Bucks Weekend: Beating George Karl was necessary… A tribute to Nellie

After giving the Cavs all they could handle at the BC Friday before fading in a flagrantly physical 4th quarter Friday, the Bucks are due for a win — and George Karl‘s Nuggets should cooperate nicely. The game today at the BC is the Nuggets 8th of an 8-game road trip. They were flat losing 116-99 in Chicago Friday and Nuggets starting forwards, Kenyon Martin and Carmelo Anthony are hurting.

Check this pregame quote from mellow Carmelo yellow ….

“I’m going to see how I feel (Saturday), how I feel Sunday. It’s going to be hard for me to sit out, but if I have to, I think (Milwaukee) would be a game I could probably sit out.”

Yeah, take it easy ‘Melo. Kick back, smoke some bud, get ready for the Celtics, Hawks and Lakers this week, be all about that easy feeling on Carmelo’s Island (image via the Pistons blog Need4Sheed).

The Bucks have lost two straight at home (Bulls and Cavs) since beating the Pistons in Detroit coming out of the break; taking a game from George Karl — perpetrator of the infamous Ray Allen trade that kicked the Bucks into the Michael Redd era — is always sweet.

Streetball at the BC: Carmelo is playing tonight, lo and behold. Guess the skipper set his lil’ buddy straight. It’s 72-69 at half and the Bucks were whistled for almost a foul a minute in the first half, 19 in all. Charlie Villanueva was filling it up until his 2nd foul forced him and the rest of the Bucks starters (Ramon Sessions, RJ, Luc Mbah a Moute and Francisco Elson) to the bench, two fouls apiece.

First impression is the nonexistent defense that Karl’s Nuggets play, despite all that’s been said and written about how much better they are since the Allen Iverson-Chauncey Billups trade. I suppose the Western Conference definition of defense is a little different than the Eastern Conference definition of DEFENSE. The Bucks starting five, when not in foul trouble, is scoring at will and the Bucks are forcing turnovers all over the court.

Once upon a time in Seattle, Karl was considered a good defensive coach. Watching his Nuggets this season and last season has clarified that Karl was riding on Gary Payton, Nate McMillan and Shawn Kemp’s good defense on those Sonics teams. He never really had license to relentlessly harp on the Big Three Bucks when he was here, and it now seems like self-important puffery more than anything else. Shipping Ray Allen out of town in 2003 under a cloud of negativity… a spectacular temper tantrum, the stuff of insane Roman emperors.

Coach Nero.

I’m still bitter about the Ray Allen trade, obviously, and watching Ray pour in 31 pts at will against the Suns this afternoon is bringing out the bile for George Karl. That trade opened the door for what has become perhaps the worst investment in Wisconsin sports history, the ridiculous 6-year, $91 million deal handed to Michael Redd in 2005. Funny, that very same summer of 2005, the Supersonics signed Ray to a 5-year, $85 million contract.

The one-upsmanship of those two contracts was no coincidence — the Bucks couldn’t justify paying Redd, a one-time All-Star, the $17 million per year that Ray got, but made up for it by topping the contract total in Redd’s 6th year. Who’s idea was it that Redd could fill Ray’s shoes?  Why, George Karl’s, of course. The true shame is that a lot of Bucks fans bought it, thanks in part to Karl’s incessant badmouthing of Ray. Coach Nero set quite a fire on his way out.

The Big Three Bucks would have loved to play the Streetball going on at the BC as I write this. Charlie V is on fire — 26 pts with 14 minutes left in the game. Ramon Sessions has 23 pts, 8 assists. Bucks lead 93-92 in the 3rd.

Charlie V delivers: 36 pts, 5 boards, 4 assists, a career-high seven 3-pointers and a big shot with 30 seconds left to put the Bucks up by three and send the misfiring Nuggets scrambling.  Denver simply ran out of gas in the 4th and the Bucks gutted out a 120-117 win. Sessions blew past Chauncey (I left a step in Detroit) Billups all night, finishing with 27 pts and 8 assists.

See ya next season, Coach Nero. Thanks for the nonsense, the lousy memories and the still-smoldering franchise.

The Bucks are now 28-31 and 1-1/2 games ahead of the Bulls in the East standings after the Bulls loss today in Indiana in a game that both Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy sat out. This win looms big because the Bucks are back on the road this week, with tough games in Dallas Wednesday and in New Orleans Friday against Chris Paul‘s Hornets before returning home to play the hapless Wizards. Oh, to have that Bulls game last Wednesday back.

Standing pat: This is the type of win that John Hammond and Scott Skiles made possible for Bucks fans by standing pat at last week’s trade deadline. Ultimately, the commitment made last summer to building trust with the fans by putting a competetive, hardworking, team-first ball club on the BC court won out over the urge to tank the season and save money. Skiles and Hammond made the right choice.

Don Nelson trails only Lenny Wilkens on the all-time wins list for NBA head coaches.Raise a toast to Don Nelson, who won his 1,300th game as an NBA head coach Friday night, as his Warriors beat the Thunder 133-120. It’s a milestone reached by only one other coach, Lenny Wilkens (1,332).

The first 540 of Nellie’s wins (vs. just 344 losses) were, of course, with the Bucks, 1976-87. Nellie’s Marques-Sidney-Lanier-Winters-Bridgeman Bucks (1980-84) are to this day Nellie’s strongest claim to greatness, with 1981 the Bucks best shot at the title post-Kareem. Bird’s ’81 Celtics weren’t yet the formidable Celtics of the mid-1980’s, Magic’s Lakers underachieved and Moses Malone was still a Houston Rocket, more than a year away from joining Dr. J in Philly.

Although the Celtics did win the ’81 title, I’ve always felt that the true championship series that year was played in the knockdown-drag-out 7-game East Semifinals series between the Bucks-Sixers. Some of the best basketball I’ve ever seen was played in that series… to watch the referees lose track of the shot clock in the final minute of game seven to kill the Bucks chances has been surpassed in heartbreaking disbelief only once that I’m absolutely sure of: Florida 2000 and George Bush’s hanging chad “victory.”

A championship yet eludes the winningest (and best) coach in Bucks history … It should be mentioned that Nellie’s next best shot at the title post-Marques, Lanier and the Bucks was a good one: in 2003 with the Nowitzki-Nash-Finley Dallas Mavericks.

Nellie has signed on to coach Golden State through 2011, when — if Nellie’s career trend holds — the Warriors will likely be a 50-game winner and a team to reckon with in the West, with Nellie looking toward retirement with more wins than any coach in league history.

Lebron’s 55 Friday a BC record? Almost but not quite. The high remains the 57 pts Michael Redd tallied in a 113-111 loss to the Utah Jazz Nov. 11, 2006 (I had it in my head that this occurred on the road for some reason). Until Redd set the mark, the previous high was 54, scored by Allen Iverson Dec. 18, 2004 in a Sixers win over the then-defenseless Bucks.


Needless to say, after predicting a Bucks win against the Nuggets Sunday, griping about the Ray Allen trade and giving George Karl a new nickname, I got a kick out of waking up to see the Boston-Denver score from Monday night: Celtics 114, Nuggets 76 — that’s right 76 points for Karl’s Nuggets. Ray poured in 26 against his old coach’s team, and the Celtics kept bombing away in the 2nd half after being up by 30 at the half.

Sure, the Nuggets were coming home to play a back-to-back after a long 8-game road trip that ended with the loss to the Bucks on Sunday and a bruised knee for center Nene Hilario — but the Celtics played Sunday too and were without injured All-Pro Kevin Garnett. Also, the Celtics have played more games (58) than any team in the NBA but our Bucks (59 games).

Want a taste of Coach Nero’s style, in case you’ve forgotten? When Karl was in Milwaukee, the subject of the 44 points Ramon Sessions scored in the Bucks overtime loss to the Pistons Feb. 7 came up, to which Karl replied:

“Did he mention why he got 44?”  Michael Hunt took that as a swipe at Allen Iverson, whom Karl traded for Chauncey “I left a step in Detroit circa 2007” Billups, which it was. Somebody should let Karl know that Stooks was guarding Sessions for much of the Pistons game.  On Sunday against the Bucks, Chauncey couldn’t keep Sessions out of the paint, either, as Ramon shredded the Nuggets porous D for 27 points and 8 assists. ‘Spose that was Allen Iverson’s fault, coach?

Monday, the blame once again for the failure of Coach Nero’s team fell squarely upon the shoulders of Ray Allen.

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