HOUSTON — A week ago nobody could figure out the Bucks. It seemed they had spent most of trade deadline day trying to trade Monta Ellis to Atlanta for Josh Smith and, when that failed, added another guard in J.J. Redick.
Can you spell “crowded backcourt?” Redick joined Ellis and Brandon Jennings in what looked like the kind of traffic jam that could tie up an intersection, let alone a team trying to hang on in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“I don’t know what Milwaukee is doing,” Charles Barkley said on TNT. “They are just trying to cover the market on guards.”
The rest of the pundit class joined in a collective scratching of heads.
On Wednesday night, the Rockets were left scratching their heads when Jennings almost held onto the ball a half-tick too long, finally got it to Ellis and he put up a running, one-legged, one-armed turnaround that practically licked all of the paint off the rim before falling in to give the Bucks a 110-107 win.
It was the second time in two nights that Ellis played key role down the stretch. Coach Jim Boylan had sat Jennings for the final 3:32 on Tuesday night in Dallas and used Ellis to close out a win in Dallas. He finished with 22 points, nine assists and six steals against the Mavs. In Houston, Ellis racked up 27 points, 13 assists and six steals.
“I play basketball. Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m willing to do,” Ellis said in Dallas.
“I just got the shot off and got out of there,” Ellis said in Houston.
Nothing really has changed about Ellis’ game since the trade deadline. He’s still the most indiscriminate shooter in the league, hitting just 9 of his 24 shots against the Rockets, and that horn-beating prayer truthfully wasn’t much of a stretch from some of the others he’s hoisted along the way.
The Bucks lost their first three games coming out of the All-Star break by a combined six points, including one overtime defeat. But now they’ve taken a mini-sweep through Texas because the player they tried to trade away and who could opt out of his contract next summer, has given them the kind of sudden charge that usually comes from grabbing onto a high voltage wire.
So Ellis can bolt from Milwaukee if he wants; Redick might just be a short-term rental until he becomes a free agent in July; the starting point guard Jennings has got to wonder if he’ll watch end of any more games from the bench as the backcourt resembles a crowded elevator at quitting time. Oh, and the question remains how the deadline deal really made the Bucks any more capable of knocking off Miami or Indiana in the first round of the playoffs.
While everyone else is trying to figure out the strategy of the front office, all the Bucks are trying to do is win enough games to maybe catch Boston for the No. 7 seed.
Shocked? Only the guy who provided the electricity isn’t.
As the referees gathered ’round a TV monitor to review the final shot and some of his celebrating teammates returned to the floor to wait for an official ruling, Ellis was out the tunnel and gone without checking.
“I didn’t need to,” he said. “The buzzer went off when it was rolling around the rim. There was no need for me to come back out … I didn’t need [any] explanation.”
Despite all the coast-to-coast puzzlement at the trade deadline, apparently neither do the Bucks.
It’s only a matter of time, sadly, before someone – either mistakenly or pointedly – refers to Golden State’s ailing Australian center as “Sam Bogut.”
As in Sam Bowie, as in the NBA big man whose career is defined more by his draft position and a series of hobbling leg injuries than the 10.9 points and 7.5 rebounds he averaged across 511 games and 10 seasons.
There was no Michael Jordan in the 2005 draft that saw Andrew Bogut selected as the No. 1 pick overall, but there was Chris Paul (No. 4). And Deron Williams (No. 3). And, deeper in, guys like Danny Granger (No. 17), David Lee (No. 30), Ersan Ilyasova (No. 36) and Monta Ellis (No. 40).
Bogut’s production in eight NBA seasons has surprassed Bowie’s – but not by all that much (12.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg). And in durability, the 7-foot native of Melbourne has only the slightest of edges: 52.5 appearances per season to Bowie’s 51.1.
So if 80 percent of life is showing up, as Woody Allen said long ago, then Bogut is putting the “aww” in Aussie the same way Bowie put the blue in Kentucky bluegrass.
The latest setback in Bogut’s injury-riddled career came Friday, when he was termed “out indefinitely” with back spasms and missed Golden State’s home overtime victory against San Antonio. The spasms in Bogut’s mid-back area began after he played in back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday for the first time in 13 months. After playing 15 unproductive minutes at Utah in the front end, he lasted 29 minutes back home against Phoenix, contributing seven points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
By Friday morning, though, he was getting an MRI – something with which he and his former team, the Milwaukee Bucks, became all too familiar when Bogut missed more than half the 2008-09 season with a back stress fracture. He had minor back issues in 2009-10 and again last season.
Bogut’s inability to get and stay on the court, brutally frustrating to him, already has swamped his NBA resume and reputation. From the back issues to the gruesome arm and wrist injuries he suffered in an April 2010 fall to last season’s microfracture ankle surgery, he missed 126 of 534 with Milwaukee, 106 of those in his last three-plus seasons there. Since going to Golden State last March with Stephen Jackson in the trade for Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown, Bogut has played just 12 times in 82 games.
His contributions have been meager this season, his challenge in assimilating to the Warriors’ system – and teammates to him – considerable; Golden State was 6-6 in Bogut’s 12 games vs. 26-17 without him.
And as this season’s trade deadline passed Thursday, there was ominous talk that, by the same time next season, Bogut’s greatest contribution to Golden State might be his $14 million expiring contract.
It’s a shame, because Bogut had stretches of true dominance with the Bucks and was headed toward an All-Star breakthrough when he got nudged from behind by Amar’e Stoudemire late in 2009-10 – that was Milwaukee’s “Fear The Deer” year – and landed all wrong. He never regained that form, never stayed on the floor long enough to get there, and at 28 might be too risky for teams to consider at top dollar.
Speaking of dollars, it’s worth comparing the cost of Bogut’s output with Ellis’ since the trade in which they were the principal players. Since the deal on March 13, 2012, Bogut has scored 85 points for the Warriors, grabbed 78 rebounds, dished 28 assists, had four steals, blocked 19 shots and played 270 minutes. Ellis has scored 1,340 points, grabbed 278 rebounds, had 416 assists, picked 128 steals, blocked 33 shots and logged 2,722 minutes.
Break that down according to each man’s current annual salary – Bogut at $13 million, Ellis at $11 million – and the Bucks’ bargain in that GM John Hammond-engineered trade looks overwhelming.
Golden State’s cost per stat: $152,941 per point, $166,667 per rebound, $464,286 per assist, $3.25 million per steal, $684,210 per block and $48,148 per minute.
Milwaukee’s cost for Ellis: $8,209 per point, $39,568 per rebound, $26,442 per assist, $85,938 per steal, $333,333 per block and $4,041 per minute.
That’s value that Bucks owner Herb Kohl has to be pleased about. And costs that has to have the Warriors wondering with Bogut’s latest veer into the trainer’s room.
If Thursday’s NBA trade deadline was a movie, the audience would have walked out in the middle from boredom. This freeze came straight from the script that is the league’s new collective bargaining agreement — with its harsher luxury tax penalties and diminished roster flexibility for tax offenders — it put the clamps on a stunningly uneventful deadline day.
The big names were on the opening credits: Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.
Yet, when the curtain closed at 3 p.m. ET, Orlando Magic sharpshooter J.J. Redick stole the show as the lone player of significance to switch teams. The Milwaukee Bucks acquired the career 39.8 percent 3-point shooter in a six-player deal that involved five other relatively anonymous NBA names.
Only one potential blockbuster deal percolated, but ultimately died on the vine with the Atlanta Hawks going the distance in an attempt to strike a deal with the Bucks for Smith before pulling back. One reason so few big deals were discussed was simply because there wasn’t much talent realistically in play, a point that goes beyond any ramifications of the CBA.
The CBA that took effect in December 2011, and begins to smack tax-paying teams with stiffer fines next season, has clearly put franchises on the defensive. Teams that were once willing to add salary to consummate a deal no longer are. Teams that once didn’t think twice about sweetening a deal with a first-round pick, suddenly guard them with their lives.
“Cap room and draft picks, which are usually the currency of how these [big] deals get done, were at a huge premium and are something that everyone wants to have,” said Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who steered the most active club at the deadline with a couple of lower-tier deals.
There’s really no greater example of the effect of these changes than the Dallas Mavericks and their braintrust, owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson. Chronic and strategic over-spenders and tax payers under the old CBA, Cuban, who took on salary in deadline deals for Jason Kidd in 2008 and Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson in 2010, analyzed the new rules and reversed field last year.
He dismantled the 2011 championship team, choosing to covet cap space and the roster flexibility granted to teams that remain under the tax threshold, as well as newfound valuing of first-round draft picks as low-priced labor and trade assets.
It’s a strategy that no longer has the Mavs on speed dial of teams looking to make a deal and dump salary.
“It’s definitely a factor,” Nelson said of the CBA’s chilling effect Thursday after the deadline expired. “There’s no question that folks have their eye on the inevitable, and there’s no question that people are getting their collective houses in order.
“There’s some teams that see that on the horizon and act early, and other teams that will procrastinate and pay a dear price. But I think we’re right in the middle of that. It’s not brand-new news and so, yeah, I think you’re going to see a lot of teams try to correct themselves financially.”
The so-called “repeater” tax really has teams scared. Several clubs tried to deal away lost-cost players to avoid the repeater tax, which will whack franchises with an additional fine if they go over the tax line in three of four seasons. Golden State was successful in this venture. Chicago was not and will pay a luxury tax for the first time since its implementation.
This “repeater” penalty deterred teams from making deals that would have pushed payroll even slightly over the tax line, deals they might have normally green-lighted in the old days. So, is this the way of the future under the current rules?
“I can’t predict the future,” Morey said, “but I think the trend is more this way.”
Rockets: Morey’s stockpiling of assets the last couple years has been questioned, but he’s turned it into quite a haul starting with James Harden prior to the start of the season. The day before the deadline, Morey acquired the No. 5 overall pick, Thomas Robinson, from Sacramento. Morey’s dealing didn’t damage an abundance of cap space next summer that will be used to pursue a top free agent such as Dwight Howard and Josh Smith.
Bucks: GM John Hammond didn’t get his big fish in Smith, but he pulled off the deal for Redick, who should really help a club that’s been skidding down the East standings and needs a boost. Hammond held onto Jennings and Ellis and will have room to maneuver in the summer to add more pieces.
Thunder: GM Sam Presti continues to make shrewd moves. The acquisition of Ronnie Brewer from the New York Knicks for a second-round pick gives OKC another strong perimeter defender to help Thabo Sefolosha.
Celtics:Jordan Crawford might not be Jamal Crawford, but he can score in bunches and Boston was desperate to bolster its injury-ravaged guard backcourt. Boston fans are the winners here, too, with the team’s heart and soul, Garnett and Pierce, staying put.
Mavericks: Sure, on the surface, picking up 3-point specialist Anthony Morrow for defensive-minded guard Dahntay Jones doesn’t sound like much. But then SheridanHoops.com reminded us of this Dwight Howard interview in Russia when he named Morrow as one of a handful of players he’d like to have as a teammate.
Blazers: The team with the leanest bench in the NBA finally got some help in a minor deal that netted OKC guard Eric Maynor, who lost his job early on to Reggie Jackson. Maynor will help Rookie of the Year frontrunner Damian Lillard reduce his 38.5 mpg workload.
Hawks: They didn’t get the deal done to ship out Smith and now it seems they will lose him for nothing in free agency. On one level, however, it’s hard to say that this is a definitive loss. They’ll keep Smith (who might or might not come away from this experience deflated) for the rest of the season, and, with any luck, try to keep him while recruiting friend and fellow Atlantan Howard next summer. If GM Danny Ferry wasn’t pleased with the deals presented, it doesn’t always pay to take something, anything just because in the end you could be left with nothing. If Smith leaves, the Hawks will take the cap space and look to spin it in their favor.
Magic: They deal away a useful player and one they drafted in Redick and hand over his Bird Rights to the Bucks. There was no guarantee that Redick would re-sign with Orlando, but he at least had said the door was open to a return. The Magic’s Josh McRoberts to Charlotte deal for Hakim Warrick is a head-scratcher.
Knicks: They didn’t upgrade at any position and gave away a solid defender in Brewer, who was starting for the club during their hot start out of the gates, but had slipped out of the rotation. New York did use the roster vacancy to sign veteran power forward Kenyon Martin.
Nets: They failed to land another high-priced player in Smith and failed to unload one of their own, Kris Humphries.
Which playoff-bound team do you see slipping after the break?
Steve Aschburner: I’m still mourning Memphis for two trades that weren’t driven by the pursuit of a championship this spring, which is what the Grizzlies were poised to do. But I’m even more alarmed by the Golden State Warriors, who returned from the break the way they went into it: losing. With their bad start and poor finish at Utah Tuesday, the Warriors have dropped six in a row and are 8-13 over the past seven weeks. They have sputtered while trying to acclimate to center Andrew Bogut‘s participation, the defense has been porous and, after the setback in Salt Lake City, forward David Lee cited a drip-drip-drip of small mistakes adding up to a big problem. Golden State played just well enough through the first two months to demand that it be taken seriously — so seeking its level now comes as a legit disappointment. It could have finished eighth — or (gulp) ninth — without getting folks’ hopes up.
Fran Blinebury: Despite their 8-1 start in life without Rajon Rondo, I think it’s going to be difficult for the Celtics aging pair of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to handle the added burden, so they could drop as far as the No. 8 spot in the East. The Celtics are just fortunate that, barring a stunning and miraculous return by Andrew Bynum in Philly, there’s nobody below that can knock them out of the playoffs.
Jeff Caplan: The Bucks started their swoon pre-All-Star break and they might just slip right out of the playoffs if Philadelphia can ever get hot — or if Toronto can stay hot. However, the Bucks aren’t my choice. Hellooooo Atlanta. We’ll see by Thursday if Josh Smith has a new home. Even if he stays, I still say, look out below. The Hawks have the misfortune of opening the post-All-Star break season with eight road games within a brutal 12-game stretch that starts at home Wednesday against the Heat and ends March 12 at the Heat. The stretch includes a season-long six-game trip that starts on the second night of back-to-back at Milwaukee (Saturday) and includes a stop at Utah followed by a back-to-back at the Los Angeles Lakers and at mile-high Denver. The dirty dozen ends with this challenging three-pack: a back-to-back at Boston and home against Brooklyn, then three nights later at Miami. The Hawks are 29-22. Let’s see where they are in 20 days.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Ask me again Thursday afternoon. For now, based on the rosters of the moment, the Grizzlies will take a dip. Not all the way out of the playoff pack, but enough of a slip in a post-Rudy Gay world. Taking a three-game winning streak into the All-Star break was a nice bit of momentum building. The three were against the Kings, the Timberwolves and the slumping Warriors, though.
John Schuhmann:Milwaukee is a prime candidate. The Bucks have a tough remaining schedule that includes nine back-to-backs (the first of which they’re in the middle of). And if you look at point differential, their record is a little inflated in the first place. Of course, if they manage to trade Monta Ellis, they would become a better team (addition by subtraction) and maybe make up for the tough schedule. Also, if the Bucks do slip, I’m not sure there’s another Eastern Conference team with the chops to take their place in the playoff picture. If you’re looking for a higher seed that could slip, I’ll go with Brooklyn, who has six more road games than home games remaining and a league-high 10 post-break back-to-backs.
Sekou Smith: Depending on what transpires between now and 3 p.m. Thursday, I could see the Atlanta Hawks struggling to the finish line if they do indeed trade Josh Smith. I don’t see a Celtics-like surge coming from the Hawks if they lose their best player (to trade this time and not to injury, as Boston did with Rajon Rondo). The Hawks already have fragile chemistry and the fact that 85 percent of the roster (and the coaching staff) will be finishing up their contracts at the end of this season doesn’t bode well for some miraculous finish. If you’re going into rebuild mode this summer, and everyone in the locker room knows it, where is the incentive to claw your way to the finish?
Head coach Scott Skiles and the Milwaukee Bucks have parted ways, apparently in a mutual decision, according to various sources and NBA media outlets.
The move, reported first late Monday by USA Today, was confirmed to NBA.com by a person close to the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. The Bucks are expected to make an official announcement Tuesday.
Skiles was working in the final year of his contract — as was his staff, as is GM John Hammond, as are several key Milwaukee players — and NBA.com’s David Aldridgereported Monday that the coach informed the Bucks that he would not be returning next season. Team management or Skiles did not comment for the report, but there were obvious differences of opinion between the coach and the front office over the make-up of the roster and Skiles’ playing rotations.
For example, the Bucks’ lack of size last season sparked personnel moves that significantly beefed up the frontcourt: Hammond traded for center Samuel Dalembert, drafted power forward John Henson, retained free-agent forward Ersan Ilyasova and signed free-agent center Joel Przybilla. Yet with that logjam and the emergence of third-year big man Larry Sanders, Skiles used Dalembert and Henson sporadically and rarely activated Drew Gooden, who logged most of Milwaukee’s minutes at center last season.
Meanwhile, he grappled with a thin backcourt, with only Beno Udrih as a reliable backup to scorers/starters Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.
The business decision by Bucks owner Herb Kohl not to offer contract extensions beyond this season to Skiles or Hammond was not appreciated by the coach, a person with knowledge of the situation said. Skiles allegedly had talked with Kohl about a release after last season, when he might have been a candidate for one of several NBA coaching positions. One of those jobs was in Orlando, where he enjoyed his greatest success as a player and where, unlike the Bucks, the Magic were committed to a full overhaul.
Still, Milwaukee keeping the coaches and the GM in the final seasons of their deals at least was consistent with the Bucks’ decision not to extend Jennings’ contract. They opted to let the point guard test the market as a restricted free agent this summer. Ellis has an opt-out clause in his contract.
And now their head coach will be out there as well, unrestricted.
Jim Boylan, Skiles’ top assistant coach in his stints as head coach in Phoenix and Chicago, will step in immediately. Coincidentally, he’ll slide one seat over just in time to face the Suns Tuesday at BMO Harris Bradley Center and the Bulls Wednesday in Chicago.
HANG TIME WEST – The latest performance, 22 points Saturday in Washington, was a continuation of Stephen Curry‘s hot streak and could be considered, by comparison, a down game because Curry also had four turnovers against five assists and was two of eight on 3-pointers.
A positive outcome even on a night of grinding gears, all the way to the Golden State victory itself, the 101-97 roll in the mud with the Wizards. This is what vindication looks like.
That four-year, $44-million rookie-deal extension he signed Oct. 31?
Then: Understandable-but-risky move for a player with a history of injury problems.
Now: Wise investment.
Sharp change of thinking, yes, especially with the season merely at the quarter pole, but the Warriors look smart and will still look smart even if Curry cools into an ordinary player. Which is the whole point. Giving Curry a contract extension and beating the Halloween deadline was a pre-emptive strike to head off the offers from other teams in July 2013 as much as it was a vote of confidence for his delicate ankles. Plus, the Warriors now know the price of keeping him would have gone up. Maybe a suitor with the chance to hand Golden State an offer sheet lined by fire, maybe in the updated demands from Curry himself, but the first 20 games is time enough to see that $11 million a season wouldn’t get it done in the summer, health willing.
Curry is averaging 37.3 minutes and has yet to miss a tip. The ankles appear to be in proper working order again. That’s obviously reason for encouragement.
It’s his play, though. Curry shooting 42.9 percent is a developing area of concern that can no longer be discarded as an early-season slump, but that should come around. He didn’t suddenly turn bad after the 47.3 percent of the first three seasons. (And Curry is at a respectable 42.5 behind the arc, so defenses are hardly to the point of backing off on the perimeter.)
Curry is looking more like a point guard, as indicated by the recent string of four games in a row with at least 20 points and 10 assists, putting him alongside Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook as the only players to accomplish that since 2009-10. And as indicated by the Eastern Conference executive who recently told Hang Time CEO Sekou Smith: “This is the player everyone was excited about when he was at Davidson. You knew he had the potential to be a dynamic scorer and a great shooter. The question was always going to be about his ability to adjust to being a full-time point guard and whether that would take away from his scoring ability. When he and Monta [Ellis] were there together and he was always hurt, it didn’t look like he was going to get there. But he’s doing both right now and doing them well.”
Remember, Curry was already held in high regard in many front offices. He was high on the New Orleans wish list for a Chris Paul trade, but the Warriors wouldn’t budge. (Ellis yes, Curry no.) Now, opponents see that the ankle is holding up and that Curry can put up assists even as the leading scorer on a team playing well through the adversity of losing Andrew Bogut and Brandon Rush to injury. Point guard, 24 years old, can score and pass, solid citizen – yeah, the money would have changed by the end of the season.
That holds even if Curry does not maintain this pace because the package of position, skill set and age is now combined with the play, however temporary. This is the trajectory. Only the sight of Curry on the court and clutching an ankle changes that.
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  at the end of the third, we felt, ‘This has happened before.’ “
“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.
In the annals of dumb sports injuries, the competition for true Hall of Shame status is stiff. Among the most boneheaded:
Gus Frerotte, a Washington Redskins quarterback, sent himself to the hospital by exuberantly headbutting a wall after a touchdown.
Joel Zumaya, a hot Detroit pitching prospect, inflamed his arm and wrist to the point of missed games by playing too much Guitar Hero.
Braves pitcher John Smoltz burned his chest while ironing a shirt he was wearing, or so goes the urban legend.
Hockey’s Jaromir Jagr, with the Rangers in 2006, hurt his left arm in a playoff opener by taking a gratuitious poke at New Jersey’s Scott Gomez but failing to connect. The air punch essentially sidelined Jagr and New York got swept.
Hitting machine and HOFer Wade Boggs hurt his ribs and missed time because, when he was removing his cowboy boots in a Toronto hotel room, he toppled backwards and slammed into the arm of a couch.
The NBA is not without its silly injuries, either. Just from recent memory, there was:
Monta Ellis, then with Golden State, wracking himself up in a low-speed moped accident.
New York’s Amar’e Stoudemire cutting open his hand by hitting a fire-extinguisher case in Miami.
Kevin Love, just last month, missing a Timberwolves preseason game because he slept wrong on his elbow. (This was before Love broke two bones in his right hand doing “knuckles push-ups.”)
But none of those has anything on Andrew Bynum’s self-nomination to the Hall – if true. The Philadelphia 76ers center, who has yet to play a game since being traded from the Los Angeles Lakers this summer, may have suffered a setback in his return from a right knee injury by hurting his left. While bowling.
Multiple sources told ESPN on Saturday that Bynum suffered an unspecified injury this month while bowling. On Friday, Bynum revealed that – on top of the issues with his right knee that could keep him sidelined until January – he also had suffered a “setback” with his left knee.
“I had a little bit of a setback, and we’re just working through some issues with the right knee,” Bynum said before the Sixers beat the Utah Jazz on Friday night. “I kind of have a mirror thing going on with my left knee. I don’t know what’s going on, but the doctors are saying pretty much that it’s a weakened cartilage state.”
There are several activities that are prohibited in standard NBA player contracts, but bowling is not one of them. Bynum is known to enjoy bowling.
Bynum might enjoy Dairy Queen “Blizzards” and romantic walks at sunset, too, but if brain freeze or blisters sidelined him from his day job with the 76ers, he’d have some ‘splainin’ to do.
A lot of NBA players – a surprising number, actually – enjoy bowling. But if you’re the cornerstone for your franchise in a massive offseason deal that cost All-Star and Olympian Andre Iguodala, if you have a history of missing games for purely basketball-related injuries and if you flexed your passport in September to get much-ballyhooed Orthokine knee therapy injections but still haven’t played in 2012-13, you shouldn’t be doing anything that carries the slightest bit of physical risk.
Let’s put it another way: Until you’re back hurting opponents with the pebble-grain, inflatable ball that weighs nothing, you’re not allowed to mess around with the shiny composite, swirly-colored balls that weight 16 pounds.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For a player whose name alone stirred as much debate as it did four years ago, it’s stunning how silent folks are now that Brandon Jennings is seemingly all grown up (or at least well on his way).
All of the critics who questioned his motives and at-the-time controversial decision to skip college for a year, instead pursuing his professional hoop dream in Italy, have disappeared. It’s been a steady climb for Jennings, who has done nothing but improve his game year after year, from a rough start in Italy to being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 10th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft the next year, to now.
Has he grown enough on and off the court for the Bucks to cement his future in Milwaukee with a contract extension before the Oct. 31 deadline? That remains to be seen.
But with days left before a decision has to be made, Jennings would become a restricted free agent at the end of this season if there is no extension, the topic is on the minds of some. Gery Woelfel of the Journal Times raised the question to Jennings, who has more pressing matters on his mind these days, namely making sure he and backcourtmate Monta Ellis return the Bucks to the playoffs:
Jennings has repeatedly said he’s content in Milwaukee and would welcome being with the Bucks for the long haul. Signing an extension would virtually assure that.
But Jennings said he isn’t the least bit worried if an extension can’t be worked out.
Asked if his contract situation was weighing on his mind, Jennings said, “No, because at the end of the day, everything will work out. All I can do is go between the lines and play basketball every day.’’
Welcome back for another season of fantasy hoops on NBA.com. I’m psyched to have the full 82 games to talk about and stoked to be back in the saddle, as we enter our 11th season of bringing you the fantasy goodies on NBA TV and NBA.com. I want to give a special shout-out to all of you who have been down from the start. I hear you on Twitter, I see you on the street and I love you all.
So let’s get back to work on winning a(nother) fantasy hoops championship.
If you won last year and you think you know everything, listen up because the fantasy landscape has changed with monsters like Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard limping in. If you didn’t win last year, then there’s even more work to do. So pull up a chair as we tip off our preseason fantasy coverage with my top 10 guards, based on 8-categories (points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage, and threes made). (more…)