Once upon a midnight dreary, as I pondered weak and weary … my last post, words on screen blurring bleary …
Has it really been 12 days, nothing new on the Ramon Sessions front? There's nothing to even rehash. Nothing new at all — while the poker face of Bucks GM John Hammond is ever more perceived to be a sign that Sessions will be gone soon, probably to the New York Knicks.
WHAT IF, I pondered… What if the Bucks let their best point guard become a Knick? What if …
Before I knew it, I was dozing in a heap beside the computer.
ACT I: The Bucks leave training camp and embark on the 2009-10 NBA season with Luke Ridnour starting at point, rookie Brandon Jennings burning sneaker rubber on the Bucks bench, busily posting about life in the NBA for all the new friends he's made on Facebook. Coach Scott Skiles likes the brash kid, but just can't bring himself to start a rookie. Skiles explains:
"The point guard position is the toughest to learn in the NBA, so we've got to give Brandon some time to develop. That's offensively. Defensively, there are just too many good point guards in the league to put so much responsibility on a young guy who's never played in the league."
Nobody asks Skiles whether he believes Ridnour can guard the leagues point gaurds, or lead a winning NBA team without a future Hall of Famer in his prime roaming the wing (Seattle Supersonics, 2005, with a healthy Ray Allen).
The Bucks open on the road in Philly against the Sixers (Bucks schedule). Luke buries his first 3-point shot. But his shooting percentage goes down from there as he misses the next three. The fans want to see Jennings. But Skiles wants to bring him along slowly, and refuses to yank Ridnour, even after a bad pass and some manic decision-making by Crazy Luke. The Bucks lose on two late threes by Royal Ivey, who's four inches taller than Ridnour and has become, statistically, not such a bad 3-point shooter. Ivey remains a key part of the Sixers guard rotation, which is what he's been (at low cost) since the Bucks let him go in 2008.
The Bucks come home to face Charlie Villanueva and the Detroit Pistons and treat the home fans to a wild one. The winning play is a wacky, behind the back pass by Lucky Luke that careens off Michael Redd, hits the backboard, is tipped off the glass by Luc Mbah a Moute, tipped again by Hakim Warrick, grabbed by Andrew Bogut and slammed home with 0.2 seconds left on the game clock. Villanueva looks confused when asked why he was already heading down the court to set up for a three-pointer, even as the loose ball was being batted around by the Bucks frontcourt.
"I was open," Charlie finally says.
Bucks marketing staff considers a Lucky Luke highlight reel to help sell some tickets (Luke is nothing if not a human highlight film) but back off when Redd threatens to pout about it.
ACT II: Bucks lose in Chicago, get a win in Minnesota and come home to face the Knicks and their new starting point guard, Ramon Sessions. The Knicks offered Ramon a 4-year, $21 million contract, which he signed and the Bucks decided not to match. Sessions didn't even wait for the Clippers to come up with a better offer, realizing that the Baron Davis drama wasn't such a healthy career opportunity.
Sessions devours the Bucks point guards on his way to a 25-point, 14 assist performance, and the Knicks win. Ridnour turns his ankle in the 4th trying to keep up with Ramon, who's been blowing by Luke and Jennings all game.
The game is marred when Bogut breaks Darko Milicic's nose in the 3rd with a wicked elbow. As Bogut faces suspension, the clip of the play in question makes him an international youtube sensation. The fans love it, especially those in Detroit. Even Charles Barkley remembers that Bogut is in the league.
"What the $%@ was Darko even doing in the game?" demands Skiles, suspecting foul play on the part of Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni. Bucks are 2-3.
ACT III: The Bucks, on a six game home stand, playing without Bogut and Ridnour, drop the next two to George Karl's Denver Nuggets and Don Nelson's Golden State Warriors, Redd scores 70 points in those games as rookie Jennings apparently knows little else but to feed the ball to Michael, who shoots 47 times in the losses. Warriors forward Anthony Randolph lights up Joe Alexander for 37. Alexander might've returned the favor if he had had opportunities against the Warriors soft D, but the Bucks forwards aren't seeing the ball too much on this home stand. Bucks record falls to 2-5.
ACT IV: A contingent of Bucks fans attend game 8 against Dallas wearing paper bags over their heads and Sessions jerseys. Things get ugly when somebody chucks a Mo Williams bobblehead at Redd and an already edgy security force goes berserk ejecting an entire section from the upper tier. Meanwhile, on the court, Jason Kidd sends Jennings back to school (to the school he skipped out on I should say).
The Bucks, however, are putting up a fight in the paint (Bogut's back in the lineup) and the Mavericks still don't have a shooting guard to matchup with Redd, who's on fire. Bucks win, despite Jennings' education and a hobbled Ridnour. Mavs owner Mark Cuban is in attendance, and regards Redd's offensive explosion with keen interest.
Things get worse for the Bucks point guards the following night as Devin Harris goes off for 33 points and New Jersey bombs away at the Bucks from three-point land. It's a fun game to watch, though, as the Bucks — again outrebounding their opponents — scrap their way back into the game with Jennngs at the point and an all-defensive lineup of Charlie Bell, Luc Mbah a Moute, Hakim Warrick and Bogut. They win it when Yi Jianlian dribbles it off his feet twice late in the 4th and Bell and Ersan Ilyasova hit a couple of late threes. The center battle is something to watch: Bogut finishes with 17 pts and 20 rebounds against Brook Lopez.
Larry Brown's Charlotte
Hornets Bobcats beat the Bucks by 5 two nights later, and the Bucks hit the road at 4-6. Ridnour is still hobbled, Jennings is entertaining but struggling, though Bucks fans take heart in the great flashes he's shown in almost every game. Joe Alexander is also struggling. He hasn't been seeing the ball much. Redd is averaging 25.7 points per game.
As the Bucks ready for a 4-game road trip to the southwest, Alexander, Ilayasova, Warrick, Amir Johnson and Bogut are witnessed huddled in a speakeasy at what apparently is a secret meeting. The words "black hole" are heard muttered more than once; Bogut refers repeatedly to someone named "Ramon"; Warrick, Ilyasova and Johnson just shake their heads, wondering what they missed.
"We've got to defend the perimeter better," Skiles says at the outset of the road trip. "And I don't think anyone realizes just how hurt Luke has been. He's really playing through a lot of pain."
Redd announces that his knee has been acting up a bit, and that he won't join his teammates on the road trip.
ACT V: The Road. In Memphis, the Bucks struggle against Lionel Hollins' Grizzlies.
"#$@%, this is like playing against us," Skiles says, "It's nice that Hollins runs my sets but, c'mon, couldn't we figure out some way to put some pressure on (PG) Mike Conley."
OJ Mayo is having a good game, despite the mauling he's getting from Charlie Bell. But again, the Bucks frontcourt battles on and this becomes a game. Bucks pull it out thanks to some timely threes from Bell, Ilyasova and Jodie Meeks; and a big advantage on the glass.
On to San Antonio. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have been tearing up the league with Richard Jefferson as their new sidekick, but Tim Duncan's record against Bogut stands at 3-5 going into this game. Unfortunately, this one's over early as the perimeter play of the Spurs kicks the wind out of the Bucks advantage in the paint. Bogut is plagued by foul trouble. The Spurs cheerleaders spend a lot of time milling about RJ, their $15 million man. Bucks record stands at 5-7. Bogut's record against Duncan drops to 5-4.
New Orleans. Luc Mbah a Moute gets the assignment guarding Chris Paul but he's only able to slow him down. Jennings seems in awe as CP3 dazzles even the referees, who at one point watch him take three steps (it might have been four but no one in the arena can be sure) on a statue-of-liberty, triple-fake, no-look pass to Emeka Okafor, who botches the play by crashing into Bogut (charging is called) on his way to the basket.
"Always seem to play well against Okafor," Bogut says after the game, a close one won by the Hornets.
"At least this time, my team won," ex-Bobcat Okafor responds when asked about Bogut's continuing domination of their matchup.
Ridnour's shooting woes continue, as he's chucking up a very Charlie Villanueva-like 25% from downtown. That's not too far below what he shot last season. Yet Luke keeps firing away from the land of Reggie..
Oklahoma City. Still a D-league franchise, more or less, and the Bucks are in no mood to give up any boards. Skiles ratchets down on Ridnour and Jennings, who pass first most of the game. Bogut and the front court control the game, and the Bucks go home on a positive note, despite some foul moods in the locker room.
"We're 6 and 8, and other than the Spurs, we haven't played the contenders yet," Bogut growls, noting that Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic or next on the schedule. "There's no way we should be 6-8 with the schedule we've played, yet we that's what we are. We're not a lottery team. But we can't say that unless we prove we aren't. It's been the same $@$# thing every year since I've been here, like a bad habit we just can't seem to kick."
After the Magic and Bulls at home, the next eight opponents include the Celtics, Lakers and Trailblazers, and a home and home vs. the Cavs. … Tough. The Bucks could finish that stretch 10-14, maybe even 9 and 15 …
Will Skiles last past X-Mas? Bulls fans eyeing the struggles of their rivals north have their doubts. …
Suddenly I was awake, dusting off my eyelids, not sure whether I was dreaming or whether it was late November already. I checked the date on my cell phone, Aug. 9. Sessions isn't yet a Knick.
And the Bucks 2009-10 record is still 0-0. …
TO BE CONTINUED (of course) …