The Bucks 2010-11 Bucks in their first two games look eerily similar to the 209-10 team that tried and failed last Nov.-Dec. to work Michael Redd into its rotation. The Bucks with Redd stood around on offense; the ball didn’t move; they lacked chemistry and consistent defense; and they lost twice as often as they won (the Bucks were 6-12 when Redd played).
To be fair, that team — like this season’s Bucks — had injury issues. After a 6-3 start Andrew Bogut went out for six games with a deep thigh bruise and Luc Mbah a Moute missed a couple of weeks with a bum ankle. Mbah a Moute has been hobbled by a bad ankle in the Bucks first two games this season, and Bogut has been limited by foul trouble, his healing right arm and some conditioning issues.
What last year’s Bucks team had that the current Bucks do not was a backup center in Kurt Thomas; a backup point guard nicknamed Frodo who knew the offense as well as the coach and played with desperate energy; and they had the unselfish “D-Wade stopper” Charlie Bell, who made sure that the ball was going in the post to Bogut. With the unsung hero Bell starting in Redd’s place, last year’s Bucks were 19-16 including a couple of clumsy, disjointed losses with Redd firing ill-timed bricks in a reserve role.
What last year’s Bucks team didn’t have was a logjam at forward; they had a simple rotation (when Redd wasn’t playing). The eight-man rotation of Jennings, Bell, Luke Ridnour, Carlos Delfino, Mbah a Moute, Ersan Ilyasova, Bogut and Thomas was well-knit, smart, unselfish, and extremely hard-working. Nobody outrebounded that team by 23 boards (the T-Wolves had a 62-39 rebounding advantage). That team never gave up 19 offensive boards. What’s different about this season?
1) Not once last season did Skiles relegate Ilyasova and Mbah a Moute to scrub 26 minutes … COMBINED. And;
2) Not once during the 2009-10 82-game schedule did the Bucks suit up without a legitimate backup at center for Bogut.
Those two factors are directly attributable to the rebounding failure in Minneapolis Friday night, and the failure to win “50-50” plays and get to loose balls in the paint. And it’s no accident that when Skiles played Mbah a Moute, finally, late in the 3rd quarter, the Bucks pulled back into the game and erased most of a 17-point T-wolves lead.
On the court for that run were Brandon Jennings, pint-sized Earl Boykins, Corey Maggette, Mbah a Moute and Bogut.
Skiles can’t solve the backup center problem until GM John Hammond acquires a backup center. But coach Skiles can remember last season, and some of the things that made the Bucks tough, scrappy and competitive for most of it.
More Mbah a Moute, now that he’s able to play, and some renewed trust in Ersan Ilyasova are two of those things. Here’s hoping Skiles remembers them tonight in the home opener against Larry Brown’s Charlotte Bobcats — no strangers themselves to scrappy play and tough D.
A must win home opener: Both the Bucks and Bobcats are looking to avoid starting 0-3. With a difficult Portland-Boston back-to-back on the schedule next week for the Bucks, 0-and-3 could very quickly become 0-5.