Category Archives: Jinxes & NBA Mojo

RIP Bob Boozer

Bob Boozer, the power forward on the Bucks lone NBA title winner, the player whose picture graces the website banner above, passed away Saturday of a brain aneurysm. He was 75.

Tom Enlund wrote a nice obituary in the Journal Sentinel, featuring fond memories of the Big O, Oscar Robertson, who played with Boozer on the gold medal winning 1960 Olympic team and with the Cincinnati Royals and our 1971 NBA champion Bucks.  Read Enlund’s story here.

I had hoped to someday meet the man whose retirement in 1971 gave birth to the jinx at the Bucks power forward position … but it seems the basketball gods had other ideas.

Rest in Peace Bullet Bob, and thank you.

— J. D. Mo

Voodoo Doll used to disable Bogut found in Carmelo Anthony’s possession

It was in his travel bag, discovered by airport security after metal detectors at a Cleveland airport inexplicably went haywire when scanning the bag.  Carmelo Anthony, in Cleveland to play the Cavs earlier that night, denied knowledge of what it was or how it got there, but there it was:  the Voodoo Doll, with the initials “AB” embroidered into its hemp straw buttocks.

The doll was discovered just hours after Bogut crumpled to the floor in Houston, holding his ankle in agony after rolling it on Kevin Lowry‘s foot in the first quarter of the Bucks-Rockets game.

“Someone has a voodoo doll and is putting pins in me,” a helpless sounding Bogut said after the game, worrying about whether the injury may be more than the ankle sprain that it appears to be. (AP story link – yes, he really said it.)  UPDATE #2:  It’s worse than a sprain, a fracture has been found and the Bucks just announced that Bogut will be out indefinitely.

“Bogey,” the doll is rumored to have burped at approximately the time of Bogut’s injury.  It has offered no comment since being taken into custody Wednesday night.

Bogut has suffered a string of strange injuries, ranging from ill-fitting back bones, a mangled arm in a horrific fall in April 2010 (since surgically repaired), bashed knees and thighs, migraines, ankle sprains and a host of minor things that Bogut better not mention.  Bucks fans have taken to calling their center “Andrew Broke-it” and have all but given up on hopes that their center can ever play a full season.

Because this is a basketball blog, here’s where we throw in some really important stats.  Bogut had already missed five games going into the Rockets game, bringing his total missed games over the last three-plus seasons to 81 games.  He’s appeared on the blocked shots per game leader boards but hasn’t played enough to qualify for the per game rebounding leader board since 2008, when Larry Krstkowiak was Bucks coach.   Bogut won’t make the boards board this again this season, not if missing a week two weeks (see note below) 8-12 weeks!!! treating his ankle.

Why Carmelo Anthony?  And why now?  It’s no secret that since a Bucks win over Denver in Milwaukee in November 2009, ‘Melo and the Bucks have not gotten along, with he and Bogut at the center of confrontation.  This has continued in Knicks-Bucks games since Carmelo became a Knick, games that have left the Knicks complaining about elbows and the Bucks physical play.  It should not escape notice that Amar’e Stoudemire is a Knick, nor that Stoudemire’s little shove in the back contributed to Bogut’s horrific, arm-mangling fall (Amar’e was then a Sun).

So there’s history, bad blood and a general understanding on the Knicks side that the Bucks are out to intimidate them.  The Knicks beat the Bucks last February in Carmelo’s first game in New York, but the Bucks have won all three matches since, most recently last week’s win in New York, which featured an increasingly frustrated ‘Melo getting kicked out of the game.

And now that Bogut’s gang appears to have their number, the Knicks (7-11) are losers of seven of their last eight, coach Mike D’Antoni is on the hot seat and may lose his job any day now, and the New Yorkers are looking up at the Bucks (7-10) in the Eastern Conference standings.

Enter said voodoo doll, a pin to its ankle area as the Knicks were struggling against the Cavs, and Bogut was limping off the Houston court with an ankle sprain a fractured ankle.

The Bucks beat the Rockets without Bogut to remain ahead of the Knicks, but it may be only a matter of time before the voodoo doll works its intended magic.  ….  Next up for the Bogut-less Bucks is a back-to-back against the Bulls (in Chicago) and the Lakers (in Milwaukee).

Update:  Bogut will be out indefinitely (updated to 8-12 weeks) according to the Bucks, after the MRI today revealed a fractured ankle.

Shaq retires … for now, and with him goes the good humor he brought to the humorless, post-Jordan days of the NBA

It’s really true, and as a part-time Celtics fan I can’t help but be disappointed.  Shaquille O’Neal, when healthy (which wasn’t often this season) made the Celtics better, more formidable in the paint.

The Celtics were surprised by Shaq’s Twitter announcement and maybe we should be, too.

More than anything, Shaq changed the C’s demeanor.  No more were they the team of Kendrick Perkins‘ scowl and Kevin Garnett‘s gesticulations.  They were big as a Diesel, no doubt about it, and the Diesel delivered on the court — leading the Celtics in defensive impact (a 2.84 ezPM score) while snatching 4.8 rebs per game and scoring 9.2 points per game in just 20 minutes.

And he may return once the league’s labor dispute is settled, when the race for the 2012 playoffs is on — when we most need an old star to tweak Lebron James’ all-business, all-defense, “all-me”-this-ain’t-funny-even-if-we-win, facade.  Shaq’s got some game in him left, and a little Brett Favre in him, too — evidenced by this Twitter announcement during the NBA Finals, moments that belong to Lebron and Dirk, and that’s not a criticism of Favre or Shaq.  Jordan or Bird or Magic might have done something similar.

Shaq’s NBA in the post-Jordan dark days was not as competitive as the current league, and the Lakers three-pete (2000-2002) was often controversial and marred by questionable refereeing — yet Shaq was the face that managed to win over new converts even as so many fouled on it all.

No, Shaq’s era was not filled with the league’s finer moments, and if there were fine moments, those belonged to Jordan or Hakeem or Duncan and Robinson, even Sam Cassell (with the Rockets, Bucks and T-Wolves).  Through it all, however, the largess of Shaq and his steadily improving post game remained the point of departure for many fans.  Like it, be awed by it, shrug it off as freak of nature performance that made NBA hardwoods less than level, even the casual NBA fan had to consider all that was Shaq as he joked his way through press conferences.

Shaq’s Lakers set the NBA mark for best record in the playoffs (15-1) but, due to one of the most crookedly refereed series’ in NBA history (Sixers-Bucks 2001), they never had to face in the Finals the team they couldn’t beat that season:  The Sam Cassell, Glen “Big Dog” Robinson, Ray Allen “Big Three” Bucks coached by George Karl.

The following season, the 2002 seven-game Western conference Final between the Lakers and the Sacramento Kings was nearly as crooked as the 2001 Bucks-Sixers series, only more of the public was watching.  The smugness of Kobe Bryant and Lakers coach Phil Jackson emerged as sorry emblems for a league that seemed to have lost its way under the influence of its Emperor Palpatine-like commissioner, David Stern.  They let the big fella down.  So the big fella walked away.

(Edit addition:  In his new book, Shaq Uncut: My Story, Shaq divulges some detail behind his longstanding fued with Kobe. Deadspin has some excerpts.)

Shaq’s rebellion won over many of us NBA fans in flyover midlands country, and as he turned his back on them, he nagged Kobe’s self-centered game, defying Jackson and Stern, foiling the L.A. dynasty.  The  championship he won in 2006 with Dwyane Wade and Alonzo Mourning stands as Shaq’s emphatic signature on a Hall of Fame career — four-time champion, MVP, good teammate, joker, prankster, plentiful tipper of bellhops, barmaids, waitresses and food delivery workers all over America

We the people liked him for it in the end, a difficult and unlikely achievement considering the general bad mood of the casual NBA fan.

********************

For Bucks fans, Shaq and his Lakers will primarily be a “what if” — an opportunity and great NBA Finals series denied in 2001.  But there is another connection (which was the original intent of this post about a thousand words ago) that involves one of Shaq’s favorite teammates and longtime friend, Bucks coach Scott Skiles; and Skiles’ longtime friend, former Orlando Magic teammate and former Bucks head coach Larry Krystkowiak.

Yes, this is the fight documentary, one of the better NBA practice brawl stories you’ll ever hear, involving two scrappy old-school player wanna-bes and their young superstar.  Yes, the best Shaq stories were told before Twitter and Youtube and Facebook …

The year: 1994

The stage: Magic practice floor on the road in Los Angeles.

Our narrator: Larry Krystkowiak, Magic reserve power forward.

The combatants: A young Shaquille O’Neal, Magic center; Krsytkowiak; Scott Skiles, Magic point guard.

The action: “Haymakers” thrown, Skiles “sorta” in a headlock, wrapped around Shaq, mayhem.

The instigator: Scott Skiles, of course.

The result: One of the wildest NBA practice fights on record, and mutual admiration society between Skiles and Shaq.  Continued friendship between Skiles and Krystkowiak. Shaq and Krystkowiak?  No hard feelings, respect. The Magic went on to win 50 games that season, Shaq’s second in the NBA.

Krystkowiak tells it far better than anybody. Here’s the LINK to Krystkowiak’s account, by ESPN writer Chris Sheridan.

Imagine Krystkowiak’s surprise when, in the 2007-08 season, Bucks power forward Charlie Villanueva backed down from a fight challenge — from Krystkowiak — during a Bucks practice.  The NBA had changed.  Yet it’s a better game today because players like Shaq and Skiles and Krystkowiak simply never bothered to.

Signing Jon Brockton, the imaginary back-up center in the Milwaukee Bucks plans

This just in from a newspaper report in Denver, where the Bucks are preparing to play the Nuggets tonight:

“Early in the third quarter, Skiles sent center Jon Brockton into the game for rookie Larry Sanders …” – JSOnline Bucks Blog by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Bucks beat reporter Tom Enlund.

At first I thought this was simply a brain-fart by a tired NBA beat reporter, a little light-headed by the lack of oxygen in Denver’s mountain climate. Of course Enlund meant to write “Brockman” instead of “Brockton” when describing the third quarter substitution in Monday’s Bucks-Jazz game.   But on second look — and third glance — it became increasingly apparent that this reference to Brockton could not be shrugged off as a simple slip of the mind.

It should be noted here that Enlund knows a thing or two about the NBA and the Bucks, whom he’s been covering since the late 1980’s, before Sidney Moncrief’s number was retired.   This fact alone suggests that “center Jon Brockton” did not make his appearance in Enlund’s story haphazardly.  Also note the use of the word “details” in Enlund’s headline.  This may have been Enlund leaving a clue of some sort, one that at least demands further inquiry.

Note the use of the word “center” – not “forward” or “big forward” which is what one would use in referring to Jon Brockman, who is certainly not an NBA center.  Yet Enlund identifies this unknown player as “center Jon Brockton.”

Who is Jon Brockton?  When did the Bucks sign him?  How long has he been with the team?   Let’s look back to last July and see if the Bucks or the media can provide an answer to these questions.

On July 21, the Bucks announced that they had acquired a 6-7, 252-pound “forward/center” named Jon Brockman. No such player seems to exist, not in real life anyway.   That same day the Milwaukee daily newspaper, Journal Sentinel, reported that the Bucks had signed a 6-7, 252-pound “forward” named Jon Brockman.   Forward Jon Brockman did appear in the Bucks camp.  However, no such “forward/center” has been found.

Here’s what seems to have happened — remember that July 21 was the day after Milwaukee was hit with record floods in the streets that eventually created a sink-hole that swallowed an SUV.  That made national news.  Somehow, in all the watery confusion, Bucks GM John Hammond — in his mind — believed that he had acquired a forward-center.  This never occurred, though the idea of this new forward/center persisted in Hammond’s mind, and in the minds of those who work in the Bucks organization, and on to many fans who follow the Bucks.

One conclusion can be made:  Jon Brockton is that forward/center — or at least the center reality of a forward very likely named Jon Brockman.  Brockton may be something of an imaginary twin of Brockman, who lives on in the Bucks brain trust.  They believed they were filling a need for a back-up center — and they filled it — in their imaginations.   This belief may be strong, so strong that on certain occasions (usually on the road where the presence of doubting, skeptical Bucks fans might prevent it) …

… a center named Jon Brockton appears.  Bucks beat reporter Tom Enlund saw him Monday night in Utah.  Maybe we’ll see him tonight in Denver.

If so, somebody hand him a Bucks contract — they need center Jon Brockton.

The Revenge of the Airball struck again in Philly

The Bucks just can’t shake the mojo that the Philadelphia 76ers have over them, and they fell victim to it once again Friday in a regrettable 90-79 loss to the (ouch) 2-10 Sixers in Philly.    Throw the team records out — Sixers have won three of the last five matchups and 6 0f 8 since Scott Skiles took over as coach.  Philly had won 7 straight before the Bucks seemingly broke the spell last January in what was likely Allen Iverson’s last game in the arena where he staged so many of his career highlights – the Bradley Center.

The Sixers have always been the Bucks nemesis, their greatest rival when times were good and Nellie’s Bucks in the early 1980’s were one of the best teams in the NBA — one of the best teams in history never to win a title, and certainly the best team in NBA history never to play in the Finals.  Forget 1991, the year the 48-win Del Harris Bucks were swept out of the playoffs by Charles Barkley’s Sixers —  there was something else amiss in Philly’s recent domination of the Bucks.  It can be traced back to Iverson’s first shot in the NBA, an airball that bounced harmlessly out of bounds on Nov. 1, 1996.

Was the spell broken last January?   Alas, no — “The Airball” is still exacting its revenge, and the Sixers showed Friday that they don’t need “The Answer,” Andre Iguodala or Sam Dalembert to stymie the Bucks — Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams will do just fine, shades of 2008 and 2009 when the Sixers were winning seven straight against the sluggish Michael Redd teams.  Interesting to note that Young and Williams are Mo Cheeks players, guys who, like their coach in his playing days, have always seemed to light up when they see a Milwaukee Bucks uniform.

The 5-8 Bucks. The silver lining for the Bucks these days could be the realization that, for the most part — until last weekend — they’ve been playing fairly well against a tough early season schedule and coming up painfully short in a few close games (two against the Hornets, OT in Boston and Saturday in a very winnable game against the Thunder, playing without Kevin Durant, the league’s leading scorer.  Add that one-point loss to either of the Hornets games as one the Bucks want back.

Yet it’s some consolation that their strength of schedule ranking is 12th in the league, better than everybody in the Central Division but the Bulls, with two Central games on the schedule this week in Cleveland and Detroit.  On some level, the Bucks have simply been an unlucky team that can’t catch a break.

The Bucks schedule for the first 35 games is tough, at no time tougher than next week when they head west for a Utah-Denver road swing, then come back home to play the Heat and the Magic.  No, it’s not much consolation, but the Bucks record should eventually turn around.  It will probably take a while … and they’ll have to do some good work on the road in the west in December to mitigate the depth of the hole they’ll likely be in come January.  Maybe they’ll even get lucky a time or two.

Chris Douglas-Roberts out for a month

Not five minutes after raising the question yesterday of how Skiles would manage his logjam on the wings with John Salmons, Carlos Delfino, Corey Maggette and Chris Douglas-Roberts, a rare visit to BobBoozerJinx @ twitter was greeted with an update from CDR, the Bucks resident Twitter-addict:  CDR will miss about a month of the season.

“I went thru hell 2day.Got eye surgery.Lucky though b/c if I were a day or two late I could’ve lost my vision.Cant play hoop for a MONTH. :-(“

And an update:

“Three needles shot under my eye.I was awake the whole time.Shii scared me.”

And an updated update, and another, and another:

“So now I have to lay flat on my back for a week so my eye can heal properly. H/e,I cant do anything hoop wise for 3 weeks. Which kills me…”

And finally:

“So I refuse to watch any hoop unless the Bucks or the Bulls are playing. B/c watching hoop & not being able to play hoop is torture for me.”

see http://twitter.com/cdouglasroberts

Bad break for CDR, who had lobbied to come to Milwaukee from New Jersey so he could play for a tough, defensive-minded coach like Scott Skiles. It’s also bad news for Bucks and Brandon Jennings faithful who see CDR — not Salmons or Maggette — as Jennings’ running mate of the future.  Adding the cat-quick, explosive CDR to the Bucks core simply made more sense than Maggette, who’s never played much D and was a vocal malcontent after Nellie made it clear that rookie Stephon Curry — not Maggette — had to be the focus of the Golden State offense.

But the unfortunate poke in the eye to CDR does allow Skiles to showcase Maggette off the bench without conscience — and Maggette will shoot it without conscience.  It’s pretty well understood in Bucks land that Salmons is the Bucks starting shooting guard, for this season anyway, and that Maggette’s best role is to play behind both Salmons and Carlos Delfino, helping the Bucks second unit get to the free throw line, Maggette’s undeniable strength.

Don’t expect Maggette to light it up from 3-point land — he won’t (32 percent career from downtown don’t lie, and is even a little scary considering coach Skiles’ maddening belief in letting guys crank it up from out there as if he doesn’t realize that he’s no longer coaching Ben Gordon).  But Maggette has been a 50 percent shooter or better from inside the arc, where Skiles needs to make sure that he stays.

THE LINEUP: Skiles hasn’t announced his starters yet, but Salmons has been practicing at full tilt, so expect the Fish to start in the backcourt with Jennings, with Delfino at small forward.  Bogut is ready to go at center, and tonight begins his long road to the 2011 All-Star game.

Power forward? Still an unanswered question at this point, given the match-up problem presented tonight by one David West, New Orleans Hornet All-Star.   The natural inclination would be to dog West with a combination of Luc Mbah a Moute and Ersan Ilyasova … but Mbah a Moute is still hobbled with an ankle sprain and might not play.

Skiles may go with Drew Gooden to start the game, a development that bears watching.   Skiles has been starting Gooden with Bogut but the Bucks haven’t exactly been winning games in the preseason with Gooden logging big minutes and Mbah a Moute sidelined.  I’m suddenly reminded of last season when Skiles started the season with Kurt Thomas as the starting power forward before giving way to Ersan and Luc, who not only earned their PT but won games with Bogut and Jennings until injuries to Bogut and Luc (and the advent of Michael Redd) derailed the Bucks fast start.

I hope Skiles remembers that he has a rising star in Ersan Ilyasova, who led Turkeys campaign to the silver medal in this year’s world championships, and just might be the solution to the Bucks jinx at the power forward position

*********************************

HARDWOOD PAROXYSM’s Bucks preview is a good read but there’s nary a mention of Ilyasova despite HP’s otherwise great understanding of BJ and Bogut and the Bucks D.

BREWHOOP has some links to other preseason NBA picks and predictions, some of which are interesting.  Note that anybody picking the Bucks lower than 4 in the East hasn’t seen them play much with Bogut anchoring the D, and is either a Bulls fan or an ESPN television boob (who can forget ESPN’s horrific Bucks-Hawks Game 7 broadcast last spring?).  The writers pick the Bucks to win the Central.

Bob Boozer, 1960 Olympic Team remembered

I was surfing around a bit today and found a Los Angeles Times piece from August about the 1960 gold medal winning Olympic Team, which was enshrined in the basketball Hall of Fame this year along with the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team.”

A big forward on that 1960 amateur team was none other than Bob Boozer, the top pick in the 1959 NBA draft and later the man whose retirement in 1971 is believed to have set in motion the Bucks ongoing jinx at the power forward position (not to say that the LA Times has recognized the .atter phenomenon, but give them time).

Here’s an excerpt:

Knee injuries delayed the professional basketball debuts of No. 1 NBA draft picks Greg Oden and Blake Griffin.

For Bob Boozer, it was national pride.

The top pick in 1959, he kept the Cincinnati Royals at arm’s length for more than a year to maintain his amateur status in hopes of playing for Team USA in the 1960 Olympics.

“I always had this deep desire to represent this country on its Olympic basketball squad,” Boozer says, “and at that time, you only had one go-round at it. Everyone told me, ‘Your chances are remote,’ et cetera, et cetera. Each person that tried to get me to sign on the dotted line expressed that, but I said, ‘Hey, this is something I’ve got to go for.’

“I knew I only had once chance.”

The 6-foot-8 former forward made the most of it, taking his place on a team coached by Pete Newell that tore through its Olympic competition in Rome by an average of 42.4 points a game.

Considered the greatest amateur basketball team ever assembled, it featured future Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Jerry Lucas and Walt Bellamy.

“We,” Boozer says, “were the first Dream Team.”

Read the full article here.

UPDATES: Still no Andrew Bogut or John Salmons in the Bucks preseason, which hasn’t helped lend any relevance to the games, though the Bucks have won three of four.  How do they look?  That remains to be seen because I haven’t seen them, but, again, how to get a fix on a team playing without two of its top three players (Bogut and Salmons)?

Last night (Thursday) in DC, the Bucks fell behind 57-51 at half but rolled the Wizards in the second half (96-88 final) with their usual in-yer-jersey defense and a rim-attacking offense that got to the line 43 times.  A free throw advantage?  The Bucks could get used to that and should; in the absence of Bogut, they took advantage of the Wiz in the paint all night with Drew Gooden (25 pts), who started at center.

Defense in the second half, however, was the story.  Luc Mbah a Moute (35 mins) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (a team-leading 35 mins for CDR) led the defensive charge that turned the game around (the Wiz were held to just 31 pts in the second).   Carlos Delfino (28 mins) was back in the lineup after missing a couple of games with a bad toe, and coach Scott Skiles singled out Del and his defense, ball movement and spacing for praise, which along with the high minutes played for his defensive stalwarts, is a pretty strong indication of what Skiles is looking for and who’s getting it done .

Ersan Ilyasova at power forward and Keyon Dooling backing up Brandon Jennings are also seeing strong preseason minutes.  I still don’t see where defensively-challenged shooting guard Corey Maggette fits in to the rotation, not with Del and CDR battling for guard minutes behind Salmons, and Luc surely to get some minutes there too based on defensive matchups.

It’s early, I know, and it’s all too easy at this point to see Maggette as trade bait to help trigger the inevitable deal to part ways with Michael Redd.

TOUGH BREAK for Hobson: With the pending logjam on the wings, rookie Darington Hobson wasn’t going to play much, and now he won’t play at all this season.  Hobson had surgery on his left hip a week ago and the knife will go into his right hip in a couple of weeks, the Bucks announced. Hobson will miss the entire season and that doesn’t sound good for a second round pick who hasn’t had a chance to make much of an impression on his new team.

On the other hand, it’s probably not so bad for Hobson to sit out while Skiles and Hammond figure out how much they like CD-R, decide what they want to do with Maggette, gauge whether Luc can improve his outside shot and earn more minutes on the wing; and let’s not forget Delfino and the question of how committed the Bucks are to Del.  As noted above, Skiles is beginning to realize the value of having Del on the court.

That’s quite a lot to sort out, which didn’t make Milwaukee this season the best environment for a rookie wing to develop in.  A healthy Hobson next season might have a better chance of defining his game and earning some PT.

Revenge of the Airball: The Sixers’ strange spell over the Bucks

What did the Milwaukee Bucks ever do to the Philadelphia 76ers?  Was it drafting Julius Erving in 1972 when he didn’t want anything to do with Brewtown, and, a few years later — preventing the Hawks from signing him out of the ABA?  Or was it drafting somebody named Russ Lee six picks before the Doctor?  Did the Bucks commit some cosmic offense to the basketball gods in the first round of the 1987 playoffs when they failed to close the Sixers out in Philly, moving the Dr. J retirement party to the Bradley Center — ensuring that the Doctor would suffer his final loss in front of Bucks fans?   Didn’t Doc owe us at least that, small enough consolation though it was for the pain and suffering he and Bobby Jones and Mo Cheeks caused in the 1981, ’82, ’83 and ’85 playoffs?

Was it the Milwaukee police arrest of Charles Barkley in December 1991 for breaking some duffus’ nose outside Rosie’s on Water?  A Milwaukee jury had the common sense to acquit Sir Charles of any wrongdoing, agreeing the punch was thrown in self defense.  … Or was it this, on Nov. 1, 1996? —

Allen Iverson’s first shot in the NBA: (Unfortunately, some entity — the NBA, the Sixers or the Bucks — claimed protected rights on video of Allen Iverson and Ray Allen’s first minutes in the NBA, so the video evidence of AI’s first NBA shot and Ray Allen’s first made NBA 20-footer and first made NBA 3-pointer is no longer available … but read on ….)

I have a feeling it has something to do with that shot — the airball — #1 overall pick Iverson’s first field goal attempt in the NBA, his first shot on the Philly home court that he would ritually kiss before each game — an off balance fall-away off an aborted drive — drawing no rim in his premiere game for the fans who would grow to love him.  That shot, the airball, even as his rookie Big East rival, Ray Allen, tickled the bottom of net with sweet jumpers, sinking both his first midrange two and, before he Answer could respond, his first high-arcing shot from 3-point land, that place that would become forever known as the Land of Ray and Reggie.  The rhetoric of the 1996 draft — “Stephon Marbury creates shots for others/woulda been better for the Sixers” prognosis was out on parade, voiced in the clip by Bucks bland-alyist Jon McGlocklin — though you’d have to know that Johnny Mac was also taking a backhand swipe at the Bucks for drafting Marbury #4 and swapping him for a future draft pick and Ray, whom the Timberwolves had taken 5th.  McGlocklin was one of the many thousands who thought the Bucks needed a “true” point guard, not a scorer, and obviously had similar thoughts about the Sixers, who had already had a young gunner — 22-year-old Jerry Stackhouse — in the fold.  *(see notes on Stackhouse below)*

Iverson went on to score 30 opening night, 1996, but the Bucks won the game, 111-103 and took the season series 3-1, then winning the first two the next season in Larry Brown‘s first year as Sixers coach.  But Brown and Iverson turned the tables in the remaining two 1998 Bucks-Sixers games, then went 9-4 over the next four season, beating the Sam, Ray & Dog “Big Three” teams 7 out of ten times.  If the Iverson-Ray rivalry was on — and it was — advantage Sixers.  Nothing screamed this louder than the bitter 7-game 2001 Eastern Conference Finals, still the NBA standard for crooked refereeing.  Most of the shady stuff occurred in Philly but Game 4, the crucial game that would have put the Bucks up 3-1, was hijacked at the BC in a blur of calls and non-calls as the walking wounded Sixers were given new life. The series would live on in infamy, tarnishing Shaq’s 2nd title in LA if only the East Finals were more well-remembered. But they’re not.   One of the NBA’s greates travesties wasn’t left on the cutting room floor of ESPN columnist Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball (publ. fall 2009) — Simmons simply forgot it.  That’s OK, Bill. The Bob Boozer Jinx remembers.

Since Iverson dropped 5 of those first 6 games against Ray Allen, the Sixers are 28-15 vs. the Bucks, with many of the Answer’s career highlights achieved at Milwaukee’s expense, including a 45-point masterpiece in a 124-120 OT win in Philly, Jan. 3, 2000.  For a few years, Iverson held the record for most points by an opponent at the Bradley Center (broken last season by Lebron James), dropping 54 on Michael Redd and Mo Williams, good defenders that they weren’t, more interested in filling up their own box scores than stopping AI from filling up his and winning the game. It was pure streetball that night at the BC, and Iverson was worth the price of admission. There was a down season for the Sixers against the Bucks after Brown quit and resurfaced in Detroit, and another in Iverson’s last full season in Philly, when he took one look at the rookie Andrew Bogut and realized that Ray Ray probably hadn’t been a Buck for years. The rivalry had become one-sided. The airball had been avenged, and it probably should have ended there, in Dec. 2006, when Iverson was traded to Denver for Andre Miller.

But it didn’t end there, and lately, the Revenge of the Airball has hit the Bucks hard: the Sixers have won 8 out of the last 10, and had won six straight until the Bucks 91-88 victory Jan. 27, very likely the Answer’s last game ever on the Milwaukee court that has been so kind to him. I was there to see it, and though Iverson gave way to Louis Williams in the 4th quarter, I caught a basketball high watching AI chase Brandon Jennings all over the court, both of them wearing #3, the young Buck honoring the old Sixer, his hero. I also believed I was witnessing the breaking of the Sixers’ spell. When Iverson left the team a couple of weeks later for personal reasons and didn’t come back, and the Bucks went on a 15-2 tear after acquiring John Salmons, I was sure it was over. Boy, was I wrong.

Wednesday night the Sixers, a dismal 24-47 and without two of their best players, Williams and Thaddeus Young, blew the Bucks out of the Bradley Center. Willie Green (16 pts) couldn’t miss until his team was up by 20. Rookie point guard Jrue Holiday (15 pts) proved unguardable for Jennings and Luke Ridnour. Center Sam Dalembert, as usual, locked down Bogut, with some help from 2nd-year big man Marreese Speights, and Dalembert was almost perfect under the basket for 12 pts, 10 rebs. Andre Iguodala played lock down defense on Salmons and was off to the races in the open court, where Iggy’s Sixers teams are at their best. Power forward Elton Brand, who’s done most of the damage for the Sixers vs. the Bucks this season (also singled out as the force of gravity slowing down Iggy and the gang since becoming a Sixer) didn’t have to break a sweat or make more than a shot. Brand was 1-7 from the floor in 27 uninspired minutes, while the Sixers young guns had a blast. Jodie Meeks, traded by the Bucks a month ago with Francisco Elson to the Sixers for Royal Ivey, Primoz Brezec and a draft pick, got into the act with 7 pts. The Bucks managed to make up a few points in garbage time for a 101-86 final.

Clearly, the Sixers’ mastery over the Bucks has extended beyond the corn-rowed one and the rivalry of a decade ago. Iverson was in Denver and Detroit and Memphis for the eight most recent Bucks losses, make that nine. The Sixers are now 9-3 vs. the Bucks since trading Iverson to the Nuggets, while going 127-155 (.454) against the rest of the NBA. But coach Maurice Cheeks  had figured out that speed and nasty defense could be tough on the slow-footed Bucks, even as the detrus of Iverson and the rivalry remained, infecting his teammates with the necessary Buck-beating mojo. Iggy got it, and there was Dalembert (who seems to enjoy his matchup against Bogut). Guards Williams and Green were on those teams, and it infected Thad Young when he came along the next year. Now it seeems to have Holiday and sharpshooter Jason Kapano, too, after playing with Iverson for only a month. And, hey, look who’s back from a one-year exile in Minnesota — forward Rodney Carney, a Sixers rookie during the trade year. Carney killed the Bucks last year in a game at Minnesota, with 22-points and a 4th quarter 3-point barrage. I could mention ex-Sixer Kyle Korver here, too, but that would be redundant. There is something to this Sixers hex, the Philly jinx. The Revenge of the Airball.

If the fact that Wednesday’s loss was clearly beyond the red-hot Bucks’ earthly control wasn’t enough, take a look at how one other Sixer from those post Brown-Iverson teams did in the game. He’s on the Bucks (for now), and on Monday scored 32 in a classic 4th quarter shootout with the Hawks’ Joe Johnson. Yes, the Bucks salvation at shooting guard, John Salmons, predated even Dalembert in Phlly, playing his rookie year in Brown’s final Sixers season. Salmons played four years with Iverson under five different coaches (Cheeks the last one) shooting the ball five or six times a game off the bench if he was lucky.

Salmons was 2-12 Wednesday night in 30 mins against the Sixers and the hex, the Revenge of the Airball. He finished with 4 pts and as many turnovers (1) and fouls (2) as  rebounds (1), assists (1) and steals (1). That airball of Iverson’s just never seems to  get enough revenge.

*Note: Jerry Stackhouse started his career in Philly and played with Iverson in AI’s rookie year, but lasted only 22 games into the following season. I’m guessing that because he was unhappy playing second fiddle to Iverson and asked to be traded (he went to Detroit), Stack is probably exempt from any effects of whatever it is I’m calling this Iverson thing. Stackhouse was in just his third season when the Philly-Detroit trade went down, which tells us that …

A) Allen Iverson was horrendous to be around early in his career,

B) Jerry Stackhouse was quite the 23-year-old prima donna for a guy who would never go on to make All-Pro, or

C) Both A and B are true, and Larry Brown certainly wasn’t about to let Stack slash the tires on the Iverson-mobile.

NBA All-Stars: Bogut and Milwaukee snubbed again!

Andrew Bogut, bad back and all, blocks New York Knicks F/C David Lee's shot in New York, Dec. 2008.Cripes, this is too much.  

NBA Commissioner David Stern, he who names all injury replacements for All-Star games, today chose New York Knicks big man David Lee “over” Bucks center Andrew Bogut, ESPN reported. Lee will replace the Sixers Allen Iverson, who’s really getting too old for this All-Star stuff anyway.

David Lee? Haven’t the Knicks lost and lost badly enough (50 pts at home to Dallas) to eliminate Lee from consideration? The Knicks are 19-32, heading for another lottery. But Commish Stern just couldn’t pass on another opportunity to again screw small market Milwaukee (oh, remember the 2001 East Finals). New York is New York after all, home though it is to a truly bad NBA team that plays little or no defense.

Well, we’ll always have the rookie game … And Brandon Jennings’ new gumby hairdo!  Heck, there’s even a ‘do poll on the Bucks site.

Lee is an excellent player who puts up All-Star numbers with 20 pts and 11 boards a game — but Bogut does this too, and more. In the 12 games since the Bucks returned from a bum trip West, Bogut has averaged 18.6 pts and 9.7 rebs. Good enough for Dallas right there, Mr. Stern.

What’s separates Bogut from Lee is that the Bucks center plays both ends of the floor. I realize this is unheard of in New York, and nobody really wants to see a lot of defense in the All-Star game but AB is charged with anchoring Scott Skiles’ 7th-rated defense. In those 12 games, Bogut has blocked 29 shots, an avg. of 2.41 per game, good enough for 2nd in the NBA behind the game’s best center, Dwight Howard.

But there’s more Mr. Stern: In those 12 games since the West road trip, the Bucks are 8-4. They’re winning! In fact, since Michael Redd was injured in Los Angeles Jan. 10, the Bucks record is 9-8. Could be better, I know, but it was the first long western trip for our rookie point guard.   

And let’s not forget that the Knicks under coach Mike D’Antoni have yet to beat Bogut and the Bucks. Since D’Antoni took over in NY in 2008, the Knicks and Lee are 0-5 against Scott Skiles’ Bucks — when Bogut suits up. The Knicks lone victory came last March at the BC while Bogut was recovering from his season-ending back injury.

Bogut is back, he’s healthy and the Bucks (24-27) are in the playoff hunt. Against D’Antoni’s Knicks earlier this season, the Bucks center scored 22 pts and hauled in 8 rebs Nov. 7 to lead the Bucks to a 102-87 win. Lee had 18 pts, 7 rebs.

Last weekend in NY, Bogut left the game early with a migraine and it just might have cost him the All-Star spot (assuming the games matter to Commish Stern). Lee scored 32 pts and grabbed 15 boards in the Knicks 114-107 loss to the Bucks. I’d like to emphasize the word “loss” in the previous phrase.

Like me, the Knicks blogger at Buckets Over Broadway is “stunned” that Atlanta’s Josh Smith wasn’t the automatic choice as first East reserve. Smith was clearly the more deserving Hawk than Al Horford, who the East coaches picked as the back-up center to All-Star starter Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic. 

Buckets Over Broadway also concurs that “major market is another huge plus in Lee’s favor over Milwaukee’s Bogut.  Anyway, one thing’s for certain: initial reports that Stern only chose Lee because they have the same first name have proven to be false.”

The selection of Horford by the coaches, of course started this mess, all this transitive snubbing. How Horford amassed the necessary votes at center is still a mystery, considering that he’s overpowered at the position when matched against Howard and Bogut, and other full grown centers. Bogut has certainly overpowered Horford ever since Horford came into the league.

No less a source than Howard’s coach, Stan Van Gundy, who will also coach the 2010 East All-Star team agrees: If Howard gets a back-up at center in the All-Star game, Bogut should be the guy.

What does a guy have to do, block 100 shots?  Check that, Bogues happens to have blocked only 98.

Richard Jefferson meets Milwaukee… Nets sell Yi jerseys… Brewhoop Hammond trilogy

Milwaukee will be introduced to forward Richard Jefferson today at a press conference, where he’s expected to have all sorts of ways to explain that story from Nets GM Rod Thorn about how unhappy he seemed when Thorn told him about the draft day trade that sent RJ to the Bucks for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons.

“He didn’t seem very happy about it,” Thorn said after talking to his agent and text messaging him. Thorn didn’t say whether Jefferson said anything at all one way or another beyond seeming to be unhappy, though I’m sure his agent said plenty. Somehow in Milwaukee, Jefferson has been repeatedly refered to as “All Star forward Richard Jefferson” though he has never made the All-Star team. (It’s basketball-reference.com again – scroll all the way down for the career achievments).

Bucks fans will be relieved to know that RJ doesn’t pass the ball much either … but he does other stuff …




 

Yi Jianlian - JerseyMeanwhile, in New Jersey …

The Nets are ecstatic about the deal — and happy to have Bobby Simmons $10 million per year clearing out for 2010, setting the team up nicely for Lebron James pal and part Nets owner Jay-Z’s plan to lure the King to Brooklyn and the new Nets arena. The Nets are also busy giving away Yi jerseys with every season ticket purchased from here on out and happy with the three young players they picked up in the draft. Brooke Lopez (I still say the team that develops Robin Lopez will be happier in the long run than the Nets with Brooke), Ryan Anderson and Chris Robert-Douglas out of Memphis, a hustle player who can guard three positions. The NY Times reports on the Nets website:

“It opens up a truly new fan base for us,” said Brett Yormark, the Nets’ chief executive. “Yi is going to give us the opportunity to be relevant to Asian-American fans in ways we haven’t been before.”

Within hours of the trade’s confirmation, the Nets’ marketing efforts were in full swing. Their Web site had a splash page of Yi in a Nets uniform, announcing, “Something big has come to New Jersey.” They offered a free Yi jersey to everyone who purchased a season ticket. According to Yormark, the Nets sold 200 season tickets in the 36 hours after the trade.


Check out the Nets store here. It’s all Yi all day.

Meanwhile … back in Milwaukee

The Bucks don’t seem to have a marketing plan in gear for the players on the team just yet, as Hammond isn’t likely done reshaping the roster — though Bango did appear in the city’s Fourth of July parade. (Nobody works much in Milwaukee in the summer.)  Yi had been the pitchman used in the Bucks store and and in many of the team’s ticket appeals.

Brewhoop scored a long interview with John Hammond and its well worth the read. Comes in three parts and in pint glasses too like the Lord of the Rings, wherein it is explained how the one ring came into being and found its way to Michael Redd who may or may not relinquish it to Richard Jefferson … though he could, and somehow this could all work with Mo Williams as the point guard, and why not because Scott Skiles is kinda like Gandalf and will make it work, somehow, someway.

PART 1

PART 2

PART 3

Oh, and Joe Alexander can guard the 4 spot, Hammond says, though he won’t be expected to do that all the time or most of the time, though he could if called upon.

Here’s Liv Tyler, who could play the elvin love interest in the story if Mo, Redd and Jefferson resist the power of the ring through the sacred art of teamwork, ball movement and defense.

By the look in her eyes, she’s beginning to run out of patience.

Liv Tyler as Arwen