as much.”

In other words — ahem — that dynamic offensive backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, which does tend to dominate the basketball, was nowhere to be found over the final 15:26 as Skiles swapped subs for starters. Ilyasova found some rhythm, while Lamb was more active than any of the other Milwaukee defenders against Hamilton, who had his best night as a Bulls player but missed a 10-footer in the lane as time expired.

“[Ilyasova] is new to it, but that group plays together every day in practice and we more than hold our own,” Dunleavy said. “We know how to play. We share the ball. Whoever’s open takes the shot. That’s how you beat a good defensive team like this.”

After four consecutive defeats that Milwaukee felt it could have, maybe even should have, won — tight ones to Boston and at Charlotte, an overtime loss at Miami and the first Bulls clash, a one-possession until the final half-minute — it tucked one away Monday that it had no business winning.

No business, but more than a little fun.

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.

Pressure Growing For Jennings, Bucks

HANG TIME, TEXAS — Coming off their impressive run to the NBA championship, LeBron James and his Heat teammates are undoubtedly in the firing line with every team from Oklahoma City to New Jersey to a pair of them in Los Angeles taking aim at that title.

The Lakers, reloaded and rejuvenated with the additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, are back in their familiar place in the spotlight.

The Knicks, as usual, are in the glare of the media capital and once more under the unrealistic and misguided notion that they can turn the clock back to 1973.

But as we tiptoe through the calendar toward the opening of training camps, there might not be a team sitting collectively in the heat of the frying pan as the Bucks.

Consider that point guard Brandon Jennings has not yet signed a contract extension, while coach Scott Skiles and general manager John Hammond are also entering the final year of their contracts.

None of those facts have gone unnoticed on a team that has missed the playoffs the past two years, as Jennings noted to Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“To be honest, I think everybody is (feeling pressure),” Jennings said. “We’re all on the bubble right now,  because we need to win. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on all of us, not just the coaching staff or the GM. We all know this could be it so we need to turn it around right now.” (more…)

Report: Bucks To Keep Ilyasova

The Milwaukee Bucks didn’t make the playoffs last season, but their offseason has already been a success. Sources confirmed a report on the basketball Web site HoopsHype Sunday afternoon that the club was close to a deal that would keep forward Ersan Ilyasova in Milwaukee on a five-year, $45 million deal.

Ilyasova was one of the top free agents on the market at power forward, a “stretch four” who finished tied for second in the league in three-point percentage last season (.455) with Warriors guard Stephen Curry. But he also averaged 8.8 rebounds to go with his 13 points per game, posting 20 double-doubles for the Bucks and finishing second to Orlando’s Ryan Anderson in voting for Most Improved Player.

The Nets had significant interest in signing Ilyasova, particularly if they were unable to make a trade for Magic center Dwight Howard. But one source said Sunday that Milwaukee had never been very concerned about Brooklyn, surmising that the Nets couldn’t create enough cap room to make an offer that Ilyasova would have to seriously consider. The Raptors also were reportedly interested, and Ilyasova had offers to play in Europe as well.


Reports: Sixers To Sign Clippers’ Young; Plan To Part With Williams, Brand

Just as Philadelphia’s notorious sports boo-birds began clearing their throats for a little un-brotherly love over their NBA team’s offseason inactivity, the Sixers made some noise of their own.

There were a myriad of reported items for the Sixers on Friday, starting with an agreement on a one-year contract worth approximately $6 million for shooting guard Nick Young. Then the Sixers made even bigger news, making clear their plan to use the CBA’s amnesty clause on veteran power forward Elton Brand, as’s Marc Stein reports:

Brand will still collect the full $18 million that the Sixers owe him next season, but he will first be offered to teams under the salary cap through the waiver process, with under-the-cap teams able to lodge bids for him.

Sources tell that the Dallas Mavericks, under the salary cap after being foiled in their pursuit of marquee free agent Deron Williams, have interest in claiming Brand through the waiver process.

In the event that he goes unclaimed on waivers, Brand would then be free to sign as a free agent wherever he chooses.

They also will not be bringing back combo guard Lou Williams, a free agent who – off the bench – was Philadelphia’s leading scorer last season (14.9 ppg in 26.3 mpg). Williams removed any uncertainty about his Philly future by going the D-Will route and tweeted the news himself:

Philly, I appreciate you all. Unfortunately I will not be coming back, as an organization they decided to move in a different direction. (more…)

Rick’s Tips: Waiver Wrapping

The time for waiver watching is over, but we’re back to wrap up this season’s blog with my All-Waiver team — plus, my picks for the reality awards.

All-Waiver Team

CNikola Pekovic: Pek proved he’s a legit NBA center, averaging 13.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in 26.9 minutes, while shooting 56 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the line.

PFRyan Anderson: The NBA leader in threes by a mile over second-place Jason Terry, Anderson was the Pickup of the Year.

SFErsan Ilyasova: Andrew Bogut’s broken ankle and eventual trade opened up 27.4 minutes per game for Ilyasova, who averaged 13.0 points and 8.8 rebounds with a shade under 1.0 in blocks, steals, and threes.

SGNicolas Batum: Speaking of fantasy gold, Batum was one of two players in the NBA this season to average at least 1.0 in blocks (1.0), steals (1.0), and threes (1.8). The other wears #35 for OKC.

PGJeremy Lin: Lin’s meteoric rise might go down as the top story of the 2011-12 regular season, and had he not gotten hurt, he might have passed Anderson for Pickup of the Year.

Fantasy Awards

MVP LeBron James: I’m going with LeBron over Durant for two reasons: the Heat are 14-1 without Dwyane Wade (as of Sunday) and LeBron shot a career-high 53 percent from the field.

ROYKyrie Irving: The moment Ricky Rubio went down, this was Irving’s trophy, thanks in large part to sharp shooting from the field (.468), line (.872), and three-point line (.398).

MIPGreg Monroe: I looked hard at Anderson, Roy Hibbert and DeMarcus Cousins, but settled on Monroe for upgrading in virtually every category, including scoring (9.4 to 15.5), rebounding (7.5 to 9.7), and free-throw shooting (62 to 74 percent), despite a meager minutes increase of 27.8 to 31.6.

DPOYSerge Ibaka: Ibaka dominates the league at 3.7 blocks per game, while #2 is Javale McGee at 2.2. C’mon…the dude had a triple-double with blocks!

Sixth ManJames Harden: Duh…

COYLionel Hollins: I thought the Grizzlies were done when Zach Randolph went down in the first week, but thanks to Hollins’ leadership the Grizz have challenged for home-court advantage in the West all season.

Thanks for the eyes, basketball fans. See ya on the air and on the road during the playoffs, what a wild ride it’s gonna be…

Who Is Your MIP?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’ll get back to our MVP debate later this week.

While we wait to decide between LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant for the top award, today we get an early look at the frontrunners for the Most Improved Player award.

Our West Coast bureau chief Scott Howard-Cooper weighs in today with something of a surprise pick in Jeremy Lin of the Knicks. And he overlooks the fact that Lin played just 53 percent of the Knicks’ game this season and instead focuses on the impact Lin had and the seismic rise in production for the undrafted Lin from his rookie season to this one.

H-C makes the case:

Twenty-seven games, 25 starts, 17.9 points, 7.4 assists and 44.5 percent shooting in 33.1 minutes. The season-long numbers: 35 games, 25 starts, 14.6 points, 6.2 assists, 44.6 percent shooting and 26.9 minutes.

But yes. Playing barely more than half the season, the equivalent of 43 games in a season with an ordinary calendar, is enough to earn Most Improved.


Time To Earn For Bucks’ Ersan

MILWAUKEE – Forward Ersan Ilyasova has been on a tear for the Milwaukee Bucks – enough of one, in fact, that there might be interest in him at the NBA’s fast-approaching trading deadline (though Ilyasova will be an unrestricted free agent come July).

The 6-foot-10 power forward from Turkey, still just 24, had averaged 17.1 points and 11.7 rebounds over his last 10 games heading into Milwaukee’s clash vs. Chicago Wednesday night at Bradley Center. He had an active streak of 25 consecutive games with at least one offensive rebound, and he had boosted his 3-point shooting from 29.8 percent last season to 37.3 percent.

A week before the All-Star Game, Ilyasova went for 29 points and 25 rebounds against New Jersey, just the third player in franchise history to log a 25/25 game. In 37 appearances, he had three games with at least 20 points and had led the Bucks on the boards 19 times, compared to four and 11 times respectively in 60 games last season.

Granted, there are more rebounds to be had, with Andrew Bogut out again. But Ilyasova is free of the concussion troubles that cost him 20 games last season and he has improved his focus on the glass and his overall play. It’s safe to say that Ilyasova -– a bargain playing near the end of a three-year, $7 milllion contract -– will get a big raise somewhere this summer, though he has a nice comfort zone in Milwaukee.

“He’s rebounded the ball at a great rate pretty much the whole season,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said before Wednesday’s game. “And he doesn’t take as many ill-advised threes, and that’s had a very positive effect on his game. He’s gone from a 25-to-27 percent 3-point shooter to a plus-35 percent 3-point shooter in large part because he takes good ones now. He’s not running around searching for the line as so many guys do. If he finds it and he’s behind it and his feet are set, he lets it go. Otherwise … from 12-18 feet, when his feet are set, he’s a high-level shooter. He’s kind of found his areas there.”

Was it hard to sell Ilyasova on this more disciplined, higher percentage approach?

“No,” Skiles said bluntly. “He’s in his contract year.”

Rick’s Tips: Waiver Watching

The NBA is on fire right now!

Sunday was one of the greatest NBA days I can remember, what with the Kobe-Wade/LeBron showdown, Rajon Rondo’s historic triple-double, and Deron Williams’ career-high 57 points. Amazingly, Kobe doubled-up Wade (33-16), Rondo dialed up 18-17-20, and Williams exploded after 24 total points in his previous two games.

We haven’t chopped up the waiver wire in a couple of weeks, so consider this a heads up about players who may — and I want to stress “may” — still be available.

Jordan Crawford

Nick Young has been hampered by a knee injury and Crawford has taken full advantage, topping 20 points in five of his last eight games. Crawford peaked on Saturday with 31 points against the Cavaliers, reminding the fantasy world of what he did last year, when he averaged 19.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 threes in 18 starts.


Bucks Again Getting A D In ‘O’


Scorers come, scorers go and still the Milwaukee Bucks struggle to light up the scoreboard.

For the second time in as many offseasons – or what passed for one this time in the post-lockout rush job between Thanksgiving and Christmas – the Bucks have tried to spruce up their offense. With dreary results.

Prior to 2010-11, it was Corey Maggette, John Salmons and an offensive-boarding Drew Gooden who were going to get buckets for the Bucks. Instead, Milwaukee slipped from 23rd in points per game to dead last in the NBA (91.9), from 29th in field-goal percentage to last (.430) and from 12th in 3-point shooting to 24th (.342).

This time around, Stephen Jackson, Mike Dunleavy and Beno Udrih were brought aboard with similar hopes and expectations. And yet, after 10 days and five games, Milwaukee is having trouble scoring again. It ranks 24th, 25th and 27th in the three categories above, while its raw numbers have declined – 90.8 ppg, .412 and .253 – in part due to lockout rust but in part, frankly, because the Bucks and coach Scott Skiles earn their scoring shortcomings.

The 85-73 loss at Utah Tuesday was the latest example of Milwaukee putting the uh-oh in offense, as blogged by Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Drew Gooden, starting in place of Andrew Bogut after the Bucks starting center had to leave the team for personal reasons, scored 24 points and was the only Milwaukee player to shoot better than 50% from the field (12 of 20).

Take Gooden’s shots out of the mix and the rest of the team made 22.7% on field goal attempts (17 of 75).

“We’ve got to recognize when we’re not scoring, and when we’re going through droughts, slow down and try to execute,” Bucks guard Shaun Livingston said. “Try to get great shots, not good shots.”

An asterisk was in order, because Bogut was joined in absentia by Dunleavy (groin injury) and Udrih (shoulder). Also, Milwaukee did average 98.3 points in its first three games, hanging 95 on the Bobcats, 98 on the Timberwolves and 102 on the Wizards. But then the Bucks’ output dropped to 86 at Denver Monday, followed by 73 last night. And remember, this is with Jackson and Carlos Delfino presumably green-lighted by Skiles and his staff and Ersan Ilyasova firing away as if he is, at least, healthy.

One contributing factor is point guard Brandon Jennings, who is back down to 37.6 percent (32-of-85) after bumping his accuracy ever so slightly from 37.1 percent as a rookie in 2009-10 to 39.0 last season. And let’s face it, bad shooting can be contagious same as good; if a defense can sag off one or two men, it can devote more attention to others. Utah contested a lot of shots at Energy Solutions Arena – Derrick Favors had five blocks and Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap swatted two each – but there were open clangs as well that made life a little easier on the Jazz.

The question now is whether the Bucks have both the personnel and the wherewithal to improve offensively. Michael Redd is gone. Ray Allen, Marques Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar aren’t walking through that door, either. The pattern under Skiles isn’t promising: Since he took over in 2008-09, Milwaukee has not ranked in the top 10 in any of the three areas above, getting as high as 12th in 3-point shooting two seasons ago.

Everyone knows, and many appreciate, the bulldog defense that Skiles preaches. But it seems odd that the guy who, as a Magic point guard, holds the NBA record for most assists in a game – 30, Orlando vs. Denver, Dec. 30, 1990 – can’t set up his team for more easy buckets.