Tag Archives: Corey Maggette

Farewell John Hammond: The abstract expressionist maze of deals that demolished the original “Fear the Deer” Bucks

"Convergence" by Jackson Pollock, 1952.

Bucks GM John Hammond is gone to the Orlando to work for the ultra-conservative DeVos family, owners of the Orlando Magic, and quite busy in these political times they helped finance.

Hammond replaces Rob Hennigan, the GM fired by the Magic in April after missing the playoffs for the fifth straight year, this time beaten by his own big trade last summer for Serge Ibaka.

The editorial board at BobBoozerJinx.com (and I) wish Hammond well, and I’m sure he knows what he’s doing, just as I’m sure Hennigan had no clue what he was doing (any GM who trades two legit NBA starters and 6’11” lottery pick named Sabonis for Ibaka is buying a “fire me now” tattoo).

I also can’t shake the puzzling fact that Hammond was still in Milwaukee four years after his own five-year plan to build a winner lay in shambles, circa 2013. Bucks owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens bought the team in 2014 and installed Jason Kidd as coach and de facto player personnel chief right under Hammond’s nose, without bothering to consult him. That he’s only just leaving now, three years later, is a wonder.

Jeff Weltman, Hammond’s draft guru, who left the Bucks in 2013 to work for the Raptors, will join him in Orlando. Scott Skiles, the former Bucks coach who walked out on his coaching contract with the Magic last summer over player personnel disagreements with Hennigan, will certainly not be joining them. Skiles quit after one season in Orlando because Hennigan, apparently, had no respect for Skiles’ ideas about building a Scott Skiles team.

Skiles quit on Hammond, too, for similar reasons. It happened during their fifth season together in Milwaukee, 2012-13, the final year of both the coach’s and the GM’s contracts, and also the year Weltman left. Skiles didn’t like the roster he was dealt post-Andrew Bogut trade (the roster itself didn’t like the Bucks roster) and when Skiles declined to negotiate a contract extension, Hammond let him go.

Their five-year plan in Milwaukee had produced immediate results and a 49-40 record, playoffs included, in its second year, thanks to some deft Hammond roster moves, which won him the NBA’s Executive of the Year award in 2010. The fans in Milwaukee were ecstatic, and the “Fear the Deer” slogan was born. But it fell apart just as quickly when the next Hammond trades undermined the Bucks chemistry (trade for Corey Maggette, 2010, and others; the 3-team draft day trade to be rid of Maggette in 2011 looks now like an unwarranted act of desperation). Injuries robbed the team of any consistency and gave Hammond some handy excuses.

The 2012 trade of Bogut to the Warriors in time anchored a championship defense in Golden State; it immediately destroyed the Bucks identity. By summer of 2012, Skiles had listed his home in the north Milwaukee suburbs “for sale” on the real estate market. By January of 2013, he was gone. Weltman exited for Toronto later in the year, though obviously on much better terms.

There’s an irony here amid the ruined five year plans in Milwaukee and Orlando, or maybe there is only Giannis Antetokounmpo, the diamond in the rough, the superstar rising whom Hammond and Weltman stumbled upon in their 6th summer with the Bucks. Maybe it’s the truth of Scott Skiles and his refusals to coach the Frankenstein rosters his former GMs patched together. The Bucks ability to benefit exponentially from Brandon Jennings via the trade with the Pistons and beyond is another (see the greenest area below). Or perhaps it’s elsewhere, the way one might find whatever it is they’re looking for in an abstract expressionist painting.

If you let your eyes blur a little over the minutia, a full account of Hammond’s wheeling and dealing of the Bucks “Fear the Deer” roster and draft picks does resemble a work of Jackson Pollock splatter art, or at least the sense of aimless searching one finds in the random meander of Pollock’s paints. 

Hammond reduced the entire 2010 Bucks squad and five years of draft pick assets to only a handful of players under contract: Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, John Henson. Add to that other 2010-connected assets such as the right of first refusal on Tony Snell in this summer’s free agency, Spencer Hawes‘ $6 million player option; and a super protected future 2nd round draft pick, and you have less than a third of a team, with two parts in flux.

Some of it was the work of Jason Kidd, but most of the work was done by Hammond prior to Kidd being hired. And here it is, in every exacting detail (I’m pretty sure I got it all, but someone please let me know if I missed anything).

How Hammond dealt Bucks assets Aug. 2009 – June 2013
(Green and CAPS indicates deal for current player (s) or asset; Red indicates end of the Bucks 2010-12 ties to that player, where the branch ends. “Assets” includes all draft picks 2008-2012.)
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2008 No. 8 draft pickJoe Alexander – traded 2/08/2010 w/ Hakim Warrick and a 2010 1st Round draft pick swap to Chicago Bulls for John Salmons, a 2011 2nd Rd pick (Isaiah Thomas) and a 2012 2nd Rd pick (Doron Lamb).
John Salmons – traded 6/32/11 w/ 2011 No. 10 pick (Jimmer Fredette) to Sacramento Kings for Beno Udrih as part of 3-team Corey MaggetteStephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston pick swap deal w/ Charlotte Bobcats
Beno Udrih – traded to Orlando Magic for J.J. Redick
J.J. Reddick – traded to L.A. Clippers for two 2nd Rd. draft picks (2014 – No. 48 Lamar Patterson; 2015 – No. 41 Pat Connaughton)
2008 No. 37 pick – Luc Mbah a Moute – Traded for to Sacramento Kings for future 2nd Rd picks
2014 2nd Rd Pick – Johnny O’Bryantwaived 2016
2016 2nd Rd pick – MALCOLM BROGDON – (Bucks traded their own 2016 pick Patrick McCaw to GSW for $2.4 CASH)
2009 No. 10 pick – Brandon Jennings traded 2013 for KHRIS MIDDLETON  Brandon Knight and Viacheslav Kravtsov
KHRIS MIDDLETON – current Buck
Brandon Knight – Traded w/ Kendall Marshall (claimed on waivers 2014) to Phoenix Suns for Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis in 3-team trade w/ PHI.
Sixers trade Michael Carter-Williams to Bucks
Miles Plumlee – traded to Charlotte Hornets for SPENCER HAWES and Roy Hibbert
Roy Hibbert – traded to Denver for cash, SUPER PROTECTED 2019 2ND RD PICK (top 55 protected)
SPENCER HAWES – current Buck, has player option 2017-18.
Michael Carter-Williams – traded to Chicago 2016 for TONY SNELL
Tyler Ennis – traded 2016 to Houston for Michael Beasley, unrestricted free agent 2017
Viacheslav Kravtsov – traded Aug. 2013 w/ Ish Smith to Phoenix for Caron Butler
Caron Butlerwaived Feb. 2014, signed with OKC.
2009 No. 41 draft pick – Jodie Meeks, traded for free agent veterans and 2010 2nd Rd Pick (Darington Hobson)
2010 No. 17 draft pick – swapped for Chicago’s No. 15 as part of Alexander-Warrick for Salmons trade, used to take center Larry Sanders.
Larry Sanders bought out March 2015 – ANNUAL $1.866 MILLION SALARY CAP HIT THRU 2022
2010 2nd rd pickDarington Hobson, injured, never plays, waived 2012
2010 2nd rd pick – Tiny Gallon, waived 2010
2010 2nd rd pickJerome Jordan, obtained in trade for Maggette, sold to Knicks for CASH
2011 No. 10 pick – traded in 3-team Corey Maggette trade draft day June 2011 with SAC and CHA for 2011 No. 18 pick (Tobias Harris)
J.J. Redick traded 2013 to LAC for future 2nd Rd Pick (2015 No. 41) and 2014 2nd Rd Pick (No. 48 Lamar Patterson)
Lamar Patterson – traded to Atlanta Hawks for 2015 2nd Rd. pick
2015 2nd Rd pick – (Norman Powell) traded to Toronto for Greivis Vasquez
Greivis Vasquez – left unsigned by Bucks as 2016 free agent
2015 No. 41 pick (Pat Connaughton) sent to Brooklyn Nets as compensation for Bucks coach JASON KIDD
Ish Smith – traded for Caron Butler, Aug. 2013
Caron Butler – waived, Feb. 2014, signs with OKC for playoffs.
Gustavo Ayonleft unsigned by Bucks as 2013 free agent
2011 No. 40 pickJon Leuer – traded w/ J. Brockman, Shaun Livingston for Dalembert, 2014 2nd round pick
Dalembert leaves in free agency 2013
2014 2nd Rd. pick – traded to Philly for Nate Walters
Walters waived to make room for the Bucks to sign Kenyon Martin
Kenyon Martinwaived Feb. 2015
2011 No. 60 pick – the Isaiah pick, traded to SAC for Jon Brockman
Jon Brockman – traded to HOU in Dalembert deal, 2012
Dalembert – leaves in free agency, 2013
2012 No. 12 pick – (Jeremy Lamb) swapped for Houston’s No. 14 Pick (JOHN HENSON) in trade for Sam Dalembert
2012 No. 42 pick (from Chicago) – Doron Lamb – traded 2013 to ORL w/ Tobias Harris for J.J. Redick, Ish Smith, Gustavo Ayon
Amir Johnson – traded Aug. 2009 w/ Sonny Weems to Toronto Raptors for Carlos Delfino and Roko Ukic
Carlos Delfinoleft unsigned in free agency Aug. 2012, signed w/ Houston
Roko Ukicwaived Jan. 2010
Sonny Weems – traded Aug. 2009 w/ Amir Johnson to Raptors for Delfino and Ukic
Hakim Warrick – Signed as FA July 2009, traded to CHI (w/ Joe Alexander) Feb. 2010 for John Salmons
Salmons traded to Sacramento as part of 3-team trade June 2011, thread finally ends with Greivis Vasquez, 2016
Charlie Bell expiring contract – traded June 2010 to the Warriors for Corey Maggette and a 2010 2nd Rd draft pick (Jerome Jordan)
2010 2nd Rd Pick – (Jerome Jordan) sold to Knicks for CASH
Dan Gadzuric expiring contract – traded June 2010 to the Warriors for Corey Maggette
Corey Maggette – traded to Charlotte Bobcats June 2011 for Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston, as part of 3-team trade (also included a swap of draft picks and John Salmons to Sacramento for Beno Udrih).
Shaun Livingston – traded with Jon Leuer, Jon Brockman to Houston for Dalembert
Stephen Jackson – traded 2012 to the Warriors w/ Andrew Bogut
 
Darnell Jackson – claimed on waivers 2010, traded July 2010 with 2011 2nd Rd pick for Jon Brockman
Brockman – traded to HOU w/ Leuer, Livingston and 1st Rd. draft pick (Jeremy Lamb) in pick swap-Dalembert deal
Luke Ridnour unsigned in free agency, July 2010, went to Minnesota T-Wolves
Kurt Thomasgone to Chicago Bulls in free agency July 2010
Jerry Stackhouse – signed 01/19/10 for rest of season, signed w/ Heat 10/23/10
Andrew Bogut – traded 2012 season to Golden State Warriors (w/ Stephen Jackson) for Ekpe Udoh, Monta Ellis, Kwame Brown
Kwame Brown – left unsigned free agency 2012
Monta Ellis signed with Dallas Mavs, free agency 2013
Ekpe Udoh – left unsigned free agency 2014
Carlos Delfino – suffered concussion vs. Miami Heat 3/26 2010, left in free agency Aug. 2012, signed with Houston
Michael Redd – injured, played very little for Skiles. If ever there was a trade to be made for Redd, Bucks owner Herb Kohl probably nixed it. Redd was an annual $16-$19 million salary cap liability for Bucks 2008-2011, but also a combination of Lloyd’s of London insurance payments to Bucks and player asset depreciation that could be written off as loss on the team’s books . Contract expired 2011.
Ersan Ilyasova – traded in June 2015 to Detroit Pistons for Shawne Williams and Caron Butler
Butler waived by Bucks a 2nd time, June 2015
Shawne Williams – waived June 2015
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Assets remaining from all transactions, Fear the Deer 2010 roster and draft picks 2008-2012
(Includes all assets resulting from moves of players from the 2010 team and draft picks 2008-12.)
JASON KIDD, however partial – compensation 2nd Rd pick sent to Brooklyn, hiring of Kidd done by team owners without Hammond’s knowledge.
2012 #12 Pick – swapped w/ Houston for #14 – JOHN HENSON
KHRIS MIDDLETON – acquired in trade for Brandon Jennings*
RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL on restricted free agent TONY SNELL* (Snell is in Milwaukee due to trades believed to have been instigated by Kidd – beginning with the 3-team Brandon Knight trade in 2015)
SPENCER HAWES – player option 2017-18*
JABARI PARKER’s KNEES (as a 2014 draft pick, Parker should not be included but perhaps his knees qualifty)
$1.866 MIL ANNUAL CAP HIT through 2022 owing to Larry Sanders buyout
MALCOM BROGDON – 2017 Rookie of the Year finalist
A 2019 protected 2nd rd pick from Nuggets (Roy Hibbert trade) the Bucks will only see if the Nuggets have one of the five-best records in the NBA in 2019.
*Middleton, Snell and Hawes (and the 2019 pick from Nuggets) all connected to Brandon Jennings and Jennings trade thread that starts w/ Hammond’s trade w/ Detroit June 2013. 
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Source-erole and other notes:
Image: “Convergence” by Jackson Pollock, 1952. Prints available at Art.com
Tracking down the final traces of those seemingly infinite 2nd Rd picks: https://www.prosportstransactions.com/basketball/DraftTrades/Future/Bucks.htm
  • Player and team transactions: http://basketball-reference.com
  • Devos family research: Rolling Stone article on worst sports owners, http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/lists/the-15-worst-owners-in-sports-20141125/the-devos-family-orlando-magic-20141124
  • Forbes Magazine, column on Devos social/political networks: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lauriebennett/2011/12/26/the-ultra-rich-ultra-conservative-devos-family/#300911c06479
  • NY Times, 02/07/14, “Betsy Devos confirmed as Education Secretary; Pence breaks tie”: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/07/us/politics/betsy-devos-education-secretary-confirmed.html
  • Orlando Sentinel, Toronto Star, AP story on Hennigan’s firing, ESPN news, a crazy, half-baked CBS Sports feature 12/14/15 on how Hammond and the Bucks were “responsible for basically building the Warriors” championship team. It’s partially true, as everyone knows because the Andrew Bogut trade was a direct infusion of Bucks top 5 Skiles defense to the Warriors. And the decision to trade Shaun Livingston and others to Houston stands alone as Hammond’s worst trade. Where the article gets fuzzy is the question of whether the Bucks were going to draft Klay Thompson with their No. 10 pick (which they traded in their eagerness to dump Corey Maggette). Having covered the 2011 draft here at BobBoozerjinx, I know the Bucks were excited about a guy named Thompson but his first name was Tristan, not Klay. They only swapped the No. 10 pick when they realized Tristan Thompson was going to go much higher than anyone but Cleveland expected. The killer about the 2011 draft, and I never grow tired of pointing this out, is that Kawhi Leonard and Kenneth Faried were both on the board when the Bucks made the trade, and while I didn’t write much about Faried, well, here’s the post.  “The best answer for the Bucks is hardworking Kawhi Leonard,” who “fits the Bucks core personality, if for no other reason than he has a nose for winning 50-50 plays that Skiles can’t resist.” As for Klay Thompson? Hammond didn’t want to take a shooting guard and wasn’t going to be forced into it by “Bucks needs” or any lottery politics — so he traded out of it and did what he likes to do: take the youngest forward in the draft. Klay Thompson was never the pick that got away — that was Leonard, and if you didn’t catch it before the draft, you knew it the instant that sinking feeling set in when the Spurs traded for him on draft day.
  • Adrian Wojnarowski’s twitter account Jan. 2013 (tweet on how Skiles “hates his team” https://twitter.com/WojVerticalNBA/status/288522111281135616
  • Toronto Star, “Raptors without GM Weltman”, 5/22/17:  https://www.thestar.com/sports/raptors/2017/05/22/raptors-without-gm-after-weltman-jumps-to-magic.html

More ridiculous video of Stephen Jackson

In this installment, featuring the Golden State Warriors of the short-lived Jackson-Corey Maggette era, Jackson is kicked out of a 2009 Suns game for, what else?   Being himself.

Only this time Warriors coach Don Nelson one-ups Jackson a few plays later with his own ridiculous ejection from the game.  That’s our Nellie.

Drew Gooden, apparently, really did deserve a break today.  Gooden is suspended for tonight’s T-Wolves game, punishment for thwacking Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson in the head as Henderson drove for a layup.  Read all about it.

The John Salmons watch.  I was one who thought Salmons was going to bounce back and have a solid season, reminding Bucks fans of the Fish who led us into the playoffs 2010.   Alas, somebody had to go to move the above-mentioned Maggette out of Milwaukee and Salmons (and a Kings draft pick) was the bait that got it done.

Salmons and the Tyreke Evans-led Sacramento Kings beat the Lakers last night, 100-91.  Fish had 13 and more importantly, clocked in 30 minutes guarding a relatively inefficient Kobe Bryant (14 missed shots), Metta World Peace and … Devin Ebanks.

Devin Ebanks?

Bucks trade No. 10 pick, John Salmons and Corey Maggette

This just in from Georgia, where my pal Johnny, noted Royal Ivey fan, was on the road listening to ESPN radio:

The Bucks No. 10 pick is gone, and with it John Salmons and Corey Maggette.

ESPN reported today that the Bucks have agreed to trade the pick to Sacramento as part of a 3-team deal that sent Corey Maggette and Sacramento’s No. 7 pick to Michael Jordan’s rebuilding Hornets team (which now has the No. 7 and No. 9 picks).

Bucks shooting guard John Salmons returns to Sacramento, where he became an 18 ppg scorer (in 2007-08), to the Kings team that signed him in free agency from Philly. This will be a homecoming of sorts for Salmons.

The Bucks get Charlotte shooting guard Stephen Jackson, reserve Shaun Livingston and the Bobcats No. 19 pick.  From the Kings, the Bucks receive a tall, lefty, good-vision point guard who can shoot, Beno Udrih.

There’s no need to sit and wonder why.  Yesterday, I wrote that the Bucks “would improve quicker and with more alacrity if they use the pick to dump the junk on their roster and try to bring in an NBA player (not a college kid) to back up John Salmons.”

The Salmons-with-a-rookie-backing-him-up idea never sounded very good.  Improvement in that scenario relied on Salmons bouncing back from his worst season since 2006-07, when he was a Sixer, and then on an untested college player.

I did think Salmons would bounce back. Fish sprained his knee last summer in a Philly pick-up game and was never fully healthy last season in 72 games.  His shooting suffered mightily from a series of dings and muscle pulls in his legs, and he often seemed sluggish on the court.  2011-12 may turn out to be his best, most consistent season as a pro, and there are few 2-guard defenders in the NBA as good as Salmons.  That story, unfortunately, will unfold in Sacramento while Bucks fans learn to love (and hate) Stephen Jackson.

Stephen Jackson, slated now to be the Bucks starting shooting guard, is — like Salmons — one of the better 2-guard defenders in the league, an aggressive competitor whom Scott Skiles will love (though ESPN is already reporting that Jackson’s not happy about the prospect of playing in Milwaukee).   This seems odd for a guy who played the early years of career with the small-market Pacers.

(It turns out Jackson was drafted by Phoenix when Skiles was a Suns assistant to Danny Ainge.  Skiles and Jackson spoke yesterday, had a good long talk and everything’s fine).

It should be noted, however, that even when healthy Jackson has not shot as well in his career as even a sluggish, limping Salmons did last season, a sobering reality for Bucks fans who certainly don’t need any more sobering realities.

But it should also be noted that Jackson’s 2-year/$19.3 million contract is not as lengthy as the 3-plus years remaining for Salmons, and he’s $1.5 million cheaper than Maggette, which means the trades carve out a savings of $1 million next season.

(On re-read edit, that last note looks completely absurd, now that we realize that Bucks owner Herb Kohl is writing of millions in player depreciation every year and kept Michael Redd around because, more than anything, Redd was a walking tax shelter.)

Jackson’s Career averages:  16.3 pts, 41.8% field goal shooting, 33.9% 3-point shooting, a brawl in the stands in Detroit and a couple of recent run-ins with Luc Mbah a Moute and Salmons, who have consistently D-ed up on Jackson a little tougher than Captain Jack prefers.

Shooting, as Bucks fans know too well, is not high priority for a Skiles team that makes constant pressure defense, forcing turnovers and strong rebounding its calling cards.  Jackson’s streaky shooting will drive Bucks fans nuts, but he’s got the defensive requisites covered.

As the Bob Boozer Jinx editorial board broke open a 30-pack of Pabst, threw some cheap-o pizzas in the oven and settled in for the NBA draft special, we came to one conclusion:  In addition to moving Maggette, who proved incapable of playing Skiles-worthy defense, the key to the deal may turn out to be …

Beno Udrih, a tall, rangy, left-handed, pass first point guard who can stick a jumper.  Udrih, who’s had some great floor games against Jennings in the last two seasons, will be slated to back up Jennings and Jackson (given Keyon Dooling’s limitations and inability to run an offense or a fast break).  The idea that he’ll be like Luke Ridnour and share the court with Jennings for some rotations, is already gathering steam in the Bucks camp.  It’s a good idea, and could prove to be explosive offensively despite the defensive limitations of the principals.  A Jennings-Udrih-Delfino-Mbah a Moute-Bogut rotation has a nice ring to it.

Udrih last season for the Kings: 13.7 pts, 4.9 assists, 1.2 steals in 34 minutes per game.   Beno shot 50% from the floor, 35.7% from downtown and 86.4 percent from the line.

As far as the Bucks go, only Ersan Ilyasova, who made 50 percent of his two-point jump shots last season and shot 89% from the line, is as reliable as Udrih from the outside.

Ersan, by the way, is still a Buck.  The rumors about the Bucks trading Ilysovsa for a draft pick haven’t panned out, as the Kings are about to announce their pick which will go to the Bobcats with Maggette.

THE DRAFT

The Bobcats at No. 7 went with Bismack Biyombo, 6-9, 245 defensive phenom with a 7-7 wingspan who dominated the 2011 18-year-old Nike Hoops Summit.  Biyombo, from the Republic of Congo, was absolutely monstrous in the paint in that game, and was a player that many Bucks fans had hoped would fall to No. 10.

Biyombo, Maggette and the Cats also have the No. 9 pick.

Kemba Walker and Kawhi Leonard are still on the board, as the Pistons selected Brandon Knight at No. 8.  (I would have taken Walker ahead of Knight).

Texas big forward Tristan Thompson went No. 4 to the Cavs, the surprise of the draft so far.

The Bucks have the Bobcats No. 19 pick, where they should find a decent player, possibly a center such as Nikola Vucevic or Keith Benson, possibly Donatas Motiejunas.  Marshon Brooks may even fall to No. 19, though he’s been on the rise and this doesn’t seem likely.

Michael Jordan’s haul today for the Bobcats … Corey Maggette, Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker.

Corey Maggette trade murmurs and John Salmons bombs from the Land of Ray and Reggie

With the first ever Packers-Bears NFC Championship on tap Sunday, few heads in cheesehead-land are wrapped around the goings-on of the Milwaukee Bucks.  This is not necessarily a bad thing considering the Bucks are ten games under .500, 12 games behind the Bulls and only a half game ahead of the hapless Pistons in 10th place.

Center Andrew Bogut‘s health continues to be an issue, team chemistry issues won’t go away, and, in a hapless effort in Houston on Martin Luther King Day, the Bucks lost their 10th game in the absence of injured Brandon Jennings (left foot fracture).

The Bucks looked dead in Houston, listless, out of gas, hungover, out-of-sync, bewildered.  If nothing else, they miss Jennings’ relentless energy even when shooting 5 for 16.

Tonight the Bucks are at the Bradley Center against rookie John Wall, coach Scott Skiles’ old protoge, Kirk Hinrich, Rashard Lewis, Nick Young and the Wizards. Perhaps Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will be in usual seat courtside, perhaps not.  If watching the Bucks lose at the BC has become part of Rodgers’ ritual of pregame preparation, it is most definitely working.

And if Bucks trade rumors are swirling around in winter Wisconsin, nobody is paying much attention.  The Carmelo-to-New-Jersey deal breaks down. Life in Packerland goes on. The Bucks beat the Wizards 100-87 while the Sixers and Pacers lose, and the Bucks are just a game out of the 7th playoff spot.  Packers-Bears kickoff is at 2 p.m. Central, Sunday.

There has been, however, one solid, honest-t0-Gooden Bucks related lead on the trade rumor mill:

Corey Maggette’s name has surfaced on the Dallas Mavericks “radar” in their search to replace forward Caron Butler, who popped the ligaments in his knee New Years Day in Milwaukee and is finished for the season. Butler says he plans to be back in time for the playoffs but the Mavs have been canvassing the league for small forward scoring.

ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher mentioned in a (Jan. 13) Thursday night visit with 103.3 FM’s Ian Fitzsimmons that the Mavs and Bucks have discussed Maggette’s availability. Maggette, though, is even more expensive than [Stephen] Jackson, with more than $21 million left on his contract through 2012-13 after this season. Jackson is likewise a far better fit with his ability to stretch the floor, passing eye, defensive ability and proven toughness. If Philadelphia’s younger and more versatile Andre Iguodala is too expensive, Maggette is way too expensive for what he can deliver.

OK, so Maggette’s probably a bad idea for the Mavs, in light of the availability of the Bobcats’ Jackson and Detroit’s readiness to part ways with Tayshaun Prince.  Then there’s Melo, with Dallas no longer quite the longshot in the sweepstakes that they were before the Nets nixed the deal. Apparently.

But not to be so easily discouraged by ESPN, the Bucks moved Maggette into the starting lineup Monday in Houston and Maggette scored 25 in a season-high 38 minutes.  The Mavs big need sans Butler is offense. “We Have Offense!” Maggette and the Bucks showcased in Houston.

The Mavs would prefer a good long range shooter who can create his own offense without getting in Dirk Nowitzki’s way.  That’s what Butler (15 pts per game, 48.7% efg, a career-high 43% from behind the arc) gave them.  That’s not Maggette, a career 32% three-point shooter whose m.o. is to commandeer the ball, take it to the hoop head-down and look for a foul.  32% from Downtown?  Maggette hasn’t shot above the 26% he’s currently shooting for the Bucks since he left the Warriors in 2008.

And until this season in Milwaukee, Maggette has never been accused of being anything but indifferent to defense, much less playoff intensity defense.  This is where Jackson and Detroit’s Prince become the preferred options for Dallas.

But is Stephen Jackson really the shot-creator — I should say “the shot maker” — the Mavs are looking for?  Jackson’s playoff experience in recent years has been limited to four losses against the Orlando Magic last season — four games in which he shot 35% and needed 20+ opportunities to get his 18 points per game.   Things would open up for Jackson with Dirk commanding double teams, but he’s still not a highly efficient scorer who changes a game in the playoffs. In Charlotte, he’s more the guy the Bobcats play through on the wing. In Dallas, that’s Dirk in the high post.

If Jackson’s not the guy, the Mavs don’t have to look far to find a player who fits their needs to a Texas T.  He’s right next to Maggette in the Bucks current starting lineup, and is less expensive than any of the forwards ESPN has mentioned on the Mavs radar:   John Salmons.

The Fish, it should be famously remembered, came to Chicago in a trade from Sacramento in 2009 and filled in at small forward for injured Luol Deng during the Bulls end-of-season 2009 playoff run. Salmons then shocked — and thrilled — the basketball gods by gunning the Bulls into a Game 7 against the Celtics, scoring 35 clutch points in the classic triple-overtime Game 6 in Chicago.  In that series, he guarded Paul Pierce.

After the Bulls traded Salmons to the Bucks last February, he did it again as the Bucks finished 22-8 and pushed heavily favored (and strangely out of focus) Atlanta to a Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs.  In Games 3, 4 and 5, Salmons averaged 21 on a remarkably efficient 12.3 shots (shooting 18-19 from the line) and won his battle with Hawk All-Star guard, 6′-7″ Joe Johnson on both ends of the floor.

The edge that Salmons gave the Bucks in his matchup with Johnson enabled the Bucks, playing without injured All-Pro center Andrew Bogut, to a 3-2 series lead.  No, the Bucks didn’t win the series, but that’s the kind of edge the Mavs are looking for.

Salmons, like Jackson, is a proven 18 ppg scorer, but doesn’t require the volume of shots Jackson takes to do it.  Unlike Jackson, he’s a legitimate 3-point gunner, shooting over 40% in his last 197 NBA games, dating back to the start of the 2008-09 season in Sacramento (He’s currently shooting 42% from three).  Mark Cuban,  have you looked at Jackson’s shooting numbers? If 33% from 3-point line (Jackson’s career average and also what he’s shot in the last three seasons) can be deemed “ability to stretch the floor” in the eyes of ESPN analysts, what does 40 percent give you?

Salmons fits the Mavs other prerequisites arguably as well, if not better, than Jackson. He’s 6′-6″ and plays tough, playoff-ready defense, has ability to guard forwards (Johnson and Pierce), and he moves the ball well (3.1 assists per game).  Defensively, he did about as well as one could expect guarding Kobe Bryant in the Bucks win against the Lakers in Los Angeles last month, and he’s rugged enough to keep Ron Artest occupied.  Against the Spurs, Salmons’ natural matchup is forward Richard Jefferson, but he’s good to have around when relief is needed against Ginobili or Parker.  Kevin Durant?  Jackson might have the edge there but then, this move by the Mavs is primarily about playoff-tested offense, isn’t it?

Salmons has the edge in cost, at least over the next three years — $8 million this year, $8.5 million next year, 5 yrs – $33.16 million guaranteed, only $1 million in the final year. Jackson: 3 years – $27.77 million. Butler’s contract is a $10.56 expiring, which works straight up for Jackson but not for Salmons, which the Bucks and Mavs would have to work out.

Drew Gooden (5 yrs – $32 million) was a Mav for 46 games last season before being traded to the Wizards as part of the deal that brought Butler to Dallas. Dallas owner Cuban on Gooden:

“Damp [Erick Dampier] is having problems with his knees and requires rest every now and then, and we were in a spot without having a shot-blocker behind him. Drew did a great job. He laid it out there every game for us to try to fill in. Going into the season we thought that would work, and it just didn’t play out as planned.”

Gooden would add to the Mavs frontline scoring depth behind Tyson Chandler (who’s knees are fine) and Dirk.  Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson were also part of that trade with the Wizards.  Haywood, a true center, may have become expendable in Dallas.

If the Mavs realize that it’s John Salmons they really want, and not Maggette or Jackson — then it’s up to Bucks GM John Hammond to decide which of the deals he made last summer — signing Salmons and Gooden, trading for Maggette — were mistakes. I know, that’s asking quite a lot.

With Carlos Delfino planning to return to practice today and Maggette, Salmons, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Luc Mbah a Moute all vying for playing time, Hammond’s got to come to some decisions before the All-Star break.

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Good luck trading Drew Gooden.  It’s not easy finding a team that might be interested in Bucks big forward Drew Gooden, who’s slowing down considerably as he nears 10-year veteran status.  Now ol’ Drew is telling the world that his plantar fasciitis and bad heel are hurting so bad that he can’t jump. Hard to find a taker for a 5-year-$32 million, immobile big man who can’t jump.  Dallas?  Orlando?

“radar” in their search to replace forward Caron Butler, who

Chemistry problem: 2010 Bucks and 2001 Clippers are a strange mix

What did Corey Maggette, Keyon Dooling, Earl Boykins and Brian Skinner have in common entering the NBA’s 2010 offseason?

They were all teammates on the 2000-01 Los Angeles Clippers, the last team that Bucks GM John Hammond coached in the NBA before taking a front office job in Detroit as Joe Dumars’ basketball operations VP.

Other than that, not much except a lot minutes on losing teams until, one-by-one last summer, Hammond brought them to Milwaukee to play for the Bucks.

Coincidence?  It doesn’t seem possible.  Maggette in 2010 was a player the Golden State Warriors couldn’t use and a 3-year, $31 million salary cap burden they didn’t want to bear through June 2013.  The Bucks proposed trade of Dan Gadzuric’s 2011 expiring contract and Charlie Bell’s $4 million per year salary was well received in Oakland, to say the least.  Done deal, thank you very much Mr. Hammond.

Dooling was a free agent whom the Bucks targeted to back up Brandon Jennings after Hammond decided his available sub-luxury tax room was better spent on Drew Gooden than on Luke Ridnour, who signed a four year, $16 million deal with the Timberwolves.

Boykins was also a free agent pickup, fan friendly bench filler behind Jennings and Dooling.

Skinner was the last 2001 Clipper added, prior to training camp.  He didn’t make the Bucks roster but early season injuries made Skinner the obvious big man roster-filler-who-had-been-in-training-camp.

The Maggette trade opened a lot of questions.  “The Machette” isn’t a player who comes to mind when one is looking to improve an NBA “good chemistry” team with the in-your-face defensive mentality of the Bucks.  He doesn’t exude “Scott Skiles player” at all — quite the opposite.  Offensively, Maggette has a well-earned reputation for getting his 20 points, damn the outcome of the game or his wide open teammates.  One of his nicknames is “Bad Porn.” Defensively, well, nobody’s ever accused Corey Maggette of being all that interested in defense.

Perhaps Hammond held a different view, having coached Maggette in Maggette’s second NBA season.  He also cleared $1.7 million in payroll making the deal with the Warriors (which he quickly spent).

Hammond and Maggette both arrived in L.A. in the 2000 offeseason.  Maggette was acquired — along with rookie Dooling — in a trade with Orlando for draft picks.  Hammond arrived a couple of months later with new Clipper head coach Alvin Gentry, who the Pistons had fired during the 2000 season.  Hammond and Gentry are part of a Larry Brown coaching tree that began in the late 1980s and early 1990’s in San Antonio and L.A., and extended to the Pistons during the Grant Hill era.

There they were, ten years ago, assembled in Los Angeles.  Maggette and Dooling, Skinner and Boykins, part of the Clippers kiddie corps; Hammond part of the coaching staff from Detroit assigned to develop the kiddie corps into an NBA team. The Clippers won 16 more games that year than they did the previous year.  Of course, the Clippers won only 15 games in 1999-2000 but improvement is improvement.  Hammond would stay only for the first year before returning to Detroit in 2001 to work for Dumars.

The Maggette trade, in and of itself, might have stood on its own despite the questionable judgement of integrating Maggette with a Skiles team.  But when Ridnour agreed to a 4-year, $16 million contract with the T-Wolves and the Bucks responded by offering their Bi-Annual Exception to Dooling only days later, the 2001 Clipper connection came into view.

July 13 – 21 was a strange week.  Ridnour, a Skiles favorite whose scoring off the bench had been key for the Bucks in 2010, had figured in the Bucks 2011 plans until Hammond made others.  Ridnour had solicited the offer from the T-Wolves and agreed to it July 13, but didn’t sign it right away.  The Bucks actually signed Dooling (and made a trade with Sacramento for forward Jon Brockman) before Ridnour finalized his T-Wolves contract.

This brought Maggette and Dooling — part of a Magic-to-the-Clippers trade ten years earlier, Clippers teammates from 2000-04 — together again in Milwaukee.  In the very least, their old assistant coach had to find it amusing.

Combine this with the availability of free agents Boykins and Skinner and it was likely too much to resist — a sign from the Clipper gods!   The chances that mere coincidence brought four 2001 Clippers to the 2010 Bucks all in one summer seems remote. Very remote.

It wouldn’t matter — and could have been fodder for a feel good 2001 Clippers reunion story — if things were panning out for the Bucks.  But the Bucks are a disappointing 12 wins, 18 losses, and, due to injuries, have had to rely on Hammond’s new acquisitions far more than planned.  Chemistry questions have arisen, with Maggette the focus after grading his Milwaukee experience an “F,” following a tough loss to the Bulls on Tuesday.

“Fear the Deer?” NBA.com writer Steve Aschburner asked last week after the Bucks lost to the Bulls in Chicago.  “Right now, Bucks the ones ducking for cover.”

Over the Christmas break, Bucks center Andrew Bogut described the current situation, or the mental saga that is  learning to play for Skiles:

“No disrespect to guys from other teams but when guys first come here and think, ‘Oh this is a tough system. Am I going to buy into it fully?’  And then they realize that our coaches keep it professional, and they make you keep the (same) system every day. Once you realize they’re not changing the system for anybody, guys start to buy in because you have no choice. … So it usually comes to that at this time of the season. Guys kind of realize that nothing is changing.  This is what wins us games. It’s a proven winner, so if we keep doing it, we’ll win games.”

The problem is that too many of the players who know the Skiles system is “a proven winner” just don’t seem to be around this season.  In addition to losing Ridnour, the Bucks saw veteran center Kurt Thomas escape to the Bulls in free agency.  The Bucks have missed them both this season.  Badly.

Starting small forward Carlos Delfino‘s  been out since early November with concussive symptoms and may not return this season.  Jennings will be out at least three more weeks with a broken hand.  Right now there are just as many 2001 L.A. Clippers on the Bucks bench as there are 2010 Bucks.

Sentimentality is sometimes nice in professional sports, a relief from the “it’s a business” aspects of it all.  But considering the good chemistry the 2010 Bucks finally found on their 30-13 finish and 7-game playoff battle with Atlanta, the sentimentality of a 2001 Clippers assistant named John Hammond — or the whims of the Clippers gods — may have gotten the better of Hammond’s current team.

Note: There is no evidence yet that forward Drew Gooden — also signed as a free agent last summer — had any previous connection to the 2001 Clippers, other than finishing the 2010 season as a Clipper.  Gooden in 2001 was a 19-year-old sophomore at U. of Kansas.

Bucks vs. Bulls: Best of times, worst of times for Andrew Bogut and the beleaguered Bucks

After getting all up in the Lakers business by blowing the champs out by 19 last week in Los Angeles, they’ve followed it up with a disappointing stinker at home against a playoff rival their fans hold no love — and now head down I-94 to play their actual rivals, the Central Division leading Chicago Bulls, without injured point guard Brandon Jennings.

These are the worst of times for the Milwaukee Bucks.  Yet there may be no better times for the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that — despite never suiting up a full squad — has not yet backed down from a challenge when it realizes they’re facing one.  Ask the Lakers, the Mavs, the Celtics, the Spurs, the Jazz and the Heat.

Unfortunately, the Bucks haven’t been good when they don’t necessarily feel like they’ve got a challenge on their hands.  They don’t respect the Hawks, so it seems, not when they’re playing them with center Andrew Bogut.  After humbling the Hawks by taking them to seven games without Bogut last April in the playoffs, the Bucks stuffed the Hawks and their new coach, Larry Drew, in Atlanta in November.

Same old mentally challenged Hawks, not used to adversity, bad on the road, flinching when the Bucks flexed their muscles.   The worst opponent for the Bucks playing at home before a Bulls game.  The 15-point loss was almost predictable — almost.  Predictability yet eludes the Bucks.

The Bulls have problems of their own — center Joakim Noah‘s broken right hand will be in a cast for at least another month.  Bogut is healthy, generally playing his best basketball since his season-ending injury last season and will be guarded by the Kurt Thomas, Bogut’s backup last season.  The Bucks will have an interesting time chasing Derrick Rose without Brandon Jennings’ rare ability to stay in front of the Bulls point guard, but these are the best of times for the Bucks in the paint against the Bulls, despite new Bull Carlos Boozer.

Bucks 6th man Corey Maggette looked more out-of-sync than his out-of-sync teammates did against the Hawks, a sign that the Bucks on-court chemistry with its new additions is still a work in progress.  The worst of times.

But Maggette’s hasn’t been the “bad porn” player for the Bucks that he’s was with the Warriors and the Clippers, when he went through the motions, selfishly got his points and didn’t seem to care who was winning the game.  He’s been determined to make this 6th man thing work in Milwaukee, he’s a tough matchup for the Bulls and he’s due for a big game.  The best of times.

Diddo for Bogut, forwards Ersan Ilyasova, Luc Mbah a Moute and Chris Douglas-Roberts, minus the chemistry question and the bad porn.

Diddo for Bogut, forwards Ersan Ilyasova, Luc Mbah a Moute and Chris Douglas-Roberts, minus the chemistry question and the bad porn.

Only the Dallas Mavs and the Denver Nuggets have played a tougher schedule than the Bucks, according to today’s Strength of Schedule rankings.  The best of times for now that it’s behind them.

Over the next ten days the Bucks schedule gets tougher with the Mavs, two against Lebron, D-Wade and the Heat, and the the Magic, the Hawks again and the Spurs.  The worst of times.

The Bucks are playing the Bulls, coach Scott Skiles’ old team, against whom they won three games from last season and let the fourth slip away.  The best of times.

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Hawks power forward Al Horford had an efficient and workman-like 18 pts and 12 rebs Monday against the Bucks, possibly solidifying an All-Star vote from Bucks coach Scott Skiles.  Yes, power forward Al Horford — he didn’t start the game on Bogut, who spent much of his 40+ minutes on the court guarded by 7-foot center Jason Collins.

Yet this was a startling development for Bucks broadcasters Jim Paschke and Jon McGlocklin, repeatedly hyped the Bogut-Horford matchup as a battle for the East’s backup center slot behind Dwight Howard.  When Bogut opened the game by taking Collins baseline for a layup, Paschke identified Collins as “[pause as he was about to say Horford then noticed that Horford wasn’t gaurding Bogut] um … the big man guarding [Bogut].”  The charade continued for the rest of the game, with neither Paschke or McGlocklin — who work for the Bucks — bothering to correct the “Al Horford – center” misperception.

It’s not as though an inefficient 14 points on 7-19 shots is going to get Bogut to Los Angeles in February, but is it any wonder that events in the East conspired last season to deny Bogut his first All-Star appearance?  Is anybody working in the Bucks P.R. department?

At least TNT analysts Kevin McHale and Charles Barkley (“he’s undersized;” “I still don’t think he’s a center;” “his midrange jumper has made Horford one of the better power forwards;” etc.) this season (and last) have paid attention to what position Horford actually plays.  So does Atlanta coach Drew, obviously.  One has to assume that the rest of the East coaches are doing the same.

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“The scary thing is, maybe they were trying.”

There, somebody finally said it.  “They” are the Los Angeles Lakers, losers at home to first the Bucks (by 19) on Tuesday and the Miami Heat on Christmas Day.  The scary realization from the Lakers perspective is that there was very little difference in their energy, focus and commitment last week against the Bucks and Heat.

Of course, you had to be watching the Lakers’ games against both the Bucks and the Heat to realize it.  L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke did, and wrote it. The Lakers were playing hard last week.  They were trying.  All-Star center-forward Pau Gasol was simply outplayed by Bogut and Chris Bosh.  Andrew Bynum isn’t anywhere close to 100%.  Some of the other Lakers (Derrick Fisher, Ron Artest, Steve Blake) don’t look like they’re up for a third championship run.

The Bucks’ left feet: Brandon Jennings out — can Keyon Dooling deliver?

First it was Corey Maggette‘s left ankle.  Then it was plantar fasciitis in Drew Gooden‘s left foot.  Now it’s a left foot that really matters.  Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, who’s never missed a regular season or playoff game in his young career, will miss 4 to 6 weeks with a bone fracture in his left foot.

The timing couldn’t be worse.  The Bucks had struggled with chemistry and new personnel, injuries and All-Pro center Andrew Bogut‘s overall health since the start of the season.  After a miserable 5-and-10 start, they had begun to pull the car out of the ditch, powered by Bogut’s return Dec. 4 from a two-week bout with back spasms.  Prior to Bogut’s return, the Bucks had lost five out six games.  Since then, they’ve won four of seven against one of the toughest schedules in the league.

Jennings’ backups are Keyon Dooling, who — until recently — was turnover prone, struggling with his jump shot and generally hurting the team (seven negative game scores don’t lie); and diminutive Earl Boykins, electrifying, good-shooting but too, too short to guard anybody in the NBA.

It’s been said before and there’s no more opportune time than now to say it again:  Bucks GM John Hammond‘s decisions to let quality point guards Ramon Sessions (2009 to the T-Wolves), Luke Ridnour (2010 to the T-Wolves) and, yes, even the unsung Royal Ivey (201o to the Thunder) slip away in free agency stick out now as a glaring miscalculations.  (If the trend holds true, Ivey will be back, one way or another).  No, those decisions didn’t seem so important as long as Jennings was the Bucks iron man — but Hammond, all along, was tempting the NBA fates and winning with Jennings, until now.

Can the Bucks expect help from their guards and forwards?  It’s not as simple as it was in Nellie’s day, when not having an effective point guard meant that the Bucks could keep Junior Bridgeman, Marques Johnson, Sidney Moncrief and Brian Winters on the court as much as possible, and give Paul Pressey something to do off the bench.  “The point forward” was an invention of obvious necessity and made the 1983 Bucks more potent offensively than they already were.  The current Bucks are a different story, and Scott Skiles’ options are limited.

If there’s a Pressey on this team, he’s 6-8 Luc Richard Mbah a Moute — perhaps even better than Pressey was, defensively, and that’s saying a lot (Pressey was a multiple time All-NBA defender).  Skiles has dispatched Mbah a Moute to defend point guards in the past guard — Chris Paul, to name one.  Luc has the smarts and a decent enough handle to play the point, and he’s played in more games for Skiles than any current Buck.  But much of his offensive game remains in development.

Other forward-assisting candidates are out with injuries:  Carlos Delfino, who played some point last season, is out with a concussion; Maggette is still struggling with his own left foot, along with other issues, such as remembering that it’s sometimes a good idea to pass the ball to one’s teammates when three defenders collapse on a drive to the hoop.  Nothing new with Maggette there, and he’s not a good option.

3rd-year forward-guard Chris Douglas-Roberts may be the most likely candidate to run some point for Skiles.  A disciple of the Calipari dribble-drive, CD-R puts a lot of pressure on defenses by taking it to the hoop and can easily create movement and space off the dribble — enough to run an offense.  He’s been the Bucks most effective shooter in the Bucks last ten games (after missing the first 15 with an eye injury).  At forward, CD-R is an eager defender, often guarding players much bigger and longer than he is, but he’s better suited for guard duty.  He’s simply not strong enough on the glass to go up against many small forward in the NBA — 2.8 rebounds in 24 mins are a guard’s haul.  And with John Salmons ensconced as the Bucks shooting guard and Mbah a Moute the likely small forward for now, it only makes sense to elect CD-R as a utility point guard, if for no other reason than to extend his playing time.

For the most part, however, it’s incumbent on Keyon Dooling to step up.  In New Jersey, Dooling had become something of a 3-point bomber off the bench, only to find himself throwing anvils at the rim in Milwaukee.  It cost the Bucks a couple of games early on in the season, but in the last seven (perhaps not coincidentally, the seven games since Bogut returned from his lower back problems) Dooling has been sharp.  He’s shooting better and he’s not turning the ball over  — just 2 turnovers in the last seven games, remarkable in almost 20 mins per game.

Dooling’s defense has been fairly solid, if not very good, which became noticeable in the five-game stretch that Bogut missed.   Skiles challenged his players in those games, and Dooling was one Buck who responded.  He’s quick enough to stay in front of most point guards and his long wingspan is havoc-causing in opponent passing lanes.  But he’ll be replacing Jennings, one of the best point guard defenders in the NBA — there’s really no replacing Jennings’ dogged D or his determination.

Dooling will need help — lots of it — from all corners.  At times, he’s been a better distributor than Jennings, who’s still learning when to pick his “me-first” spots.  But if Salmons, for example, stays in his scoring funk, good ball distribution only ends with the ball finding the rim.  If Bogut can’t get his true shooting percentage up into the mid-50’s range or higher, the Bucks will continue to play most games in a five-point hole.  If coach Skiles can’t get the Drew Gooden-Ersan Ilyasova situation at power forward figured out once and for all, the Bucks will continue to wonder who they are.

Andrew Bogut might have said it best when asked what it’ll take for the Bucks to make-do while Jennings recuperates:

“It’s a matter of getting guys to play hard in their minutes, knowing they’re going to play and try to earn minutes for when Brandon is back and healthy.  Maybe we’ll find a couple of shining lights.”

Maybe Dooling is “a shining light.”  Maybe it’s CD-R who will pick up the scoring slack.  Maybe Salmons finds his groove and breaks out of his season-long slump.  More minutes for Mbah a Moute has usually meant that the Bucks are more competitive — they’ll soon find out if that still holds true.  Players “knowing they’re going to play” was a key phrase in Bogut’s comments.  He may have been referring to the sparse 12 minutes Mbah a Moute got against Utah.  He may have been referring to the 17 minutes Ilyasova played.  He may have been referring to Boykins, who’s hardly played all season.  Whatever Bogut was implying, the injuries have left Skiles with little choice but to play the nine or 10 guys available to him now.  Given Skiles’ sometimes maddening quick hooks– regardless of the matchups on the floor — and unexpected DNPs, less may turn out to be more for the Bucks.

And again, much as it was last season when Michael Redd’s knee gave out, this is another chance for the Bucks — and the rest of the NBA — to rediscover how good the Bucks leader, Andrew Bogut, really is.

Dogged in Denver and notes from around the NBA

An agonizing game last night in Denver, as the Bucks blew an opportunity to steal a win before Andrew Bogut’s expected return Saturday vs. Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.  This was a foul marred game in which some of the things that had been going wrong for the Bucks went right, and things that seemed to be going right were sometimes wrong.

John Salmons hit two threes to get the Bucks off to a good start and finally appeared to be coming around, scoring 21 pts on 7-15 shooting while playing tough D for 36 mins.  That’s the kind of effort the Bucks have needed from Salmons all season.

Yet Luc Mbah a Moute — the Bucks best defender and most reliable player this season — was hit with early fouls guarding Carmelo Anthony and seemed to disappear.

Larry Sanders blocked 8 shots – 8 SHOTS!!!  And scored 14 pts and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Yet Ersan Ilyasova, who had been stellar in every other game in which he’s played 25+ minutes, couldn’t get his jumper straight in Denver, missing some wide open looks that could have kept the Bucks in striking distance.   Ersan scored 7 points in 40 mins – not nearly enough.  Not being greedy here but a timely 3-pointer, a garbage bucket, a drawn foul — the Bucks needed Ersan in double figures when it counted.  This earned Ersan “Stiff of the night” honors from the Nuggets blogger at the Denver Stiffs — despite his 9 boards, good D and tough battle with Al Harrington and Shelden Williams.  Not sure the Denver fans know good D when they see it.  But it was that kind of night.

Corey Maggette was turning in one of his best games as a Buck (17 pts on 8 shots, 1o free throws) …. until about 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter when he blew up two straight Bucks possessions by killing the ball movement and hondo-ing matters into his own hands.  The Maggette-Sanders two-man set up on the weak side does not appear to be a good idea.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, so good in his first two games as a Buck, wasn’t effective off the bench (just 2 of 9) and seemed to be pressing, already.

Keyon Dooling was hitting his shots — two threes and a lay-in — usually a good sign that the Bucks will at least be in the game until the end. … Yet Dooling turned the ball over three times in 14-plus minutes.

Carmelo Anthony got kicked out the game carping at the refs over two straight Sanders in-your-face blocks. …  Yet the Nuggets got better in the game without him.

Brandon Jennings was OK, below average by his standards with 14 pts, making clutch plays in the 4th that pulled the Bucks back to within six.  Where are the assists, Brandon?   Only 3 on the night.  It was that kind of night, and the Bucks headed home with a 105-94 loss.

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NOTES from the Land of Ray and Reggie  —  ATLANTA —  Joe Johnson will undergo elbow surgery on his shooting arm and will miss 4-to-6 weeks.  I wouldn’t mention this but IF Johnson takes six weeks getting back, he’ll miss 24 games, more than the entire Hawks rotation missed last season when they won 53 games and the 3rd seed in the East.  I mention this only because most of the NBA had the Hawks so supremely overrated going into the playoffs against the Bucks — who all but fractured the Hawks mental well-being taking that series to seven.  The Hawks are 12-7, on a pace to win 51 games.  They’re not a tough-minded bunch, those Hawks, and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle a little adversity.

BOSTON – I just watched a late night rerun of the Celtics-Blazers game in Boston, and was amazed at how ugly and out of sync the Celtics looked through one, two, and into three quarters.  The C’s were losing by seven late in the 3rd.   Then the Celtics made one of the toughest defensive stands I’ve seen in a long time, probably since the Pistons teams of 2004 and 2005.  The Bucks have thrown up similar D on teams but I can’t recall them holding a team with Portland’s weapons scoreless for five minutes (could have been longer).  It went on so long that a 72-65 Blazers lead late in the 3rd had turned 96-80 Celtics deep into the 4th a desperate run by Portland made it 99-95.  … Ray Allen hit his only three-pointer of the night to ice the game in the final minute.

NEXT UP FOR the Bucks:  Dwight Howard and the Magic, Saturday — then D-Wade, Lebron and the Heat on Monday.  The Bucks have been holding Andrew Bogut out in anticipation that he’ll be close to full strength for these games and their December schedule — the toughest in the league.   There’s nobody tougher on the Bucks than the Magic in recent years, and while Bogut has played well in some of the matchups, he hasn’t gotten the better of Dwight yet — and Bogut and Skiles have yet to beat Dwight’s team in the Skiles era.

Their left feet: Jennings leads his Bogut-less Bucks to Utah

Slow news day this Monday in the Bucks camp but yesterday the Bucks did note that Andrew Bogut didn’t travel with the team to Utah, which ought to keep life very interesting for Brandon Jennings, Ersan Ilyasova and Luc Mbah a Moute, who gutted out a much-needed 104-101 win against the Bobcats Saturday, ending the Bucks five-game losing streak.

How a group of NBA players — no matter who they are — can shoot as poorly as the Bucks did in losing those five games is a mystery, one that unfolded with a strange side-effect:  the new guys — Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden — developed sore feet.  Even stranger was that the soreness did not attack just any feet, but has targeted Maggette and Gooden’s left feet.

Whatever the source of this strange left foot malady, Maggette didn’t suit up Saturday and coach Scott Skiles took the opportunity to do what many Bucks fans have been calling on him to do since the first games of the seasom:  move Gooden to the bench, where he sat all game registering a DNP.  Ilyasova took the starting power forward duties and, from the opening tap the Bucks seemed to recognize each other — and themselves —  and jumped out to a double digit lead that they held until the ‘Cats made a gritty run at them in the fourth quarter.

Ilyasova played 40+ minutes and finished with 17 pts, 9 rebs and six assists — showing again that if Skiles gives him minutes, he doesn’t play as though he has two left feet.  Mbah a Moute played all but 40 seconds of the game and posted 12 pts, 10 boards battling with Gerald Wallace and harassing Stephen Jackson into two technical fouls and an ejection early in the first quarter.

Larry Sanders started at center and had his best game as a pro, while the generally terrible Jon Brockman backed Sanders up in the first half and was benched in the 2nd.  John Salmons was good for three quarters before running out of gas in the 4th.

Jennings, as prescribed, was great, leading the Bucks with 32 pts and 6 assists.  Maybe it was the absence of Gooden clogging the post and demanding the ball — maybe it was Jennings simply taking over — but the ball moved, the Bucks shooters got well for one night and the losing streak ended.  They’ll need Jennings to assert and maintain control of the Bucks offense this week in Utah and Denver.

Their left feet: Maggette limped off the court in Detroit Friday, and Skiles mentioned that he was aware Maggette was having problems before the game.  He didn’t suit up.  While Maggette had foot problems in training camp, much less has been reported about Gooden’s left foot.  Gooden has been healthy all year and the decision to sit him down came right up to game time, the reports suggested, though no mention is made of Gooden ailment.

So, what gives? Is Gooden hurt or — given the lack of ball movement when he’s in the game — has he been  benched?   Whatever the situation — and Gooden did seem to hit a wall while playing far too many minutes during the five game losing streak — Jennings didn’t miss him as an option, and had no problem keeping the entire starting five involved in the offense.

This just in: Gooden is out with plantar fasciitis in his left foot left ankle injury, Jennings’ starting line-up stays with Ilyasova and Sanders on the frontline.  Maggette is listed as a game time decision.

The sure-to-be-annoying “Shoot the ball, Drew Gooden” blog, with Baby Bulls references

The Big News out of Bucks central today is that Scott Skiles has told his starting power forward to shoot the ball, and shoot it quick when he’s got a shot.  Obviously, somebody heard me through the toob last Saturday when, in the final minute against the Warriors, Drew Gooden grabbed an offensive rebound right at the rim and, instead of dropping in the layup, Gooden passed it out, leading to a 15-footer by John Salmons. I’m all for Fish shooting the ball, preferably shooting it more than any other Buck, but when your team is protecting a lead in the final minute and the big forward has the ball right at the hoop — take the easy 2 and dunk it, please.

Apparently, no one heard me earlier in the first two weeks of the season when the Bucks offense was bogging down nearly every time Gooden touched the ball, and that’s what this is all about, of course, not one relatively quick decision that led to a basket by Salmons in a win against Golden State.

Assuming that Gooden isn’t getting Skiles’ signals crossed, Gooden’s comments on the matter are revealing:

“He didn’t tell me nothing about rebounding, about playing no defense. He said I want you to shoot the ball and everything else will take care of itself.”

No, the Bucks don’t need Drew to play D or rebound — they were one of the best rebounding teams in the league last season without him and nobody ever accused Drew Gooden of playing defense (especially not his former coach Mike Brown, and certainly not the Hornets’ David West, et. al.).  No, Drew Gooden has to score and score efficiently to be useful — and the Bucks, who make most offensive possessions look like work, are badly in need of routine scoring.  The Bucks are currently 29th in the league in offensive efficiency (pts per 100 possessions).

Gooden, in particular, needs to make decisions quickly when the ball’s in his hands.

This last point is really, truly what Skiles was getting at when he told Gooden to “just shoot the ball.”  That’s not what Gooden was doing in the first ten games.  When the ball has gone inside to Drew, he’s held it, looked around, held it some more, taken a dribble jab step that doesn’t fool his defender, picked up the dribble, turned, faced, pumped then shot a brick with a hand in his face.  Meanwhile the opponent D has been standing still long enough to gain good position to keep the Bucks off the offensive glass.  It’s like watching highlights of the Vin Baker black hole on the Mike Dunleavy Bucks, without anything resembling the All-Star numbers Baker delivered.  Perhaps not coincidentally, Dunleavy coached Gooden when Gooden was a Clipper.

The Skiles offense relies on ball movement.  Andrew Bogut — All-Star-All-Pro material that he is, and one of the best passing big men in the game — is the first post-up threat that Skiles has really ever had, and the first big man Skiles has been willing to let the motion slow down for.  Bogut also draws double teams from all directions, which can’t be said of Gooden.  Drew’s gotta speed it up and realize that it’s far preferable for him to put up a quick brick from 15 while the defense is moving than it is to bog the offense down putting the ball on the floor, trying to make moves he doesn’t have.

Despite his strong game against the Lakers (22 pts) and a decent outing vs. the Warriors, Gooden’s still shooting just 42.3% and has scored 118 pts on 123 “true” shots (free throws factored in).  If you read the above linked “shoot more, Drew” story in the Journal Sentinel (or didn’t read it), note that Gooden’s good games against the Hawks and Knicks are mentioned.  C’mon, Gooden shot 2-7 vs. the Hawks and 5-15 against the Knicks.

A one-armed Andrew Bogut has been much more consistent offensively, though without much better overall results — 127 pts on 128 adjusted shots.  AB can’t feel his right hand sometimes, obviously — he’s missed a number of right-handed bunnies and over half his FTs — and the Bucks have little choice but to keep pounding it in to their center.  In Gooden’s case, however, Skiles and his pace guru, Jim Boylan, won’t sacrifice pace for a 40%-shooting Gooden.  “Just shoot it, Drew, and do it quick.”

Now about Skiles and all that talk about “the green light” to shoot 3-pointers — don’t feel special Drew.  Skiles has said that to nearly everyone in a Bucks uniform since he got here in 2008.  What this means is that the coach is concerned about the Bucks pace and doesn’t mind the odds of a well-timed brick of a 3 being rebounded by his guys — as long as the opponent defense is scrambling.  It wasn’t an invitation for Gooden to join the stable of streaky 3-ball-shooting Bucks or become a 2011 version of Charlie V — with hair and a better feel for what’s tweetable and what’s the wrong way to deal with Kevin Garnett (see Bogut:  just whack KG back; it’s truly the best thing for all parties.)

And now for some sure-to-be-annoying notes on Skiles’ Baby Bulls teams and the concept of who should shoot three-pointers and who should not: Preferably, guys who can make 3-pointers should shoot them.  Skiles was at his coaching peak in identifying this type of player when he coached the Baby Bulls — though it’s difficult to say whether Bulls fans would concur, depending on what day of the week it is and whether they are still aggravated by Skiles, fed up with Kirk Hinrich or enmired in the endless debate over how tall Ben Gordon really is.    The Bulls 2006-07 stats definitely concur.

Four guys on the Baby Bulls 49-win team had the green light from 3-point-land:  Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni and Chris Duhon.  Duhon was the only streaky shooter among them that season (Hinrich would turn streaky later), and Duhon shot a very Buck-like 35.7 %.  The other guns shot a combined 40-plus %, leading the Bulls to an impressive 38.8 % shooting as a team — which would have led the league had Steve Nash’s Suns not shot an unheard of 39.9% from downtown as a team. Not fair, Nash.

The Bucks, unfortunately don’t have anybody but John Salmons likely to put up those kinds of shooting numbers, so “the green light” gets spread around on the Bucks — sometimes too much — a problem Skiles encourages.  With a Bogut under the hoop and a squad of hustle players, Skiles plays the second chance percentages.   What the Bucks need to count on this season are not the made threes but the easy, routine points in the paint from Bogut, Gooden, Mbah a Moute and Ilyasova on the scrap, and Maggette on the drive.  So far, they haven’t been making enough threes or getting enough of those — a reality reflected in Gooden and Bogut’s efficiency, and in the Bucks offensive 29th place off-rating.

Pace — and the sure-to-be-annoying 2007 Baby Bulls stats: If you scroll up to the head of the 2006-07 Bulls team page you’ll find some other Skiles-significant stats — the Baby Bulls led the league in defensive (points allowed per 100 possessions) rating in 2007, right where the Bucks want to be and have been this season.  But you’ll also notice the pace ranking — they were sixth in the NBA, playing at a pace of 93.6 possessions per game.  Contrast that with this season’s Bucks, 22nd in the league in pace at 2.1 possessions (91.5) fewer than Skiles’ best ball movement team.

True, the Bucks are not the Baby Bulls and have an All-Pro center who demands the ball in the post — this slows the pace down some.  But the Bulls didn’t have Brandon Jennings, who whips drives into the lane like Hinrich never could, and is less judicious than the Baby Bulls point guard  about shooting early in the shot clock. early in the offense than Hinrich at his best was … most of the time.  Those factors, evened out, it’s been plain to anybody watching that the Bucks have some players slowing them down.  Gooden has been one;  Corey Maggette was far too deliberate early on but has picked it up considerably in the last few games.  The new guys, understandably, have had to adjust to Skiles’ style.  John Salmons‘ recovery from a knee sprain has been another drag on the keel, so now’s certainly no time to panic, as much of a cliche as that is.   The Bucks will pick up the pace, and Salmons’ shot is coming around (he’s at 38.5 % from The Land of Ray and Reggie).

That said, the Bucks needs some wins before the schedule turns brutal in December.  Tonight in Philly against the depleted, 2-10 Sixers playing without Andre Iguodala, seems like a good way to start.  The Bucks would do well to continue it Saturday at home against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder before they face Detroit and Cleveland on the road next week.