Gooden time: On the road in the west without Andrew Bogut, Bucks need their “Big Zero” like never before

Bucks GM John Hammond’s $6 million man will get another chance to prove his worth in Sacramento tonight, as center Andrew Bogut has not yet returned to the team.   Bogut left for “personal reasons” Tuesday in Utah.

UPDATE: As of today (Thursday pregame), Bogut was still gone and the Kings have fired coach Paul Westphal.

So it’s up to the much-maligned Drew Gooden, “the Big Zero,” the man who has seemed in a world of his own as a Buck, to establish a paint presence against Chucky Hayes and the Kings young frontcourt of J.J. Hickson, Jason Thompson and, yep – he’s back from another temper tantrum and fight with the now departed Westphal – DeMarcus Cousins.

These are matches made in heaven for Gooden.  There are no DeAndre Jordans or Blake Griffins on the Kings roster (those two nightmares await in L.A. Friday). The Kings are big and slow and like to throw their weight around, just like Drew.  Pigs in slop?  Something like that.  This will be a rugged game in the paint.

It’s not Gooden’s modus operandii, but he may want to help mind offensive opportunities for his fellow big men, Ersan Ilyasova and Jon Leuer.  Ilyasova started with Gooden in Utah and shot just 1 for 8 in the Bucks’ 71-point offensive meltdown.  Leuer shot 1 for 4.

The Bucks need scoring from their big forwards, no doubt about that, with ill-shooting Brandon Jennings and Stephen Jackson manning most of the perimeter minutes.  Ilyasova, in particular, is due for a good game, and he’ll start on ex-Cav Hickson, with whom he’s fairly well matched and acquainted.  It should be a battle.

But what I’m looking forward to the most is a Leuer vs. Cousins matchup off the bench.  The Bucks will need Leuer to score, and Cousins is too slow-footed to guard the Bucks rookie.  Cousins may be too big for Leuer, but Cousins is susceptible to offensive fouls, frustration, temper tantrums and other drama.

The last time the Bucks were in Sacramento, Cousins committed four offensive charges against Ilyasova and Bogut, fouled out, threw a fit at the refs, and the Bucks prevailed with a strong 4th quarter.

I can’t really think of any two young players who are such polar opposites as these two.  Leuer, the cool, clever, good shooting, in control and fully developed 4-year college player vs. the raw, immature, undeveloped, out-of-control but talented Cousins.    Leuer vs. Cousins:  Book it, this should be fun to watch.

Kings PF/C Jason Thompson is also a handful off the bench.  Bucks shot-blocker Larry Sanders will get his minutes, and plenty of opportunity to wreak havoc above the rim.  Larry is his name.

TEAM TRAINER TEDIUM:  Mike Dunleavy, Jr., is still out with a groin injury and not with the team.  Luc Mbah a Moute is not expected to play due to soreness in his knee.  Beno Udrih is day-to-day with the mashed shoulder he suffered in a collision with Andre Miller on Monday.  Rookie Tobias Harris has not practiced.  Darington Hobson has been recalled from the D-League and will probably play tonight.  Aren’t Bucks injury reports boring?  You bet.

JOHN SALMONS:   The Kings are all about their young guns, Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette, but the old fish is getting his minutes starting at small forward.  Salmons’ defense is just as solid as ever and will likely guard Jackson, who, by transitive property of the 3-team trade, was the guy he was traded for.  Jimmer and Beno, Tobias Harris and Shaun Livingston are the other pieces in this trade, which should make tonight’s game, in the very least, interesting.

Salmons has started all seven games for the Kings and had a workmanlike game playing 30 minutes guarding Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest in a Kings win.  Against the Knicks, he was the best King on the floor during a long stretch in the first half, though he had his hands full guarding Carmelo Anthony.

And yes – Salmons is still shooting like crap (34%), though he’s hit a good percentage of his threes (38%), better than the 32% Jimmer’s shooting.

Sure, I’ll be watching Salmons because he’s not Fredette or Stephen Jackson, but also because GM Hammond gave up on him far too soon.  The revolving door that is the Bucks backcourt with Jennings is a sign that Hammond probably has ADD.

STATS CHECK:   The Bucks remain 2nd in the league in team defense giving up just 95.2 pts per 100 possessions, tied with the Bulls behind Denver.  The Bucks are 2nd in forcing turnovers (17.5% turnover rate) and 2nd in defensive field goal percentage, holding opponents to a woeful 44.4% effective shooting.  (Effective shooting counts one made shot for a made field goal and 1.5 made shots for three-pointers.)

But they’ve plunged to 28th in the NBA in team offense,  scoring only 96.5 points per 100 possessions, causing fans throughout Bucksland to wonder whether this is what we get with Jennings at the point.  There may be limits to how much the Bucks can improve from here.  Even baby steps would be welcome, given the strength of the defense.

With that in mind, most troubling is the Bucks defensive rebounding, which has fallen to 71%.  They are not protecting their defensive backboard very well at all, despite a reputation as one of the better rebounding teams in the league.

The Bucks rank 24th in controlling the defensive glass, which obviously undermines the great on-the-ball shot defense they’re playing.  This gets more and more surprising with each game it continues.

Not surprising is the jumper-chucking Bucks’ inability to the get to the line.  They’re dead last in Free-Throws-Field-Goal percentage — only 16.4% of their shots have been free throws.

Defensively, the Bucks are nearly opposite:  They don’t allow teams to shoot well but they foul a lot.  26% of Bucks opponents’ shots have been free throws.  Partial blame for this goes to Kevin Love and the T-Wolves loving referees.

24 thoughts on “Gooden time: On the road in the west without Andrew Bogut, Bucks need their “Big Zero” like never before

  1. J.D. Mo. Post author

    “We should be 4-and-2,” Brandon Jennings said after the Sacramento loss. We’ll look back as they struggle to keep any hope of the playoffs alive and say, “they needed to start 7-and-4.” The early schedule was filled with winnable games, yet for the second year in a row, the team that John Hammond and Scott Skiles put on the court was not ready to start the season.

  2. J.D. Mo. Post author

    The Warriors had pinned some hope on Kwame Brown … It was not to be – now the call goes out to Earl!! The Warriors are 3-and-8 and have played the toughest schedule in the league, while the Bucks are 4-and-7 and have played the 22nd toughest schedule, or 9th easiest. Charlotte and Sacramento will loom larger as we go …

    I see 11 of the Bucks first 18 games on the road, with the Bucks doing well to be 7-and-10 facing a Bulls-Lakers back-to-back Jan. 27-28. So we stay home after the Lakers game and face the Pistons on the 30th, desperately needing win No. 8.

  3. Kevin

    It makes those losses to Charlotte and Sacramento even worse. The record would be 6-5 instead of 4-7 with Beno on the way back.
    But hey, Miami lost 3 straight out west and they are supposed to be the best.
    Golden State just signed Barron. Maybe we can work out a muti player deal to get him.

  4. J.D. Mo. Post author

    There’s so much focus on our bigs, Leuer and Ilyasova and Gooden, especially with Bogut out, that many, many Bucks fans are missing how inconsistent and often bad Delfino has been. Jackson’s been the same.

    What a mess this is right now. Skiles? Hammond? A real team trainer?

  5. Kevin

    When Bogut missed this game, I understood the less than stellar performance, probably another injury, which turns out to be a possible concussion. Man, what a struggle for this guy. Looks like we just have him for home games.
    Jackson and Delfino shot 6-19, Harris and Hobson 1-14. So, they will struggle with consistency without Beno and Dunleavy.

  6. J.D. Mo. Post author

    If the Bucks could be taken seriously, Detroit was a must win. Strong games on many fronts, and finally held up on the boards 35-35 with a less-than-stellar game from Bogut. Looking for more from AB tonight in Dallas, a place where the Bucks have had some success the last couple of years.

  7. Kevin

    Good to have strong games by Jackson and Delfino, but no Ginobli guarding them was probably a factor.
    Dunleavy is out longer than expected but this is a great opportunity for Harris who has performed well and needs to be in the rotation.
    Detroit cannot be taken lightly, this game will reveal any progress.

  8. Kevin

    This team seems lazy on offense probably because of their focus on defense. They don’t want a track meet but they don’t have anyone who can score from a walk up the ball set offense. Too much hesitation from our bigs, who are too far away from the basket. If they don’t get some players back, this season will be over quickly.

  9. J.D. Mo. Post author

    I know the feeling. CP3 and Jennings can be a fun matchup to watch, but Ersan had trouble with Griffin last season – couldn’t stop fouling him. Jordan’s too much for Gooden and then there’s Chauncey and Mo. A lot of trouble in the backcourt. Maybe the Bucks will surprise us, but I doubt it.

    Latest on Bogut is that he may return to play Tuesday against the Spurs.

  10. Kevin

    Harris could play tonight, but this is going to be like the old Harlem Globetrotters playing the Washington Generals. My over/under for offensive rebounds by Griffin tonight, 11.

  11. Kevin

    With Bogut and Luc both missing, Leuer and Sanders are getting the minutes they need but not down the stretch. Skiles is going with experience and it isn’t working. Maybe a combination of youth and experience, a cliche used often.
    Hobson is back, so he should be active along with Harris. With three guys missing and the 13 man limit, it’s a no brainer.

  12. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Ersan and Del were the core of this team. Hammond said loudly he was going different directions. Now they both look like the are out of it and don’t want to be here. The rumors r.e. Ersan were started here. He doesn’t want to play for this team. Del, I dunno. But we still need Skiles to make the right calls. Can he? I don’t think so.

    I would also play the young guys with Bogut out. Why the hell not? Larry Sanders was great last night — I want to see more of him on the court.

  13. Kevin

    Jennings looked like his first few games as a rooki, but he just wore down. Wasted efforts are this teams dilema, also Gooden. They need to have him and Bogut together and then bring in Leuer and Sanders/Luc. Move those two baggage guys and give Harris a chance. If he can even play, geez.

  14. Kevin

    I should have said more energy. Point differential: Ersan -16, Leuer +16, Sanders +14. I believe Ersan’s heart is still in Turkey, reminiscent when we matched Miami’s offer to Charlie Bell. Ersan and Delfino are baggage on this team. They don’t do enough. But I still would like to see a full squad for at least a few games. It doesn’t seem likely.
    The Kings were riding our backs all game, not just the fourth quarter. It finally caught up. Like McGlocklin said, they should be have been up 35. That might have been safe lead.

  15. J.D. Mo. Post author

    5 steals from Jennings should be noted… That was quite a performance by young buck, wasted.

  16. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Agreed. With Chuck Hayes injured and Cousins fouled out, the Bucks still had to deal with Thompson and Hickson, and the Bucks were well on their way to being outrebounded 55-31 for the game. Gooden did all he could last night, but he ran out of gas in the 4th.
    Ilyasova didn’t play well or much but he makes plays and gets to loose change (Minnesota win, for example). Leuer’s a shot-maker who also has a nose for the ball. Sanders had protected the basket well all night.
    They all bring energy, and there was no reason to keep Captain jack out there after turning it over SEVEN times. No reason to run Jennings into the court on a back-to-back either. Skiles is best when he has a set rotation that works – this make it up each night and use your depth is not working for him.

  17. Kevin

    I get to watch probably the worst stretch of our schedule, a West coast trip without Bogut.
    My thoughts during this game was that it was an aberration, playing well against a bad team. But our Bucks could not even accomplish that. Sanders and Leuer should have been in the fourth quarter because of their energy during the first quarter when Ersan went out. Also, without two of our bigs and no one blocking out, where was Brockman? He plays in every other game.

  18. J.D. Mo. Post author

    The three guard offense ends up being the killer in the 4th. A weary Drew Gooden had fouled Cousins out of the game yet Skiles stayed with Gooden and went small, with Jackson, Livingston, Jennings and Udrih. They couldn’t stop Salmons, Evans and Thornton, who scored at will down the stretch.
    Jennings had 31 but seemed to run out of gas. Big turnovers by Jennings and Udrih in the final minutes. Three missed free throws by Jennings.
    Skiles could have used shot-blocking Larry Sanders to protect the basket in the final four minutes, and might have trusted Ilyasova and Leuer to make game-winning plays. No fine moments for the coach in the final four. They had this won when Cousins fouled out.

  19. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Now that Westphal has been given the axe, Cousins is back in the starting lineup, and, sure enough, has two fouls in the first quarter.

    Salmons and Jackson are matched up. Delfino is getting lit up by Evans – Livingston is in for Delfino.
    Bucks are again having trouble controlling the glass and Sanders is in for Ilyasova.
    Gooden is again playing well, and has been the Bucks most reliable offense.
    Beno Udrih is playing tonight, and is out there with Jennings and Livinston in a three guard offense.

  20. J.D. Mo. Post author

    Got the Hawks and heat on now, with Barkley doing play by play with Reggie Miller and Marv. They’re raving about Jeff Teague as a “Young, up and coming point guard.”

  21. J.D. Mo. Post author

    At least you get to watch the game! I hope that new coach mojo doesn’t hit the Kings tonight.

    Last season Bucks beat the Lakers then took the Kings 84-79, Bogut getting the better of Sam Dalembert for a change. Bucks won two of three on a western swing, also for a change, without Jennings. (They were embarrassed in Portland in the first game of that trip).

    My memory was blurry on Cousins, though. He didn’t foul out but got hit with charge calls nearly every time he touched the ball, and Westphal was forced to bench him each of the three times he tried to put him in the game. He played 12 minutes, picked up four fouls.
    Here’s the box score.

  22. Kevin

    Missing Bogut may not matter vs. the Clippers. but they could sure use him against Phoenix. Wish him well, but this is a shame. I thought it was last year the Bucks beat the Lakers in LA and then turned around and lost at Sac.
    Bad news about Westphal. A team almost always wins its first game with their new coach, especially at home. Free League Pass and this is what we get!

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