Bucks Weekend: Jinxed 2008 … plus Bogut vs. Duncan and other notes

Army cadet Michael Redd (at left) is not on the trading blockHAPPY NEW YEAR, Bucks fans and welcome back for more myopic and often annoying attempts to trade a certain shooting guard, though I maintain we were headed down that road this summer until Kiki Vandeweghe called offering Richard Jefferson for Yi … What would  Wyle E. Coyote do?

ON TAP this weekend: Bucks play a back-to-back with the Charlotte Bobcats (11-21), whom the Bucks beat twice before the Cats traded J-Rich to the Suns for Boris Diaw and Raja Bell. I don’t have much to say about it, other than the Bucks should win them both. (Bucks won the first Friday 103-75, with Michael Redd shooting well in the blowout).  … It can be tough to beat a team twice in two nights, and Charlotte does have some talent (OkaforGerald Wallace, D.J. Augustin) but this is a good weekend for the Bucks to show more of that mental toughness they played with in San Antonio.

Bad news: Despite a little help from those magic pain pills, Andrew Bogut‘s back is still bothering him. After the Bobcats game Friday Bogut said he didn’t know whether he’ll be able to play the Saturday game in Charlotte.

Bad taste in Skiles’ mouth: Bogut didn’t play Saturday and the ‘Cats returned the favor, blowing out the Bucks (it was 98-77 late in the 4th; the Bucks closed the gap to 102-92 in garbage time). Needless to say, coach Scott Skiles was more than a little unhappy about the Bucks (16-19) mental tenacity, among other things, and for the second time this season said: “I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth right now.” (The first time was after the Philly game Dec. 17). “… this kind of game is not how we wanted to represent ourselves. We clearly still have some things that we need to address.” Yes, you do coach.

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And with that, let’s take a quick look back at a few things in 2008, because the editorial board says the big Damon Jones retrospective I was working on can wait until Damon’s actually in playing shape and in a Bucks uniform.

Lauren JacksonThe most popular Jinx blog of the year, if the Sportsbubbler hit counter is to be believed … “Injections for all” – an August 21 inquiry into how Basketball Australia apparently treated Andrew Bogut’s ankle injuries during the Olympics. I write “apparently” because the Aussie coach was never quite able to explain what had happened with the first ankle sprain. The post also included a few “artistically nude” pix of Aussie womens team star Lauren Jackson (quite on topic: Jackson had received a couple of cortisone shots to a creaky ankle so she could play in the Olympics.) The Naked Truth revealed.

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“It takes two NBA teams to make a player trade, and the odds of Utah being willing partners in this deal are about the same as the odds that the Jazz’s Mormon owner will convert to Judaism.” August 5, 2008

That spewed out after I had watched Andrei Kirilenko block Kobe Bryant’s shot in game 4 of the Jazz-Lakers playoff series. Like a lot of Bucks fans, I like Utah’s roster, and Kirilenko seemed a likely candidate for a Michael Redd swap. Kirilenko had cited some concerns in 2007 about living the rest of his basketball life as “a robot” in Jazz coach Jerry Sloan’s system, and his contract is about the same dollars as Redd’s. But Kirilenko is a longarmed, 6′ 9″ defensive machine who can block Kobe’s shot. I just couldn’t (and still can’t) imagine Redd blocking Kobe’s shot, and can’t imagine why a team would trade anybody who could, even after admitting (more or less) to being a cyborg.

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A brand new 2008 highlight: Bogut 5, Duncan 3

Andrew Bogut muscles past Tim Duncan for a score in the 2nd half Tuesday. AP photo by Darren AbateMuch ado is made of the Bucks 12-10 record against the Spurs in The Tim Duncan Era. Jonny Mac & Jim Paschke talk about this phenomenon every time the Bucks play the Spurs, and it’s a neato-cool thing to be able to say — no other team can say it’s beaten Duncan more than it’s lost to him, unless you account the aggregation of Shaq-dom with the Lakers, Heat and Suns.

Leave it to me, however, to point out that this bit of NBA trivia is somewhat misleading when you consider that what’s driving this phenomenon is the inability of Duncan and the Spurs to beat The Big Three Bucks. Ray Allen and Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson lost twice to Duncan and Hall of Fame center David Robinson in Duncan’s rookie year (1997-98). But after Sam “I am” Cassell joined Ray and Dog in 1999 the Bucks trio never lost to the Spurs again, going 6-0 (they didn’t play the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season).

The Bucks simply had the Spurs completely outgunned at the Big Three positions. This was before the advent of Manu Ginobili; and Tony Parker and Bruce Bowen were Spurs for only the last two defeats. Shooting guard Antonio Daniels, however, was around for all six of them, often found guarding Ray … sorta. The Big Three was a nightmarish matchup for the Spurs

To be fair, a few Spurs careers were in their twilight years and the team was in transition to the one that would win the 2003 title and become the Spurs we know today. Forward Sean Elliott retired in 2001. Avery Johnson was 36 in 2001; so was David Robinson, who retired in 2003 having lost 6 of his last 10 games vs. the Bucks.

Big Dog to the rim over the Spurs' David Robinson, Nov. 18, 1999. Journal Sentinel photoNothing Spurs coach Gregg Popovich did could net a win against The Big Three, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. It started Nov. 18, 1999 in Milwaukee when George Karl went small in the 4th quarter of a close game and the Bucks bombed the defending champion Spurs off the court, 99-88. Here’s a treat: the Michael Hunt game story.

By March 31, 2001, Pop had realized that Sam had special Sam-I-Am powers over Avery; and that Big Dog’d start happily slobbering and barking and wagging his dogness whenever Elliot limped out onto the court to defend him. So that night Pop started defensive-minded Terry Porter and Derek Anderson on Sam and Ray, and checked Big Dog with Duncan, going big by starting Danny Ferry at the other forward. It was a nice idea and it forced the Bucks into a bad shooting night — but Bucks big forward Jason Caffey killed the Spurs underneath while Duncan was out harassing the Big Dog, and Pop’s defensive stalwarts (Duncan included) couldn’t put the ball in the basket. Bucks won 86-77. The Spurs won 58 games that season, the Bucks 52.

Here’s another one from the basketball-reference archives, less than a year later, Dec. 23, 2001: Ray didn’t play in this game but Sam-I-Am and Big Dog went off, shooting a combined 28-45 for 63 points. Michael Redd filled in for Ray, scoring 16 points on 6-11 shooting (Redd was very efficient, once upon a time). The Spurs just couldn’t keep up with the scoring pace, and the Bucks won 101-91 in San Antonio.

Six days later in Milwaukee, again with Ray out, the Spurs would take the Bucks to OT only to lose. As in previous meetings, Big Dog romped with 24 on a good shooting night, but this time it was Anthony Mason inside for 18 and Tim Thomas with four 3-pointers off the bench that killed the Spurs. The Spurs finished with 58 wins; the Bucks, 18-9 after their two wins vs. the Spurs, would flop and finish 41-41, missing the playoffs.

The Spurs took five of the next six from the Bucks as George and Ernie dismantled the Big Three and were dismissed; and new GM Larry Harris set course for the Michael Redd era. The Spurs picked up Manu, David Robinson retired and Pop even hired Big Dog to help out in the 2005 championship run.

The dynamic changed again in the 2005 offseason. The Bucks drafted Andrew Bogut. Since then, the Bucks are 5-3 vs. Duncan. There’s some luck involved (the Kukoc-to-Bogut tap-in play at the buzzer in Bogut’s rookie year is unforgettable) but some skill too, which was on display Tuesday: Bogut had 20 pts, 14 rebs, 4 assists and harassed Duncan into a 7-20 shooting night.

I hereby propose a simplification of this factoid to avoid any Bucks-have-a-whammy-on-the-Spurs confusion with The Big Three Bucks, who really did have the whammy on the Spurs. Fox Sports North graphics people and Bucks broadcasters Jonny Mac and Jim Paschke should focus the message as follows: Andrew Bogut 5, Tim Duncan 3. It’s simple, effective, and gets to the crux of the current situation, which is that Bogut plays very well against Hall of Famer-to-be Tim Duncan.

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Mo Williams trade: Cavaliers get their Shooter – but how did the Bucks do? The Apocolypse Now of all Mo Williams trade analyses, and the most-widely read Jinx other than Bogut’s ankles and Lauren Jackson’s naked truths. The Sportsbubbler eds liked this one a lot, and it still holds up, I think  … “Mo Williams had to be one happy-go-shooting point guard Wednesday after the Bucks, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City finalized a trade that sent Mo to the Cavs and brought point guard Luke Ridnour from OK City to the Bucks. …”

Also featured is MiniShaq’s ultimate Lucky Luke Ridnour mix. Hit it or quit it.

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Al McGuire

If you were allotted one, and only one, Bob Boozer Jinx blog to read from 2008, I would point you to May 16th’s “In the spirit of Al McGuire”. It’s about Jim Boylan, Scott Skiles lead assistant, who was also with him in Chicago. Boylan took the reins in Chicago after Skiles left (or was asked to leave – or a little of both, as the story goes, Christmas Eve 2007). Boylan was Al McGuire’s point guard on the Marquette 1977 NCAA Championship team. Those are the thumbnail facts.

The story isn’t even about the Bucks or basketball really, though it does speak to the kind of person that Scott Skiles surrounds himself with and the wisdom found on this Bucks coaching staff. It’s about something greater, I think, simply because Al McGuire’s in it.  Here’s a clip:

“‘I told the guys that we shouldn’t concentrate so much on winning. Let’s concentrate on letting go of the things we can’t control and free ourselves to be the kind of players we know we are. Live in the moment.’

That quote from Boylan, Bucks fans, is the Al McGuire basketball philosophy to the letter. It was infused throughout the basketball world in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when McGuire was on top of that world and players, especially those on Al’s home turf in state, were told to play “in the moment” and forget the scoreboard. The coaches would let you know when to look at the scoreboard and the clock. It was all very mystical and Zen, long before Phil Jackson won championships and wrote Sacred Hoops.  It was very McGuire.”

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Paint Cleveland Redd '08 artworkIt was only a matter of days after the Celtics had eliminated the Cavs from the 2008 playoffs that Cavs fans decided to get proactive about finding a # 2 scoring option for Lebron James. Paint Cleveland Redd ’08 was born. The campaign was the brainchild of Cavaliers Corner blogger Dan Labbe, who blogs at the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s online site, Cleveland.com. (Yes, blogs “at” the the daily newspaper’s site, as part of its regular sports coverage, unlike the separate reality JSOnline has created for its fan hub here. That’s supposedly changing soon I’m told, so look for the Bob Boozer Jinx sometime soon, maybe, on the JSOnline Bucks pages.)

Cleveland fans are fun, and they love their Lebrons. Sweet Caroline’s AndOne blog is a good slice of Cavs fan life. Others are the ode to Cleveland sports futility, Waiting For Next Year, and Cavalier Attitude.  Fun as they are, Cavs fans are fairly stingy about giving up their players in trades, especially their two young guards, Delonte West and Daniel Gibson (Lebron’s buddy) who were both in the middle of contract negotiations. The Wild Man, Anderson Varejao? Sure, the Bucks could have “Andy” because they don’t think the Cavs will be able to keep him after this season. But ANDY had trade rejection rights until December and apparently didn’t want to come here. (Charlie Villanueva‘s name likely came up in this summer’s ongoing Cavs-Bucks talks).

During this process, I learned to properly spell Wally Szczerbiak (he and his $13 million contract were central to the trade) and the Cavs ended up with Mo Williams. The Cavs were kind enough to send us Damon Jones.

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