The Scott Skiles Bucks take control against the Spurs; Joe Alexander’s secret weapon dunk; more trade rumors

Luke Ridnour drives in the 2nd half vs. the Spurs Tuesday night. AP Photo by Darren AbateThey were almost "the same old Bucks" in San Antonio.

They had been up by 11, 78-67 late in the in the 3rd quarter. But over the next 8 minutes they saw that lead disappear as the San Antonio Spurs outscored them 19-6 to take an 86-84 lead with 6:47 left in the game. 

Michael Redd was hot in the first half (16 pts) but hadn't hit a shot in over 12 mins. He was 0-3 in this 8-minute stretch. Richard Jefferson had missed a 3-pointer; so had Charlie Bell.  Charlie Villanueva had his jumpshot blocked by Ime Udoka, a post move blocked by Tim Duncan, and had plain missed a third jumper.

They had lost control of the game and looked a lot like the Bucks of the last five years — settling for jumpshot after jumpshot and unable to get stops as the game slipped away. Point guard Luke Ridnour, who had missed two 3-pointers of his own, had to find a way to get this #h$t under control.  Last possession, Luke had made sure Bogut got the ball, easy two on a layup … it was the first shot Bogues had taken in almost five minutes …

Then Manu Ginobili stole the ball from Ridnour and Roger Mason dunked it on the break. 88-84 Spurs, a 21-6 run.

Bucks coach Scott Skiles called time out with 6:30 left, and there it was: Who was going to play this game? The old Bucks, with their mental lapses and untimely jumpshooting — the Bucks who showed up in Detroit Saturday?  Or the Scott Skiles Bucks?

The Scott Skiles Bucks took the court. Ridnour started it off draining a three off a Michael Redd pass. After Duncan missed against Bogut, R.J. found Bogut free in the lane for a dunk and the Bucks had the lead back, 89-88. …  They would not give it up, outscoring the Spurs 15-5 after the time out to take a 99-93 lead with 36 seconds left on a Bogut feed to Bell for a layup. That should have been the game. Things got a little nerve-wracking after that but the Bucks held on for a 100-98 win.

This was a team win, orchestrated by Ridnour, in which sharing the ball was crucial in crunch time. Bogut scored 8 of the Bucks last 18 points and finished with 20 pts and 14 boards, outplaying All-Pro Duncan. … Bell had 4 pts during the game-winning run, Ridnour and Redd 3 apiece (R.J. didn't take a shot). … Redd led the scoring for the game with 25 pts, shooting well the first 30 mins of the game, but only 1-6 in the final quarter-and-a-half.  He also had 10 rebounds (when's the last time he had double figures in rebounds? – not this season) and 4 assists.

Redd's 4th assist was the one that mattered most, coming as it did when the Bucks needed a hoop after the Skiles time out. In all, five of the Bucks last seven hoops were assisted, with Ridnour (2), R.J. (1), Redd (1) and Bogut (1) ringing up dimes.

In my last post, I wrote that "the Bucks are a team in transition to the Skiles era, a new place where tenacious, consistent D and ball movement are religion. … against the Jazz at the BC (Dec. 23), the Bucks could say that the qualities of the new era overcame the lax defense and sluggish, selfish offensive tendencies of the old." Then came the miserable game against Detroit Saturday in which the old Bucks showed that they're still around.

With this win against the Spurs the Bucks can again say that the Scott Skiles team of the new era is here, too, and that the better qualities of the new once again overcame the tendencies of old, and did so convincingly against one of the league's top teams. This was the Bucks' best win of the season, and would have been a great way to end 2008.

Instead, they'll take it to Houston for a New Year's Eve matchup against Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and the Rockets (no, the Charlie V for Carl Landry trade rumors didn't pan out, see below).  Gametime is 6:00pm. We'll see which Bucks team prevails tonight, knowing that those habits of old have a habit of showing up even when the new Bucks have had the last word.

Ridnour finished with 21 pts, 4 rbs and 6 assists.

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If Joe Alexander gets enough fan votes to win the rookie slot in the All-Star weekend dunk contest, Dwight Howard will NEVER top this dunk:

He's got my votes!!!

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TRADE RUMOR UPDATE

I wish there was a definitive way to tell whether a trade rumor was just a rumor. The rumored Charlie Villanueva – Carl Landry trade with the Rockets never panned out; the Tyronn Lue for Chris Mihm trade remains a Lakers pipe dream; and the speculation about trading Charlie V and Lue for one of the Oklahoma City Thunder's big forwards still looks like nothing more than speculation — unless that forward is Nick Collison, the one the Thunder doesn't want to trade.

But here's the latest from the Racine Journal Times' Gery Woelfel on Michael Redd, more or less what Woelfel said on WSSP Sports Radio 1250 after the Pistons game Saturday. It's the third item on the list:

"There is a growing speculation among NBA officials that it’s only a matter of time before the Milwaukee Bucks trade star shooting guard Michael Redd. That would be unfortunate for Redd is an even better person than he is a basketball player."

So now the referees are trying to trade Redd?  It's time to get some more substantive sourcing behind these rumors and speculation. And there really isn't much reason to couch terms about trading a basketball player … is there? What would TMZ do? …In any case, it sure does sound like Woelfel's a bit biased against a Redd trade, doesn't it? Maybe he hasn't noticed the luxury tax crunch the Bucks will be in this offseason, partly due to Redd's $17.04 million 2009-10 salary?

It's becoming widely known that Bucks GM John Hammond wouldn't balk at a move that would improve the roster, despite the team's public stance that it isn't interested now in roster moves. This from Yahoo Sports' Bucks team report:

"While Bucks officials insist they don’t have any trades in the works, they also claim to be far from content with their roster. [With the trades for R.J. and Ridnour, and the drafting of Luc Mbah a Moute] three-fifths of the Bucks’ starting lineup is new. There is growing speculation [Bucks GM] Hammond could make another significant move: trading star shooting guard Michael Redd."

There's that word again: speculation. But the speculation of Woefel's "NBA officials" and others isn't much more than common sense. The main unknowns are whether the Bucks will look for salary cap room for this summer now (the most likely scenario) or wait to deal with next season after July 1; and how much cap room they're looking for. 

It is only a matter of time before the Bucks find a trade for a shooting guard or big forward who can play some D and would a good fit for Skiles' uptempo offense. The trouble is finding a team that 1) Needs a scorer like Redd; and 2) has the right mix of pricey expiring contract(s) and player (s) to help the Bucks improve.

If not, there's always Tracy McGrady. Rockets fans are beginning to call for a McGrady-Redd trade (or something) and the Rockets want to contend for the title this season. McGrady doesn't seem to be up to it. This should only be acceptable if the Rockets also take Dan Gadzuric and the $17 mill or so he's due the next 2-and-a-half years. I realize the Rockets just signed Mutumbo Mutombo, but who can resist a three-headed international center combo? China, the Congo, Netherlands represent!  And with an Argentinian power forward …

What the Rockets need to challenge the Lakers, to beat the likes of Deron Williams and the Jazz; Manu and Parker and the Spurs; Chris Paul and Hornets is a better outside game — they've got the paint covered. I would think they would be very interested in Redd, if they could ignore that he's nothing more than an average three-point shooter. Maybe this is where Damon Jones comes in handy in a trade. …

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Chris Mihm is a stifI do know that Chris Mihm, will not become a Milwaukee Buck this season, and that's a good thing.  The Lakers reportedly have had a standing offer on the table to trade little-used center Mihm to the Bucks for Tyronn Lue. The Bucks, however, have little interest in Mihm, who had two foot surgeries last season.

Enter the Rockets, looking for a center to back up Yao Ming, or so the rumors go. The Rockets would have traded Carl Landry and a reserve guard to the Bucks for Charlie V; the Bucks would send Lue to the Lakers; and the Lakers would send Mihm to the Rockets.

That won't happen now because the Rockets on Tuesday brought center Dikembe Mutombo back to the team on a veteran minimum contract. Looks like the rumored Bucks-Rockets trade was always contingent on whether or not the Rockets could lure Mutombo out of retirement (he retired after last year). Had the Rockets not convinced Mutombo, a three-way trade with the Lakers and Bucks may have been the plan B the Rockets were considering. According to Mutombo (see the linked story), the Rockets pursued him heavily over the weekend, so that's one indication that Houston wasn't too hot about the Lakers-Bucks option.

Now the Rockets don't need Mihm, the Bucks don't want him and apparently the Lakers don't either. But that doesn't mean that the Lakers or the Bucks should stop looking for a team that does. Lue played a solid NBA finals for the Lakers against Allen Iverson and the Sixers, and Phil Jackson wants him back, obviously. Lakers backup point guard, Jordan Farmar, just had knee surgery. The Bucks could pick up a worthwhile young player, or even a bench contract and a 2nd round draft pick if somebody wants Mihm badly enough.

Not that the Bucks should be too interested in trading Lue. Ty from downtown is on the Bob Boozer Jinx Christmas list, which should be an important consideration for the Bucks in any moves from here on out. He's shooting 52% from 3-point-land this season, and has moved past Redd this season into the top 20 career 3-point shooters in the league. He's 44th all-time in the NBA, taking aim at Jon Barry, Danny Ferry, Hersey Hawkins, and, yes, Reggie Miller too if he keeps shooting at his current clip.

Note: Damon Jones is right behind Lue on that list at #47. This may become important as the Feb. 19 trading deadline approaches, as I've noted above. Any number of contending teams could be interested in Lue or Jones because 1) They are veterans with playoff experience; and 2) The ability to hit from downtown is a potential edge in the playoffs. And there's so very little separation among most of the top 12 teams in the league.

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