Shaq dominates Bogut: School was in session Saturday at the Bradley Center for Bucks center Andrew Bogut and fans as a well-rested Shaquille O’Neal demonstrated what superstar center play can do for a team. Shaq beat Bogut in the post time after time, shooting his half-hook over him; hitting that push shot in his face; wheeling around him for dunks and even hitting his free throws on his way to a 29-point, 11-rebound tutorial. Shaq shot 12-16 from the floor and shared the wealth with four assists as the Suns won 104-96. “He looked like he was in his prime again,” Bogut told reporters after the game. The Bucks did make it interesting as Ramon Sessions led rookies Luc Mbah a Moute and Joe Alexander (with Bogut and RJ) on a charge that pulled the Bucks to within 81-80 midway through the 4th quarter. But Shaq, Leandro Barbosa and Steve Nash stopped the young Bucks cold with an 11-2 run to put the game out of reach. Sessions led the Bucks with 23.
The lesson here for young centers like Bogut is that Shaq can still be Shaq, and they’re not all that. Wonder what he’s got in store for Dwight Howard? The asterisk shall be removed from Shaq’s entry in the Bob Boozer Jinx center rankings, where I’m happy to report that I knew Bogut and other centers weren’t all that and had the Diesel listed third, with said asterisk.
Bogut gets the Shaq treatment:Phoenix Suns coach Terry Porter gave Shaquille O’Neal the night off Friday in Chicago, part of a rest-a-Shaq plan for Suns back-to-back games. Why not do the more obvious thing and rest Shaq in Milwaukee on the second night of this weekend’s back-to-backs? Andrew Bogut.
“Most likely he probably will play, in that type of scenario when they have a post presence. And historically (Andrew) Bogut has hurt the Phoenix Suns in the last few years so we will definitely try to play him (Saturday),” Porter said.
As Bucks head coach 2003-05, Porter conducted Bogut’s pre-draft workout two days before being fired (see photo at right). Saturday is Milwaukee native Porter’s Bradley Center debut as the head coach of the Suns, his only BC appearance this season. Porter might, however, want to rethink his rest-a-Shaq schedule. The Bulls blew out the Suns 100-83, dominating on the boards in the 1st half. The Bulls? Dominating the glass? (Yeah, I wrote this before Shaq humbled Bogut on Saturday; but c’mon – the Bulls, dominating the glass?)
Celtics bench handles Bucks: Well, it was good for three quarters, definitely an improvement and without Michael Redd in the lineup. The Celtics were at full strength and led 75-70 heading into the 4th quarter. The Bucks fumbled this game away while Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Celtics center Kendrick Perkins were on the bench to start the 4th. Richard Jefferson, who led the Bucks with 20, and Andrew Bogut were likewise taking breathers as the Celtics got going with three steals. Coach Skiles quickly sent Bogut back in to help restore some order, but the refs hit Bogut with his 5th foul on a ticky-tack call. So much for that Idea.
Next thing Bucks fans knew Lucky Luke Ridnour‘s alter ego, Crazy Luke came to play; Charlie Villanueva put on his Redd shoes and chucked up a couple of ill-advised long jumpers; the whistles blew and blew on the Bucks; and the game was over. Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn’t even bother putting Ray back into the game. He didn’t need to – the Bucks lost it to the Celtics’ other Allen, Tony. With a game against the Suns Saturday night, Skiles didn’t bother putting Bogut back in either. R.J. also got a rest.
Joe Alexander scored his first NBA hoop Friday — a 3-pointer in garbage time. Joe finished with 3 pts. …. The Bucks frontcourt played solid and the Bucks held advantage on the scoreboard while Bogut was on the court, despite some embarassing moments: Perkins blocked his shot not once, not twice but three times!!! Possible effects of spending an Olympic summer in Basketball Australia’s cortisone gulag? Bogut had 11 pts, 8 rebs. Charlie V added 13 pts, 12 rebs, almost all of it in the first half.
Devin Harris spoils Iverson’s Debut debut: Allen Iverson hit the floor running for the Pistons Friday night, then proceeded to watch ‘Tosa’s own Devin Harris shoot free throws all second half as the Nets won in New Jersey, 103-96. New Jersey point guard Harris was 19-22 from the line and scored 38 pts, being hacked equally by the Pistons guard crew, including four from Iverson in the 3rd quarter.
As eye-popping as Harris’ performance was, Iverson should work his way into the Pistons defensive schemes easily enough. The bigger trouble for Detroit following the Iverson trade is losing Antonio McDyess’ help in the paint. New Jersey center Josh Boone had his way Friday with the Detroit frontline, scoring 9-12 from the floor for 18 pts, and grabbed 14 boards. This shouldn’t surprise Bucks fans: the 6′ 10″ Boone gave Bogut fits last season in the Nets’ four wins against the Bucks. These Pistons are softer than ever under the hoop and off-season acquisition Kwame Brown is no kind of answer. The Cavs, Sixers and Magic have gotta like what happened in the New Jersey paint. Bogut and the Bucks will take note, too.
Yi Jianlian says “Hi”: He must be waving hello to all of us in Milwaukee because what he’s doing there Saturday against Pacers big forward Troy Murphy can’t possibly be defense, can it? After beating Iverson and the Pistons Friday, the Nets went on to Indianapolis where the Pacers the previous Saturday had surprised the Celtics in a win. New Jersey had no better luck than Boston, losing big, 98-80. Yi and Nets center Boone in particular had rough nights, shooting a combined 3-16 after teaming up for 30 against Detroit. Yi finished with 2 pts, 11 rebs in the loss. The guy he was allegedly guarding? Murphy rumbled for 17pts, 10 rebs. Both the Nets and the Pacers are 2-3.
How ya doin’ Yi? In five games as a starter this season, Yi is averaging 9.2 pts and 7.8 rebs in 25 mins. Along the way, he’s blocked five shots and taken care of the ball, which was a problem here last year. He’s turned it over just six times so far.
Remember when the Suns put Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw on the trading block last summer in hopes of acquiring a veteran star to help Shaq and Steve Nash make a run at a championship? (No, Chad Ford at ESPN, the Suns could not possibly have thought that moving up your overhyped draft would get them to the NBA Finals). Michael Redd, some speculation went, would be a natural fit for the Suns, who could use a prolific scorer to give Nash another option. Barbosa ($ 6.1 million salary) + Diaw ($9 mill) = $15.1 mill, a nice, neat fit under NBA trade rules with one Michael Redd ($15.78 mill).
Rumors surrounded Diaw and Barbosa and a few teams in the days before the draft. On draft day the Bucks swung the Yi for R.J. trade and suddenly Redd was off the table. Well, what about now? Barbosa and Diaw are still in Phoenix, coming off of Porter’s bench. Given how active the Bucks look without Redd and that coach Skiles sure wouldn’t mind two more quick, active players with playoff experience, Bucks GM Hammond should take a good look at this trade, if Phoenix is willing.
Diaw, 26 and entering his 6th NBA season, can play three positions – shooting guard, small forward and big forward. As always, in accordance with the jinx that is the title of this blog, the Bucks could use some help at power forward. So far this season, Diaw’s minutes are down under new Suns coach Porter.
Barbosa, also 26 and in his 6th NBA season, is known for his full court speed, ability to get to the rim and his 3-point shooting. He’s a career .408 3-point shooter, 7th best among active players. (Redd, at .384 is 18th active, but a very average .365 since becoming a starter 5 years ago). Barbosa is the type of guard who thrives in Skiles’ ball movement offense and would look great flying all over the court with Ridnour, Sessions, R.J. and Luc Mbah a Moute. Add Diaw and the two Charlies and the Bucks would have a versatile, athletic team to go with their big center, and plenty muscle on the bench for the East.
At this stage in Redd’s career, playing with Steve Nash is a better deal than anything Skiles has to offer with Ridnour and Sessions. Nash = open 3’s. Redd’s nearing 30 and probably shouldn’t be bothered breaking in a young point guard (Sessions) which is where the Bucks seem headed over the next year or so. Redd’s been down that road before with T.J. Ford and Mo Williams. While Skiles is speeding things up in Milwaukee, Terry Porter is slowing things down in Phoenix, emphasizing half court offense and defense. Redd would be the prolific scoring remedy to complement the inside game of Stoudemire and Shaq, and Nash would make it work. Redd’s defensive shortcomings would still be there, but a new environment might be what he needs more than anything else.
What about Terry Porter? Would he want Michael Redd to join him on his second head coaching job? This is an unknown. Redd had his breakout season under Porter, and there seems no reason Redd and Porter couldn’t be reunited. This is a good trade for both teams, right? Or is there a reason? Prior to Porter’s last season in Milwaukee, he gave this interview to Inside Sports. Even then, the coaching emphasis for Redd was “to get other guys, other teammates involved”; to “make the adjustment by making his teammates better”; and this:
…. “We don’t have a bona fide superstar, we don’t have a Shaq or a KG or a Tim Duncan, so there’s no true anchor like that. Mike (Redd) had a great year last year and it’s going to be a lot of pressure on him to try to duplicate that this year and try to get the same numbers. But we really try to rely on teammates offensively and defensively.”
Sounds as though the ball movement and decision-making issues with Redd were brewing the season before the Bucks maxed Redd’s contract in 2005. It’s that idea that Redd is not Kobe, and shouldn’t ever have tried to play like him. I’m sure, however, that Porter realizes that many of those issues never would have arisen in Milwaukee if the Bucks had started an experienced point guard in the backcourt with Redd. The Phoenix Suns don’t have that problem.