That funny math he used to predict the “Bucks in six” has crumbled over the past eight quarters of this series. It’s no longer a laughing matter, not when your season and potentially your career in Milwaukee is potentially coming to an end.
Jennings has vowed to play until the final buzzer in Sunday’s Game 4, hoping to stave off elimination for at least one more games. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that this series is every bit the mismatch most of us thought it would be on paper. And it’s even tougher to avoid the obvious question that will linger between now and free agency for Jennings and the Bucks. Do they stick together after four extremely productive years for Jennings, a restricted free agent at season’s end?
He’s helped the Bucks to the playoffs twice, his rookie season and this one, and he’s shown his many critics that his decision to bypass college for a one-season detour in Italy did nothing to damage his NBA stock. But in a league filled with as diverse and talented a group of point guards as its potentially ever had, where exactly does a player like Jennings fit?
“Great question,” an Eastern Conference general manager said. “His rookie season I felt like he was going to join that group of elite point guards, especially after what he did to the [Atlanta] Hawks during the playoffs. He showed off playmaking skills and scored at will in the postseason, doing things you don’t normally expect from a rookie. And he’s been solid ever since. But I don’t know that he’s moved into that tip tier of point guards. He’s not there, not yet.”
Jennings has averaged an impressive 17.0 points, 5.7 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 291 career regular season games. Considered more of a scorer than a facilitator, Jennings has proven himself capable of handling both responsibilities for the Bucks. Still, there is some uncertainty about his desire to stick around in Milwaukee during what could be a complete rebuilding situation this summer.
His backcourt mate Monta Ellis can opt out and become an unrestricted free agent this summer. And Samuel Dalembert, Mike Dunleavy, Marquis Daniels, J.J. Redick and Joel Pryzbilla will all be unrestricted free agents this summer.
The Halloween deadline for Jennings and the Bucks to agree on an extension of his rookie contract passed without either side admitting that they were even close to getting something done.
That’s one reason why this series against the Heat is such a showcase event for Jennings. It’s his final platform before free agency to remind the league that he’s a player a franchise can build around. The upset guarantee and his 26-point effort in Game 1 was the ideal buzz and result for Jennings early on.
But he’s managed just 24 points in the two games since the opener, shooting 8-for-30 from the floor and 1-for-14 from beyond the 3-point line. The Heat have stymied the Bucks’ offense late in all three games, eliminating the pick-and-roll as an option for Jennings and Ellis when the game is one the line.
“One of the problems we have with that is our size in the backcourt,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. “We’re not a big team. So when they are out there trapping and staying with the ballhandler like that, they are putting a lot of pressure on you, first of all. Secondly, they have good size. It’s easy for me stand up in the huddle and say ‘we’ve got to make a quick pass, we’ve got to move that ball and take advantage of them double teaming.’ But sometimes it’s hard to do. They are flooding the strong side and cutting off passing angles and it makes it difficult to find the right man, the open man, with a pass. It’s usually a cross court pass and those are always dangerous because of their speed and activity.”
This is one of the premier defensive teams in the league we’re talking about in the Heat, who boast quality perimeter defenders in not only LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but also Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Ray Allen.
Chalmers and Cole have taken a particular interest in limiting Jennings, both of them no doubt smarting from the brash attitude and words Jennings has been sure to share with the world.
“They are really getting physical,” Boylan said. “It’s playoff basketball. So there is a lot more contact than in the regular season. And anytime we use any sort of pick-and-rolls, they are double-teaming him and putting pressure on him. That combination is difficult. And they are focused in on both [Jennings] and Monta. They did what they needed to do, be physical, be big and cut off those angles for finding people.”
At 23, Jennings is probably done growing. So there is nothing he can do about that size disadvantage and the fact that the Heat are executing flawlessly in wearing him down. But he has at least 48 minutes left to prove that his skill set can best whatever advantage the opposition brings to the show.
That Bucks in six stuff is obviously history.
Whether or not Jennings’ time with the Bucks is, however, … well, only time will tell.
Whatever lack of enthusiasm or even dread the Milwaukee Bucks might be feeling about their rapidly approaching postseason public flogging is entirely understandable. Assuming the Bucks do eventually nail down the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference bracket, their reward will be worse than a lump of coal or a Miss Congeniality award.
They’ll get to face the Miami Heat in a best-of-seven series, requiring them to endure four spankings as the NBA’s defending champions rev up for their title defense.
So yeah, we get it. It’s not much to look forward to. But the way the Bucks have gone about their business lately, you’d think Milwaukee would rather not participate in the playoffs at all. There are several teams headed for the lottery, but playing smarter and harder than Milwaukee lately, that look as if they’d appreciate the opportunity more and give a better showing than the Bucks. Orlando, for one, bad as its record is. Minnesota, for another.
Losers in seven of their past 10 games heading into Saturday’s home clash with Toronto and just 4-10 since a moderately encouraging 2-1 West Coast trip a month ago, the Bucks have been busy fulfilling all the concerns about them when the year began. And squandering what was a legit chance to move up to No. 7 by catching Boston.
The dynamic backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellisis undersized and defensively challenged. On too many nights, there’s a your-turn, my-turn pattern to their offensive probes, and a disjointed or absent playmaking that has Milwaukee’s frontcourt players all too happy to come off the bench if it spares them some standing around with that starting duo.
Short-timers abound, in contract terms, and the resultant lack of cohesiveness and long-term vision predictably has followed. Jennings is headed to restricted free agency and has handled it poorly, pouting in or after games, through actions or words, more like an immature rookie than a fourth-year floor leader. Ellis can opt out of his deal and, at times in the past month, has played as if on a salary drive.
Samuel Dalembert, acquired to stem some bleeding up front, was needed less once Larry Sanders finally got traction this season. So first coach Scott Skiles and then replacement Jim Boylan warehoused Dalembert – over there on the bench next to drydocked Drew Gooden.
Dalembert’s deal is up once the Bucks head into summer, as is Mike Dunleavy‘s, as is J.J. Redick‘s, who probably will test the free-agent market and revive criticism that Milwaukee maybe gave up too soon on the small forward shipped to Orlando in that deal, Tobias Harris.
Ersan Ilyasova only recently has played up to the deal he landed last summer in free agency. Sanders reverted to some bad tossed-from-games-habits in a recent stretch. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was hurt less and in better shape before he got paid a couple years ago. Whatever bump the Bucks got from parting ways with Skiles appears to have been temporary – they’re 20-23 under Boylan – and the defense (104.1 ppg over the past 14) hardly is Miami-ready
Meanwhile, the locker room has been light and largely unaffected by all of the sputtering. During postgame media time Wednesday, after the loss to the nowhere-bound Timberwolves, somebody kept humming the tune of “The Final Countdown,” loud enough to be picked up in audio reports. Their third-quarter collapse at New York on Friday kept their magic number for clinching the playoff spot at two.
They’ll get it soon enough. But it’s too bad the NBA has no surrogate system, in which the disinterested Bucks players could vote someone pluckier and more eager to take their place in the first round. The way they’re going, the playoffs will be an opportunity wasted on them.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: When we turned on League Pass last night at the home office and saw the Warriors-Pacers game on the dockett, we knew we had our pick for game of the night early on. Turns out, we were right. Although the final score reflects a bit of a one-sided affair, Indiana-Golden State turned out to be a dandy. Nothing like seeing two teams who are good-if-not-great at what they do: the Warriors on offense (with their No. 9 overall rated crew on that end) and the Pacers on defense (they’re No. 1 in defensive rating). Though a late Roy Hibbert-David Lee-Steph Curry scuffle became the storyline here, we enjoyed watching the Pacers take on one of the NBA’s best offenses and use its size and length to fluster anything the Warriors did around the basket.
LeBron’s dunking exhibitions may end — Aside from Harlem Shake videos, perhaps one of the bigger growing viral trends around the web are the pregame dunking exhibitions that Heat star LeBron James has been putting on. As he and his Miami comrades have — like the L.A. Clippers – been showing off their acrobatics in the warm-up lines, James often steals the show. Just check out this one he pulled off on the visiting Cavs two nights ago:
James isn’t too happy, though, with the flak he’s catching from those wondering why he won’t participate in the Slam Dunk Contest if he can pull off moves like this, writes Michael Wallace of ESPN.com:
James has been executing contest-worthy dunks during warmups, but has been unwilling throughout his career to participate in the league’s dunk contest during All-Star Weekend despite pressure from fans and former players.
“Maybe I should stop because it’s making a lot of people mad about what I do,” James said after he scored a season-high 40 points and had a career-high 16 assists in Tuesday’s double-overtime win against Sacramento. “They’re like, ‘Well, if you can do it in warmups, why don’t you (want to) be in the dunk contest? Stop it.’ “
James was in the act again before Tuesday’s game, when he lobbed the ball into the air, caught it off the bounce and shifted the ball between his legs before slamming it through the rim. The Heat have a reputation for late-arriving crowds, but more fans have filled into the arena’s lower bowl before games with cell phones or video recorders in hand waiting for James to take the court before games.
The Heat have started to stream video of James’ pregame dunks on the team’s official website, and owner Micky Arison has used Twitter to encourage fans to arrive to games early if they want to see the show James puts on.
James said Tuesday he wasn’t aware of how popular the routine has grown, because it’s something he’s always done. More Heat players have gotten involved, including Chris Andersen, Mike Miller, Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers, who has been James’ stiffest competition of late.
“I’ve been hearing about it,” James said. “But I don’t really watch TV or go on the Internet too much. As a team, it’s kind of our new thing. I’ve had some good ones, but (Chalmers) doing a 360? That’s impressive. We have a little epidemic right now. It’s kind of like the Harlem Shake.”
Nets’ Lopez delivers in clutch — Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo has taken flak of late for his tendency to pull All-Star center Brook Lopez down the stretch of games. He changed things up last night and kept Lopez in the game down the stretch and the All-Star came through, hitting several clutch baskets to salt away the Nets’ win over the Hornets. It was a matchup of NBA brothers to boot as Brook Lopez took on his brother, Robin, in a game where the Lopez twins’ mother found rooting interest hard to come by, writes Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:
“I’ve kept my confidence through this entire week,” Lopez said after finishing with 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four blocks. “It’s definitely good to get a win like this, but I try not to put too much stock into one game. … It is a marathon and not a sprint.”
Perhaps it just took facing off against his twin brother Robin, the starting center for the Hornets, to get him back on track.
“It’s always fun,” Brook Lopez said of facing off against his twin, who finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots. “[Robin’s] always very physical. Playing against him is enjoyable. … How many other people in the world get to experience something like this?”
The two brothers had a large cheering section in the stands, as their mom, Debbie Ledford, was cheering them on alongside their older brother, Alex, and his family.
Brook had said before the game his mom would be wearing either a Nets hat with a Hornets shirt or vice-versa, and she did exactly that, wearing a black Nets hat to go with a black Hornets T-shirt.
“It’s difficult, because they play the same position, they play the same minutes,” Ledford told The Post. “So, if anything happens, they kind of cancel out each other out. … One is successful at the expense of the other.
“All I hope is that they both have good games, but it’s difficult. You can’t choose which team you want to win.”
Bucks’ Dalembert suspended vs. Mavs — This hasn’t been the best season in veteran big man Samuel Dalembert‘s career. On the court, he’s averaging his lowest scoring (7.0 ppg), rebounding (5.8 rpg) and minutes average (16.7 mpg) since his rookie season. Off it in Milwaukee, he dealt with an icy relationship with former coach Scott Skiles (read more here). Maybe his problems can’t be traced solely to Skiles, though, as he was suspended last night for a pattern of behavior, writes Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel:
Bucks general manager John Hammond announced Dalembert was suspended for one game without pay due to a violation of team policy.
Bucks coach Jim Boylan said the suspension was due to a pattern of behavior rather than one specific incident.
“Everybody on the team, players, coaches, staff, they have certain responsibilities to the team,” Boylan said in his pre-game remarks. “When those responsibilities aren’t met, there are consequences.
“So Sam has not met some of those and the consequence is he is suspended for tonight’s game.”
Dalembert has been serving as the primary backup to starting center Larry Sanders.
Boylan said “it’s more of a pattern” when referring to the reason for the suspension. “It reached a point where something needed to be done, so we decided this was the appropriate action to take,” he said.
Former Bucks coach Scott Skiles benched Dalembert in the Nov. 24 home game against Chicago due to a lateness issue and started Przybilla at center. Dalembert did not play at all in the game but returned to the lineup when the Bucks played in Chicago two nights later.
Dalembert said later it was a “misunderstanding.”
“Coach said there were certain times to be there, and I was in the building,” Dalembert said in November. “I thought it was a little harsh. My team could have used me out there.
“That was the punishment. Nobody told me nothing before the game. So I found out the next day. If there’s a miscommunication and a misunderstanding … everybody misunderstands stuff but we communicate.
Lakers’ Buss helped Jazz stay put — Back in the mid-1980s, the Utah Jazz were a mostly fledgling franchise whose future in Salt Lake City seemed iffy. In fact, the city of Miami was interested in buying and moving the team there in 1985. That year, nine different owners were in line in Salt Lake City to buy the team from Sam Battistone, with one of the potential owners being the late Larry Miller. Miller was the Jazz’s owner from 1985 until his passing in 2009 as Utah experienced tremendous success during the John Stockton-Karl Malone era. But had it not been for Lakers owner Jerry Buss during a 1985 NBA Board of Governors meeting, writes Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune, the Jazz might have been Miami’s team:
According to the late Larry Miller, Buss played an undeniable role in keeping the Jazz from moving to Miami in 1985.
When Miller wanted to buy 50 percent of the team, Buss stood up for him during a Board of Governors meeting in New York City.
Without the support, the board might have rejected Miller’s ownership bid, which would have left the door open for a buyer from Miami to purchase the franchise.
Nine groups, apparently, stood in line to buy the franchise from owner Sam Battistone before Miller joined the battle to keep it in Utah.
Battistone was seeking limited partners, but Miller didn’t think that approach wouldn’t work.
He believed Battistone needed one partner, not several, and stepped forward with an $8 million offer to become co-owner.
Even though Miami bid $20 million for the franchise, Battistone accepted Miller’s offer because he also wanted the team to remain in Utah.
At that point, Miller went to the Board of Governors, seeking approval for his ownership bid. Atlanta’s Ted Turner attended the meeting. So did Jerry West, Red Auerbach and David Stern, the NBA’s new commissioner.
When Miller began his presentation, San Antonio’s Angelo Drossos quickly emerged as a skeptic.
Drossos started questioning Miller, often interrupting before he could finish his response.
“After the fifth interruption, Buss, who I had never met, interrupted Angelo,” Miller recalled. “He said, ‘Angelo, why don’t you shut up and let him answer a question?’ “
Then, Buss “started asking questions that led to a discussion of my numbers. … Within half an hour, Jerry said, ‘I’m satisfied. Let’s go with him.’ “
After Buss’ endorsement, Miller quickly became co-owner of the Jazz.
“Jerry saved me that day,” Miller wrote.
Mavs’ Cunningham may be done for season — Rookie Jared Cunningham has only appeared in just eight games for the Mavericks this season, spending much of 2012-13 as a member of Dallas’ NBA D-League club, the Texas Legends. He’s suffering from tendinitis in his knee and is already setting his sights on playing again in 2013-14, writes Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News:
The No. 24 overall pick said Tuesday that he’s suffering from tendinitis in his right knee and is going to be out “for a while.” He said his sights already have been set toward the 2013-14 season.
“My goal is to be completely ready for summer league,” Cunningham said. “I want to get my body back to the way it was in college so I have my athleticism.”
Coach Rick Carlisle said it was critical that Cunningham get healthy.
“I wouldn’t call it a lost season,” Carlisle said. “He’s gotten a lot of work in, and he’s gotten a fair amount of experience and he now understands what an NBA season is about. But we’re going to do the right thing. We’re going to make sure he gets healthy. And we’ll go from there.”
The Oregon State product’s start in the NBA was derailed when a hamstring kept him out of the summer league. From there, a thumb injury and knee issue flared up.
Now, Cunningham will stay with the Mavericks and work on conditioning his right knee. He was walking with a slight limp after shootaround.
“It’s best that I stay here and take advantage of everything they have to help my rehab,” Cunningham said. “It’s been a tough year. But I’m looking forward to getting right for the summer.”
ICYMI of the night: This Chris Paul-to-Blake Griffin alley-oop is only No. 4 on our nightly Top 10 countdown, but it’s No. 1 in our hearts around here …:
Scott Skiles gets fed up with or feels maxed out by a team. Skiles’ bosses agree with him that it’s time for him to go, even with games left on the schedule. Jim Boylan finishes Skiles’ business.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Five years and a few weeks ago, the Chicago Bulls went there and did that, establishing a pattern that the Milwaukee Bucks followed this week. This time, the Bucks were stagnant at 16-16, losers of four straight, when Skiles and the team’s management reached what both sides contend was a mutual decision to part ways. Boylan moved over 18 inches from lead assistant coach to the top job and, after a 2-0 start against Phoenix and Chicago, was hoping to stay unbeaten in the new role Friday with a home game against Detroit.
Back then, in December 2007, Boylan took over a 9-16 Chicago club right before Christmas and directed them to a 24-32 finish. The Bulls did just well enough … to miss the playoffs by four games and stay eligible for the 2008 lottery, in which their 1.7 percent longshot came in for the No. 1 pick. Unfortunately for Boylan, Vinny Del Negro, not he, got to coach Derrick Rose as a rookie the following season.
With this little baton-passing repeating itself, neither Boylan nor the Bucks is looking at the lottery. They were seventh in the Eastern Conference with Skiles and they’re seventh after four days under Boylan. Only this is a more-ready, less-anxious Boylan this time. Teams make midseason coaching chances in hopes that the new guy will be different from the old guy, but in this case, the new new guy is different from the old new guy.
“The last time, from a personal standpoint, I was too worried about trying to keep the job,” Boylan said of his Chicago trial. “It kind of restricted me as time went on. I made the determination when this happened [Monday] that I was going to enjoy this and do what I like to do. Get the guys to play hard and compete and let the chips fall where they may at the end.”
Heading into the game against the Pistons, Boylan –- the 12th head coach in Bucks history -– has a chance to match Chris Ford, George Karl and Terry Stotts with 3-0 starts. After that, he’ll have 47 games left to replicate a lot of Skiles’ results while differentiating himself and his methods to his bosses and the players. They’re great friends, but Boylan feels he can separate himself.
“We have a team that I believe in,” Boylan said. “We’re sitting around .500. We’re seventh in the East. … It’s pretty simple. I told them, this is their team. They will determine how far we go.” (more…)
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.
Just tell me my role, NBA players say. Heck, a lot of us in everyday life say the same thing in one way or another: Let me know my role. Then I’ll know what expectations I need to meet.
Here is a look at Drew Gooden’s roles for the Milwaukee Bucks the past two seasons:
2011-12: Veteran power forward forced to play center after Andrew Bogut’s left ankle fracture. Rotation guy-turned-full-time starter over the Bucks’ final 41 games, averaging 12.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 29.0 minutes.
2012-13: Inactive-list placeholder and street-clothed afterthought for all 12 Milwaukee games so far. Averaging 0.0 across the board, because he hasn’t played a second.
Gooden has, for all practical purposes, been rendered invisible by coach Scott Skiles’ decisionto use him as the odd man out when submitting his active roster each game night. Milwaukee has 15 players but can only have 13 available for game use, and even with Luc Mbah a Moute recovering from knee surgery, the frontcourt still is too crowded.
Skiles called it “a difficult situation, a difficult decision.” “We’ve got Sam and Ersan and John and Ekpe and Larry and Joel and Drew,” the coach said, rattling off the first names of Dalembert, Ilyasova, Henson, Udoh, Sanders, Przybilla and Gooden. “We’ve got seven big guys, and we like ‘em all. So it’s a tough spot to be in.”
It’s not as if Gooden has been outplayed in practice – obviously, there are no game performances to review this season – as a rationale for his banishment. Skiles said he talked with the team’s big men about the numbers crunch.
“What I told [them was] more than likely, I would have to put a guy or two out for no good reason,” Skiles said. ” I know it’s uncomfortable for him but he’s handling it very, very well.”
Even that’s a tricky thing though, isn’t it? If a player fusses and fumes over being drydocked, he’s selfish and distracting. But if he takes too readily to it, he must not care and be only interested in the paycheck.
So Gooden tries to split the difference, treating this stretch of inactivity like it’s a set of Juwan Howard Training Wheels. He practices hard, warms up before games longer than any of the Bucks, then retreats to shower and dress before tipoff rather than after the final horn. Gooden also finds ways to amuse himself; he engaged in a Twitter war with pal Joakim Noah and gave his game tickets Monday at United Center to fan who tweeted a photo of a Bulls jersey in a toilet.
“It’s something new,” he said after the Bucks’ comeback victory Monday at Chicago. “It’s something that I feel like, later on, down the road, I’m getting ready for in my career. So why not get a taste of it right now and see how I handle it.”
Now in his 11th season, playing for his ninth team, the No. 4 pick in the 2002 draft has averaged 12.0 points and 7.7 rebounds. He has started (493 games), come off the bench (178) and been sidelined by various ailments, including plantar fasciitis for all but 35 games in 2010-11.
“This is my role right now. I’m gonna accept it and do my best job at it. Sometimes it’s a hard pill to swallow. But if you can do that and show people that you can do it, it’s almost like a leadership skill. I feel like I’m setting an example, more than anything.”
A team that had too little size last season suddenly has too much. So much that Skiles could bench Dalembert for what reportedly was a late arrival to the arena Saturday against Chicago, use rookie Henson for just 78 seconds one game after he grabbed 18 rebounds and keep Gooden inactive – then get clobbered inside, with the Bulls grabbing 20 offensive rebounds.
It almost looks like the coach is trying to send a message about roster composition to the front office.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on,” Dalembert said. “I mean, there’s so many big men. Drew did tremendous for this team last year. Y’know, Drew doesn’t deserve to be where he is right now. It’s hard, it’s hard. But you try to stay positive and we keep supporting each other. He’s being a good professional.”
Skiles acknowledged that deploying Gooden this way is a choice. If he wanted, he could rotate various Bucks big men through the inactive list rather than burdening just one guy.
Then again, the inactive rule itself could be tweaked. It came about as a way to shed the old “injured list,” in which teams often had to fabricate an injury to warehouse someone. That system forced a player to sit a minimum of five games before being eligible to return.
“Ultimately what I want to see is, be able to dress everybody and be able to only play 12,” Skiles said. “I’d like to see that and I think most of the coaches would.”
MILWAUKEE – When a team doesn’t have its go-to scorer, it needs something to go to down the stretch. In the case of the Chicago Bulls, that means having guys go to the offensive glass.
When the Bulls beat Milwaukee Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, they shot just 39 percent (32 of 82) compared to the Bucks’ 43.2. They had 16 turnovers worth 15 points to Milwaukee compared to 10 and 7 by the home team. Yet Chicago beat the Bucks with some Chinese water torture – they made 25 of their 26 free throws vs. Milwaukee’s 7 of 10 – and by dominating them inside for second opportunities. And third. And fourth.
Bulls’ offensive rebounding
Through Saturday, 11/24
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive
2CPTS% = 2nd chance points / Total points
The Bulls outrebounded the Bucks 54-40, including a 20-10 edge on the offensive end. Seven of those came in the fourth quarter and most of those came in the final minutes, when Chicago broke an 81-81 tie with a 12-5 run over the final 5:22.
It was a statistical edge and a psychological bonanza, as the Bucks had to stay in and reset their defense for a half minute, sometimes a minute at a time. The Bulls shot a lousy 31.8 percent (7 of 22) in the quarter, same as the other guys, but got eight second-chance points. They dominated that category, 25-5, even more starkly than the boards.
“There’s a lot of things that can break you,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Sometimes you can block out great and the ball takes a funny bounce, you don’t get it. Or maybe it’s a result of, you get broken down off the dribble, you get help, rotation, now the ball’s up…
“So offensive rebounding. Defensive transition can break your spirit too. Those things reveal a lot. It tells a lot about the character of your team. People talk a lot about fast breaks, but the second shot is another part of easy baskets.”
By the second shot, a defense might already be broken down. By the third or fourth, a backup screen-setter can seem as dangerous as a missing MVP candidate named Derrick Rose.
For Milwaukee, it was starting center Samuel Dalembert who was missing. He was a late scratch prior to tipoff, with whispers that he might have arrived late to the arena, though coach Scott Skiles called it simply a “coaching decision.” Then there was rookie power forward John Henson, who had grabbed 18 rebounds off the bench in 27 minutes Wednesday at Miami. Henson logged only 1:18 vs. Chicago.
Mostly, though, it was the Bulls’ relentless work at chasing down their own misses that left Milwaukee in shambles late, as surely as if the guy in the No. 1 jersey had been doing the attacking. The Bulls rank fifth in the NBA in offensive rebound percentage (30.5). And this is despite the loss this season of backup center Omer Asik, whom NBA.com’s John Schuhmann shared had an offensive rebounding percentage of 14.2 over the past two seasons, best on his team.
“[Getting beat on the offensive boards has] happened to us before,” said Chicago forward Carlos Boozer, who got eight of his 19 rebounds on the offensive glass. “It’s kind of demoralizing, especially when you’ve played good defense for 22, 20 seconds. The shot goes up – they get the ball back! That’s tough.
When comic actor Charles Grodin (The Heartbreak Kid, Midnight Run) penned his sardonic autobiography a couple decades ago, he entitled it “It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here: My Journey Through Show Business.”
If Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez were to slap a headline on his journal entries for 2012, he could pretty much use the same thing, swapping “Nets organization” for the reference to show biz.
For the first six months or so of 2012, it looked like the best thing Lopez could do for the Nets would be to leave. Leave, that is, specifically as the centerpiece of a package of players and draft picks shipped to the Orlando Magic for All-Star Dwight Howard.
Instead, Lopez will be the Nets’ center piece for their dramatic first season in Brooklyn. Never mind that snazzy Maserati in the showroom, kids. We’re driving home in the Buick!
Lopez and still-teammate MarShon Brooks made an appearance at the Nets’ inaugural team store at the Barclays Center, and Howard Beck of the New York Times wrote about the big man’s reset button getting pushed:
Lopez is one of two Nets (along with Kris Humphries) remaining from the humiliating 2009-10 season, when they lost a franchise-record 70 games. He chuckled when it was suggested he had earned this moment.
“I’m pumped,” he said. “Throughout that whole process, everyone kept talking about Brooklyn and stuff like that, how exciting it was going to be. So I just focused on making myself a better player, helping my team in any way possible. And with all the talk I heard about Brooklyn, I knew it was just something I wanted to be part of. It was something that was going to be big.”
Yeah, well, that’s what Nets fans felt about Howard. When the dominating diva, early in his soap opera-ish final season in Orlando, cited the Nets as the one destination he would accept via trade, Lopez immediately became expendable. Chattel frankly, an asset to be moved, a salary to match up against Howard’s per NBA trade rules, a facilitator of greater days ahead for the franchise with which he had spent his first four NBA seasons.
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.
“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…)
The New York Knicks continued to spend for quality depth before the end of the July Moratorium, agreeing to terms with veteran center Marcus Camby on a three-year, $13 million contract Monday in a sign-and-trade deal with Houston that will send Toney Douglas, Josh Harrelson and Jerome Jordan to the Rockets, along with two future second-round picks.
The 38-year-old Camby is still a productive player, averaging 7.1 points and 9.3 rebounds last season in 24 minutes a night for the Rockets after being traded to Houston from Portland for Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet. In New York he’ll be the backup to starter Tyson Chandler at center and spot Amar’e Stoudemire at power forward. It will be Camby’s second tour of duty in New York, after playing for the Knicks from 1998-2002.
His deal, according to a source, is only partially guaranteed for the third season, meaning it will either be a two-year deal for $10 million or revert to the three-year, $13 million deal if New York decides to keep him.
Douglas saw significant playing time as a rookie, but injuries and the electric play of Jeremy Lin consigned him to a deep reserve role last season. But in Houston, Douglas will be one of the few point guards on the roster. The Rockets have committed to giving Lin a four-year deal worth $28 million when the free-agent moratorium ends on July 11, but the Knicks are almost certain to match.
New York also agreed to terms last week with Jason Kidd to be Lin’s backup next season. Houston lost free agent Goran Dragic to the Suns in a free-agent deal and opted to trade last season’s starter at the beginning of the year, Kyle Lowry, to Toronto for a conditional Lottery pick.