Bucks (21-24) @ Atlanta Hawks (25-16), 6:30pm Friday, FSN
Bucks vs. Sacramento Kings (10-33), 7:30pm Saturday @ Bradley Center
The Memphis Grizzlies, 11-30 and losers of 15 out of 17 games, fired coach Mark Iavaroni Thursday. As a result, the Bucks could well lose assistant Lionel Hollins, who sources say will take over for Memphis sometime this weekend.
Until last summer, Hollins had coached the Grizzlies in one capacity or another since the team’s 1995-96 inaugural season under Bucks great Brian Winters. Hollins was Iavaroni’s lead assistant, but left to join Scott Skiles’ staff in Milwaukee as Grizzlies management was deciding whether or not Iavaroni would be back this year.
One might wonder why Memphis didn’t just hire Hollins as head coach last spring instead of giving Iavaroni another chance; or whether giving Iavaroni another chance led to Hollins’ departure. I did at the time, and thought it was a lucky break for Skiles and the Bucks that Hollins was ready to leave the Grizzlies after 13 years. In most any other offseason, Hollins wouldn’t have been available.
Hollins has twice served as head coach of the Grizzlies, once as interim coach in 2000 and for four games in the 2004-05 season after Hubie Brown resigned.
Word of Hollins’ hiring is being reported by Memphis Edge, the daily Commercial Appeal’s website. For the past couple of weeks, the Edge has been trying to figure out why the Bucks aren’t interested in trading Ramon Sessions and Joe Alexander to the Grizzlies for reserve point guard Mike Conley, the disappointing #4 pick in the 2007 draft. (Meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out why so many Bucks fans assumed the Bucks were interested just because folks in Memphis thought it would be a great deal for the Grizzlies).
The Edge/Commercial Appeal wasn’t so good at making trades, but Hollins returning to Memphis does make a lot of sense. According to the “team insider” cited by the Edge, Hollins “plans to bring with him as assistants former Philadelphia head coach Maurice Cheeks and former Los Angeles Clippers coach Barry Hecker.” … Griz assistant coach Johnny Davis will take over temporarily until Hollins can join the team next week.
Just hearing the names Hollins and Cheeks together again brings back painful memories of the classic seven-game East semifinals series between the Bucks-Sixers in 1981. And the six-game series in 1982. Cheeks and Hollins were the starting backcourt on those Philly teams. Having Iavaroni in this stroy invokes 1983 all over again and Fo-Fo-Fo Sixers, though Hollins wasn’t on that Philly team the Bucks couldn’t beat.
Will we be hearing soon that Chocalate Thunder (Darryl Dawkins) is getting a job in Memphis?
No Bogut this weekend: There’s nothing new on whether Andrew Bogut has recovered from his back problems, so the last report about him missing this entire weekend still stands. That’s too bad because he dominated Al Horford and ex-Buck Zaza Pachulia last season in four games.
Bogut’s 2007-08 vs. Hawks: 21.8 ppg on 61% shooting; 10 rpg – 4 offensive boards per; 3.8 blocks/g; 1.8 apg; 1.3 steals/g and 2.5 turnovers/g in 35.5 mins/g …
Josh Smith did not play in November vs. the Bucks but will play tonight. NBA.com photoThat’s a lot of damage. The Bucks and Hawks split those games. The Hawks slipped into the 8th playoff spot in the East with just 34 wins on the season.
This season, the Bucks lost in Atlanta without Bogut, who missed the game after mashing his knee taking a charge against Dwight Howard in Orlando. They were also without Redd but nearly pulled out a win, as Ramon Sessions led a late rally that had the Bucks within three in the final minutes. Sessions had 21 pts and 8 assists; Richard Jefferson 25 in 43 minutes, and Charlie Villanueva contributed 19. Joe Alexander had one of his better outings with 8 points. The Bucks lost 102-96.
In Bogut’s absence, Al Horford went off for 21 points on 9-12 shooting.
Horford is questionable to play Friday with a bone bruise in his right knee. Also, Marvin Williams, the Hawks starting small forward (and #2 pick behind Bogut in the 2005 draft) suffered a concussion earlier this week, may sit out. The Hawks beat the Bulls in Chicago Wednesday 105-102 without either player.
This should be interesting. The Hawks got out to an 8-0 start but then lost PF Josh Smith for 12 games, and one of those was the Bucks game. They were struggling without Smith’s defense and inside scoring, and had lost 5 straight before beating the Bucks. Also, the Bucks perimeter defense was a lot better than it is now that Redd is back and Charlie Bell limited due to injuries. Point guard Mike Bibby and All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson had subpar shooting nights the first meeting – I wouldn’t expect a repeat performance tonight from the Hawks guards.
The Hawks are 19-10 with Smith and very tough at home. They are 6-6 without Smith. And the Bucks? After scorching the nets versus Dallas, who’s to say which Bucks team will show up. Scott Skiles would do well to remember how well Sessions played against Bibby back in November. It might make the difference, just as it did against Dallas.
By PETER VECSEY
Pissing off Bucks fans everywhere: It’s Peter Vecsey of the New York Post in a column today, featuring rising NBA center Andrew Bynum (wrong AB, Peter) and suggesting that the Bucks with Michael Redd are a team entrenched with vultures circling above looking for an easy trade. Appreciate the sentiment, Pete, but I don’t think making fun of John Hammond and your “deep dish” inside source is really all that helpful. Make yourself youseful, will ya, and go outside and look for the Cash Cab or something.
For an inside view of the Bucks bunkered down, entrenched mentality, check out this weekend’s Gery Woelfel column. It was kinda funny until the Atlanta debacle, which wasn’t funny at all.
Atlanta Hawks’ Flip Murray (22) drives to the basket as Milwaukee Bucks’ Tyronn Lue, left, defends in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 23, 2009, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 117-87. “We didn’t show up — in any facet of the game,” Skiles said after the 117-87 loss. That’s troubling. The Bucks simply could not defend and had nothing going offensively outside of Charlie Villanueva, who had 27 points.
One conclusion that can be drawn here is that the Bucks could well be a more competitive team with Charlie Bell and Ramon Sessions splitting minutes that are now going to Michael Redd. I’m going to qualify that by saying this may not be true every night, every game, depending on the opponent. But against the Atlanta Hawks, what the Bucks bring as a starting guard tandem — Luke Ridnour and Michael Redd — is not good enough. They don’t play enough defense to have an effect on Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson, a likely All-Star this season, and they don’t produce enough offense most nights to make up for. The Bucks were better off playing Bell and Sessions in the first meeting.
Bell didn’t show up in Atlanta either but he was excused, staying in Milwaukee with Bogut to get more treatment on his bum ankle. Bell and Bogut will also miss tonight’s game against the Kings.
The Atlanta debacle should tell John Hammond that his team’s chances of making the playoffs aren’t necessarily improved by keeping Redd. Trading him by the Feb. 19 deadline is not the white flag (that’s the entrenched mentality Vecsey was referring to) that some in the Bucks organization believe it would be — If Charlie can get healthy enough to go 30 minutes or more per game.
With the up and down Bucks, conclusions have been difficult to come by, but this one’s going to stick. Bookend the Hawks game with the Pistons game at home after X-mas (the game Skiles benched the starters) and I see a 7-9 team that doesn’t play Scott Skiles basketball and will not be able to pay a 15-man roster under the luxury tax next season unless some serious cap space is cleared.
Bucks vs. Kings tonight: Tip-off’s in a couple of hours, and this game is now a must-win for the 21-25 Bucks against a Western Conference doormat, as is Monday’s game at the BC against the T-Wolves. A win won’t make up for the pathetic showing in Atlanta or save this Bucks weekend, especially if it’s a repeat of the game in Sacramento last weekend. In that game, the Redd-ites got into a shootout with the lowly Kings and nearly blew a 15-point fourth quarter lead. Let’s see if the Scott Skiles Bucks show up tonight instead.
Bogut to return Monday? It looks Bogut may be ready to suit up Monday, but don’t expect him in the starting lineup. It’s acknowledged now that the Bucks brought their center back too fast last time by taking him on a Minneapolis-Washington D.C. road trip and giving him 30+ minutes right away.