Tag Archives: Bob Boozer Jinx

Mission “Impossible” – The Milwaukee Bucks evaluation that coach Scott Skiles says can’t be done

Bucks coach Scott Skiles said after Friday’s blowout loss in Dallas that it was “impossible” to evaluate the 2012 Bucks.  They’ve been too hurt, too MIA and too jumbled in disarray in this rush-start, lock-out shortened season; it just can’t be done, not yet after 11 games, not in Skiles’ mind.

At The Bob Boozer Jinx, we’re undeterred by such obstacles, and have already noted that Skiles and Bucks GM John Hammond failed for the second year in a row to put a team on the court ready to start the season.   With that in mind as the Bucks get set to play the Philadelphia 76ers on Martin Luther King Day, here’s your 2012 Milwaukee Bucks evaluation, coach, in order of most playing time to least.

Brandon Jennings: He’s shooting better and has played smarter, attacking to the basket more than settling for that unreliable jumpshot of his, as the Bucks are playing at a faster pace than last season.  BJ3 is among the NBA leaders in minutes played per game, was at one point near the top in free throws per game (he needs to do more of this) and was shooting 44.3% going into Philly, 35.7% from Downtown.  Those are winning numbers for a point guard these days, especially one that keeps his turnover rate as low as Jennings does (10%).   Had a tough game in Philly and couldn’t give the Bucks an edge in the 3rd quarter when they needed it, but make no mistake — Brandon Jennings has improved.  Defense?  That’s improved, too, as BJ3 leads the Bucks in steals.  He wins the Bob Boozer Jinx “2012 Most Ready to Play” award.

Stephen Jackson:  He shoots, he scores.  He shoots, he misses.  A lot.  A 42% career shooter who can’t make a third of his threes is not a good shooter, but that doesn’t deter Captain Jack.  The intangibles?  Showed up out-of-shape and with a sore back but looks close to 100% now, and he seems to be the kind of nasty competitor the Bucks need some nights — and there will be those.  Unfortunately, he shoots so badly in some games — like today’s 3-for-12 against Philly — that the Bucks will often find themselves climbing out of a deficit as Jack rants.  The Bucks can’t win with Jennings and Jackson shooting a combined 6-for-23.  There will be those nights, and days, like these.

Carlos Delfino:  Here’s another guy who wasn’t ready to go, as he missed two games and was useless for three others due to a sprained shooting wrist.  Del is the Bucks best 3-baller (38%), and a capable defender who is again leading the Bucks in steals.  He’s solid all-around and would do well to take it to the hoop more often, and doesn’t help out on the glass as much as he could.  When he’s on, the Bucks can be dangerous.

Shaun Livingston:  One of the reasons the Bucks can look at their schedule, look at their record, and feel like they should be 7-and-5 instead of 4-and-8 even after reading the injury report.  Livingston has helped the Bucks build a few blowout leads, only to see them frittered away aided by offensive droughts, bad rebounding and Skiles’ flawed sense of matchups and rotations.  A player who does everything there is to do on the basketball court well — turnaround jumpers from the post! — and has fit in seamlessly on the Bucks jumbled roster.  He may have found his second NBA life in Milwaukee.

Ersan Ilyasova:  If you followed Ersan this summer with the Turkish national team and with Anadolu Efes in the Euroleague, you knew that Ersan had seemingly lost his jumpshot but wasn’t really bothering to look for it, content to play D, rebound and mix it up inside.  He’s very much a player in transition from “Dirk-lite” scorer to cage-rattling NBA power forward.  Does it look good in the box score or other metrics?   Hell no, with the exception of the rebound column.  Currently making Thaddeus Young‘s MLK day miserable in Philly, and is on the court with Bogut, Delfino, Jennings and Jackson – the Bucks strongest defensive unit today.  That unit “got up on ’em and got  physical,” said Bucks assistant Jim Boylan, noting that this was when the game changed.  They pulled a 13-point deficit down to six in the 2nd quarter.  Bucks trailed by four at the half.

Important note:  Skiles has managed to evaluate Ilyasova, deciding he’s an “off the bench forward” on “a really good, deep club,” and that this seems to be his NBA future.  Ersan would beg to differ, and this will very likely be his last season playing for the Bucks (not a really good, deep club) and certainly his last playing for Skiles.

Jon Leuer:  Ilyasova’s heir apparent and fan fave, currently starting at power forward.  Unlike Ilyasova, Leuer actively looks to shoot, and has been the Bucks most efficient scorer this season.  The downside is that the Bucks defense and rebounding takes a hit when Leuer is on the court, evidenced by the first 4 minutes of the 2nd half in Philly, as the Bucks struggled to keep the Sixers off the glass.  Enter Ilyasova at the 7:50 mark, as Skiles continues to play power forward roulette.  The interior defense and rebounding picks up in the 3rd, but little else.  The Bucks tried to pull back into the game in the 4th without Leuer or Ilyasova.

Andrew Bogut:  Not ready to play this season, missing four of the Bucks first eight games due to a “personal matter” back home in Australia.  Staying on the court is AB’s main problem.  Lesser problems:  As more and more centers step out to the three-point line, pulling Bogut 20 feet or more from the hoop, Bogut will need to learn to adjust — and it is frustrating to watch Spencer Hawes draining threes.  Bogut himself is stepping out a bit this season, encouraged to do so for the first time in his career, and he’s been able to knock down four or five set-jumpers.  Bogut’s game remains close to the basket, of course, where he’s one of the best defenders in the NBA.   He played strong against Hawes, racking up 20 points, 11 boards, four assists and three blocked shots to keep the Bucks within striking distance in the 4th quarter.  His best game of the season, a hopeful sign for Bucks fans everywhere.  Has Godot arrived?

Drew Gooden:  Bogut can’t play 40 minutes a game, certainly, and probably won’t play enough this season to qualify for the NBA leader boards, which makes the 30-year-old Gooden, the Big Zero, a primary NBA backup center for the first time in his NBA career.  Check that – this project was attempted and abandoned in San Antonio and Dallas.  It will have to work in Milwaukee, or Drew becomes a $6 million-a-year big man with no job.  Poor guy.  May end up spending most of his time playing high stakes poker with GM John Hammond.

Larry Sanders:  Drafted in the first round 2011, by 2012 he’s riding the bench behind Gooden, Leuer and Ilyasova – even Jon Brockman at times.   A fantastic shot-blocker and defender in development, now a utility, garbage-time, odd man out.  If Alton Lister was Nellie’s “Big Project,” Sanders is Skiles’ “Really Big Project” — one that the Bucks organization may not ever get around to.

Beno Udrih:  Luke Ridnour is back and he’s taller and left-handed, shoots about the same, too, though not as experienced or sneaky on defense. “Allergic to defense,”  the Kings bloggers said about Udrih when he was traded to the Bucks.  This is true.  Udrih plays about the worst perimeter defense I’ve seen since Michael Redd and Mo Williams.  But he came to Milwaukee ready to play, and, were it not for getting creamed in a collision with Andre Miller in Denver and missing six games, the Bucks might have a road win or two.  A 5-and-7 record would look pretty good right now compared to 4-and-8.  (Udrih returned in Philly and played as the Bucks faded in the 4th.)

Mike Dunleavy, Jr.:  Coming into this season, Dunleavy had missed 110 games from 2009-11, or nearly half of those three seasons.  Now he’s missed eight more with a groin injury.  Yet another guy who wasn’t ready to play this season.  An injury-prone free agent acquisition by GM Hammond.

Tobias Harris:  Strong, good hands, gets to the rim and has good scoring ability around the basket, just as advertized when the Bucks drafted him.  The Bucks rookie had made the most of his 90 minutes to date, and scored 12 against Philly in 21 minutes.  The Bucks don’t have a small forward backup with Dunleavy and Luc Mbah a Moute out with injuries.  The way this season has gone so far, the Bucks may consider taking a development year for Leuer, Harris and Sanders.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Jon Brockman:  The Brockness Monster is still that, and he’s a punishing rebounder.  Problem is he can’t guard anybody and has no offensive game to speak of.  GM Hammond knew this when he signed him in summer of 2010.  It’s still not clear why he did it.

Darington Hobson:   Good floor skills and likes to drive.  6’7″ but plays like he’s 6’5″.  Belongs in the D-League with the Mad Ants of Fort Wayne, Indy.

Luc Mbah a Moute:  Expect some player movement when Mbah a Moute returns to 100%.  He’s signed and committed for four years ($19 million), and Luc will be here as long as Skiles is here.  He was sorely missed against Philly.  There are few things in the NBA better than watching Luc lock down on the likes of Andre Iguodala.

Trends from the armchair:  The strongest defensive unit — Jennings, Jackson, Delfino, Ilyasova and Bogut — was used only a quarter of the game in Philly — not enough.  Skiles abandoned it late in the 3rd quarter in a hale of Jackson and Jennings missed shots.  Livingston might’ve looked good with this group in place of Jennings.   Note that Leuer, Ilyasova, Gooden and Sanders did not play a single minute in the 4th as the Bucks dropped out of the game.  That was curious, though it may have been a function of Skiles wanting to look at Harris with the game (sorta) on the line.  It never felt like the Bucks were ever in it, not with the perimeter defense playing so poorly. …

…. And Skiles said this couldn’t be done.

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.

Cavs to win it all, unless they don’t

We take a break now from our Bucks playoff coverage, which has found many Bucks fans living and dying vicariously through Ray Allen jumpshots and wondering why the Bucks ever let the Hawks sign Zaza Pachulia (Slickless Larry Harris again, in that fateful 2005 offseason; it’s not as though Zaza was expensive. How could anyone think Dan Gadzuric was the better investment?) The NBA postseason is littered with “what ifs” for Bucks fans.

That’s why I’ve put in a call to my old friend, Al in Ohio, whose Cleveland Cavaliers knocked out the Washington Wizards over the weekend, in front of the Wiz home fans. Al let it ring five times before answering, probably trying to decide whether or not he wants to bring down his Cavs buzz by talking to a fan of the beleagured Bucks.

“You’re not calling about that Michael Redd trade again, are you? Lebron says he’s thinking about changing his cell phone number.”

“Naw, I’m just checking in to remember what it’s like to be an NBA fan with your team in the playoffs.”

(Pause.)

“Al, you still there?”

“Just hold on, J-Mo, I’m about to say something profound.”

“OK …uh …. Al?”

“The Cavs will win the NBA title this year! …”

“That’s the spirit! They’ve got just as much chance as anyone!”

“Unless they lose before then. They’re playing brilliantly, except when they don’t.”

“Al, you guys along Lake Erie still smarting from the elections? What happened to the bravado? You’ve got King James, and he ought to give you some confidence.”

“LeBron is once again showing that he may or may not be the greatest player ever. I also predict that when LeBron is 38, he will not be the player he is at 23. He will, in fact, be older.”

“Man, you should hear how Lakers fans are barking about Kobe. They’re demanding that Steve Nash hand both of his MVP’s back to the league for further review. And, according to Lakers fans, IT’s OVER – the Lakers won the title months ago. Anyone who disagrees is a HATER.  What gives?”

“I’m trying to preserve my status as basketball genius.”

“Al, there’s only one basketball genius in the world, and he’s sooo smart he actually gave Larry Brown his 300th coaching job last week.”

“I’m putting in my application for His Airness’s abandoned mantle.”

“But what about the Celtics? You Cavs fans almost got to see the Hawks in the semis!” (Well, not quite almost.)

“The Cavs still have a good chance, unless they blow it. The Celtics (or the Pistons) just don’t have that ‘one guy’ like Lebron who can will his team to win. Lebron has this Jordan-like ability to just decide he doesn’t want to lose. Look at game six against Washington: 27 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists. Exhorting his teammates during time outs – in a hostile arena. Cavs win. The guy is one of those once-in-a-decade players. The Celtics aren’t the near-lock for the finals that many people thought.”

“They sure don’t look like it, Al. I’m rooting for Ray and Sam ‘I Am’, don’t get me wrong, but the Celtics looked all-too-beatable against the Hawks, especially when Ray had bad shooting nights. Against the Cavs, Paul Pierce will be busy guarding Lebron, or trying to. And Garnett has all he can handle in the paint with Big Ben, Z-Ilgauskus and Anderson Varejao. It could get ugly.”

” Garnett, Pierce and Allen … for all their talent, have never been as far in the playoffs as LeBron has.”

“Hold on Al – Ray’s in the finals if Big Dog hits that shot in 2001 game five and the refs don’t steal that game and game three from us. The better team lost.”

“Don’t bring me down with that persecuted small market team Bucks fan thinking — it’s 2008 and we’re talking Cavs and Lebron!  If they beat the Celtics, we’ll probably see a repeat of last year, against the Spurs.”

“You don’t sound too encouraged. But then, the Spurs do have that affect on the NBA. How do they keep winning? Doesn’t anyone on that team ever get tired or hurt?”

“No one knows, but if you count them out, they win it all. Count them in, and maybe they lose.”

“That’s playoffs thinking Al!  I remember that stuff. But you forgot about Detroit.”

“The Pistons are up to no good, as usual. They’re trying to steal our underdog status in these playoffs. ”

“Well, your Cavs did beat them last year and the Pistons have not proven that they can take Lebron in a seven-game series, not now anyway.”

“Yeah, but our team is from Cleveland. Doesn’t that count for anything anymore?”

“Not in the rust belt, Al, not in the rust belt. Just look at the team we’ve got in Milwaukee.”

“Don’t want to J-Mo. And I gotta go … before you and your Bucks kill my Cavs buzz.”

“Wait Al!  About that Michael Redd tra–“

(Click)