Ever since I was a kid, one of my favorite holidays has been the 4th of July. The food, the weather, the lazy summer vibe of the day, yes, there’s a lot to look forward to this weekend. But what I’ve always liked most of all is the history imbued in the day. During my formative J.D. Mo years, I even had a glass-framed copy of the Declaration of Independence parchment hanging over the desk and typewriter in my room. In my pantheon of heroes, Thomas Jefferson was right up there with Marques Johnson, Cecil Cooper and Mike Caldwell.
To close our 233th year of Independence and get the 234th off to a good nose, let’s raise a toast-and-snort to the end of tyranny & throw one back for old Tom, who drained a few mugs of beer himself in Philly taverns whilst drafting the Declaration … probably because the tavern was one place he knew he could find refuge from one Ben Franklin (no barfly, that poor Richard), whose persistent pestiness, well intentioned though it surely was, did little kindness to the writing process. …
Happy Independence Day, Bucks fans!!!
Now for our Bucks item of the weekend …
Bucks plan to start Joe Alexander at small forward
According to Dunkin’ Joe Alexander himself, the plan is for Joe to start at SF next season, filling the vacancy created by the RJ trade.
The news comes to me from Bob Boozer Jinx street squad member Nicholas Wallk, who got a chance to talk to Joe this week at the Home Depot on Holt and Chase, where Nick works. Joe was waiting in line at checkout, shelving materials (or the like) in his cart, when Nick approached and said hello. When Joe gave a friendly hello in response, Nick thought he’d ask a couple of questions. Here’s how it went.
Nick: Since Richard Jefferson is gone to the Spurs, are you going to be the starting small forward next season?
Joe: That’s the plan.
Nick: Is that your plan or the Bucks plan?
Joe: That’s the plan.
This may not come as a surprise to some Bucks fans, considering the trade of RJ to the Spurs left a gaping maw at the small forward position — and because Scott Skiles likes to have his defensive stopper, Luc Mbah a Moute, ready to guard as many as four positions on the court, as well as the flexibility to start Luc or bring him off the bench. But it does come as a surpise to me after Joe’s uninspiring rookie year. Sure, he played some impressive ball off the bench, in spurts, in the 2nd half of the season, and he showed he’s got some range on his jumper. But progress was slow, and he still looked lost out there at times, something that should never be seen out of a pro ballplayer 50-plus games into the season.
I like the potential upgrade the Bucks have going for them at power forward with Ersan Ilyasova and Amir Johnson, but at small forward — it would be good for the Bucks to keep veteran forward-guard Bruce Bowen and his great defense around at least up until around the trading deadline. Bowen is reportedly considering retirement, though he would undoubtedly prefer to find his way back to the Spurs by playoff time next season. If the Bucks do convince Bowen to stay, they will be on the hook for his $4.1 million salary (as opposed to $2 million if he is released) but the Bucks have from now until next February to make moves that will keep them out of luxury tax territory. Bowen has a lot of trade value, particularly to teams looking for veteran help in the playoffs …
HOWEVER – the trend in the NBA is to make arrangements (Antonio McDyess, Joe Smith) that allow veterans to return to the teams of their choosing rather than ship them around as trade chips. Which brings us back to Joe …
If Joe’s right (no reason for him to jive our man Nick) and the plan is to give him his shot as the starter, more power to him and the Bucks youth movement. While there are questions about whether Joe’s starting small forward stuff, let’s find out. Bowen would help, but why spend the $2 million if he’d rather be elsewhere. As a fan, I’ll gladly wait a year or two more for winning if the Bucks make a genuine commitment to their under-24 players. Joe will be 23 in December; Mbah a Moute, 23 in September; Amir Johnson, turned 22 in May; Ersan Ilyasova’s 22; Andrew Bogut, the old man of the group, will be 25 in November.
It’s uncertain which of the veteran big men behind them will be around next season, but it may not matter. Roll the ball out there and let this athletic, versatile young frontcourt of five loose. Forget the Bucks pr bull about winning now. It’s time to build the future on young legs, win or lose in 2009-10.
Whatever happens, Joe made a he*! of an impression on our man Nick, who said Joe was a great guy, easy to talk to. Nick then issued the following statement for media release:
“I will make this commitment: I will buy the Joe Alexander jersey and wear it to games. I will also keep it in my locker at work in case I see him again.”
When asked what prompted this investment in Joe, Nick was sure:
“I’m buying the jersey because I met him and he’s a cool guy.”
Pretty cool, Joe. And cudos to you, Nick.