Category Archives: International & Olymp.

Blogs on the 2008 Olympics and beyond; FIBA world championship play; international players

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.

Istanbul not Constantinople – Ersan at the Worlds

You wouldn’t know it by Milwaukee media and its freakish obsession with football, but Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova is leading his Turkish national team against Serbia today in the semis of the FIBA world championship.

Not to be an insufferable nag or anything resembling an insufferable NBA nag in Wisconsin, but now wouldn’t be a bad time to let the guys from the Milwaukee daily newspaper know that there is a great basketball tournament being played in Istanbul (not Constantinople) and that our guy Ersan is one of its stars.

Turkey has never won a medal in the worlds but they haven’t lost yet in this tournament.  They’ll play USA (we crushed Lithuania earlier today) if they get by Serbia today.  The Turks are down 42-35 at half, with Ersan leading the Turkish scoring.  Ersan leads the Turks in the tournament in scoring (15 pts) and rebounding (7).

The Milwaukee media may not want to know but Philadelphia Gay News is all over it. I’m not kidding.

Maybe it really is nobody’s business but the Greeks?

Mad Ants!.. Charlie Bell in Africa… Led Zeppelin Olympics video

NBA.com reported this week that the Bucks have switched Development League teams, losing their affiliation with the Tulsa 66ers when the team was purchased by the Oklahoma City Thunder (yep, that's officially the Supersonics' new name — apparently the Seattle-fleeing cowboys weren't too impressed with the Bob Boozer Jinx proposal, the Rawhides).

The Bucks will now send their 1st and 2nd year players to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where they'll join the invasion of …

The Mad Ants.

"Ants are ants" … "NOT these ants."

The Fort Wayne Mad Ants, also the affiliate of the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers, are promoting last year's D-League star Bucks guard Ramon Sessions with the Bucks switch but Ramon won't be anywhere near that picnic. Rookie small forward Luc Mbah a Moute, the Bucks 2nd round pick, might do some time as a Mad Ant and it's possible 1st round pick Joe Alexander could find himself in the D-League if Mbah a Moute is more NBA-ready at this point (don't scoff — if Alexander doesn't find his game, no reason to keep in Milwaukee). In either case (and it would be one or the other to Fort Wayne but not both) it does appear that being a Mad Ant would be a lot more fun than sitting on the bench in Milwaukee …

Mad Ant mascot The Madam Ants

The NBA's Basketball Without Borders Africa kicked off yesterday (Sept. 3) in Johannesberg, South Africa as NBA players, including Bucks guard Charlie Bell and Racine native Caron Butler of the Washington Wizards, toured the city's Apartheid Museum and visited an AIDS hospice.  Today, the sixth annual Africa camp — a Special Olympics camp — opened and the players rolled out the pill, with former Buck and NBA hall of famer Bob "the Dobber" Lanier, now special assistant to NBA commissioner David Stern, doing the honors.

Here's Charlie doing something that wouldn't be allowed around the lions at the Milwaukee Zoo.

Charlie Bell in Johannesberg

Notice that he's not quite touching the lion cub, though it's apparently well fed and deeply sleeping … but that's still good work, Charlie. How often does anyone get to sneak in on a sleeping lion?

I have a feeling Charlie's role as Michael Redd's back-up will be more expansive this season than last. I foresee trouble ahead between coach Scott Skiles and Redd, who's not one to warm up to the concepts of team play or defense. Charlie should get some opportunities, and with Richard Jefferson and Joe Alexander on hand he won't be called on to play small forward as much as he was last season.

Last season was a forgettable one for Bell, as then-GM Larry Harris neglected Bell's contract negotiations but then surprised him by matching the free agent offer he received from the Miami Heat. Despite not being too happy about being a Buck and mired in a season-long shooting slump, Bell's defense and toughness earned him minutes under coach Larry Krystkowiak and will probably impress Skiles, too. He is a Flintstone, after all. Look for Charlie to have a solid, productive comeback in 2008-09.

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The British did the world a fine thing by commissioning Led Zeppelin guitarist and maestro Jimmy Page to compose its London 2012 presentation for the Beijing Olympics closing ceremony. The eight-minute piece – which featured Page, singer Leona Lewis and a reworked version of "Whole Lotta Love" – created quite a buzz all over the planet and earned a thumbs up from the toughest of critics — Led Zeppelin fans, who were more than a little anxious about how it would come off. Page called it as "a wonderful, compact statement of why we're all here, which is London '12"; and raved about Lewis, describing the staging as "so her, so classy" and her vocals "dazzling."  

And if there are any lingering doubts about how cool it was to Zeppelin-ize the Olympics, check out this video montage put together by Zep fan Videofleet.  Beijing, basketball and Led Zeppelin!  Brilliant!!!

I'd watch that vid a second time before scrolling down further …

Someone sent me a picture a few days ago

in my email

and

I've been trying hard

to

forget it

ever since.

Would be VP Sarah Palin

On second thought (well, it won't load to the site for some reason) … it seems the basketball gods have conspired with the Led Zeppelin gods to ensure your unfettered enjoyment of those two fine things in life.

When the levee breaks … Michael Redd’s shooting may still be an issue

Gustav pounds the canals of New Orleans, Reuters photo APThe levees held, though New Orleans’ downriver quarters seem to have taken quite a beating from Hurricane Gustav. A shout out to friends and former neighbors Uptown in the Irish Channel and the Garden District, a few of whom I know didn’t leave despite being a lot more spooked this time than they were before Katrina hit. They’re on higher ground in those upriver areas, where the big worry is not the storm so much as how people will react during and after it, again going back to Katrina when the world went mad. So much water …

Now that Gustav’s spun itself down from hurricane to tropical storm status and headed for Texas, I think it’s safe now to turn our attention to the Bucks-o-sphere. (Easy to say for someone who hasn’t lived on the gulf coast in this decade). The Bucks first preseason game is 34 days away and it’s time to begin wondering how things will pan out for the 2008-09 Bucks.

But first, we find Brewhoop still  blowing up a storm to wash away any flotsam and jetsam from Michael Redd‘s disappointing Olympics.

The Olympics seemed a hangover from last season for both Redd and Andrew Bogut (and Yi Jianlian too). Bogut’s Olympics proved to be quite a story as he fought injuries and a coach joined at the hip with the failing Aussie pro league, yet, despite a difficult transition period for basketball Australia, the Bucks center found success, scoring 45 points in 46 minutes in the two games that thrust Australia into its quarterfinal matchup with Team USA. 

Today, however, the post-Olympic focus is again Redd, whose hangover from 2007-08 is indeed a wicked one. After shooting poorly last season (71st in the league on 2-point shots outside the paint, according to 82games.com; 92nd on 3-pointers), Redd lost his job as shooting specialist on Team USA. No, let’s rephrase that. Redd’s job as shooting specialist was eliminated after two games and he became a garbage time player.

The point that needs to be underscored here is that Redd’s Olympic performance was not simply a bad streak that happened to occur during the Olympics; it was a continuation of last season’s slump. This was the point that Brewhoop’s Alex Boeder conveniently ignores when he cites Redd’s abominable Olympic shooting stats and writes:

Of course, [Redd] didn’t really have a chance to work his way into a groove, and he’s not suddenly a bad shooter. He was simply off for what amounted to about two NBA games worth of minutes.


He had a difficult time adjusting, no doubt about that. The point made here which still stands is that there was nothing sudden about Redd being “off.”

Three-point specialist Redd finished last on Team USA in three-point shooting percentage. Yes, it’s true. (The link is to the official Olympic stats.) Couple the disappointing Olympics with last year’s shooting — in which Redd shot 36.3% on three-pointers (not bad but very middle of the NBA road) and only 41.8% on jump shots outside the paint.– and it appears that Michael Redd’s mythology as a great NBA shooter is in need of some major rehab.  His 41.8% figure on 2-point jump shots tied Redd with Rasheed Wallace for 71st in the NBA.


Michael Redd shooting

Certainly Redd’s ability to adjust to a new coach, Scott Skiles — one who is vigilant about defense and ball movement — is one of key questions facing the Bucks. Neither of those Skiles prerequisites are Redd’s strengths. His main strength (or what has been believed to be Redd’s main strength), shooting the basketball, could also bear some scrutiny.

And let’s face it: For many Bucks fans, #22 is more than a hangover from last season. He’s a recurring migraine from a forgettable era the team desperately wants to move beyond. With Mo Williams and Bobby Simmons gone and Dan Gadzuric relegated to the bench, and an experienced coach in Skiles, Redd can’t be held harmless for the losses anymore.

The Bucks record with Redd as a starter over the last four years is 110-170. That’s a lot of losing and they’ve lost those games for a number of reasons. Is one of them that the shooting star doesn’t really shoot well enough to give the team an advantage?

The 2-point jump shooting stats at 82games.com reveal that falling in behind Redd at 71st were Charlie Villanueva (128th) and Richard Jefferson (135th). Luke Ridnour was tied for 63rd, the highest two-point shooting mark achieved by a current Buck. This is not a team filled with shooters. The best the Bucks had, Mo Williams, is a Cleveland Cavalier.

Now let’s look at three-point shooting. Redd, the best 3-point shooter still on the team (Mo led the Bucks last season) came in at #92 in the NBA last season (.363) with Jefferson right behind him at 95th (.362). This is beginning to look funky for this team, as there seems no available advantage on the perimeter. The obvious candidate to back up and shoot more threes (someone has to and it better not be Charlie V) would seem to be Redd — but can he return to his three-point shooting form of six years ago when he was among the league leaders?

History would suggest no.  We can learn a lot looking at the NBA shooting stats, including that 17 guards in the NBA last season generated more scoring from 3-point land than Redd (the league leader among guards was Ray Allen, not surprisingly). Redd not only shoots an average % – he doesn’t shoot as many of them as a sharpshooter should. Two-point jump shooting in general being as bad as it is in today’s NBA, the statistically sound thing to do is to shoot threes. It generates more points. Skiles’ Bulls teams did this.

We also find that Redd’s shooting last season was not an aberration and can’t be blamed on Larry Krystkowiak. Redd has been a .369 3-point shooter since becoming the Bucks starting shooting guard (2003-04 season). 3-pointers have comprised about the same % of his shot selection during those five years. Somehow, Redd has maintained for five years a mythology as one of the NBA’s premier long range “spot up” shooters without being one. It’s truly fascinating — and somewhat reflective of how little national media attention has been paid to the Bucks these last five years. NBA fans see Redd’s name on the top ten scoring list, they see high scoring games along the way — and apparently they assume he’s draining threes. Not the case most of the time.


In the Skiles-Boylan offense, the ball moves, so you won’t find the 2008-09 Bucks standing around watching Redd and Jefferson hog the ball. Someone will have to be the go-to spot up shooter. The Bucks need that shooter to be Michael Redd, regardless of whether the Olympics showed that he has a difficult time adjusting to a new and different style of play and a faster pace. Regardless too, it seems, of how well he’s shot as a starter. 

2008-09 would be a good season for Redd to re-earn both his shooters’ mythology and his contract. If he does, Scott Skiles will look like a genius. But the question is not whether Redd will accomplish these things — it’s the more basic question of whether he can.

Olympic disappointments II: Michael Redd again and media janitorial services

Redd on the medal standShhhh. Do you hear that?

It's not the rumble (listen closely) of Harley-Davidsons or the voice of Al Gore talking up a storm about the planetary emergency. No, though this last week in August has been loud and busy … You know, it just might be the sound of some in the Milwaukee Bucks-o-sphere helping Michael Redd polish the gold medal he brought home from China earlier this week. 

Luckily, the Brewers are in the pennant race, Packer season is a week away, hordes of Harley-riders have invaded the city and the Democrats this week nominated a basketball guy to run for president. The sounds of medal polishing are very, very faint in these parts.

Why this extra sheen on Redd's gold is deemed necessary is beyond me, even from the Bucks marketing standpoint. I just don't really see a reason why Brewhoop should be telling Bucks fans that, "True, Redd didn't factor heavily in Team USA's success, but the team badly needed highly capable players willing to play a reduced role and Redd fulfilled that need."

Or how about this headline from the Bucks website: "Redd, U.S. Capture Gold."

I guess I don't get it. Will telling people that the Bucks shooting guard captured the gold sell Bucks tickets? No. Anybody who followed Team USA realizes that Redd was not a factor in winning the gold. Saying so just makes grouchy hack writers like me feel less guilty about ignoring/forgetting Redd's birthday (it was on the day team USA won gold) in my last post and pointing out what a disappointment Mr. Redd's Olympics were.

It's OK. It's alll good, as they say. Bucks fans can handle a little more disappointment. At least we weren't paying for it this time. But we did see the Bucks shooting guard fail to shoot straight in the role of shooting specialist, then saw that role eliminated. It happened. Otherwise, Redd appeared to remain upbeat on the bench, in company with Utah Jazz' All-NBA power forward Carlos (no relation to 1971 Buck Bob) Boozer.

How and why did this happen?  This is the part of the blog where I go into the blow-by-blow detail of the two 2nd quarter runs Redd was given in games 1 and 2 against China and Angola; how his shots didn't fall; and how Coach Mike Krzyzewski scrapped the shooting specialists' role after Angola. There would be all sorts of links to show that, yes, it did in fact happen that way and that, yes, Redd really did play nothing but garbage time minutes after game 2. I did all that in fact and decided to delete it. I will leave this:

Three-point specialist Redd finished last on Team USA in three-point shooting percentage. Yes, it's true. (The link is to the official Olympic stats.) Couple the disappointing Olympics with last year's shooting — in which Redd shot 36.3% on three-pointers (not bad but very middle of the NBA road) and only 41.8% on jump shots outside the paint.– and it appears that Michael Redd's mythology as a great NBA shooter is in need of some major rehab.  His 41.8% figure on 2-point jump shots tied Redd with Rasheed Wallace for 71st in the NBA.

I suspect Bucks fans are tired of the team making excuses for its players. I also believe that on some level, owner Herb Kohl was tired of it as well — isn't that why he fired GM Larry Harris and brought John Hammond in from Detroit to start a new era of accountability? I believe the Bucks organization realizes that the fans will not come back to the BC if the Bucks offer up more excuses instead of wins. Coach Scott Skiles said as much earlier this week in a column by Michael Hunt.

The Journal Sentinel, I should point out, has yet to do the obligatory "Redd returns with Gold" story, and we should be thankful for that. And to be fair the Bucks are not blowing the Olympics out of proportion on Redd's behalf. How could they? There's very little to work with beyond the gold medal ceremony photographs, which are plenty. I would, however, encourage a rewrite at Bucks online of the "Redd, U.S. capture gold" headline. Here's a nice, harmless, factual alternative:

"Happy B-Day Michael Redd: USA captures gold"

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Michael Hunt - JS photo

I'd like to preface this item by saying I like Michael Hunt's column in the JS. It's much more enjoyable than Bauman's ever was, and, unlike Dale Hoffman, Hunt appreciates the NBA. I remember when he was a BadgerPlus writer and if you don't, you missed some great writing. Hunt wrote game stories with the kind of electricity that you don't often see in newspapers (and the sort of energy I sure don't feel writing about Michael Redd). It was as though rock writer Lester Bangs was posthumously writing about sports in Wisconsin all of a sudden  — and why wasn't this guy writing in the main? He soon was, first as a Bucks writer, then as columnist.

All of which makes me wonder what was going on in his Aug. 26 column, "Bucks fly under the radar." Sure, the Bucks are out of mind for many in Milwaukee with the Brewers chasing the Cubs, all the #4 drama and the Pack about to start a new era. They could use some attention.  Hunt begins by praising GM John Hammond on a "good" draft, and that seems an overly strong endorsement — but that's not the weird thing about Hunt's column. The statement raising quite a few eyebrows is this: "Already the new general manager has given the Bucks what they haven’t had in years — near-future cap flexibility — by somehow making [Bobby] Simmons and [Mo] Williams go away."

This near future of which he speaks certainly isn't 2009 or 2010. Charlie Villanueva's qualifying offer alone next season would put the Bucks well over the 2009-10 estimated salary cap with a payroll of $68 million and others roster slots yet to fill. The following season, the Bucks as are would pull a relatively safe distance from the luxury tax because Luke Ridnour's contract expires. However — unless Charlie V or some other power forward is willing to play for free, or Dan Gadzuric apologizes and walks away from his contract, the Bucks will only have about $15 million under the salary cap to sign a point guard, a PF and four other players. And that's a conservative 2010 estimate.

What this probably means for the Bucks is that this current core roster will need to click and make some big strides for the Bucks to consider holding this group together beyond this season, much less to think about heading into summer of 2010 with the current roster. We shall see what happens in the next few months. For now, back to the Hunt column.

Hunt's effort to put the Bucks on JS sports readers radar, if only for a day, left many Bucks fans scratching their heads. You should read some of the discussion here at realgm.com, complete with a response about the column from hunt that made even less sense than what he actually wrote. I realize that misfires by the daily increase the credibility of bloggers one way or another (even though I'm writing like crap this week) but I gotta tell ya — playing watchdog to paid journalists is a chore, and it's especially more of a chore over financial/business reporting. It doesn't make for good reading, I know. The "establishing of the record" reporting is supposed to be the business of the paper of record, not the fan blogosphere.   

Bottom line: No cap flexibility for the Bucks in 2009 or 2010 – unless Richard Jefferson opts out of his contract and goes elsewhere (which could happen 2010) or if Hammond can find a way to move Gadzooks. A Redd trade could also achieve some cap flexibility if the Bucks receive player (s) with expiring contracts. In other words, something more would have to happen for the Bucks to get "near-future cap flexibility."  There should be flexibility in 2011, but  that doesn't have anything to do with anything Hammond did — it just happens to be the way Redd, Jefferson and Gadzooks'  contracts play out.

These are tough times in the Bucks-o-sphere. Disappointing Olympics for both the Bucks shooting guard and center, a stumbled-through summer filled with questionable, factually flawed reporting from the daily (I was thinking about Bogut's contract here) … hasn't really helped fans look clearly into the future. Or maybe it has and these are just signs that we're headed for another rough season. But I do know this: If I'm going to be the janitor around here, I'll need the keys to the basketball court after hours ….

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Patrick Mills says the US had a physical and psychological advantage in the quarter final.

Remember this guy? That's Patty Mills, the Aussie guard who dazzled (and turned 20) during the games. He'll be back at St. Mary's (Calif.) college this fall, playing Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, Gonzaga et al. in the West Coast Conference (WCC). The quicksilver guard is now not only an NBA prospect, but he's being tracked by NBA.com. In addition, he's already been mock-drafted #14 in 2009 at Draft-Express.com.  The draft junkies may may get the DTs over it, but why don't we play some basketball first before we have another draft?

Mills blew by the likes of Chris Paul and Deron Williams in a tuneup game Aug. 5 and in the Olympic quarterfinals Aug. 20, earning some oohs and ahhs from the Redeem Teamers as well as some Chris Paul point guard magic that shines "second coming" talk wherever there is quicker-than-quick guard play. The player everyone will be watching at St. Mary's next season led Australia in scoring in six Olympic games with 14.2 ppg, while turning the ball over only six times the entire tournament. 

Maybe they can’t help it: Bucks Olympic disappointments… Luke VIDEO time!

What ref, no flop?With the Olympics ending and the British proving the old axiom that if you have Led Zeppelin at your disposal, it’s probably in your best interests to play some …  And now with the Democratic convention underway proving again one of its most tried and true party axioms — that Ted Kennedy doesn’t really resonate with the working class in Middle America, which won’t stop the party from trying (he’s not well and I’m sorry, but it’s a strange feeling starting a week knowing precisely when and where and how many times you’d heard something before said in precisely the same way you just heard it said …)

.. It’s only fitting then that our Bucks, too, played out an axiom of their own in the 2008 Olympic games. Allow me to be the one to point it out, if only because someone should. (And because my notes got away and ended up published for a few hours yesterday) So … here’ goes:

Milwaukee Bucks players, when given an opportunity, will disappoint. They’ve done it for a few years now, to the point where it’s become enough of a habit to pass into “axiom” stage. Changes in uniform, team, environment, venue and competition could not prevent our Bucks from disappointing in Beijing, almost as if the effects of the 2007-08 season were lingering like a bad hangover.

Yi streetball poseHow deep does this thing go? One of those players, Yi Jianlian, is no longer a Buck, yet even a trade with New Jersey couldn’t stop our 2007 draft pick from disappointing. He had a terrible opener against Team USA; the proud debut for the host team. There was Yi on NBC live, going scoreless in the first half, eventually being yanked from the game in the 2nd quarter after an unsportsmanlike foul. Yi did come out in the second half after the game was over and score nine points in garbage time, but that didn’t stop ESPN’s Chris Sheridan from devoting an entire column to Yi’s lousy play. Sheridan was brutal. Yi did have his moment: A key 18-foot jumper against Germany that helped send China into the quarterfinals. But he was a noshow in China’s quarterfinal loss to Lithuania. The rookie wall, it seems, is made of granite. Disappointing.

Bogut with game face vs. Lith - FIBABucks center Andrew Bogut had the best Olympics of any Buck, but that ought to tell you how deeply ingrained in the Bucks this disappointment factor is. Bogut’s Olympics was an ordeal — marred by injury and a start in which he shot only three times as Australia looked like a rec league team unsure whether or not they were in the right gym. The Aussie coach fumbled about for a couple of games and finally found his rotation in game four to salvage the Australia tournament — but in Australia’s biggest game in eight years against Team Redeem in quarterfinals, Bogut found foul trouble, more playing time problems and a second ankle injury.

Bogut did defy the Bucks jinx and dominate against Russia and Lithuania to lead Australia to the Team USA matchup – which had to make you wonder what was going on with the Autralian team. The Australian professional league is dying from lack of interest. This national team was the last hurrah for a few veteran NBL players. The coach, Brian Goorjian has been a long time NBL coach. We may never know what was going on with the team — but did you know that in six games Bogut played less than half the available minutes? He averaged 19.7 mins per game. Out of 40. Unbelievable. Disappointing..


Redd prays for dimemag - steve hill photoMichael Redd? Can Bucks fans remember back on this: When was the last time Michael Redd was not disappointing? Were there a couple of games last year in which he led the Bucks to victory? He did beat Cleveland with a buzzer beater in February. That much I recall. It was his first walk-off gamewinner ever. Perhaps it was last summer when the USA Senior Men’s team qualified for the Olympics by winning the Pan An games. Redd scored 14 pts a game in that tournament. Or maybe earlier this summer when the USA basketball cancelled its tryouts and Redd officially made the team. When the team got to Beijing, however, Redd’s role on the team eventually whittled down to nothing.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Redd was intended to be the team’s designated three-point specialist, the gunner brought on to rain highlight film jump shots to bust teams out of zone defenses. Redd began the Olympics generally receiving stints in the second quarter and the fourth. His first run, however, came up empty. He entered the game and instantly began looking for his offense, drawing a foul, missing a shot, missing another one. Coach Mike Krzyzewski pulled him from the game after 2 mins, 42 seconds. Later on in the 4th quarter it was almost sad watching Redd and Yi trade baskets after the game was decided. Sad and futile and familiar. Redd would finish the game with nine points on 3-9 shooting, three garbage time three pointers, one with 29 seconds left.

Redd would hit seven more shots over the next five games, but miss 15 and close his Olympics 10-31 from the field, 5-18 on three-pointers (27.7% rate from behind a line more than three feet closer to the hoop than the NBA’s).  Bogut, believe it or not, tied Redd with five three-pointers for the Olympics, making 5/8. Who knew he could shoot from 21 feet?

But the shooting specialist, Redd, couldn’t find his shot. By the medal games, Redd was reduced to fourth quarter minutes only. He played 5:40 against Argentina and the final 26 seconds of the gold medal game. Only Carlos Boozer played fewer minutes in the Olympics. Here’s a typical Redd note from the games, this one from Aug. 16-17 after Team USA blew out Spain:

* Redd played 12 minutes in the second half, scoring 4 pts on 2-4 shooting (0-1 from downtown). He did not play in the first half, but didn’t try to force any offense during his stint in the 2nd. With all the frenetic defense and fast-paced transition the Redeem Teamers play, they haven’t had much of a role for him.


These things won’t be written about in Bucks country as the gold medals are polished in the sports pages. Why ruin a golden moment when Redd’s the Milwaukee connection to the Redeem Team?  But when is Michael Redd going to be part of delivering winning moments on a basketball court?  One key play is not a lot to ask, is it?  Something, anything for Bucks fan to get excited about would do. Disappointing.

Realgm.com’s fine Bucks forum moderator, PaulPressey25 made a great observation on opening day of Olympic basketball play. After spending Sunday morning watching Redd, Bogut and Yi, he wondered whether their struggles stemmed from playing last season in the losing environment of the Bucks or whether the source of the problem is that, as players, they really aren’t all that good.

I’m sure many Bucks fans who saw those games had similar thoughts. The grace period on delivering excitement this coming season may be very short for the 2008-09 Milwaukee Bucks.

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Well that sure was a downer, wasn’t it? But it had to be done. I will say that, having followed Bogut and the Australia Olympic team through the Olympics, things were not as they seemed in the Aussie camp. In the end, Basketball Australia got what they needed out of the Olympics — they made the medal round and found their way to a high profile matchup with the Redeem Team. Bogut went from looking like an almost substandard center in Game 1 to all-world in Game 4 vs. Russia. Very strange stuff. Perhaps the Aussies were just to too much of a team still in transition toward its next generation to have it be any other way. I do hope the Bucks are working to get the clearest possible picture on the medical treatment Bogut received on his ankle (s) during the games.

Patrick Mills says the US had a physical and psychological advantage in the quarter final.

Remember this guy? That’s Patty Mills, the Aussie guard who dazzled (and turned 20) during the games. He’ll be back at St. Mary’s (Calif.) college this fall, playing Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, Gonzaga et al. in the West Coast Conference (WCC). Definitely a player to watch in the NCAA this season and a hot topic all over the college and draft boards after Beijing. In fact, he’s already been mock-drafted #14 in 2009 at Draft-Express.com!  The draft junkies may may get the DTs over it, but why don’t we play some basketball first before we have another draft?

Mills was one of a quite a few players who opened a few scouting windows during the Olympics, and some of them may be worth taking a look at, even in an immediate or short term context with the Bucks … hypothetically. But there’ll be time for that in a later post. Now, in the interest of ending this post on a positive, upbeat note, here’s some more fun Luke Ridnour video.






No, Luke, no – too serious …

And don’t bother getting up, dude. Look for Luke at #4 on this Top 10 …




An Olympic Close: Wanna Whole Lotta Leona?

Jimmy PageHell hath not frozen over … yet, but some believe that this phenomenon may indeed become something more than a hackneyed cliche Sunday during closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. No, no not a Spanish upset of the Redeem Team. No, this is an even more unexpected event, the sort of thing previously believed to be unthinkable … unholy even. And apparently it will be aired at an as-yet-unspecified time Sunday evening on your local NBC Olympic channel.

Guitarist Jimmy Page, the mercurial genius who gave the world Led Zeppelin, will write the coda to the Beijing games and lead British “X-Factor” pop icon Leona Lewis in a performance of Led Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love.” For those of us who don’t know, including me, X-Factor is the British version of American Idol. In fact it’s the next generation of the show “Pop Idol” which spawned American Idol. This is the Brit TV crap produced by the same Simon guy whom we see on our TV sets crabbing at cheezy singers and picking fights with Paula Abdul.

One might wonder whether Page’s groundbreaking sonic slab of pseudo-sexual mojo is an appropriate piece of music to cap an Olympics (“Kashmir” would have been a better choice, but then Pagey’d probably require Robert Plant for that). One might also wonder how this union ever came to be. Turns out it has everything to do with the British hosting the 2012 games in London. The Brits are allotted some performance time during the closing ceremonies to accept the Olympic flag from the Chinese and carry on. 

The all-too-obvious emissaries for this important British Empire task? Well, of course, soccer posterboy David Beckham, the guitarist from Led Zeppelin and the 2006 winner of a pop idol TV show — who, although she may be one of the sensual things ever born on British soil, sings the sort of souless pop nothings that turn Zep fans to stone. She cites Mariah Carey as an influence. Of course. 

As these things go, once Page agreed to allow the use of the song, his involvement grew to encompass composition of the British musical score and a starring role in final production: 






Jimmy Page & The Black CrowesI prefer to look on the bright side and remember that Pagey’s recent collaborations have been brilliantly executed. The Black Crowes tour (1999-2000) was the next best thing to Led Zeppelin; the encore guest appearance with the Foo Fighters earlier this summer rocked; the Led Zeppelin reunion in December has been hailed as the concert of the decade. Brilliant, all of it.

And who can forget “Come with Me” – the bastard son of “Kashmir” meets Sean “Puffy” Combs and a Godzilla flick? The very mention of it caused bloodletting in the Houses of Holy, but the result was astonishingly … good — with Page even writing for “Kashmir” a fresh new bridge. It was so good, the youtube police have zagged the incendiary, full orchestra 1998 Saturday Night Live performance  … but leave it to the anime kids to give us something cool to look at here:






As for Leona, she of “Bleeding Heart” or whatever the hit was called, I think we can all agree that “Whole Lotta Love” is a stretch for a girl who wears hoopish gowny things in concert and says she’s not brave enough to pose nude, even for PETA. Leona may be exotically beautiful in an Aphrodite rising from the foam sort of way, but this is not a gig where she can get by on sultry looks alone. For this collaboration to work she’ll have little choice on the world’s largest stage but to loosen up and embrace Whole Lotta Love’s grinding, gutteral surges which leave little to the imagination. Will Page and Lewis tempt the erotic depths of the song’s middle section?

This could be incredibly hot or an embarassing disaster, but I’ll hold out for the former. I’m sure Page knows exactly what he’s doing …

Leona-Lewis-j17.jpg

Keep-a-coolin baby …

The youtube police have nabbed video of the final production but here’s what it looked like:






They’ve nabbed that too, and we know who they are. You may find it on the nbc.olympics.com I’d imagine, but here’s another idea: Go back up to the interview with Page and let it play through. You will then get a menu 1-7 of “related video.”  Pick #7 — you won’t be disappointed.

Keep a coolin’ baby.

GOLD: This time, team USA rolled with NBA’s best

The job is done, but not without a few tense moments in the 118-107 gold medal victory over a talented and resilient Spain team. The Redeem Team has returned the basketball gold to its home turf, and there are six words that describe how and why it happened better than barrelfuls of ink or kilobyte upon kilobyte of analysis ever could.

Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade.





(Thazz a party – and it looks like Carmelo’s into the silly weed …but back to our story)

The three stars — two of whom, Lebron and D-Wade, were All-rookie team members on the 2004 team that necessitated this redemption  —  were not about to allow the 2008 Olympics to end in any other outcome than gold. Wade led all scorers with 27, including a whirling dervish 21 in the first half when Lebron and Kobe were in foul trouble. Kobe took over the game coming out of a USA timeout with 8:13 to play in the 4th quarter and the lead cut to two, and finished with 20. Lebron did a little bit of everything – scoring, defense, unselfish team play, again leading the team in minutes played and hauling down 4 key rebounds in the six-minute 4th quarter stretch that won the game.

The game lived up to its billing, as Spain fought a great fight and became the first team in the Olympics to put four quarters together against Team Redeem. Like a good yet overmatched boxer, the Spanish took hits but minimized the damage, swayed to the ropes but did not fall and stayed alive with salvos of their own until Team USA delivered the knockout punch in the final minutes. Spain may not have missed injured point guard Jose “I made T.J. Ford expendable” Calderon as much as expected. Calderon’s absence opened the game for Juan Carlos Navarro, who awoke from his Olympic doldrums with drive after drive into the US lane, giving Chris Paul fits and scoring 18.

Why have world championships and the gold been so elusive for the USA since the 2000 gold medal until now? The simple answer may be the absence of players the caliber of Lebron, Kobe and D-Wade. They are something to the NBA today that most of the 2004 bronze medal team, including the rookies Lebron and D-Wade, did not represent. Team USA, 2008 model, is much more representative of the best the 2008 NBA has to offer than the 2004 team was of the league’s best in that year. We’ve heard a lot from the USA basketball and basketball media about chemistry and attitude and other intangibles, but the bottom line with the 2004 team has always been that USA basketball sent to Athens Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson and a poor-defending 2nd or 3rd team.

The 2004 NBA MVP was Kevin Garnett, who was in his prime and had posted career highs in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. Garnett was completely healthy yet declined to play on the Olympic team. The Shaq-Kobe dynasty in LA had ended bitterly – they weren’t interested and Shaq was reconstituting in Miami with Wade.  Detroit won the 2004 championship, yet no Pistons were on Team USA. The desired shooter, Ray Allen, was recuperating from injuries. The Mediterranean didn’t seem like the safest place in the world to be an American, and player after player declined.

In fact, of the 12 American players on the 2004 1st, 2nd and 3rd All-NBA Teams (scroll down at that link) ONLY ONE played on Team USA – Tim Duncan. 1st-team All-NBA selections Shaq, Kobe, Garnett and Jason Kidd all declined. 2nd-teamers Sam Cassell, Tracy McGrady, Ben Wallace and Jermaine O’Neal didn’t play for various reasons. (Peja Sojakovic was the fifth). From the 3rd team, Ron Artest, Baron Davis and Michael Redd stayed home. And of the nine Americans on the All-Defensive 1st and 2nd teams, only ONE – Duncan again – played in Athens.

This left Duncan and Iverson, whose Sixers were slipping fast, and a hodgepodge of players, including Stephon Marbury, Lamar Odom, Richard Jefferson, Carlos Boozer, pre-rookie Emeka Okafor; and Lebron, Carmelo Anthony and D-Wade, who had just finished their rookie seasons. The Nets Jefferson, believe it or not, led that B-list group in playoff experience. When they settled for bronze under Pistons coach Larry Brown, the natural reaction from many fans was: Why didn’t we just send the Pistons?

The 2008 team was a much, much better cross section of the best of its NBA year. No, there were no Celtics on the team and no Spurs, but of the 11 American players named 2008 All-NBA, six had joined Team USA, including 4/5 1st-team selections: Kobe, Lebron, center Dwight Howard and point guard Chris Paul. Kobe, Howard and Paul were also All-Defensive selections along with Tayshaun Prince. 

Deron Williams from the 2nd Team All-NBA played a solid role off the bench; forward Boozer, a 3rd Team selection, saw very limited action. Making an allowance for D-Wade, a 2006 and 2007 All-NBA selection returning from injury, the Redeem Team counted seven All-NBA players, six of them in coach Krzyzewski’s rotation. The All-NBAers were the backbone, with an inspired Chris Bosh, captain Jason Kidd, scorer Carmelo Anthony and All-Defensive Prince stepping into roles that developed around this core.

This was quite a difference from 2004, more than enough to make the difference between bronze and gold on both ends of the court. Down the stretch in the 4th quarter against Spain, All-Defensive Howard got key stops in classic post-ups against Pau Gasol. Chris Paul, the MVP runner-up to Kobe, handled the majority of the point guard duties and led the team in steals. Deron Williams was solid and team-oriented, a good perimeter shooting option and a decided upgrade from Marbury. Good things happened whenever Tayshaun Prince was on the court. There was all of that and this:

Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade.

Shooting for gold: USA-Spain live 1:30am CST

LeBron James - Getty imagesPREGAME: After two weeks of early morning games, we get a Team Redeem night game, an after midnight special – and, yes, the time is correct. TMJ4 will broadcast the USA vs. Spain gold medal game at 1:30am CST.

This will be the first rematch in these Olympics for both teams, which should make things interesting. No one should expect a replay of the first game last Saturday in group play, when 2006 world champion Spain played Washington Generals to Team USA’s Harlem Globetrotters, turning the ball over 28 times in a 37-point Redeem Team romp.

The Aug. 16 game was also perhaps the only Olympic game in which Team USA shot well from 3-point range, Carmelo Anthony and Tayshaun Prince combining for 7-10. The rest of the team shot 5-15, which isn’t going to stop Spain from packing defenders in the paint and daring Team Redeem to prove it can hit jumpshots.

Team USA hasn’t spoken well for the state of shooting in the NBA. The 3-pointer in international play is just 20′ 9″ out from the hole, a good 2-and-a-half feet closer than the NBA 3-pointer. The top two NBA outside shooters in these Olympics, as ranked by 82games.com, are not on the USA team. They are Spain’s Jose “I made T.J. Ford expendable” Calderon of the Raptors and Mavs all-pro Dirk Nowitzki of Germany. Kobe, Carmelo, Lebron and even Michael Redd, Team Redeem’s alleged shooter, are nowhere near the top in NBA shooting.

Unfortunately, that’s the way the league is these days; and the Redeem Team happens to be a very good reflection of today’s NBA. Kobe, Lebron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh — this is their era, though one might get an argument from Boston. Eventually an international team would make Team USA pay for its poor shooting, but I’m not expecting the payday to come tonight. (ESPN’s Chris Sheridan seems concerned but this Spain team isn’t the one.)

Fortunately, Team Redeem also reflects the best NBA qualities — the tough defense and mean, hungry competitive spirit that one finds on the NBA’s top teams. No, there are no Celtics on this team, but if you watched the NBA Finals or the Cavs-Celtics series, you might wonder whether it’s humanly possible for a Pau Gasol-led team to beat a hungry Lebron James team. And this Lebron team has Kobe Bryant on it. (Funny, the end-of-week media angle was to annoint a team leader. NBC says it’s Lebron; other media tabs Kobe; the coach and ESPN’s Chris Sheridan says Jason Kidd. And so it goes.)

The Team USA defense has been the story of the Olympic basketball tournament, and there’s no reason to expect the D to let up in the gold medal game. I’m expecting the opposite — one of the most astonishing and relentless defensive performances in Olympic history. Spain should be ready to play, especially after the drubbing they took in the teams’ first meeting, but it shouldn’t matter.

Unfortunately, the Spanish will be playing without their point guard, Calderon, who’s out with a “slightly torn abductor muscle” which is somewhere in the thigh-to-groin area of the legs. (I wonder how the Australian team would have handled this injury.) Calderone’s absence should mean plenty of playing time for 17-year-old Ricky Rubio, a kid who makes NBA scouts drool.

In addition to Pau Gasol (Kobe’s talented-but-soft Laker teammate), brother Marc Gasol (traded to the Grizzlies for Pau last season) is a bruiser who likes to mix it up. Another guy to watch is burly big forward Felipe Reyes, Spain’s leading scorer and best player in the first USA game. (Note to John Hammond – Real Madrid’s Reyes has a nice shooting touch and is precisely the type of 6′ 9″ forward the Bucks could use, immediamente). Guard-forward Rudy Fernandez, who had 18 in the semifinals against Lithuania, is another Spanish player to watch, but Fernandez is the type of international player who’s out of his league against the likes of Kobe, Lebron and D-Wade — which is really the main problem international teams have had with Team Redeem.

So if Spain sounds slim going up against team USA, that’s because it is. Juan Navarro, who played in Memphis last season, isn’t playing well. Calderon is out. The front court is good, but the Argentina big men were good, too, as was Australia in the quarterfinals. Kobe and Lebron are hungry for gold. They may not shoot well enough to utterly dominate, but they do everything else so well that it shouldn’t — and doesn’t — matter.

How they got there:  The semifinals featured the four teams clearly a cut above the rest of the Olympic pack but the games left a lot to be desired. After a very quiet and noncontroversial 10 tournament days, the officials made themselves big factors, and that’s never good.

USA 101, Argentina 81  This game was a bit closer than the final score indicated, as Team Redeem dropped its intensity after Manu Ginobili sprained his left ankle early in the game. As Bill Walton described it in his postgame analysis: When Ginobili went down “the energy was just sucked out of the atmosphere.” Down 21, the Bulls Andres Nocioni and the Rockets Luis Scola pulled Argentina within six just before half when the officials intervened to start the Carmelo Anthony free throw parade. Carmelo shot 3-14 from the floor but 13-13 from the line for 21 pts. That ain’t earnin’ it. Scola finished with 28 pts, 12 rebs.



  • Chris Sheridan, the saving grace of ESPN basketball writing, has an excellent recap in his column. Carmelo very nearly lost his cool due to Argentinian rough stuff and has been talking about what “a war” the gold medal game will be, etc. etc. Somebody get ‘Melo a beer and a spliff before he starts something; let’s hope Tayshaun Prince and Michael Redd get some minutes while he’s coolin’ his Nikes on the bench.

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  • Michael Redd played three minutes at the end of the first half and two garbage mins at the end of the game. Redd didn’t shoot or score, but grabbed three rebounds. Wouldn’t it be nice if Redd hit a few threes in the gold medal game? That’s all it would take to erase memories of his poor shooting through seven Olympic games. (10-31 from the floor; 5-18 on threes).

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  • Olympics stat page for all teams.

Spain 91, Lithuania 86  Lithuania led 66-62 going into the 4th quarter but a huge Spain advantage from the foul line put Gasol and company over the top. Being ever so curious and not having watched the game, I went to the fourth quarter play-by-play to find out who got hot and won the game for Spain. Pau Gasol and Felipe Reyes (remember that name John Hammond) scored 2 quick hoops apiece to get it started, then Rudy Fernandez hit a two and three. 76-74 Spain. From there on in, the final six mins of the game, Spain didn’t score a hoop and shot 17 free throws.

The fourth quarter totals – two buckets apiece for Gasol, Reyes and Fernandez, and 16-18 from the line. That’s not basketball, folks. In the process, Nuggets forward Linas Kleiza of Lithuania was tossed for two unsportsmanlike fouls. Something tells me Lithuania should be playing for gold against the U.S., not the Jose Calderon-less Spanish team.