Tag Archives: Jason Kidd

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 in April after missing the playoffs for the fifth straight year, this time beaten by his own big trade last summer for Serge Ibaka.

I’m sure Hammond knows what he’s doing, just as I’m sure that 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 in its second year, playoffs included, 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, among others; the 3-team draft day trade to be rid of Corey Maggette, 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 the Brandon Jennings trade with the Pistons is another (see the largest green 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 assets does resemble a work of Jackson Pollock splatter art, or at least the sense of aimless searching you get when you follow the random meander of Pollock’s splashing lines. 

Hammond and Kidd have by now 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 connecting assets such as the right of first refusal on Tony Snell in this summer’s free agency market; the $6 million player option of Spencer Hawes; and a couple of super protected future 2nd round draft picks, and you have less than a third of a team, with two parts in flux.

Most of the work, however, was done by Hammond, and led to a 15 win season in 2014. Here it is, in every exacting detail (I’m pretty sure I got it all, but someone please let me know if I missed something).

How Hammond dealt Bucks assets Feb. 2010 – 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.)
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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 Maggette-Stephen 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 pick – Jerome 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 Delfino – left unsigned in free agency Aug. 2012, signed w/ Houston
Roko Ukic – waived 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 Jacksontraded 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.
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*
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)
FUTURE 2ND RD PICK from Denver in Roy Hibbert trade
$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, Jennings trade thread that starts w/ the deal w/ Detroit June 2013.
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Source-erole and other notes:
“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 in this blog, I know that 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 that 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 that before the draft, you knew it the instant 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

More than a Slap on the Wrist, Part 2: Wizards-Celtics in Boston, throwing the rule book out the window

Note: The initial post on referee Marc Davis began with the Raptors-Bucks game April 27 and, after Davis was promoted into the semifinals officials pool, was extended to include analysis of the officiating in Davis’ next few games along with his trends in recent seasons.  The next game Davis worked after the Bucks elimination was Game 2 of the Wizards-Celtics series, May 2 in Boston. For reference purposes, and because the original writing/notes were buried down at the bottom of “More than a Slap on the Wrist (Part 1)”, I’ve created a separate post here to put this game in better focus.

Davis was crew chief for Game 2 in Boston, with Rodney Mott and Tom Washington the other two officials. He wasted little time provoking the Boston crowd when, just 1:07 seconds after the opening tip, Wizards power forward Markieff Morris flung Al Horford into the photographers row along the baseline. Morris was retaliating for a play in Game 1 where he sprained an ankle shooting a jump shot over Horford, who slid underneath Morris as he shot. Though Morris had, well, thrown Horford into the stands, a technical (flagrant) foul was not issued on the play.

The Celtics play a rough brand of basketball, and have a couple of players in their rotation who might make good NFL tight ends or pass-rushing outside linebackers (Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart). They use their power to create advantage, intimidate and bully, and tend to get away with it. When they’re not getting away with it, they’re still wearing down the opposition.

The Wizards are also a rugged team, and the Atlanta Hawks complained in their Round 1 series that the Wiz were “playing MMA.” The Celtics and Wizards didn’t like each other before the playoffs, both sides admitted, and they’re going to like each other even less when this series is done.  The tricky task of the officials is to keep the rivalry under control while ensuring that the fouls and penalties don’t unfairly disadvantage one side or the other. Leniency was thus a reasonable approach once Horford picked himself up and tempers cooled down.

That said, a technical foul (flagrant 1) was the best Morris might’ve hoped for when he threw Horford into the baseline area. Davis, however, decided to disregard the rule book altogether and charge Morris with only a loose ball foul. The standard for a flagrant foul {1) is contact “interpreted to be unnecessary”, and what Morris did was certainly that (ref: Official Rules pg. 46). A flagrant foul (2) is contact “interpreted to be unnecessary and excessive”, and Morris probably did that too. A flagrant foul (2) results in the offender’s ejection from the game.

Davis had apparently decided he wasn’t going to throw anybody out of the game just yet, and didn’t feel obliged to award Boston the two free throws they had coming under the flagrant (1) rule, either. Instead of getting those, Boston on the very next possession was called for an offensive foul on Amir Johnson. Davis made that call too, denying the Celtics two free throws and a possession after their center had been tossed around like a … like a very large person being thrown into a bunch of unsuspecting photographers.

Bad officiating? Of course it was, and perhaps part of a visitors vs. home team trend with Davis. This season the visitors won 54% of the games Davis worked. Visitors have won more than the league average in Davis’ games 10 of the last 14 seasons. The Wizards were the visitors in Boston, Game 2.

The fans in Boston, where even the obvious calls against their Celtics are booed, were outraged. Davis had managed, just over a minute into the game, to incite the wrath of the home crowd. He had managed this in his previous game, in Milwaukee, but it took him the better part of a quarter to set anybody off, and until the 4th quarter to bring the building down. The early occasion set an aggressive, angry tone for the evening. There would be 50 personal fouls called in this game, 29 on the Wizards. The Celtics would go on to win in overtime in dramatic fashion and take a 2-0 lead in the series, with Isaiah Thomas scorching the nets to score 53 points on his late sister’s birthday.

Here’s how those 50 fouls, plus two technical fouls, broke down by official who called them:

Sources: NBA Official and NBA.com, official game play-by-play.

If official Tom Washington’s 12 to 5 foul disparity in favor of the Celtics doesn’t jump out at you, the fact that he called only two on the Celtics after the 1st quarter should. Home teams won 65% of the games Washington refereed this season (13% above the league avg., and he tends to call more fouls than avg.) The quarter ended with Wizards ahead 42-29, a lead that didn’t last as the refs unleashed their whistles on the Wizards bench in the 2nd quarter.

  • Davis called fewer personal fouls than Mott or Washington, and only 16 for the game. This is part of the trend that emerges with Davis over the last six seasons. Davis calls fewer fouls than the average official. Over the last three seasons about 2.6 fewer fouls per game were called in games Davis worked.
  • The per game average this season was about 40 fouls per game, meaning that even the official who made the least calls in this game (Davis) called more fouls than he typically does, adjusting for the extra five minutes of the overtime.
  • Mott was fairly balanced with his calls, just as he was in Milwaukee.
  • Nine fouls were called on the Wizards in the 2nd quarter, as all three officials unleashed their whistles on the Washington bench.
  • Six personal fouls vs. the Wizards in the 3rd quarter, only 2 on Boston, making the 2nd-3rd quarter foul disparity 15-6 in favor of Boston. (The Wizards were ahead by 14 mid-quarter and were threatening to blow the game open.)
  • Davis called a double technical on Thomas and Morris after the two former Suns teammates confronted each other. Had Davis issued Morris a flagrant (1) technical foul in the 1st quarter, Morris would have been ejected from the game with this second T.
  • Mott made the shooting foul call on Wizards center Marcin Gortat that sent Thomas to the line to tie the game with 14 seconds left in regulation. This was a highly questionable call.

There were factors not related to the officials that prevented the Wizards from putting Game 2 out of Boston’s reach. They went cold from the outside in the 3rd quarter after building a 14-point lead. Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal had a horrific game (4-15 shooting, 6 turnovers). Washington also had opportunities on the last possession of regulation to win it, but Beal and John Wall misfired on open looks, setting up Thomas’ heroics in the overtime. The Celtics’ little big man (53 points!) earned this win.

But it’s fairly obvious to say that the refs helped keep Boston in the game, given 3rd official Washington’s 12-5 disparity in foul calls, and the overall 15-6 foul count against the Wizards over the 2nd and 3rd quarters. This wasn’t lost on Wizards coach Scott Brooks, who tried after the game to remain benignly vague when approaching the taboo subject of the refs, but didn’t quite succeed. Brooks ended his post-game interview session abruptly after the following comments.

“We had a couple of leads, 14 and I think a 10 or 12 point lead, and things changed,” Brooks said. “My job is not to referee the game, my job is to coach, and sometimes I struggle doing that. It’s a tough job. And our players gotta play. We have to be able to control the game, and (he paused) it’s not our job to do that.”

Davis served as a counter-veiling influence to referee Washington, mainly through his handling of Morris. The Wizards’ power forward, coming off a sprained ankle in Game 1, played just 26 minutes due to foul trouble but had a stabilizing impact for the Wizards on the court, scoring an efficient 16 points. Not calling the first technical on Morris was a boon for the Wizards, compliments of Davis in the face of a hostile Boston crowd, part of his modus operandi in this year’s playoffs.

But with Mott making the big call to send Thomas to the line in the final seconds to send it into overtime, this game became a reminder that it’s difficult for any one ref to engineer an outcome when there are two other officials on the court.

Note: Davis has worked one game since this May 2 game, the Rockets loss at home to the Spurs May 5 in Game 3 of that series. The Washington-Boston series is currently tied 2-2, with Game 5 about to tip off Wednesday, May 10. Davis has not been assigned to work a game, even as an alternate, since May 5 in Houston.

 Source list:

  • Official Rules, NBA 2016-17: https://ak-static.cms.nba.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2016/11/2016-2017-Rule-Book-Final.pdf
  • Official game play-by-play: http://www.nba.com/games/20170502/WASBOS#/pbp
  • Wizards-Celtics Box score, 05/02/17:  http://www.nba.com/games/20170502/WASBOS#/boxscore
  • Scott Brooks post game interviews: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Mj-69Br2zE
  • ESPN story, 04/17/17: “Paul Millsap after Hawks loss: We played basketball, they played MMA”, http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/19173546/paul-millsap-atlanta-hawks-washington-wizards-were-playing-mma-game-1-victory
  • Last Two Minute report, Wizards-Celtics: http://official.nba.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/L2M-WAS-BOS-05-02-17.pdf
  • NBA Officials Data: http://www.basketball-reference.com/referees/
  • 2014-15 Phoenix Suns: http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/PHO/2015.html
  • AP report, NBA statement on 2016 non-calls in Spurs-Thunder Game 2: http://www.nba.com/2016/news/05/03/nba-on-spurs-thunder-game-2-non-calls.ap/
  • Last Two Minute Reports FAQ: http://official.nba.com/nba-last-two-minute-reports-frequently-asked-questions/

More than a Slap on the Wrist: How referee Mark Davis sent the Bucks fishin’ early (and got promoted)

The slap was so loud, you could hear its echo snap throughout the arena. The fans heard it. Bucks coach Jason Kidd heard it. Bucks center Greg Monroe felt it, the smack of P.J. Tucker‘s left hand hammering down on his hands as the Bucks center secured the rebound, 9:31 to go in the game and the Bucks trailing by eight. You can hear it now still, in the Game 6 highlight reel posted on the Raptors official site, a sharp clap above the squeaky shoes and crowd noise (the play in question is at 6:40 of the video).

But NBA official Marc Davis, the ref under the basket, nearest to the play in the paint, apparently did not hear it. Davis swallowed his whistle, something he’d been doing all game where Raptors fouls were concerned. Tucker was allowed the rebound, and found Kyle Lowry free in the lane for a lay-up, making the score 76-66 (6:43 of the video).

Davis, who was named one of the three worst NBA officials in a survey of players and coaches conducted by the LA Times (*see note on survey below) during the 2015-16 season, had not called a single foul on the Raptors the entire first three quarters of Game 6. When the 4th quarter began last Thursday, the Bucks — facing elimination at home — had endured an overall 14-9 disparity in personal fouls called and were down 13 on the scoreboard.

The Toronto lead had been 25 but the Raptors were falling apart. The Bucks seized the momentum after a time out with 5 minutes to go in the 3rd, and were on a 20-3 run when Davis missed the loose ball foul on Tucker. The lead was down to eight, and now it was back to ten. A temporary setback. No big deal. But Davis would stun the Bucks and their home crowd again just 30 seconds later, making another highly questionable call that put more points on the board for the Raptors and blew the cool of Bucks coach Jason Kidd, who was hit with a technical foul — called by Davis.

So with Davis’ foul calls running 7 on the Bucks to one on the Raptors (yes, he had finally called his first foul of the game on the Raptors early in the 4th quarter, a shooting foul on Tucker) why should anybody have expected Davis to get a tough charge-block call correct on the very next Raptors possession after the slap-that-wasn’t-called?

Except this charge-block call was not so tough. As he drove for a layup with 8:40 to go, Kyle Lowry leaped into a set Khris Middleton. Middleton’s feet were planted clearly outside the circle, more planted than most defenders get when successfully taking a charge. Lowry didn’t shift to avoid the contact, and both players went down. Charge on Lowry? Not according to Davis. Foul on Middleton, Lowry to the line.

In and of itself, an official missing a charge/block call isn’t cause for alarm; it happens in nearly every game. But in the context of this play, Davis was exposed, and Bucks coach Jason Kidd reacted. Kidd this season has played it cool with the refs, maybe too cool at times. But Kidd had had enough of Davis in Game 6. Davis hit him with a technical as the Bucks home crowd jeered its disbelief.  While the Raptors shot their ensuing free throws, Kidd engaged in a lengthy discussion with referees crew chief Tony Brothers, the substance of which, one can only speculate, centered around the question of “what the hell is Davis trying to do to this game?”

The Raptors made the technical free throw but Lowry missed one of his two, pushing their lead to 12 points, 78-66 with 8:38 left in the game. Davis had put four points on the board for Toronto in less than a minute. There was still plenty of time for the Bucks, and they would score the next 14 points of the game to take an 80-78 lead and cap an improbable 34-7 run. The devastation might’ve been 34-3 or worse for the Raptors, had Davis not softened the blow of what would otherwise have been a knock-out punch.

The officials missed another key call with 1:54 to go and the score tied at 82 — a shooting foul on Patrick Patterson as Giannis Antetokounmpo wheeled into the lane for a 7-foot baby hook shot. This play was ruled “incorrect non-call” by NBA Officiating in the “Last Two-Minute Report” for the game. To view that play, click HERE.

Toronto forward Patrick Patterson pushes into Giannis Antetokounmpo as Giannis shoots over him with 1:54 left in Game 6. No foul was called on the play. NBA Official ruled that the refs made an “incorrect no-call” on this play, the correct call being a shooting foul on Patterson, two free throws for Giannis. The official on the baseline is Tony Brothers; Marc Davis is the official on the sideline. Both officials appear to have a good view of the play.

The impact of that non-call was immediate. Whether or not Giannis made his free throws (he missed 6 out of 13 on the night), the non-call allowed the Raptors to break up the court on the ensuing possession, which ended with a corner-3 made by Cory Joseph. Calling the foul would have at least slowed the flow of the game and allowed the Bucks to set up on defense, possibly with a one or two point lead. One or two points late in a close game, obviously, could have changed everything.

NBA Officiating also found enhanced video evidence that DeMar DeRozan slid his pivot foot before driving with 1:35 to go (no ruling was made on this, even though you don’t really need to enhance the video to see it — you can watch it right here); and ruled that Jason Terry fouled DeRozan on a dunk with 49.6 seconds left. Ironically, this determination was made with much less video evidence than there was for DeRozan traveling, on which there was no determination. (There’s a post on the ironic reality represented in the NBA’s “Last Two Minute Reports” coming soon.)

Everywhere one looks in this game, it seems, there is an officiating controversy brewing. Yet all three of the refs involved, Davis included, made the conference semifinals officials cut from 37 to 30. Davis and 3rd official Rodney Mott worked the Wizards-Celtics game on Tuesday. Davis is back on the job tonight in Houston for the Spurs Rockets game. What does that say about the 7 refs who didn’t make the cut? What does it say about the NBA’s officials review process?

But before we take a closer look at other parts of Bucks-Raptors Game 6, it should be mentioned that Davis, after being named one of the three worst refs in league in the LA Times survey, was the official who stood by watching as Dion Waiters and Manu Ginobili committed multiple violations on the last play of Game 2 of the Spurs-Thunder first round series last year.  To quote deadspin.com on that play “all hell broke loose” and the rulebook went out the window.

Bucks-Raptors Game 6 official Marc Davis (#8 above) was the ref who swallowed his whistle during one of the most notorious playoffs officiating fiascos in recent years. On the inbound play of the last possession of Game 2 of the Thunder-Spurs semifinal series, Dion Waiters of the Thunder illegally shoves the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili from out of bounds, as Ginobili tries to get away with illegally violating the inbound space. In the foreground, Kawhi Leonard has a handful of Russell Westbrook‘s jersey. No calls were made on the play. AP photo.

Whistles in the 1st quarter send a confusing mixed message

Considering how difficult it’s been for the referees to draw a technical foul out of Kidd this season, those four points midway through the Bucks run were writ large on the outcome of Game 6 as the Raptors scrapped out the win, 92-89, ending the Bucks season. That Davis did not call a single foul on the Raptors during the first 36.52 of the game, certainly raises some questions. The Raptors 9 to 14 foul call advantage as they built a seemingly insurmountable 25-point lead raises more questions. The non-call on the Patterson shooting foul under two minutes was key. Davis’ preceding reputation is interesting to point out, but Tony Brothers, the official along the baseline on that play, could also have made the call.

Does it all add up to the conclusion that the Bucks were robbed of a game 7 opportunity? Bucks fans would probably say it does, others might suggest that the Bucks had their chances and couldn’t close the game out, which was certainly true. The Bucks had an 82-80 lead with 2:29 left to play. The Bucks certainly could have won Game 6 in spite of Davis, in spite of the non-called fouls, and despite problems of their own in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, such as missed open shots and free throws throughout as Toronto built its lead.

A closer view of Game 6, however, does add more grist for the idea that, in the very least, a Game 7 in Toronto would have been played but for the refs. Whatever can be said, Game 6 from the outset was not well-managed by the officiating crew, and let’s start there.

The Game 6 refs were not short on experience, and all three are on the current officials roster for the semi-final round of the playoffs. Tony Brothers was the crew chief, with Davis and 3rd official Rodney Mott. Together they combined 63 seasons of experience and 39 playoffs. Davis is a 19-year veteran and Mott has 20 years on the job.

Davis’ whistle blew the most often in the game, with all of his calls against the Raptors made in the 4th quarter, and all but one after he issued a technical foul on Kidd.

Source: NBA.com, Raptors-Bucks play-by-play, 04/27/17. Chart graphic added to post 5/12/17                                           Note: Goaltending against Bucks, John Henson, 2nd quarter (called by Davis).

As you can see, the whistles stopped blowing against the Raptors after the 1st quarter, when at one point the violations were 6 against Toronto, 2 on Milwaukee.

  • The quarter began with Brothers hitting Raptors center Serge Ibaka with a  quick foul trying to guard a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo and another on Ibaka guarding center Thon Maker. This forced Raptors coach Dwane Casey to sit Ibaka down 2:16 seconds into the game. Ibaka returned to start the 2nd quarter.
  • Mott then called a rare defensive 3-second violation (the rule few understand) on Ibaka’s replacement, Jonas Valanciunas, though Brothers offset that Bucks free throw by immediately calling an offensive foul on Middleton.
  • From 6:18 to go in the 1st quarter to 11:08 of the 4th quarter — 31:10 — the calls ran 12 against the Bucks to only 4 on Toronto, as the Bucks fell behind by 25.
  • Davis and Brothers combined called 1 foul on Toronto in the middle two quarters. One.
  • Davis called 0 fouls on the Raptors for the three quarters. (It still doesn’t seem possible, but it happened. Those zeroes can’t help but look bad for the league. — 5/12/17 edit 

P.J. Tucker grapples with Greg Monroe. Tucker, a tank-like forward who makes up for his size with physical play, tends to commit so many violations on the court that the referees are bound to miss a few.  License: Standard noncommercial purpose/use.

A blocking foul on Tucker was the Raptors fifth team foul in the 1st quarter, which put the Bucks in the bonus with half of the first quarter still to play. At this point, the message seemed to be that it was going to be a long night for the Raptors; the visitors weren’t going to be allowed to bully the Bucks out of the playoffs on their home court.

It seemed a fair message, given how even the series was been statistically, save for the Raptors big advantage in free throws attempted and made. A Game 7 was the logical conclusion. But Davis apparently had ideas of his own. The rest of the calls made in the 1st quarter of Game 6 — most of them by Davis — went against the Bucks.

The first call was made by Mott, the first foul on Monroe. Then came four straight by Davis, including Monroe’s 2nd foul, a highly questionable loose ball foul that seemed little more than an obvious attempt to even the score with Ibaka’s two fouls. The call prompted coach Kidd to take Monroe — who put up big impact numbers against the Raptors (a series-leading 16.29 BIER) — out of the game. Monroe would not return in the first half, a decision by Kidd that, if it didn’t open the door for the Raptors double digit lead, it at least altered the complexion of the game.

Davis wasn’t done yet. He called a shooting foul on Monroe’s replacement, shot-blocker John Henson, on Henson’s first possession. With 23 seconds to go, Davis put the Raptors on the line with the 5th Bucks team foul, a call on the floor against defensive specialist Tony Snell, sending Raptors star Demar Derozan to the line. Two free points for Derozan, and the quarter ended with the Raptors ahead, 28-24.

The Bucks had the edge early on, but Davis had helped even the score. In the very least, the 1st quarter officiating sent a confusing message and offered some relief to the Raptors. Davis had given them a break on the road, they had the lead, and the Bucks 2nd best player, Monroe, was on the bench with foul trouble.

Lowry in the land of the giants. Thon Maker (left) and Giannis Antetokounmpo surround Toronto’s Kyle Lowry in the paint. Lowry, listed at 6’0″, is small even by point guard standards, but seems microscopic here, swarmed by 7-footers. Great photo by AP’s Nathan Denette that probably won’t be here for long. License: Standard noncommercial purpose/use.

Looking for a motive – natural bias and recent Davis trends

There is more than ample evidence, a compounding of events not all circumstantial, that leads to the conclusion that the Bucks were wronged by the Game 6 officiating crew and by Davis in particular. But why? What would motivate a ref to tip the balance in a game to deny the Bucks a Game 7, given that, if anything, what the NBA and its media desire (in theory) would be a do-or-die 7th game played in Canada’s largest media market (2.85 million pop, twice the size of the Milwaukee area market).

If the Bucks engender any bias against them it’s due to the lack of success in recent history, their last playoff series win having been 16 years ago with the Sam-I-Am, Big Dog and Ray team, or before most teen-aged Bucks fans were born. In Game 6, however, the Bucks had the natural edge being the home team, and being the home team counts for something in the NBA (where home teams win 57-60% of the time) and in the Big Ten and just about anywhere in the world one plays basketball. Add to this the “Game 7 media theory” and the perception was that the Bucks had a certain advantage going into Game 6.

The Bucks had jumped out to an early lead as Antetokounmpo forced the action, scored 12 points and shot five free throws in the first six minutes. One theory this season as Giannis’ star rose high and the Bucks relied on him to do just about everything except make the locker room sandwiches, has been that The Greek Freak constitutes unfair advantage. At times, certain referees will make calls against the Bucks to balance the scales. This may have been what Davis had in mind the last half of the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Bucks, Davis went too far by dumping foul trouble on Monroe and throwing the game out of balance.

The Bucks are not as deep as the Raptors at center. The Raptors can readily go to Valanciunas, usually a more reliable player and stronger center than Ibaka, and not worry about losing ground. They proved that in Game 6. The Bucks have Henson, a 5th year project that was all but abandoned in the second half of the season. Jason Kidd can’t take the risks Dwane Casey can at the center position. The absence of Monroe, statistically the Bucks biggest per-minute impact player in the series, crippled the Bucks in the first half.

The second call against Monroe did not appear to be circumstantial, nor were the non-calls in the 4th quarter, or Davis’ apparent glaring refusal to call any fouls on the Raptors during the first three quarters of the game.  Compounded, these instances draw the conclusion that something was amiss with Davis.  A different referee for Game 6, and the Bucks and Raptors play Game 7 in Toronto, Saturday, April 29.

Not sure of the what , but that’s Marc Davis above. “Effective pregame advice” might be … don’t even try to fathom the bottomless pit of referee motivations. From Peachtree Hoops.

Referee Stats!

In a different information age not so long ago, I’d have to leave it at that. Here comes the summation about how, for the love of the game, the paranoia about the refereeing in the NBA, justified or not, is not good for anybody. When a society no longer trusts its judges, what then becomes of the social fabric? Davis should be handed a stern warning by someone not named Stern, the former commissioner who made every small market team in the NBA nervous except the one in San Antonio.

But in this information age, the NBA and its ever-advancing statistical society have provided stats and trends for each and every referee! Exciting stuff. Marc Davis stats can be found here at basketball-reference.com. And from what those numbers say, a home vs. road theory can be built to explain why Davis was so tough on the Bucks in Game 6.

Two things stand out in Davis’ stat charts. The first is a trend over the last three seasons that shows fewer fouls than average called in the games he works, a range of 2.5 to 3 fewer fouls since 2014. That certainly held true for the Raptors in Game 6 but not for the Bucks, where Davis went against his usual m.o. and called more fouls than the other officials and more than he would normally call.

The average number of personal fouls per team in this year’s playoffs so far has been 19.7 per game (or 6 or 7 calls per official per team; it had increased to 20.3 pfs per team as of 5/12). Davis called 9 personal fouls on the Bucks.

The other outstanding trend has been an up and down relationship to the NBA’s home court advantage (a fairly consistent win rate of about 60% for the home teams). Home court advantage seems to be out the window when Davis is working. In the 2014 season, the visitors won 47% of Davis’ games. In 2015 the visitors won 50% of the time – a 15% variation from the norm. So the road teams have done well when Davis is managing the game. This is no doubt confusing to the home players, which may in part explain his “NBA worst officials” dishonor.

But hold on – the trend completely reversed itself wildly in the 2016 season, and home teams won 65% of Davis’ games. Whether a memo was issued to Davis is unknown, of course, the process of reviewing officials being top secret stuff — but there have never appeared to be any repercussions for bad or incompetent officiating. Whatever the cause, this was a 27.7% swing from the previous season, the highest of Davis’ career. This season, Davis’ trend swung even more wildly back in favor of the visiting teams.

In 2017, the visitors won 54% of 65 games officiated by Davis. The league trend was 60/40 in favor of the home teams. That’s a 24.4% divergence from the average the highest of Davis’ career.

Now let’s look at this season’s playoffs. Coming into the Bucks-Raptors game, the home team had won all five of the games in which Davis worked. Is it possible that Davis had decided a victory by a road team was due, and the Bucks were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong referee? Maybe.

Wizards-Celtics Game 2: Marc Davis’ next game

[I took the Wizards-Celtics analysis and the notes below and made a stand-alone post, “More than a Slap on the Wrist, Part 2: Wizards-Celtics Game 2, throwing the rule book out the window”  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read the notes (they’re really good notes), but the post has two videos and a two-tone chart, just so you know.]

Davis and Mott officiated the Wizards vs. Celtics Game 2 in Boston Tuesday with Tom Washington as third official. The Davis trends suggest that the Wizards, the road team, have a good chance of winning the game. This was a tough, physical game (the Celtics like to bully the opposition) that went into overtime and featured 50 personal fouls called — 29 against the Wizards, 21 against the Celtics (about average considering the OT).

Here’s how the 50 calls broke down per official:

  • Davis: 16 or 32% of calls, 8 per team
  • Mott: 17 or 34%, 9/17 on the Wizards
  • Washington: 17 or 34%, 12/17 on Wizards

First thing to note is Davis calling fewer fouls than the other officials, part of the trend that emerges for Davis over the last six seasons.

Below is the breakdown by quarter:

  • Boston was hit with the most fouls in the first quarter (7) but only 14 the rest of the game, including the overtime, below the average in the playoffs so far this season.
  • Nine fouls were called on the Wizards in the 2nd, as all three officials unleashed their whistles on the Washington bench.
  • Six fouls vs. the Wizards in the 3rd quarter, only 2 on Boston. (The Wizards were threatening to blow the game open middle of the 3rd quarter).
  • Fourth quarter & Overtime – 9 on the Wiz, 7 on the Celtics.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the referees helped keep Boston in the game, though Davis was the least involved in that. 3rd official Tom Washington’s 12 to 5 call disparity in favor of the Celtics is hard to ignore. If Davis leaned to the visitors, Washington more than made up for that, a reminder that it’s difficult for a ref to wire a game with two other officials on the court with him/her.

The Wizards went cold from the outside in the 3rd quarter after they had built a 13 point lead that was still 12 with 3:20 to play in the quarter. Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal had a horrific game (4-15 shooting, 6 turnovers). The Wizards also had opportunities on the last possession of the 4th quarter to win the game, but Beal and John Wall misfired on open looks.  Isaiah Thomas heroically torched the nets in the overtime and scored 53 points on his late sister’s birthday. Thomas also made the free throws that tied the game and forced the overtime (Mott made that rather questionable call – see NBA Official video here).

As for Davis, other than keeping to his trends of, 1) calling fewer fouls; and 2) making things tough on the home team (fewest calls against the visiting Wizards), a call he chose not to make in the 1st quarter helped the Wizards later on. During the opening minutes of the game Wizards PF Markieff Morris threw Al Horford into the sideline area as Horford tried to save a loose ball (this was retaliation for a foul in Game 1 that caused Morris to sprain an ankle). Davis called a loose ball foul on Morris but, for reasons unclear, did not issue a flagrant foul (1 or 2) technical to Morris as called for in the NBA rule book. Had he done so, Morris would have been tossed from the game in the 3rd quarter when he and Thomas were T’d up after a confrontation.

What Davis did do in the wake of Morris’ retaliation – on the Celtics next possession – was call an offensive foul on Celtics big man Amir Johnson. Can it really be that the NBA doesn’t look at this stuff?

*Note on LA TImes Survey: The “best officials” survey was anonymous, involving 36 current players, coaches and assistant coaches. Each participant was asked to name a best and worst referee. Scott Foster (24 votes) was voted worst; Lauren Holtkamp was next (14 votes); and Davis, with 12 votes, was voted 3rd worst.

Here are the anonymous survey comments about Davis, published in the LA Times story January 30, 2016:

“He’s cool as they come, but he’s so arrogant,” one player said. “He instigates things sometimes. Marc will go back at a player. He forgets that he’s talking to another man. Don’t challenge a man’s manhood. Now you are going too far.”

“Marc Davis is hands down the worst,” a player said. “He acts likes he’s your friend, but he’ll just screw you. He’ll screw you and he’ll get the biggest attitude about it.”

Danny Crawford was voted “best official” (30 votes). Joey Crawford (no kidding) was next best (25 votes). Crawford retired after last season, which I suppose makes Monty McCutchen (13 votes) the 2nd best ref in the league.

Other sources: This post was edited to include the “Last Two Minute” reports from Raptors-Bucks and Wizards Celtics, and their findings, as well as other source material from NBA Official. Other main source material is from either Basketball-reference.com or NBA.com.

  • Bucks-Raptors Game 6 highlights, NBA.com/raptors:  http://www.nba.com/raptors/video/teams/raptors/2017/04/28/1493347703009-nba-web-170427-gamehighlights-1396692/
  • Bucks-Raptors Game 6 broadcast, Fox Sports North, analyst Marques Johnson.
  • Bucks-Raptors Game 6 play-by-play: http://www.nba.com/games/20170427/TORMIL#/pbp
  • Bucks-Raptors series stats: http://www.basketball-reference.com//playoffs/2017-nba-eastern-conference-first-round-bucks-vs-raptors.html
  • 2017 NBA season stats: http://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2017.html#all_team-stats-per_game
  • 2017 NBA playoff stats: http://www.basketball-reference.com/playoffs/NBA_2017.html#all_all_team_stats
  • Deadspin, “Thunder-Spurs Game 2:
  • 2016-17 NBA rulebook: https://ak-static.cms.nba.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2016/11/2016-2017-Rule-Book-Final.pdf
  • Referee assignments: http://official.nba.com/referee-assignments/
  • Playoff officials selection process: http://official.nba.com/playoff-officials-selection-process/
  • Last Two Minute Report: http://official.nba.com/nba-last-two-minute-reports-archive/
  • Playoff officials roster: http://official.nba.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2017/05/2016-17-NBA-Referee-Headshots-Conference-Semifinals-1.pdf
  • Radio Media Markets: http://www.radio-media.com/markets/main.html

Forgotten Man: Richard Jefferson has played more minutes than any NBA player… yet he’s the Bucks few talk about

Richard JeffersonRichard Jefferson is the man Bucks coach Scott Skiles plays more than any other. In fact, Jefferson’s played more minutes than any player in the NBA to this point, thanks to the Bucks grueling schedule. (They are one of only six teams to play 26 games so far, Charlotte in the East and Utah, Portland, Sacramento and OK City out West being the others). Yet Jefferson is not a player who gets much scrutiny or praise from fans whether it’s on our forum here at Sportsbubbler or others. Discussion about Michael Redd or Andrew Bogut? Those never seem to end.

Jefferson, despite the big trade of Yi Jianlian that brought him here and the court time he gets, is somehow flying under the radar, at times a forgotten man.  It’s an odd phenomenon but it’s also part of who R.J. is as a player. To get to the bottom of this, let’s go back to last year when R.J. was a New Jersey Net.

[No, I don’t know who the brunette on R.J.’s arm is (the tag just says she’s a model – no kidding) … EDIT: Turns out that’s R.J.’s wife, Trinidadian supermodel Teresa Lourenco.]

I was at a Nets-Bucks game last December  and you wouldn’t have known Jefferson  was on the court much of the time. The Bucks played well that night, if not consistently. It was Mo Williams bobblehead night, and he and Michael Redd decided to have a shootout in the first half. Mo had 21 at half; Redd made sure to outscore him with 24 (or maybe it was the other way around). In any case, it was kind of sickening when you realize they were on the same dam team and at one point when Mo was on fire, Redd nearly threw a temper tantrum over it as the team came to the bench during a time out(our Bucks, what a team!).  In spite of (and because of) the Bucks fireworks, New Jersey hung around, won the 4th quarter and won the game.

Afterward, the feeling was, how’d the Nets do it?  They weren’t shooting well for much of the game or so it seemed, and they looked out of sync despite Jason Kidd running the show.  Kidd hit a clutch three in the 4th, that much I remember. But R.J.? Couldn’t have even told you that night how he did. I just checked the boxscore from the game and can report that R.J. had a quiet 19 points in 39.5 minutes to go with 1 reb and 1 asst in all that time.  Kidd and Vince Carter were on the court even morethan R.J. — 40+ mins for both of them. Redd played just as much and had 35 pts, most of it in the 1st half, and his Bucks lost at home.

I came away with the conclusion that Jefferson (and Carter and Kidd, too) had done a lot of little things on the court that escaped notice, none more important than playing consistent, though unspectacular, defense. Also, the Nets knew how to win the game — the Bucks were 0-4 vs. the Nets last season and it wasn’t because the Nets were necessarily outplaying the Bucks. All four of those games were close — the Bucks just couldn’t figure out how to win any of them. The Nets had numerous heroes, from Josh Boone to Bostian Nachbar (who’s now playing in Europe or Russia or somewhere). It didn’t seem to matter who the culprit was — New Jersey found a way to win. It was the little things – things the Bucks were not doing and hadn’t been doing for years.

R.J.’s not the best of shooters, never has been, though some fans may recall how clutch he was against the Bucks early in his career. Is R.J. a slasher?  Well, the book on him coming to Milwaukee was that he was, but that was part of the case made that R.J. and Redd would be “complementary players.” R.J.’s slashing was limited at best in New Jersey. What sticks out in my mind about R.J. in his career are jump shots he hit over Big Dog in his rookie year (2002) and more of those in the 2003 playoffs againt the Bucks. It’s never a good idea to put too much stock in the highlight dunks that show up on SportsCenter.  Regardless, he hasn’t been a slasher as a Buck — in fact it looks like he’s lost some hop.

According to 82games.com shooting stats, 77% of Jefferson’s shots are jumpshots, a higher percentage than the shots of the alleged jumpshooter, Michael Redd. Redd takes the ball to the basket much more than many fans realize. When the trade was made, I viewed Redd and R.J. as much more “like” players than pieces that fit together. They’re hardly complementary.

Jefferson’s no great passer or rebounder, either, although it was also said when the trade was made that R.J. would be a good rebounder. Bucks fans should know what a good rebounding small forward looks like: for the majority of team history the Bucks have had SF’s who hit the glass more and better than R.J. — Big Dog, Terry Cummings, Marques Johnson and Bob Dandridge come to mind. Sticking with the more recent past, R.J.’s not the rugged boardsman Big Dog could be when the team needed him to be.

So what does R.J. do on the court?  It’s those little things that help win games — playing hardnosed, constant-pressure, ball-denying D; working hard every possession and never giving up on a play (a couple of things Bogut could improve on); doing more than enough (but not too much) with the ball on offense to remain a threat and maintain spacing for his teammates; getting to the line; keeping the ball moving on offense; being a good teammate; and, thinking and believing that his team is going to win. These are all things that rub off on teammates and, if and when they do, it’s called leadership. Plus, Jefferson is able to maintain intensity without seeming to get tired, despite the heavy minutes that coach Skiles keeps him on the court. It’s a long list.

Up to this point in the season, R.J. is off to his best start ever shooting from 3-point land. Whether that continues or not is anybody’s guess, but he’s never shot as well as he is now for an entire season. Whether R.J. continue to hit threes or not shouldn’t play into how Jefferson is appreciated by fans. The intangibles that R.J. brings, those things that don’t always show up in the box score, are much more important to this team, especially as they learn Skiles’ defensive system.

If there’s one word that best fits the intangible R.J., it wouldn’t be “defense” or even “leadership” (though both of those things are part of it). The word is ATTITUDE.

Bucks vs. Sixers:  Two wins in a row under their belts and the Bucks tonight face the Sixers, a quick athletic gang who can’t shoot straight. Also waiting for Andrew Bogut and the Bucks in Philly is Sixers center Sam Dalembert. Dalembert hasn’t been playing so well this season but in his last two games against Bogut and the Bucks, Bogut had more turnovers (7) than points scored (6).  Here’s the box score from the last one. It ain’t pretty.  I have a feeling that Bogut is looking for some redemption tonight.


Olympic Weekend: Bogut powers Australia into medal round matchup vs.Team Redeem… Yi delivers China… Jason Kidd laments shooting incident

Continuing doggedly on my mission to spark some interest in Olympic basketball while the Brewers go yard for the playoffs and the Packers embark into the post-Favre era, take a look at what Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut was doing Friday night halfway around the world in Beijing, China.




That fiercely emphatic dunk on Andrei Vorontsevich were points 10 and 11 of a 14-7 Australia Boomer run to begin the 4th quarter of a do-or-die medal round qualifying game against 2007 Eurobasket champs Russia, hammering the Aussies home to an 80-62 lead. The.Australia run effectively buried Russia, though forward Viktor Khryapa (Chicago Bulls) made it interesting with a barrage of three-pointers after the Aussies had pushed the lead to 21. The final was a convincing 95-80, with Bogut throwing in a three-pointer with 30 seconds left to spite the equally chippy Russians. Bogut finished with 22 pts, 8 rebs. Aussie point guard C.J. Bruton scorched the nets for 22 of his own and handed out 6 asts.

Their reward? The Group A #4 seed and a an almost certain quarterfinal matchup against Team USA, which on Saturday made perhaps the strongest statement USA basketball has uttered since the Jordan-Magic-Bird Dream Team — a 119-82 blowout of 2006 world champion Spain. Team Redeem clinched the Group B #1 seed and meets the Boomers Wednesday. (Standings and latest scores). Both teams played meaningless 5th games, with Australia waltzing Sunday night 106-75 over injury-conscious Group A top seed Lithuania and Team USA this morning destroying Dirk Nowitzki and Germany 106-57.

Until Friday night, the 23-year-old Bucks center’s Olympics had been disappointing and frustrating. As Australia crumbled against Croatia and Argentina, Bogut scarcely resembled the aggressive post player Bucks fans saw most of last season. Worse still was that he wasn’t playing very much and was the focus of debate about the team’s failures. Aussie coach Brian Goorjian rose to make an impassioned defense of Bogut Thursday but along the way revealed that he, as coach, was de-emphasizing his star player — on purpose. The coach apparently believed that some of the lesser Aussie players would be responsible for delivering wins and Australia’s first-ever basketball medal.

In the Russia postgame, Goorjian again told reporters that he still didn’t think the team should rely on Bogut to carry them. The coach is in obvious denial about his team. (I’d love to hear an opinion from Yao Ming’s China coach about Goorjian’s attitude toward his center).

Against Russia, however, Goorjian finally did what basketball coaches do: he played his best players and finally seemed to settle on a rotation, riding Bogut and the timely shooting of Bruton to victory. Bogut logged 28 minutes and was strong from start to finish (including a “we mean business” unsportsmanlike foul on Utah Jazz/Russia star Andrei Kirilenko to open the 2nd half). Less than 48 hours after the coach had said Bogut could not be expected to carry the team, Bogut carried the team. That’s what star players do. Unfortunately for Australia, Goorjian spent the first three games of the Olympics foolishly trying to prove otherwise.

For more about Goorjian’s curious handling of Bogut in Beijiing, I made live game notes during the Australia-Russia game and have moved those to the bottom of this, the BBJ mothership weekend Olympics post.

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D-Wade reverses on Pau Gasol - FIBATeam USA 119, Spain 82  Boxscore.  What to say about Team Redeem that hasn’t already been said?  The Team USA defense is the dominant force in this Olympic basketball tournament. Pau Gasol (Lakers), Jose Calderon (Raptors) and their world champion Spanish team were no match. Lebron James and Dwyane Wade seem to have found a higher gear of intensity that may not have existed until now. The two stars are playing with what looks like controlled fury. I don’t think either one of them cracked a grin the entire first half, as they again led the team.

*Jason Kidd shocked the world by taking and making a shot, joking after the game that he had ruined his Olympics. “My man gave me the ball and I had to take the layup – even though I didn’t want to,” Kidd said. The shot came at the 6:56 mark of the 3rd Quarter with Lebron James leading a fast break. Kidd dutifully filled the left lane just like in practice drills and Lebron found him with a pass too close to the basket for Kidd to do anythng but plant his right foot and go up for the left-handed layin — which, by the way, was textbook. Obviously feeling sheepish after the game, he snuck out of the arena like Mike Tyson the night Buster Douglas knocked him out.

*After hitting nothing but rim the first three games, Denver’s Carmelo Anthony found his jumpshot, scoring 16 pts on 6-8 shooting, 4 of 6 from behind the arc. Anthony and the Pistons’ Tayshaun Prince (Pistons) were partly responsible for the extra gaudy margin of victory, shooting a combined 7/10 from downtown, while the rest of the team shot a merely human 5/15. Bucks guard Michael Redd missed his lone three-point attempt.


* Team Redeem stole the ball 16 times, led by Chris Paul‘s 5 steals (also 14 pts).  Spain turned the ball over a whopping 28 times, a rate of one turnover every 85.7 seconds.

* Lebron James led with 8 asts (and 18pts). Lebron leads the Olympics in assists through 4 games with 22 (5.5 avg).

* Pau Gasol played 33 minutes but was held check, with just 13 points on 5-8 shooting. His 7-foot-tall, 270-lb brother Marc played some solid stretches, with 8 pts, 3 rebs in 18 mins before fouling out. Marc Gasol has a good-looking mid-range shot and mixed it up against the US, getting to the line six times. Looks like the Grizzlies have a player.

* 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.


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Yao and Yi celebrate win v. Germany - FIBAYi hits crucial final minute shot, China advances 59-55 over Germany:  Much like his former teammate, Bogut, Nets forward Yi Jianlian rose from goat to hero status in his fourth Beijing game, swishing an 18-footer with 28 seconds to go to put China up 58-55. Yi wasn’t done. He then sealed the win on the defensive end, harassing Mavs All-Pro Dirk Nowitzki into a missed three and a turnover. Yi finished with 9 pts, 11 rbs in his best game of the Olympics while also guarding Nowitzki most of the night. Dirk scored 24 and hauled down 17 rebs, but shot only 7-20 from the field, capping the night with that horrific final 28 seconds. Somewhere in New Jersey, a GM is breathing a little easier.

Yao Ming carried China with 25 pts, 11 rebs. China made the medal round for the second Olympics in a row, and closesd against Greece Monday. It could get goofy. The loser plays Lithuania, a preferable matchup to the one the winner gets: Spurs All-NBA guard Manu Ginobili and Argentina, the defending gold medalists. (Unfortunately, it didn’t get goofy – Yao just didn’t play most of it. He scored 16 pts in 18 mins as Greece “won” the #3 seed 91-77.)

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Bogut with game face vs. Lith - FIBAAustralia 106, Lithuania 75  – With Lithuania undefeated and Croatia securing the #3 seed with a blowout of Group A patsy Iran earlier Sunday night, this game was meaningless. Australia started quickly with Bogut scoring 9 points in the first 2:20 seconds and only briefly looked back – when Bogut went to the bench for seven minutes in the first half. That stretch was the last time Lithuania pulled to within single digits. Bogut led all scorers with 23 pts on 10-12 shooting in just 16 mins. The Aussie D forced 25 turnovers, a good workout with Team USA next.

The boxscore and game lines say Bogut shot 3-3 from 3-point land, but there must be some mistake. A criticism of Bogut in the NBA is that the midrange jumper he had in college has disappeared, but what’s this? Was it a long-range jumper all along? With 3 threes last night and 2 against Russia, he now has more 3-pointers in Beijing than Michael Redd, Team Redeem’s three-point specialist. Perhaps Bogut’s trying to send a message to Scott Skiles? The message is probably for Aussie coach Goorjian. “Keep me in the game” would be appropriate.

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German basketballer Sven SchultzeUSA 106, Germany 57 – Team Redeem jumped out to a 20-3 lead and the rout was on. Carmelo Anthony opened the scoring with a jumper, which isn’t so unusual, but when Jason Kidd hit a three-pointer and Dwight Howard made a free throw in the early minutes, Germany should have packed it in and headed for the Olympic Village.

Proving that, yes, Orlando Magic center Howard has been somewhat bored against the likes of Greece and Angola, Team Redeem’s only center woke up against Germany’s NBA big men Dirk Nowitzki and LA Clippers center Chris Kaman. Howard led all scorers with 22 pts, 10 rebs and 5 missed free throws. Kaman answered with 6 pts and 4 rebs in 17 mins, hardly worth the special German work visa that has allowed him to play for his great grandparents deutschland in the Olympics. … Kaman committed 3 turnovers in less than a minute spanning the end of the 1st quarter, first few ticks of the 2nd quarter – which is difficult to do. This is one of the reasons, 2006 playoffs also among them, that Kaman did not make the Bob Boozer Jinx Top Ten (or 13) NBA Centers’ List.

Lebron and Kobe were a combined 7-10 from 3-point land, which should probably be against the rules of fair play. The rest of the team shot just 4-16 on threes, including 0-4 from Michael Redd. On the game, Redd played nearly 13 minutes, mostly in the second half, and shot 1-9 from the floor, finishing with 2 pts, 1 reb, 1 steal and 1 turnover. … Germany has a 6′ 9″, 247-lb forward named Sven Schultze who looks precisely like Sven Schultze.

WEDNESDAY’S QUARTERFINALS

1-USA (5-0) vs. 4-Australia (3-2) – 7AM

2-Spain (4-1) vs. 3-Croatia (3 – 1:30AM

3-Greece (3-2) vs. 2-Argentina (3-1) – 9:15AM

4-China (2-3) vs. 1-Lithuania (4-1) – 3:45AM

All times are CST. NBC’s basketball channel will have all the games, and USA Network will begin broadcasting at 5:30 AM. NBC’s network daytime broadcast starts at 10AM and they may have at least a portion of the game, one would hope, especially if it’s a good game. The Olympics network won’t really stick with its plans to show men’s beach volleyball, will they? …

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Bogut dunks on Andrey VorontsevichAUSTRALIA – RUSSIA GAME NOTES:

We have our answer r.e. the hubris of the Aussie coach Brian Goorjian. He’s apparently come to his senses (maybe Goorjian read the Bob Boozer jinx today). Bogut dominated Russia in the first half, starting and finishing strong, scoring 12 points and grabbing four rebounds. The Aussies lead at half, 49-33. They’ve led throughout, pushing it to 16 on some hot shooting by David Anderson at the end of the 1st quarter, early 2nd. Bogut was on the bench during that run, but returned when Russia cut it to 11. Five straight points in the post by Bogut extended the lead back to 14, and he muscled in the final two points of the half for a 16 point lead. Bogut played 15 mins in the half.

Unless there’s foul trouble, Bogut should get one break per 20 minute half, and clock at minimum 32 minutes a game. I’d play him 35. Bogut’s the one advantage the Aussies have over most teams in these Olympics – every team except China and Team USA. He should be on the court 80% of the time. It was asinine for Goorjian to try to prove otherwise or play it any other way.

Bogut’s 4/5 from the line, which would be a nice trend. He’s a 59% free throw shooter in the NBA, as bad as Dwight Howard. Russian center Aleksei Savraskeno had a good first half, and so did the Bulls’ Viktor Khryapa. Khrypa’s got 9 pts, 4 rebs at half; Savrasenko 12 pts, 10 in the first quarter until Australia fed Bogut and forced the 7′ 1″ center to the bench with fouls.

Other than the big men, the Russians are having problems. The point guard from Pittsburgh, John-Robert Holden (a guy with a pretty interesting story) shoots a lot but he’s not hitting. Neither is.Kirilenko.

The speedsert Patty Mills isn’t playing well for Aus but the other point guard, CJ Bruton is. He’s hit a couple of threes and has 8. Forwards David Anderson and Matt Nielson are also playing well. I don’t understand why the Aussies stick with center Chris Antsey. He’s a veteran, age 33, an Aussie basketball league MVP, etc.  But he does next to nothing on the court … Bogut, Anderson and Nielson are all 6′ 11″ plus. Maybe this is at the heart of the Aus problem. It’s time NOW to transition to the younger guys, not in two years.  Whether Goorjian wants to admit it or not, the games are here, and they count. Having your opponents drill home the need for transition in the middle of the Olympic games has looked awful and pathetic …and confused the players about their roles.  Antsey’s only played five minutes this game, probably 2 too many. He’s backing up Bogut.

3RD QUARTER

Bogut starts the half by hammering Kirilenko – “unsportsmanlike” foul. Good idea to keep Kirilenko from getting his game together. This sets off a 9-0 run by Russia, though, cutting the lead to seven points before Nielson finally scores to stop it. Bogut then pushes the lead back to ten with, believe it or not, a three-pointer!!   What is he doing out there? He’s 1-2 from behind the arc for the game.

Ugly play – Khryapa blocks Bogut’s shot about five minutes in. Bruton hits a three. He’s got 11 now. Anderson’s got 11 but he’s in foul trouble (again) with three. So is Nielson (again). We’re at the point in the game where the refs may give the Russians a shot at getting back in the game. Bogut has Savrasenko in foul trouble.

61-48 – Bogut goes to the bench six minutes into the quarter, replaced by Antsey. Too short a run for Bogut. Antsey turns the ball over. Rus center Savrasenko comes in to try and take advantage of Bogut’s absence.

Russians can’t hit – Holden’s missed two threes and turned it over twice. …Antsey hits a three as I was writing about him. … 65-49 ..  

Kirilenko’s still stuck on that one shot he hit. Russians finally hit a three, but it isn’t Holden or Kirilenko…. It was Vorontsevich, Andrei. They’ve fired quite a few in an effort to close the gap. Kirilenko misses another one. …

69-55. Holden and Kirilenko have hardly rested at all. The Australia D has been very good for the first time in the Olympics, and Holden and Kirilenko are shooting terribly, accounting for Australia’s big lead.

4TH QUARTER

Bogut and CJ Bruton back in to start the quarter. Bruton opens with a three to push the lead to 17 – 72-55. Bruton has four threes in the game. Bogut had a quiet 3rd (just the three pointer) but the Aussies are going back to him now in the 4th. He missed his first two shots but hit the third.. Bruton misses, Bogut grabs the offensive board – Mills hits.. 78-62.  Kirilenko goes to the bench, leaving Holden, Khryapa and Savrasenko.  Australia’s playing their best lineup: Bogut, Bruton, Mills, Newley and Nielson … Russia can’t score.

and 1THE DUNK: Bogut wheels in from the arc and throws down an Olympic sized jam over the defender (Vorontsevich again). And the foul!  He’s got 19. 80-62 … What a statement!   Russia gets Kirilenko back in the game w/ two others. Savrasenko’s out. Bogut misses the free throw. Next Aussie possession, Sergei Montya hacks Bruton –  an unsportsmanlike, followed by a scrap with Nielson retaliating. Bogut steps into it too. The Russians are losing it. Bruton makes the free throws – 82-62. Three minutes into the quarter and the Aussies have outscored Russia 13-7. This is probably the game.

Bogut to the bench, Antsey in. Huh? It’s not over yet. The game’s getting chippy, but wouldn’t that be reason to leave him in? Aussies aren’t supposed to duck a potential broken nose. Maybe his arm’s numb from the dunk?

Khryapa hasn’t been a factor in the second half. He’s rebounding, but he hasn’t hit a bucket. Russia finally gets a hoop with 4 minutes left to make it 83-64. 14-7 for the Aussies in the first six mins of the 4th. Inside out game with Bogut, Bruton and Mills. Until that last hoop, nearly a three minute scorelss drought for the Russians – it killed them. 

Holden hits a three w/ 2:40 left, cutting it to 12. Bogut’s still on the bench. Russians are on a 9-0 run. Goorjian puts Bogut back in after a Mills turnover.

Khryapa hits a three. Then another. It’s too late. Bruton and Nielson are hitting their free throws. Should be game barring some craziness.  Rus could always employ the hack-a-bogut defense here. 

.. BOGUT JUST HIT A THREE for the helluvit, as if the dunk wasn’t enough … Bruton sews it up with two free throws – he and Bogut finish with 22. 

FINAL: Australia 95, Russia 80. Boxscore.  

Bogut finishes with 22 pts, 8 rebs, 2 asts in 28 mins.  Bruton also had 22 (4-8 on threes) and 6 asts. Viktor Khryapa led Russia with 21 pts, 9 rebs, on the strength of his three-pointer barrage in the last four mins of the game. Kirilenko was held to 6 pts on 1-10 shooting. Holden from Pittsburgh had 20 pts but shot 20 times to get it.  Savrasenko had 16 in 19 mins but was invisible in the 2nd half due to foul trouble. I’d call that a win for Bogut (and Antsey), who neutralized the Russian big man.

Bogut’s 28 mins were easily the most he’s played in Beijing. That’s still not enough PT in a 40 minute game, especially with full two-minute rests at the quarters (NBA breaks are 90 secs.) Realistically, if he’s given breathers around those breaks, Bogut should play 32-33 minutes or more in a contested game. In this game, Bogut sat for 1/3 of the game until he reentered in the 4th after Khyrapa started hitting threes. Goorjian never should have taken him out of the game in the 4th. Is the coach obligated to find minutes for Antsey?

All that talk from Goorjian before the game about Bogut being “the future” of Aussie basketball, about other players defining the team’s success … I think Goorjian finally had little choice but to acknowledge that Bogut is the present of Australia basketball and that the Aussies needed to win a game NOW or go home. The team needed a big game out of Bogut and he delivered. It was the first time a big game had been asked of him, which probably explains why the Aussies are looking at a quarterfinal game against Team USA instead of Spain or Greece.

A difficult Olympics for Bogut: Goorjian seemed to use Bogut’s ankle injury (he rolled it July 31 against Angola) as an excuse to deemphasize Australia’s celebrity, $72-million-dollar contract, NBA “star” — who joined training late — and then try to make the unrealistic statemet that the team should be bigger than its best player. The Australia Boomers aren’t like the 2007-08 Bucks where it became very debatable as the season wore on who the best player was. Bogut is the man for Australia, and the reality is that Australia was only going as far as Bogut could take them.  Perhaps Goorjian threw in the towel against Croatia and Argentina. Or maybe it was simply about playing Chris Antsey. Whatever the case, and it was probably a combination of all three, the coach foolishly rejected his star player until it was too late to salvage Australia’s medal hopes.


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An interesting pose ….

Maria Stepanova and Lauren Jackson - couriermail photo

That’s Russia’s Maria Stepanova boxing out Australia’s Lauren Jackson. Australia won the game.

Apparently, things got rough out there ….

Maria Stepanova's arm vs. Penny Taylor

Bogut ankle injury update… Team USA downs Russia… Another crazy Bogut-Yao photo

Bogut mugs Yao last WednesdayA minor ankle injury Andrew Bogut suffered last week benched the Aussie center in the second half Friday against Argentina, but he’s sure to play in the Aussie’s next Olympic warm-up Tuesday ayem in Shanghai against Team USA.  Contrary to a report on JSOnline yesterday suggesting that the Bucks center was injured in the Argentina game, Bogut tweaked the ankle during his 32-point, 11 reb rampage against Angola Thursday. Aussie basketball reported that Bogut carried the ankle injury into the Argentina game.

Bogut started and played most of the first half against Argentina but missed most of the second half. With Bogut on the court, the Aussie Boomers built a double digit lead up to 19 early in the 3rd Quarter. Without Bogut in the paint, Argentina big forward Luis Scola (Houston Rockets) went off for 28 second half points as the Aussies couldn’t close, losing 95-91.

Is it possible Bogut could sit out Tuesday’s game against the U.S.? Slightly, but he’s almost certain to play. It is much more possible that Australia and Team USA could never meet in these Olympics (Australia is in Group A, the US is in Group B). The way the Olympic tournament is set up, if the Aussies finish 1st or 3rd in group play, the Boomers would not play the US unless they made the gold medal game (assuming Lebron and Kobe et al win Group B) or if Team USA loses one along the way. The Aussies would be the surprise of the tournament if they did that well, though I think they’re becoming a great sleeper pick for at least a bronze medal.

But that’s looking too far ahead. Tuesday’s game for Bogut is a matchup in the paint against the Orlando Magic’s 1st team All-NBA center Dwight Howard and a chance to play against his Bucks teammate, Michael Redd. Bogut’s a guy that doesn’t like to sit out Bucks games even when his nose has been mashed, much less a test against Howard that he’d run to on one leg. The ankle injury is minor. He’s playing Tuesday.  

Game time Tuesday is 7AM Central Time. ESPN2 has the game live from Shanghai, China. (Shanghai’s 13 hours ahead of Milwaukee). For an internet feed go here to myp2p.eu. You’ll probably need to download the p2p software to make it happen.

This is the last tune-up game for both teams – Olympic basketball starts this Sunday, Aug. 10. Team USA opens Group B play against China; the Aussies in Group A go against Croatia.

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USA defense, Kobe, stop Russia 89-68: Lebron fouled out with just ten points but Kobe Bryant was relentless on D and on the O, leading all scorers with 19 in what ESPN’s Chris Sheridan described as “a defensive struggle.” (Sheridan’s again got the Olympic basketball beat and that’s a good thing – he’s one of ESPN’s better writers). Andrei Kirilenko (Utah Jazz) led Russia with 18. Carmelo Anthony added 17 and D-Wade 16 off the bench for the US.

This game was closer than the final score indicates, as the Russians continually pushed the US lead toward single digits. The Russians had pulled to within 10 in the 3rd quarter, but the Bucks’ Michael Redd drilled two threes and D-Wade got 4 pts to drive the lead back to 20 going into the 4th. Redd, still getting only spot playing time, finished with six points on those two 3-pointers. Redd, however, again missed the ESPN highlight reel:





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Kobe gave himself a new nickname after the Lithuania blowout: The Doberman. This has something to do with defense and Kobe priding himself on being able to shut down the other team’s best player. Apparently that didn’t apply to Ray Allen, who carved Kobe’s Lakers up during the NBA Finals. US coach Mike Krzyzewski locked Detroit’s Tayshaun Prince on Kirilenko in the first half.

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Jason Kidd was benched in the 2nd half in favor of Chris Paul and Deron Williams, and that may be a sign of things to come, Sheridan wrote. Or it could just be Sheridan picking up bad ESPN habits for manufacturing controversy. Obviously, Paul is going to get some minutes with Kobe and the starters and it’s really not a big deal for him to playing instead of Kidd. The bigger controversy is Kidd starting over CP3 to begin with. Most basketball fans around the world haven’t seen the spectacular point guard who finished 2nd in the MVP voting play all that much, and the Olympics are a made-to-order stage for CP3’s arrival. Something tells me, however, that Coach K would like to think he’s immune to these sorts of pressures. We’ll see.

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Another story building seems to be Coach K’s growing frustration with center Dwight Howard. He played Howard just 17 minutes against Russia and singled out forward-center Chris Bosh for praise after the game. Bosh isn’t a center at all, of course, and therein lies Howard’s problem so far in these warm-up games: The US has yet to play a team with a decent center. Howard’s likely bored. But he’ll see Bogut Tuesday and Yao Ming Sunday in Team USA’s first Olympic game. Those two ought to wake him up and give him some company in the paint.

Howard’s also not quite at full strength. He fractured his sternum against the Pistons in the playoffs and Tyson Chandler was named first Olympic alternate in case Howard couldn’t go. But then Chandler missed time due to an inflamed big toe. Bogut has his “minor” ankle injury to deal with; and now Yao, recovering from a stress fracture in his left foot says he’s only “60 to 70 percent“, is out of shape and “feels weak.” Chris Kaman

Chris Kaman shoots a free throw as a member of the German Olympics team.jpgSpain’s Pau Gasol (Lakers) is still recovering from numerous injuries suffered against the Celtics in the NBA Finals, mostly relating to his pride. That leaves Germany’s Chris Kaman (Clippers) as the only healthy “true” NBA center in the Olympics.

Bad hair notwithstanding.

Or doing the new ‘do for Deutschland.