Tag Archives: Sacramento Kings

Gooden time: On the road in the west without Andrew Bogut, Bucks need their “Big Zero” like never before

Bucks GM John Hammond’s $6 million man will get another chance to prove his worth in Sacramento tonight, as center Andrew Bogut has not yet returned to the team.   Bogut left for “personal reasons” Tuesday in Utah.

UPDATE: As of today (Thursday pregame), Bogut was still gone and the Kings have fired coach Paul Westphal.

So it’s up to the much-maligned Drew Gooden, “the Big Zero,” the man who has seemed in a world of his own as a Buck, to establish a paint presence against Chucky Hayes and the Kings young frontcourt of J.J. Hickson, Jason Thompson and, yep – he’s back from another temper tantrum and fight with the now departed Westphal – DeMarcus Cousins.

These are matches made in heaven for Gooden.  There are no DeAndre Jordans or Blake Griffins on the Kings roster (those two nightmares await in L.A. Friday). The Kings are big and slow and like to throw their weight around, just like Drew.  Pigs in slop?  Something like that.  This will be a rugged game in the paint.

It’s not Gooden’s modus operandii, but he may want to help mind offensive opportunities for his fellow big men, Ersan Ilyasova and Jon Leuer.  Ilyasova started with Gooden in Utah and shot just 1 for 8 in the Bucks’ 71-point offensive meltdown.  Leuer shot 1 for 4.

The Bucks need scoring from their big forwards, no doubt about that, with ill-shooting Brandon Jennings and Stephen Jackson manning most of the perimeter minutes.  Ilyasova, in particular, is due for a good game, and he’ll start on ex-Cav Hickson, with whom he’s fairly well matched and acquainted.  It should be a battle.

But what I’m looking forward to the most is a Leuer vs. Cousins matchup off the bench.  The Bucks will need Leuer to score, and Cousins is too slow-footed to guard the Bucks rookie.  Cousins may be too big for Leuer, but Cousins is susceptible to offensive fouls, frustration, temper tantrums and other drama.

The last time the Bucks were in Sacramento, Cousins committed four offensive charges against Ilyasova and Bogut, fouled out, threw a fit at the refs, and the Bucks prevailed with a strong 4th quarter.

I can’t really think of any two young players who are such polar opposites as these two.  Leuer, the cool, clever, good shooting, in control and fully developed 4-year college player vs. the raw, immature, undeveloped, out-of-control but talented Cousins.    Leuer vs. Cousins:  Book it, this should be fun to watch.

Kings PF/C Jason Thompson is also a handful off the bench.  Bucks shot-blocker Larry Sanders will get his minutes, and plenty of opportunity to wreak havoc above the rim.  Larry is his name.

TEAM TRAINER TEDIUM:  Mike Dunleavy, Jr., is still out with a groin injury and not with the team.  Luc Mbah a Moute is not expected to play due to soreness in his knee.  Beno Udrih is day-to-day with the mashed shoulder he suffered in a collision with Andre Miller on Monday.  Rookie Tobias Harris has not practiced.  Darington Hobson has been recalled from the D-League and will probably play tonight.  Aren’t Bucks injury reports boring?  You bet.

JOHN SALMONS:   The Kings are all about their young guns, Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette, but the old fish is getting his minutes starting at small forward.  Salmons’ defense is just as solid as ever and will likely guard Jackson, who, by transitive property of the 3-team trade, was the guy he was traded for.  Jimmer and Beno, Tobias Harris and Shaun Livingston are the other pieces in this trade, which should make tonight’s game, in the very least, interesting.

Salmons has started all seven games for the Kings and had a workmanlike game playing 30 minutes guarding Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest in a Kings win.  Against the Knicks, he was the best King on the floor during a long stretch in the first half, though he had his hands full guarding Carmelo Anthony.

And yes – Salmons is still shooting like crap (34%), though he’s hit a good percentage of his threes (38%), better than the 32% Jimmer’s shooting.

Sure, I’ll be watching Salmons because he’s not Fredette or Stephen Jackson, but also because GM Hammond gave up on him far too soon.  The revolving door that is the Bucks backcourt with Jennings is a sign that Hammond probably has ADD.

STATS CHECK:   The Bucks remain 2nd in the league in team defense giving up just 95.2 pts per 100 possessions, tied with the Bulls behind Denver.  The Bucks are 2nd in forcing turnovers (17.5% turnover rate) and 2nd in defensive field goal percentage, holding opponents to a woeful 44.4% effective shooting.  (Effective shooting counts one made shot for a made field goal and 1.5 made shots for three-pointers.)

But they’ve plunged to 28th in the NBA in team offense,  scoring only 96.5 points per 100 possessions, causing fans throughout Bucksland to wonder whether this is what we get with Jennings at the point.  There may be limits to how much the Bucks can improve from here.  Even baby steps would be welcome, given the strength of the defense.

With that in mind, most troubling is the Bucks defensive rebounding, which has fallen to 71%.  They are not protecting their defensive backboard very well at all, despite a reputation as one of the better rebounding teams in the league.

The Bucks rank 24th in controlling the defensive glass, which obviously undermines the great on-the-ball shot defense they’re playing.  This gets more and more surprising with each game it continues.

Not surprising is the jumper-chucking Bucks’ inability to the get to the line.  They’re dead last in Free-Throws-Field-Goal percentage — only 16.4% of their shots have been free throws.

Defensively, the Bucks are nearly opposite:  They don’t allow teams to shoot well but they foul a lot.  26% of Bucks opponents’ shots have been free throws.  Partial blame for this goes to Kevin Love and the T-Wolves loving referees.

More ridiculous video of Stephen Jackson

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

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

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

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

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

Devin Ebanks?

Milwaukee Bucks Weekend: Still not taking lesser opponents seriously, despite having become one

The Bucks came into this season with a certain swagger, a pinache that comes with a brash, electric young point guard who had won in his rookie year, with the return of an All-NBA center, with new additions to an improving, young core, and with high expectations.  They expected to power teams out of the gym.

It hasn’t happened very often, partly because the swagger still hadn’t been earned, the All-NBA center was playing with a dead right arm, and there was a game or two, or three or more, despite the mounting losses, in which the Bucks seemed to be taking their “lesser opponents” lightly.

In the heat of a race for the last, ignoble playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks on Wednesday night did it again in a dreadful, uninspired and unanticipated 97-90 loss at home to the Sacramento Kings.

After the game, the electrifying, brash, poor-shooting young point guard, Brandon Jennings, looked at the upcoming weekend against the Knicks in New York on Friday and the Bulls in Milwaukee on Saturday, and assured that there would be no energy shortage.

“I think when we play teams that are higher than us, we show up better.  Playing against a team like Sacramento is kind of difficult because they have nothing to lose. Those are games you’ve got to come in there mentally tough.   When you know you’re playing against the Knicks and Chicago Bulls, you kind of get up for those games.”  LINK HERE to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story.

The Bucks are 28-42 and three games behind the Pacers, two on the loss side.  Yet, as crazy as it sounds, they really don’t take many of their opponents as seriously as they should.

Melo say “RELAX”

The Knicks don’t have to win, and maybe that’s part of the reason why they’ve struggled since the last time they played the Bucks in New York — Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups‘ Feb. 23 debut, a hard fought 114-108 victory for the new Knicks.

Fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth in the East — what’s the difference to the Knicks?  They’ve proven no match for the Bulls, Celtics, Heat or Magic, locks for the top four spots.  Carmelo apparently realizes this, and wants his teammates to “relax and have fun” during this time of transition.

Making the new chemistry even more challenging for the Knicks — their brutal 18-game March schedule is taking its toll.  “Fatigue,” not “fun” was the word of the day after the Knicks lost to Orlando in NY Wednesday.

The Bucks have to win, but still don’t feel an urgency to play well against teams like the Sacramento Kings.   It adds an interesting dichotomy to tonight’s Bucks-Knicks game in New York, the fourth and final meeting between the two teams this season.

The Bucks won two of the first three games.

In the Feb. 23 game, Knicks fans were treated to a gutsy, Chauncey Billups classic, as the veteran point guard did all the little things that Jennings didn’t, ran a clinic on how to close quarters, hit his usual quota of clutch shots and controlled the game.  Carmelo shot … and shot … and shot … 25 times, making just 10 as the Bucks, led by John Salmons (27 pts) on a rare good shooting night this season, nearly spoiled ‘Melo’s big debut … until Billups (and hot-shooting Toney Douglas) saved the day.

Since that game, the Bucks have been the better team, winning 6 of 13 while the Knicks record is 6-10 and they are losers of four straight.  Included in those ten losses are two to the Pacers March 13 and 15 that gave Indiana life in their quest for the playoffs.

It seems that Carmelo’s struggles to mesh with his new teammates and the ball-wheeling Mike D’Antoni system in New York are inexorably linked to the Bucks playoffs hopes.  It should also be noted that Carmelo’s last game as a Nugget was played in Milwaukee, a nationally televised slugfest Feb. 16 that ended with the Nuggets on top, 94-87.

The Bucks beat the Knicks in Milwaukee Sunday, 110-95, with Carlos Delfino shooting the lights out (30 pts, 8-11 on threes) and Salmons turning in his second straight efficient scoring night (22 pts).

Indeed, the Bucks are part of New York’s woes of late, just as the Knicks troubles have hurt the Bucks playoff chances.

And, yes, the Bucks need to win tonight’s rematch in New York much more than the Knicks do.

*********************

Michael Redd is not expected to play in New York.  He at first said he wanted to play “Friday or Saturday” but before the Kings game coach Scott Skiles said the soonest Redd would be active was Saturday.

“That’s (Saturday) what we’re shooting for now. We’ll see. It’s the same type of situation. When they determine he’s ready to go, we’ll activate him and we’ll see.”

Of course, Skiles said the same thing about big forward Drew Gooden, who was activated before the Kings game but was left sitting on the bench.

Bucks in the West: As the ROY race tightens …

Bucks @ Denver Nuggets, 8:00 pm CST, FsWis

Double OT: Bucks 114, Kings 108

This one never seemed to be going well, even in the first half when Brandon Jennings was hitting five three balls and the Bucks maintained a 5-7 point edge throughout, only to see it cut to one at halftime. Rarely does so much deadeye long range bombing go for naught.

That’s because a lot of other things weren’t going so well for the Bucks. Andrew Bogut was big in the paint but the shots weren’t falling (7-18, late in the 4th) and his free throws (1-6) had reverted to last year’s clanking form. The Kings’ 21-year-old center, Spencer Hawes, was getting loose in and around the paint for putback dunks and other short range damage (18 pts, 8 rebs, 6 assists) while Kings guard Beno Udrih was having the game of his life, slashing, twisting and leaning his way to a season-high 26 pts and 9 assists. Udrih averages 12.2 pts per game.

And then there was Carl Landry, sent to Sacramento from Houston as part of the deal that sent Tracy McGrady to the Knicks. As usual, Landry was everywhere the Bucks didn’t want him to be. After Jennings sank one (his 8th of the game) from downtown to pull the Bucks within 2 at 84-82, a Landry lay-in, a Udrih three and a putback by Ime Udoka (yes, he’s killed the Bucks on the glass before) made it 91-82 as the clock ticked under the 2-minute mark.

What was going on in Sacramento? Hawes, Udrih, Udoka? Who are these guys? This was supposed to be the battle of the Rookie of the Year contenders, Jennings and Tyreke Evans (who would soon be headed for the trainers’ room, his jaw split after a collision with an Ersan Ilyasova elbow on a rebounding play). Jennings wasn’t matched on Evans — he guarded Udrih, the Kings point guard. John Salmons took the Evans assignment.

Then the advantages the Bucks had been looking for all night arrived, all in the space of two minutes. Ilyasova hit a jumper. Udrih missed on a drive and, when Hawes grabbed the rebound, he foolishly shot instead of running clock.  Ex-King Salmons hit for three to make it 91-87. Landry did what he rarely does against the Bucks — he missed. Bogut dunked (that’ll improve the offensive efficiency) off a Salmons dish, and it was down to two.

Two Kings free throws, a Salmons three, more Kings free throws and a high arcing 27-foot bomb from Ilyasova tied the game and sent it into OT. The Kings never stood a chance. They lived to fight a second OT but were playing uphill the entire 10 minutes of extra play. The Bucks had finally found their groove 46 mins into regulation, not a second too late.

And Hawes could have won it by simply NOT shooting with a fresh shot clock and about a minute-and-a-half to play. Though he’s 21 (soon to be 22), he’s in his 3rd pro season and has probably been playing roundball since he was a little Spencer. There’s no excuse for getting greedy at the prospect of winning the boxscore battle against a rising All-Pro center who’s had a big feature article at yahoo.com staring a nation of the NBA obsessed in their million mosaic face at yahoo.com. Why else would the hoop look so tempting? Hawes lost the boxscore battle anyway, as though it were the moral to a Red Auerbach basketball fable. Bogut finished with 21 pts, 11 boards, two blocks and two steals, and never quit playing (Hawes kinda disappeared). Let this be a lesson to young Spencer, who does seem to have a bright future ahead if the Kings stick with him.

In the 12 mins spanning the final two minutes of regulation and two OTs, the Bucks outscored the Kings 32-17.  Salmons led with 12 , Ilyasova added 7,  Bogut 6, Jennings 4 (35 on the night) and Delfino finally hit his first three of the night. It was too much for Sacramento, a team built for youth, not necessarily for crunchtime grit and savvy.

That’s not to say that the Bucks are old pros at this. Earlier in the season, they might have lost this one. But after 33 games settled by three points or less and seven overtimes (won 2, lost 5), the Bucks may be getting the hang of this.  Having Salmons around to bail them out in the clutch certainly doesn’t hurt the cause.  Here are the highlights:

The Bucks starters played heavy minutes to finish the Kings off (53 mins for Salmons, 45 for Bogut, 45 for Jennings and 47 for Delfino).  If I were Scott Skiles (and I’m not) I’d give Bogut tonight off in Denver and take it easy on his primary rotation mates, giving the bench players an opportunity to find their rhythm. Name any one of them other than Ersan — they’re out of sync and struggling, and could use some extended playing time together.

The Bucks play Eastern conference rival the Atlanta Hawks at the BC Monday in a game that has all sorts of implications for the Bucks. The Hawks are a measuring stick of the Bucks progress, a very possible Round One playoff opponent and a team the Bucks have yet to beat this year. It’s the first game of a 5-game homestand which the Bucks may have visions of sweeping if their legs aren’t dead from the road. They’ve already beaten Denver this year, Nov. 11 at the BC. No need to wear the starters out going for a season sweep in the West that would be tough enough to get when well-rested.

Puppy love: Brandon Jennings has a crush on Ciara.  Apparently, he tells all in the next issue of GQ Magazine, coming soon to a newstand near you.  My advice: Don’t buy GQ — just click this link and read all about it at Ball Don’t Lie. They’re all over it, got an advanced copy of the mag, like, really.

Ciara who?