Behind the Bucks surge

The Bucks were the talk of  the NBA even before beating the Celtics Tuesday, as TNT analyst David Aldridge honed in on the job Scott Skiles has done this year. In his Monday “Morning Tip” column at, Aldridge wrote that Skiles is “doing one of the best coaching jobs in the league.”

Skiles credits the fact that the Bucks didn’t give up during the tough part of their schedule in January.

“The M.O. of our franchise over the past several years, anyway, has been to kind of get down, fall behind a little bit and then, boom, just cave, and that’s it,” Skiles said. “And the season’s over by now, or before now, even. We were 18-25. But during that stretch, right near the end of that stretch, we started playing better. We took Dallas to the wire on the road, Houston to the wire on the road … we got Jerry [Stackhouse], and he started to help, and we were able to finish strong before the break. So I guess to sum it all up is the fact that we didn’t quit. We kept playing, played through it.”

Aldridge also talked to Bogut about his improvement, and the fact that Skiles is asking more of him this season. The Bucks are 18-6 over the last 24 games, and Bogut has been on a shot-blocking tear, bringing his average up to a career best 2.4 per game. Against the Celtics, AB was downright dominating, scoring 25 and grabbing 17 boards to go with four blocks.

On TNT’s Inside the NBA last night, Kenny Smith tabbed Brandon Jennings for Rookie of the Year over the Kings’ Tyreke Evans and the Warriors’ Stephon Curry because he’s had more impact on a team many picked to finish last with a healthy Michael Redd. “Their best player,” Kenny called Redd.

Nobody on the panel agreed with Kenny’s Redd assessment of course, led by Charles Barkley — he of the infamous “Is Andrew Bogut still in the league?” Barkley gave the ROY nod to Evans. But in doing so he finally gave AB his due.

“Andrew Bogut is having a phenomenal year,” Barkley said, emphasis on phenomenal. “… He’s the reason the Milwaukee Bucks will make the playoffs.”

Kevin McHale also gave the nod to Evans.

But despite the national buzz about Skiles, Bogut and Jennings (and John Salmons) Bucks fans in Milwaukee will open up their morning daily and read that Jerry Stackhouse has made the big difference. How do these things happen in Bucks media? And why do they happen?

Needless to say, the usually stellar Tom Enlund was not responsible.

The Bucks are 18-6 since Stackhouse arrived, true enough. He’s helped the cause in a couple of wins and added to the depth. It’s a long season.   

But it’s difficult to see Stackhouse as much of a difference, not with Luc Mbah a Moute and Bogut playing as well as they’ve played over that stretch. Everybody’s contributing these days, except Charlie Bell, marooned on the bench.

Since acquiring John Salmons, the Bucks are 10-1. Would the Bucks have lost a game or two with Bell playing Stackhouse’s minutes.  I don’t think so, and in fact, the D Charlie blanketed on D-Wade contributed directly to a couple of those wins in the 8-5 stretch the Bucks had after their six game road trip West and before the trading deadline.

More than anything, the Bucks just needed Michael Redd to take a seat on the sidelines. Bucks fans are almost universal in realizing this. But Journal Sentinel won’t come around to saying it.

I can agree to being more positive about Stackhouse than I was when the Bucks picked him up. But fans need the daily paper to be a source of news, not a shill for whatever cover the Bucks and their GM require at the tail end of the Redd era. If you’re inspired to buy some Bucks tix, don’t do it for the minor Stackhouse factor. Buy them to see the first All-Pro center the Bucks have had since Kareem. And that rookie point guard Kenny Smith’s talking about on TNT.

Note: Bob Lanier was never voted All-Pro in his career, though he was a 7-time All-Star selection, once as a Buck (1982).  If Bogut continues to play like he’s playing now (no reason to think he won’t) he should make at least 3rd team All-Pro.  Kareem, the Big O, Marques Johnson, Sidney Moncrief and Terry Cummings are the only players in Bucks history to make 2nd team All-Pro or higher. Kareem, Marques and Sidney were the only 1st-teamers.

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