Tag Archives: Orlando Magic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The year: 1994

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

Our narrator: Larry Krystkowiak, Magic reserve power forward.

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

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

The instigator: Scott Skiles, of course.

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

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

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

A Tale of Two Centers: Nevermind the DPOY voting, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bogut were the most dominant defenders of 2011

Dwight, Dwight, Dwight, hey Dwight — like the talking basketball in the playoffs commercial, 114 of 120 ballots for 2011 Defensive Player of the Year named Dwight Howard No. 1 and the Orlando Magic center became the first player in NBA history to collect three straight DPOY awards.

The odd surprise was that it wasn’t unanimous.  The true surprise was that so few of the ballots — only six — named as No. 2 the center who led the NBA in blocked shots per game, Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut.

Adding insult to small market center injury, only 14 voters deemed Bogut’s defense worthy of a third place nod, meaning that Bogut was omitted on 100 of the 120 ballots cast by the men and women in media covering the NBA.  Only one ballot omitted Howard.

West Coast bias is one factor.  Celtics love is another.  But 100 omissions of Bogut is a little scary when one considers that the people casting votes were, ostensibly, paying attention to the league they cover.  At last check the Milwaukee Bucks were still in the league, I’m fairly certain.  They appeared to be, anyway, last time I checked the regular season standings.

In watching a thousand or so hours of NBA basketball and assiduously tracking a season’s worth of defensive ratings and other statistics, as I did, one truth stands tall about the NBA’s impact defenders:  There is Superman and there is Andrew Bogut … and then there’s everybody else, Kevin Garnett and Grizzlies sixth man Tony Allen, a Celtic last season, leading the pack.

Howard this week joined Dikembe Mutombo (four DPOYs) and Big Ben Wallace (four also) as the only players in NBA history to win the award more times than Bucks should-be Hall of Famer Sidney Moncrief won it in the first two years of its existence (1983 and 1984).

Howard was again the highest-rated defender in the league (94.0 team points allowed per 100 possessions) and also led in “Defensive Plays” (blocks + steals + est. charges taken) with 3.88 per game.  He was fourth in blocked shots (2.4 per game) and hauled in 14.1 rebounds per game, finishing third in defensive rebounding rate, grabbing 30.6 percent of opponent misses.

Bogut finished 4th in defensive rating (97.3) and led the league in shot blocking (2.6 per game).  Bogues grabbed a career-best 11.1 rebounds per game and finished sixth in defensive rebounding rate at 27.1 percent.  He also took an estimated 32 charges this season, pulling in right behind Howard with 3.8 “Defensive Plays” per game.

Those “Defensive Plays” are quantifiable “stops” that disrupt the opposition and, in Bogut’s case, usually force a change of possession because most of his blocks stay in bounds and are recovered by the Bucks.  Howard, by choice, tries to intimidate opponents by rejecting shots into the expensive seats.  A quick estimate says that half of Howard’s “Defensive Plays” force possession change, compared to about 75 percent of Bogut’s.

But the quantifiable plays tell only part of the story.

Individual statistics don’t capture the number of shots a big man alters in a game, nor the number of passes he tips or forces out of bounds by denying the ball in the post, nor the number of rushed shot-clock prayers and weak side offense that result from denying the post, nor the turnovers forced by playing good help defense.

And the box score stats certainly don’t quantify how often opposing players opt for low percentage perimeter shots simply because Howard or Bogut is patrolling the paint.

Magic opponents shot a fourth-worst 43.6 percent from the field.  Bucks’ opponents shot 44.7 percent, the sixth best defensive mark in the league, and a third-lowest 33.6 percent from 3-point-land, a testament to the fact that the Bucks don’t sag too deep to the paint and rarely double team the post.  Bogut’s not given, nor does he require, defensive help.

The results showed on the scoreboard:  Howard’s Magic played the third-best defense in the NBA ( 102.1 pts.allowed/100 poss.).  Bogut’s Bucks were right behind the Magic in fourth (102.5 pts./100).

How good are Howard and Bogut?   The Bulls (100.3 pts/100) and Celtics (100.3 pts/100) play the best team defense in the NBA.  As such, there are nine Bulls and Celtics in the individual defensive ratings top 20.  There are only two Magic and Bucks — Howard and Bogut, though in January and February Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova climbed as high as 17th in the ratings.

This means that the Magic and Bucks defenses, ranked third and fourth, allowed significant increases in opponent scoring when Howard and Bogut were not on the court.  For the Magic the increase was monumental — an estimated 16+ points per 100 possessions, placing the Magic’s non-Howard defense above the league average of 107.3.

But Howard was on the court 74 percent of the Magic’s season.  Bogut played 57.8 percent of the Bucks season, with the Bucks D giving up an estimated 9.5 more points per 1oo possessions when their center was on the bench or missing 17 games.

It’s next to unreasonable to expect Superman endurance from any player, 67 percent on-court time this season from Bogut would almost certainly have pushed the Bucks into the playoffs.  As it turned out, they were within a buzzer beater in Indiana April 1 of making it with Bogut’s 58 percent playing time contribution.

Therein, however, lies the main difference between Howard and Bogut and the reason that Bogut — whom some considered the leading candidate for DPOY until the Bucks February swoon — wasn’t more seriously considered, even as a No. 2 candidate.  The Magic are in the playoffs with home court advantage against the Hawks; the injury-addled Bucks defied expectations by missing the playoffs, and Bogut this month underwent a second surgery on his mangled right arm, which was never fully functioning this season.

Yet despite the 17 missed games, it may surprise many post-season awards voters that Bogut logged more minutes (2,297) than Tyson Chandler (2,059) played for the Mavericks; and he had more on-court time than the Spurs’ defensive anchor, Tim Duncan (2,156 minutes).

Chandler had an exceptional season in Dallas but the individual and team statistics don’t lie — Bogut not only played more but had the more Howard-like impact, and it wasn’t really close.  Wilson Chandler blocked more shots than Tyson did.

In 2011 Bogut made more defensive plays than Duncan or Chandler, opponents shot a lower percentage against his Bucks and scored less.  Duncan’s Spurs allowed 4.2 more points per 100 possessions than Bogut’s Bucks, while Chandler’s Mavs allowed 5.3 more.  Those differences were big and obvious to those who watched Bogut in action in 2011.

The concern here is that many awards voters apparently didn’t see the Bucks play this season, and if they did, they were paying more attention to the Bucks (and Bogut’s) missed shots than to the center’s All-NBA defense.  (Even the reporters who cover the Bucks daily fell into this trap, though there’s no need to link here to that offensive team report.  They actually graded Bogut a C-.)

As Duncan would attest, post defense isn’t about spectacular blocks or rabid intensity during 4th quarter stands in close games, or about altercations instigated on national TV.  It’s about persistence, positioning and leverage, possession-after-possession, as well as smart off-the-ball rotations to the weak side.

Howard and Bogut persist as masters of these defensive arts in the paint, and if they sometimes make it look too easy, one can only hope the awards voters aren’t fooled.  When the All-Defensive Teams are unveiled, I hope the voters don’t make the same mistakes they made with their Defensive Player of the Year ballots.

Howard, of course, will be the first team center.  And there should be Bogut, deserving of his rightful spot as number two.  Careful!!  There are only two NBA All-Defensive teams … and that third step down for the centers is kinda steep.

The return of Michael Redd: Steve Aschburner feature at NBA.com

Bucks erstwhile shooting guard Michael Redd is “on the brink” of a comeback after 14 months of rehab from major knee surgery.  But is Redd, ever the source of fan debate about personal scoring vs. team basketball, relevant to the 2011 Milwaukee Bucks?

NBA.com feature columnist Steve Aschburner wades through the psychological dilemmas for the team and for Redd, who is expected to return sometime this week (Friday, the Bucks say).  Along the way, Aschburner makes some welcome and refreshing notes about Redd’s former play that are not often aired in Wisconsin media.

Redd has been a volume shooter, averaging 18.3 field goal attempts in his five full seasons scoring more than 20 points per game for Milwaukee. His career numbers in both true-shooting percentage (.560) and effective field-goal percentage (.505) rank down the list from the game’s most efficient marksmen. So as desperate as the Bucks need buckets, Redd — even the old version of Redd — might not be [able to] slip so easily into a team that has had to play without him.  LINK to Aschburner article.

Actually, those insights have been aired often here, and occasionally at Brewhoop and other Bucks fan blogs.  But such analysis of Redd’s game has been absent from the daily, mainstream coverage of the Bucks.

There is that $91 million contract still on the books for a few months, and, well, it’s difficult enough for the Bucks to sell tickets in the small Milwaukee market without a pile of negative press about the player and absurdly horrendous contract the team shackled itself to five summers ago.

At issue is that old “scorer vs. team offensive efficiency” that was dealt with in “Basketball by the Numbers” and other sources, wherein there is a “too selfish” line that gets crossed by NBA scorers.  Joe Johnson’s regularly over that line, and Kobe Bryant certainly crosses it from time to time, with great purpose and intent.  Lebron?  How about the Cavs problems in the 2009 and 2010 playoffs.  This season, not so bad as the Cavs postseason meltdowns, but the Heat have had their share of ball movement problems, especially when trying to close out games.

Michael Redd was over that line almost every night for five years, and the Bucks were never able to put a winning product on the court with their volume shooting guard as the number 1 scoring option.

Meanwhile, the dominance of Redd generally impaired the development needs of the team and caused conflicts with coaches (Larry Krystkowiak, Scott Skiles), until the last three years under coach Skiles, with Redd missing 180 of 231 Bucks games.

It’s strictly regarded policy here at The Bob Boozer Jinx that Redd can only serve to retard whatever the Bucks hope to accomplish this season or next.  He may prove me wrong, but his history suggests that he can’t and won’t.

But enough out of me.  Please take some time, if you have some, to give Aschburner’s feature a read.  Here’s another excerpt.

The NBA has a shadow squad of once-electric players forever altered by injuries, guys such as McDyess in San Antonio, Tracy McGrady in Detroit and Gilbert Arenas in Orlando. Redd got to watch Arenas up close Wednesday as he shuffled through a five-point, 2-of-6 shooting night for the Magic. They aren’t who they once were, their teams aren’t organized around them and it can be a humbling, difficult experience.

That’s good stuff.

Strength of Schedule II: Dwight Howard vs. Andrew Bogut

For three quarters, the Bucks went toe-to-toe with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat, then folded under a hale of referee whistles and bad offense and generally poor shooting.  The missed Bucks layups that might have made this a game down to the final buzzer had already been missed, five of them in the third quarter when it was still a game and the Heat erased the Bucks 4-point halftime lead.

Andrew Bogut (16 pts, 8 rebs) and John Salmons (18 pts, 6 assists) led the Bucks, but they weren’t good enough, efficient enough offensively and in the end didn’t have enough help to keep up with the Heat.  Wade led all scorers with 34 pts while LeBron and Bosh chipped in a combined 44.  Here’s the box score.

In all, the Bucks put up a fairly decent fight, which ought to make tonight’s matchup with the Orlando Magic all the more interesting, considering that there’s no D-Wade or LeBron on hand to make winning a game an insurmountable task.  The centers — the Magic’s Dwight Howard and the Bucks’ Andrew Bogut are the best players in the building.

They oughta be in any case, which is to say that Bogut’s All-Star qualifications are on trial tonight in Orlando.

Bogut leads the NBA in blocked shots per game (2.8) but has struggled with his offense since missing five games in Nov. and early December with a lower back strain.  How much is the broken hand/mangled arm Bogut suffered at the end of last season affecting him?

He’s 94 out of 185 (50.8%) from the floor in the 14 games since he returned Dec. 4 against the Magic, a game that Howard missed due to a team-wide stomach virus that streaked through Orlando.   Bogut dominated the game with 31 points, setting up tonight’s game as a chance for Howard to erase that glitch on the Magic schedule.  Howard’s 3rd in blocks (2.4 per game) and hauls down 13.2 rebounds a game, which would probably lead the league if Kevin Love’s teammates in Minnesota were more interested in helping him on the glass.

Fifty percent shooting is not bad — but hardly great for a center who rarely strays more than 10 feet from the basket; and his free throw shooting continues to be an indescribable adventure (26 of 63 for 41.3%).  15.3 pts per game is slightly above his average from last season, but the Bucks need more out of Bogut this season, especially now with point guard Brandon Jennings out for another two weeks with a bone fracture in his foot.

Bogut’s had some monstrous rebounding games and has averaged 11.6 per game since the back injury.  The rebounding is always there.  The defense, too.  But right now, the Bucks need more.

Strength of Schedule: The good news for the Bucks is that their strength of schedule continues to go through the roof.  The bad news is that the Knicks beat the Spurs last night in New York, yet another indication that — all hype aside — the Knicks may be tough to catch once the schedules begin to even out.  The Bucks (13-19) fell to six games behind the Knicks (20-14) in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Bucks have easily played the most difficult schedule in the league based on opponent record, with a +1.24 rating.  The Knicks have played a relatively soft schedule (-0.59).  It should be noted that the 23-and-14 Hawks (-1.07) have played the softest schedule in the East.   This stuff bears repeating if only to keep Bucks fans from freaking out about the team’s lousy record.

Bucks release Skinner: There are now more 2010 Bucks (Andrew Bogut, Ersan Ilyasova, Luc Mbah a Moute and John Salmons) on Scott Skiles’ available roster than 2001 Los Angeles Clippers (Corey Maggette, Keyon Dooling and Earl Boykins).

The Bucks released little used big forward Brian Skinner today, a nod to the fact that coach Skiles wasn’t likely to use him in Orlando tonight and an indication that the plantar fasciitis in Drew Gooden’s left foot has cleared up enough for the Bucks to try once again to integrate him into the rotation.  They might’ve waited a few days, as Skinner’s contract for the remainder of the season didn’t become guaranteed until Monday, but, obviously, no reason to continue practicing with Skinner if he wasn’t going to play or be around next week.

The Bucks signed Skinner after Gooden went down with the foot problem while Andrew Bogut was still recovering from a lower back strain.  Skinner was in the Bucks training camp in September but didn’t make the final roster.

Shaq for Hire: The Diesel is the final piece of the Bucks puzzle

http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/magic.jpgThe Bucks don’t have a center on the bench to back up Andrew Bogut.

Shaquille O’Neal doesn’t have a job, and his asking price for 2010-11 may be coming down.

If Bucks GM John Hammond doesn’t already have Shaq’s agent on speed-dial, what’s he waiting for?

Bogut’s coming off his first All-Pro season but he’s also rehabbing his mangled right paw and the Bucks still have Bogues on medical watch from the serious lower back problems that forced him to miss half the 2009 season.  Whether the Bucks prospects live or die with Bogut’s health is still a little unclear given the roster changes this summer, but nobody’s going to take them seriously in the playoffs if Bogut’s not healthy in April and May. They need a veteran big to help them manage the health of their 25-year-old star through the NBA’s 82-game ordeal.

Shaq meets and exceeds the job requirements, no doubt about that, and he “knows somebody” at Bucks HQ — coach Scott Skiles and The Diesel have been pals since their playing days on the early 1990s Orlando Magic.  It wasn’t always that way in Orlando — Skiles, Shaq and Larry Krystkowiak were the combatants in one of the NBA’s more infamous practice brawls — but the mutual respect between Shaq and Skiles was pretty well documented during the Bulls-Heat playoff series’ in 2006 and 2007.

The Diesel doesn’t have much left in the tank, but if Bogut can stay relatively healthy (there’s that “if” again) the Bucks don’t need a full time center — nor do they need Shaq to resemble the center who was 3rd team All-Pro with the Suns just 18 months ago.  They only need Shaq to be better than the two guys who manned the post against the Hawks last spring, Kurt Thomas and Dan Gadzuric.  Sitting on the bench in street clothes, Shaq would be more valuable to the team and to Bogut than KT and Gadz.

The only real questions, then, are money and desire.  The Bucks can’t really afford to pay him much more than the veteran minimum.  Setting aside the money question, if Shaq wants to play, and wants to play for Skiles and  add to his legacy by helping one of the games rising young centers, Milwaukee is the place for him to be.

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For the full story on the Shaq-Skiles-Krystkowiak melee, check out Chris Sheridan’s definitive account from a few years back when Krykstkowiak was coaching the Bucks.  Sounds like Larry got the worst end of it.

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Just when it was safe for Bucks fans to come back in the room, the elephant wakes up.

Now that Vince Carter’s awake

Are the 2010 Celtics better than the 2008 championship team?  They might be, despite the wear and tear on The Big Three (as undetectable as wear and tear may be on Ray Allen).  These days, there’s as much reason to talk about the other Allen, forward Tony.

Rajon Rondo‘s certainly a lot better than the guy that Delonte West didn’t bother to guard in the 2008 Cavs-Celtics series.  Rasheed Wallace is a better big man off the bench than P.J. Brown or Leon Powe. Of course.  Glen “Big Baby” Davis is a wrecking ball off the bench, and a couple of years removed from 2008 when he looked raw and uncomfortable on the court, like he didn’t know the plays. Big Baby has improved each season since the title.  Michael Finley?  Nice guy to have around as a 9th man. 

Factor in a finally healthy Tony Brown having a breakout playoff run, and the supporting cast in Boston circa 2010 is hands down better than the guys who helped the Big Three win it all in 2008. And they’ve all been tested by the rigors of a couple of injury plagued seasons.

Still, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce can be good for 47 combined points on any given night or day, as they were in Sunday in Orlando.  When that happens the C’s are near impossible to beat, Game 1 and home court advantage to Boston, 92-88.

Somebody might want to wake Vince Carter up before the East Finals are over.

“I think it was a wake-up call that we really needed. Now it’s what are we going to do about it? How do we respond?” — Carter after Game 1.

Count me as one who never thought the Magic could win it all with VC at shooting guard.  They won’t, not this year anyway.

Thanks go to the NBA blog Both Teams Played Hard  for the photo.

And if you get a chance, do take a look at Dwyer’s Behind the Box Score entry on Celtics-Magic Game 1.

Bucks Weekend: Is Andrew Bogut the best center named Andrew drafted in 2005? Skiles dunks on Shaq!!!

What’s this? A two-game home win streak for the Bucks before flying out to Los Angeles and the Battle of the Andrews? The fans needed that. But first, a moment of NBA Weekend Zen from J.E. Skeets over at Yahoo NBA’s Ball Don’t Lie blog.

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After a well-knit, all-around team victory over the Chicago Bulls Wednesday, the Bucks face Charlotte tonight at the BC to close out their lightest week of the season and then it gets tough again. The Bucks head to Los Angeles for a Sunday night game against the Lakers, the first of three on a Sunday-Wednesday west coast swing.

The pairing of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol has delivered one of the top 3 teams in the NBA (Celtics and Cavs the other two) but another force awaits the Bucks and Andrew Bogut in LA:  The other Andrew. The other A.B. The other center in the 2005 draft.

Bogut was the #1 overall pick in the 2005, while Lakers center Andrew Bynum went #10 straight out of high school. After a slow development his first two season, Bynum brought it on last season, averaging 13 pts, 10 rebs and 2 blocks through 35 games before a knee injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season. After knee surgery, Bynum’s back in the flow for the Lakers putting up the same, steady numbers. His rebounds are down a bit but Bynum’s now playing alongside Gasol, who was acquired last season after Bynum was hurt.

Bynum’s numbers are generally comparable to Bogut’s but judging these centers is not about the numbers. Watching the two Andrews battle was one of last season’s highlights as the Bucks stole an early season game from the Lakers. Both young centers played well in the matchup but it was clear that the only things Bogut did better than Bynum were pass the ball and take charges. Everything else, especially the shot-blocking and the ability to stay out of foul trouble, has gone Bynum’s way … with the exception last season of the all-important “health” quotient. Even that goes Bynum’s way this season as Bogut appears slowed by ankle problems and missed three games with a knee bruise  …  

Check out this story from earlier this week, after the Lakers beat Toronto last Sunday. Bynum had 18 and 10 and harassed All-Pro big forward Chris Bosh to his worst game of the season. How will Bogut fare?  We’ll see on Sunday. This is good test for both Andrews, and it should help answer our question: Who is the best center named Andrew drafted in the 1st round of the 2005 draft?

This vs. poor Joey Graham of the Raptors is just ugly!





The all-important health quotient: When are these Bucks going to get healthy? The win against Chicago was a strong statement that Scott Skiles has the Bucks moving in the right direction (the interior defense was SOLID) but it didn’t stop the incessant injury report questions that have nagged the Bucks all season long like a bad trick knee. Charlie Bell needs a break to rest his bum ankle. Andrew Bogut returned from his bruised knee only to get whacked in the head and retreat to the locker room with a migraine. Bogut is questionable still with the tip-off against Charlotte twenty minutes away.

Some media is so dulled by the injury stories that they just didn’t bother with the update Friday: WTMJ-TV News 4 didn’t even report Bogut’s migraine – Lance Allen! Where’s my injury report?  Skiles did all he could to keep Larry Brown and the Bobcats guessing about Bogut’s status up until a half hour before the game. But who was he kidding? No Migraine was going to keep Bogut from outmuscling Emeka Okafor in the paint for the 6th straight time. A little basketball’s probably good for a migraine anyway.

The Bobcats game Friday was not on the toob. I suppose this means that the Bucks want us to go the game. Incentive? They looked like a team moving in the right direction in beating the Bulls Wednesday, and $29 upper level seats are $10. Disincentive?  I’m off to watch the Celtics and Portland Trailblazers on ESPN, my first chance this season to see Blazers rookie center Greg Oden.

Sam MitchellSam Mitchell makes a classy exit: The Toronto Raptors fired coach Sam Mitchell Wednesday and you could see it coming. After trading T.J. Ford for Indiana Pacers’ injury-riddled center Jermaine O’Neal, the Raptors looked no better than they did last year when they finished 41-41 and were bounced out of the playoffs in the 1st round by the Orlando Magic. In fact they looked worse in their early season matchup against the Bucks, a game the Bucks would have won if not for some terrrrible decision making by a certain shooting guard in the final minute.

 

Now the Raptors are just like the Pacers of the last couple of seasons: waiting for O’Neal to be healthy. The former All-Star center hasn’t played in nearly two weeks. After losing to Kobe, the other Andrew and the Lakers Sunday, the Raptors were blown out by 39 points in Denver Tuesday and that was the end for Mitchell. The Raptors are 8-9 and still on the western road, playing tonight in Utah.

 

I never thought T.J. for O’Neal was a good trade because of questions about O’Neal health. Not that T.J. Ford is the picture of health either, but I think you can do better for a dynamic point guard than an aging, injury-prone center.

 

Marbury to be a Celtic? Apparently it’s possible according to a report on ESPN Radio, though I question whether ESPN could have got the scoop with the media that surrounds the Knicks on the case. But here I am in the blogosphere mongering another ESPN rumor. Marbury, who was first benched by Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni then refused to play when the team was shorthanded, is currently banished from the team and trying to negotiate a buyout of his contract. If Marbury gets a buyout (similar to what Sam Cassell did last season), he would then be waived and could sign on with another team after clearing waivers. ESPN has reported that the Celtics, Orlando Magic and Miami Heat are interested. The New York Daily News reached Marbury by email Friday but Marbury refused to comment.

 

Packer broadcast break: “When that ball goes to the ground … wow … Satan rules at the bottom of an NFL pile. You don’t want to be there.”  — CBS color commentator Gus Johnson. The Packers had just recovered a fumbled punt by the Texans in the 4th quarter.

 

Deep Sixed in Philly?  With Elton Brand missing his second straight game as the Sixers played the Nets Saturday night, center Sam Dalembert pulled another disappearing act. Dalembert didn’t score, grabbed a few rebounds and had his shot blocked three times. Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks benched him in the loss, after playing him only 18 mins vs. Detroit the previous night. Dalembert grabbed a single, lone rebound against the Pistons. Dalembert’s had a few of these games in the last two-three weeks as the Sixers have struggled, falling to 9-12.  Sixer fans are beginning to wonder whether Sam’s injured, in the doghouse, or just out of it.

Why should Bucks fans care? Well, if Philly continues to struggle and Dalembert disappears, this is good news for the Bucks and Andrew Bogut, who’ll meet the Sixers three times this season. Dalembert has caused nothing but problems for Bogut in the past. If the Bucks are to have any hope of reaching the playoffs, Philly’s the kind of mid-level team to beat. With Detroit, Philly and Toronto struggling after big acquisitions (Brand for Philly, Allen Iverson for Detroit and Jermaine O’Neil for the Raptors) the playoff picture in the East is looking murky. This could be good for the Bucks.

 

Devin Harris playing like an All-Star: Tom Enlund leads off his NBA beat column with a look at ‘Tosa East’s own Devin Harris, who’s emerging as the best point guard in the Eastern Conference (now that Chauncey Billups is in Denver) and is 5th in the league in scoring, first in free throws made.  Richard Jefferson had this to say about his former Nets teammate, who came to New Jersey in the Jason Kidd trade last February:


“Devin is one of the best young players in this league. I’m extremely proud of him. He’s a friend of mine. I knew right away when he came over from Dallas that they had received a very, very good piece.For him, he works so hard and learned so much from so many people – (former Dallas coach) Avery Johnson and all the players there – and now he’s in a situation he’s able to show all the things he’s learned. Everybody knew he was a great player. He was on a team that went to the Finals, on a team that won almost 70 games, and now he’s in a situation where it’s his team and he’s really starting to flourish.”

The walking wounded: Bogut hurts knee vs. Magic, status unknown

dwight_howard2.jpgThese were long-awaited words to read from the Associated Press recap of the last night’s Bucks-Magic game in Orlando, where Andrew Bogut squared off in the paint against the Orlando Magic’s, Dwight Howard, the NBA’s top center.

“Bogut got the better of a matchup of back-to-back No. 1 overall draft picks early. Bogut [the top pick in the 2005 NBA draft] made a pair of jump hooks over Howard to start the game. He then drew charges for two of the three fouls that sent Howard, the 2004 top pick, to the bench with about seven minutes left in the second quarter.

Bogut had 16 points and three rebounds in the first. Howard had only four points and six boards.”


But it wasn’t meant to last. Despite Bogut’s scoring, the Bucks were down 11 at half. When Bogut and Howard went back to work in the 2nd half, Howard turned the tables, forcing three quick fouls on Bogut in the post and sending him to the bench with four fouls for the game.

It may have been by design: Howard’s as terrible a free throw shooter as Bogut, and Bogut was beginning to realize he was done for the night. After leaving the game, Bogut headed to the locker room for x-rays on his knee, according to AP. Bogut said he had bruised the knee in the first half taking a charge, probably one of those against Howard – he didn’t specify. Howard finished with 24 pts, 13 rebs to lead the Magic to a 108-101 win. Richard Jefferson led the Bucks with 25. Bogut left the game with 16.

How badly is Bogut hurt? After the game Bogut said he’d “be OK.” Journal Sentinel’s Tom Enlund reported it as a “knee contusion” in his game blog and also reported that “the extent of the injury is unknown.”

A bruised knee is a bruised knee, unless it’s mashed so badly that there was damage to the bone or ligaments, which is what the x-rays would reveal.

How much you want to bet that Bogut’s out there playing on it Wednesday in Atlanta … Friday in Detroit the latest.

Point guard Luke Ridnour missed Monday’s game to rest his banged up and scraped up knee, suffered in Charlotte Saturday. This left the Bucks without both the starting guards they opened the season with (Michael Redd’s sitting out the road trip in Milwaukee with a high ankle sprain). Still the Bucks made it a game on Orlando’s home court, pulling to within 95-90 in the 4th quarter, and to 103-100 in the final minute.

Coach Scott Skiles said he expects Ridnour to miss only one game (the Orlando game), which means Ridnour will be expected to play in Atlanta Wednesday.


Redd injury update: “He still has some soreness,” coach Skiles said, explaining why Redd stayed behind in Milwaukee this week. Here’s an initial report on the injury from Gery Woelfel in Racine. John Hammond had told him the injury wasn’t serious and that he didn’t expected Redd to miss any games much less 12. Skiles told Journal Sentinel he is assuming Redd won’t be back on this road trip, which ends Friday in Detroit. Saturday the Bucks play Cleveland at home.

I wouldn’t expect Redd back until the Wednesday, Dec. 3 game at home against the Bulls.

Here’s video of the injury, along with the game highlights from the Bucks win over the Knicks Nov. 2.