Zombie night at the Bradley Center… The Heat dancers… The Royal Ivey question

My pal Johnny “remember Royal Ivey” Price and I noticed something strange at the Bradley Center Saturday. It happened about 40 seconds before halftime as Joe Alexander stepped to the free throw line for the 5th time in the 2nd quarter, the Bucks leading the Oklahoma City Thunder 54-49.

Joe has struggled this season but he’s been playing pretty well of late, and was once again all over the court Saturday, blocking shots, rebounding, making plays and causing general havoc. And the Thunder couldn’t stop fouling him in the paint.

Trouble was, Joe couldn’t make a free throw. Not one, not two or three, but four straight Alexander charity tosses bricked out. “C’mon Joe, what are you, in middle school?” somebody heckled. Mighta been me.

Joe then got free for a dunk to reacquaint himself with the rim. A couple of minutes later, Joe stepped to the line for yet another pair of free throws. … a hush fell upon the Bradley Center as Joe set his feet, took a couple of dribbles, a deep breath and launched number 5 … And the crowd went …

Numb. Simply numb, as Joe’s shot rattled around and dropped through. Something very strange was afoot. We gave him a mock standing O from where we sat, and our section cheered even louder as he made the 2nd, but for the most part, you could hear a pin drop in the lower bowl.

Johnny “Ivey”: “Uh-oh”.

J.D.Mo: “Uh-oh is right. This can only mean one thing.”

We were lucky to get out of there alive, and so was Alexander. Seems half the fans are a zombie army ready to run Joe out of town, if you put any stock in the results of this brand new JS Online “what do think of Joe” poll.

The Bucks blew the game open in the 3rd quarter on their way to a 115-98 victory. Long time coming on that … as the Bucks broke a 4-game losing streak. … Richard Jefferson led the way with a season-high 35 pts.

Nice win last night (Monday), too, on fan appreciation night. The Bucks closed out the home schedule by beating the Orlando Magic for the first time this season. No, Dwight Howard wasn’t playing for the Magic and neither did All-Star forward Rashard Lewis or Hedo Turkoglu — but it was a relief to hear that the zombies had left the building. The Bucks got a standing O as the final seconds ticked off in their final game this season at the BC, where they won 22 of 41.

Miami Heat dancers Odaymis (top) and LuannaFrom deep in the land of Reggie

Roto Evil’s tribute to the Miami Heat dancers is a MUST see. The Heat dancers jiggled their way to their 4th straight NBA dance bracket championship earlier this month,  and they’re the only team to win the title in the history of the bracket. The secret to their success?

Hit the link. … Obviously far too much great as* on the Miami dance squad for the rest of the NBA dancers to contend with. … There’s just … so … much of it. …

The Royal Ivey question: Of course, Bucks fans remember Ivey from the lackluster 2007-08 Bucks, and so does Johnny “remember Royal Ivey” Price. One of the games we went to last season was an 87-80 Bucks win over the Atlanta Hawks, pre-Mike Bibby trade.

The mid-January game was a high point in the Bucks dismal season, one of their more cohesive efforts in which the Larry Krystowiak system seemed to work. Ivey, who started at point guard in place of Mo Williams, had everything to do with it — spearheading a solid defensive effort that forced Joe Johnson into a bad shooting night and directing the offense inside to Andrew Bogut, who led the Bucks with 21 pts and 10 rebs. Ivey grabbed 8 boards of his own and dished out 6 assists.

What was important, however, was how they played. On a bad shooting night for everybody but Bogut, the Bucks shared the ball. Yi Jianlian shot more than Michael Redd, surprisingly enough. The team made Bogut a centerpiece, and, for once, they seemed to be on the same page. Note that neither Mo or Desmond Mason played in this game and Redd was willing to let his teammates play a little offense.

Granted, it was one good game from a forgettable season, but Ivey impressed Johnny (and me) as a good athlete who could run a competent floor game, D it up and run the floor in transition.

Royal Ivey, Sixers.com photoFast forward to this season, and the 27-year-old Ivey, now in his 5th season, is a contributing member of the playoff-bound Sixers’ bench brigade. The Sixers of course, are known for their ball-hawking defense and ability to transition at breakneck speed after forced turnovers and long rebounds — two areas in which the Bucks needed major improvements last summer. Transition remains a problem for the Bucks, as they’ve had a tough time converting their league-leading forced turnovers into points.

So how is it that Ivey, a free agent last summer, was considered a good fit in Philly but not in Milwaukee?  He came pretty cheap to the Sixers, who signed Ivey to the league minimum for a 5th year pro — $854,000 against their cap — and gave him a $960,000 player option for next season. The Bucks, meanwhile, outbid the Celtics and others for the services of Tyronn Lue, who signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract to sit on Scott Skiles’ bench.

The Bucks traded Lue to Orlando in February for guard-forward Keith Bogans, who’s even more expensive at $2.57 million this season, and, like Lue, will be a free agent this summer. Basically, the Bucks could have had Ivey for two seasons for about $600,000 less than they paid Lue and Bogans this season.

It’s not as though the Bucks will save luxury tax room by not having Ivey around next season. In early April the Bucks signed Salim Stoudamire for the rest of this season and next, so (I’m estimating here), the $960,000 that Ivey will be paid is more or less accounted for in Stoudamire.

Add it up: Bogans, Lue and Stoudamire have/will cost the Bucks about $3.3 million this season and next filling Ivey’s roster spot. And let’s not forget the $100,000 paid to Eddie Gill this season. The Sixers are set to pay Ivey $1.8 million in those two years. That’s a $1.5 million difference and counting — a lot of scratch in this or any economy.

Interestingly enough, Ivey, Stoudamire and Lue were teammates in Atlanta in the 2006 and 2007 seasons, and Ivey started more games (83) than Lue and Stoudamire combined.  While Ivey can’t shoot like Lue, this season in Philly he’s posted a 35% mark from downtown, competitive with Stoudamire’s career mark of 36%.

No matter, Ivey at 6’4″ is the tallest of the three players, the better, more versatile athlete, and can guard the 2 and play point. In short (or tall) — he would seem to be “the Scott Skiles type” of the three players, and was good enough for the athletic, uptempo, ballhawking Sixers last summer, but not the Bucks.

It’s still a mystery as to why Hammond and Skiles let him go, and very curious that Hammond blew an extra $1.5 million or so of Herb Kohl’s money basically filling Royal Ivey’s shoes. As Johnny says:

“You know, the whole thing with Royal Ivey just really makes me wonder what the Bucks are doing.”

Ivey’s revenge: The Bucks failed to beat the Sixers this season and have lost five straight to them. Ivey in fact, is directly responsible for a Bucks defeat at home in early January, as he drained three from the land of Reggie in the 4th quarter to help the Sixers to a 110-105 victory.

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The Sixers, with two games to play, are battling with the Bulls for 6th seed and the rights to play the Magic in round one of the playoffs instead of the #2-seeded Celtics. It’ll be tough for Philly to grab sixth — their final two opponents are the Celtics and Cavs. The 41-40 Bulls finish up in Chicago against the Raptors, who’ve been playing well of late.

Bulls lock Pistons into 8th: The sixth seed is still up for grabs, but the Cleveland Cavs know who they’ll play when the playoffs open this weekend — the drama-a-day Detroit Pistons have floundered to the 8th seed. Rookie of the Year shoo-in Derrick Rose and shooting guard Ben Gordon led a 4th quarter comeback in Detroit as the Bulls dumped the Pistons to 8th with a 91-88 win.

Blog-a-Bull is almost impressed.

The Cavs clinched home court throughout the playoffs Monday night in Indianapolis, overcoming 38 points from Danny Granger and 27 from rookie Brandon Rush to win 117-109. Rush is another guy the Bucks passed on last summer to pick Alexander, and the Pacers are another East lottery team playing some good ball right now. Lebron led the Cavs with 37. The Cavs are 66-15 with one home game left to play. The Lakers, with just 17 losses, will have home court advantage against every team but Cleveland.

Bad news for Cleveland: Big Ben Wallace is out “indefinitely” with a strained left knee tendon, the Columbus dispatch is reporting. Chances are the defensive menace won’t play this weekend against his former team, the Pistons.

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