Asked by Bucks beat writers what his message to fans was with the Bucks disappointing season coming to a close, coach Scott Skiles made an apology:
“I would apologize. Look, I’m responsible for this. I understand that. I would never run from that. It’s my responsibility to get the team to play at the highest level they can play at, and obviously I failed at that. This has been a very difficult season and it’s going to stay with me for a long time. We’re going to try and get better. Do our best to get better. For all of us, that’s not a good feeling.” — Scott Skiles’ season post-script.
Given that the Bucks by the end were just an April Fool’s Day buzzer-beater in Indiana away from the 8th playoff spot in the East, one can say that the coach’s sometimes baffling player personnel decisions are partly responsible for his team not making the playoffs. The Bucks should be preparing for a Round 1 series with the Bulls, and, as I wrote earlier this week, it was a blown, easy opportunity to fuel the rivalry with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Chicago.
Quote to note, GM John Hammond: “We’re just not playing pro basketball at the moment. We have injuries. Big deal. Every team has injuries. It’s getting to the point where there’s no excuse for the way we played tonight. No excuse whatsoever.” — Andrew Bogut, the Bucks 2011 nominee for Defensive Player of the Year, after one of the Bucks worst performances of the year, an 11-point Saturday night home loss Feb. 5 to coach John Kuester’s mutinous Detroit Pistons.
Bucks GM John Hammond, in a lengthy interview aired during the final Bucks broadcast, was not in the apologetic mood that the press found Scott Skiles in at seasons end. Hammond was anything but, in fact, as he was feisty in defending his history of winning — “I’ve always won.” And, as expected, Hammond played the injury card.
Bucks players missed 277 total games last season, and, that of course, explains their poor record. But not everything.
The injuries do not explain the Bucks’ Jekyll and Hyde management of them, which varied from pushing players back too soon early on to the opposite approach in the 2nd half. The Bucks didn’t realize Brandon Jennings had a fractured foot until he had played five quarters on it, for example. They then monitored his minutes a bit too much for his (or anybody else’s) liking when he returned.
The injuries do not explain the chemistry lost from last season due to Hammond’s offseason moves.
In particular and most importantly, the injuries do not fully explain the Bucks’ abysmal backcourt play. Nor do the injuries change the fact that Hammond in the offseason cleared from the Bucks 2010 bench every last guard who played behind Jennings or John Salmons.
Salmons and Jennings were healthy at the same time for less than half of the season, and as a result both players struggled mightily to find an offensive groove. Behind them, it took about half a season for the Bucks to realize that Keyon Dooling wasn’t competent to run the point. Beyond Dooling there was the ever-entertaining, yet often-aggravating adventure that is pint-sized veteran Earl Boykins. Other than Earl, the Bucks were forced to sign Garrett Temple to two short term contracts. Shooting guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, acquired from New Jersey in the offseason, had some moments but rode the bench. CD-R doesn’t think he’ll be back next year, no hard feelings.
Gone were Luke Ridnour, Royal Ivey and Jerry Stackhouse in free agency. Gone was Charlie Bell to Golden State in the Corey Maggette deal. Gone was Jodie Meeks to the 76ers last February in a trade for Ivey, center Primoz Brezec and a draft pick (injured Darington Hobson) who the Bucks cut in December.
Gone was any sense of backcourt continuity or bench experience with Skiles’ offensive and defensive demands. This was painfully obvious in December and January while Jennings was sidelined with the foot fracture.
Gone was a spot in the playoffs.
The honest approach for the 2010 NBA Executive of the Year would be to own up — like Skiles did — to his share of the responsibility, but that would run against the grain of Hammond’s past practice with the press (and, by extension, the fan base); and he apparently doesn’t believe it’s in his best interest.
(It seems that I forgot all about Michael Redd, who tried unsuccessfully to mesh with Jennings/Ridnour/Bell last season. The Bucks were 12-18 in the games that Redd played. Redd missed the first 72 games this season, but, sorry about the omission. It does occur to me that Jennings probably thinks his GM is nuts, or, in the very least that he doesn’t care much for cohesion.)
Notes: Sixers shooting guard Meeks will be the lone member of the 2010 Bucks starting for a 2011 playoff team. … Kurt Thomas remains on the Chicago bench but seems to have lost his backup center minutes to (too lazy to look up his first name) Asik. … Guard Ivey is the 10th man on the Thunder bench.