The Bucks got their first preseason win up in Green Bay Saturday against the Derrick-Rose-less Chicago Bulls, thanks to some good versatility by their young forwards off the bench (a combined 30 pts and 17 rebs by Hakim Warrick, Ersan Ilyasova and Luc Mbah a Moute), some solid minutes from Andrew Bogut (12 pts, 5 rebs in 19 mins) and some long range bombing from Carlos Delfino.
Young forwards off the bench?
That's right. 37-year-old Kurt Thomas and Carlos Delfino started at the forward positions. No, it's not another Bucks nightmare. Thomas and Delfino got the start, and both Journal Sentinel and AP confirm that, indeed, Skiles did it on purpose. Really.
Of course, Luke "too many nicknames" Ridnour has started at point guard thus far, with rookie Brandon Jennings coming off the bench. That much we saw that coming. It was never likely (and still isn't) that coach Scott Skiles would start a rookie at the outset of the season. So far, though, Jennings has played the bulk of the preseason point guard minutes.
Heading into this season the Bucks needed to be four things: young, defensive-minded, tough on the boards and quick to move the ball around on offense.
It's far too early to say the mission is in the mud, but after GM John Hammond's summer-ending moves and three preseason games, I'm beginning to wonder.
Can it be that Skiles on Saturday was sending a message to his young forwards, crowded as they were in a bunch on the Bucks bench? — "If you want PT, you have to play better than Kurt Thomas and Carlos Delfino."
Please. But perhaps it does shed some light on why GM Hammond held onto Thomas and traded young PF Amir Johnson for Delfino (adding to the payroll in the process) when he could have bought Thomas out and let him seek a contract from a playoff contender. The Bucks actually intend to play Thomas (at least for now), and this was apparently more important than resigning Ramon Sessions.
Even in his prime with the Knicks, Thomas was no great difference-maker (remembering the 1999 finals). Some nice stats a few years later but the Knicks had fallen fast into lotteryland. Now that Thomas is 37, he's little more than a big body taking up space, albeit one who may still be able to knock down a jumper or two. But why would the Bucks need him to knock down J's when Ilyasova and Warrick can do the same? The big man's value on this team is primarily as a backup to Bogut should the injury bug hit the Bucks center again.
Can Ersan play power forward? There's the rub, the question that the starting of Thomas definitely raises, especially after Kevin Love and the T-Wolves, and then the Detroit Pistons frontcourt, bruised the Bucks in the first two preseason games. On the other hand, Bogut played so little that it's too early to judge whether Thomas would have made any difference. The good news is that Ilyasova, Mbah a Moute and Warrick all played more minutes than Thomas, even after the early start.
And let's be thankful it's only preseason and these games are meaningless … up to a point. …
Highlights/lowlights from last week's Pistons-Bucks game are still up at NBA.com. Check 'em out. Lotta good guards in the NBA. Better than ours, I'm afraid. Why am I writing like the android "Leon" in BladeRunner?