Tag Archives: Shaquille O’Neal

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.

Is 2011 the year Andrew Bogut finally makes the NBA All-Star team?

Last year he was snubbed.  First by the Eastern conference coaches, some of them anyway, content to name Hawks big forward Al Horford as the East’s reserve center.  Then Commissioner David Stern took his turn, choosing the Knicks’ David Lee over Bogut to replace injured Kevin Garnett, a nod to New York the media market as much as it was to Lee’s scoring and rebounding numbers.

Milwaukee’s just too damn small.  If Bogut was outplaying Lee and scoring 22 on a Friday night in November, nobody noticed.   If All-Star is about winning, the Knicks hadn’t, and still haven’t taken a game against the Bucks since March of 2009.

The Bucks did win — 30 of their last 43 games last season and a run to a seven-game series against the Hawks.  They were 40-29 with Bogut in the lineup in 2010, before his horrific fall last March, resulting in a broken, mangled arm and the end of Bogut’s best season as a pro.

The scoring was there, above average if not All-Star:  15.9 pts per game on 52 % shooting.

The defense, for those who care about defense, was superlative.  Bogut last season led the NBA in Defensive Plays, with 3.82 blocked shots, steals and charges taken per game.  He was second to Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard in blocked shots (2.5 per game) and Defensive Rating (98.1 team points allowed per 100 possessions).

Add 10.2 rebounds and it was good enough for the All-NBA 3rd Team.

This season, Bogut again leads the NBA in Defensive Plays with a low estimate of 3.7 per game (the charges taken not accounted for), leads the NBA in shot blocking (2.8 bpg) and is 6th in Defensive Rating.  Is it enough to get him to the All-Star game?

His 13.4 points per game say “no” — but his 11.7 rebounds per game (5th in the NBA) say, “yes.”

But those are merely the stats.  Bogut is not only the anchor of the Bucks defense but the heart and soul of a team that has in 2011 been ravaged by injuries while playing the most difficult schedule in the NBA, based on opponent record.   They’ve won 19, lost 27 but are just a half game out of a playoff spot in the East and closing, looking up at teams that have played much softer schedules.  Bogut is a leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

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As the NBA reached the late January halfway mark and prepared to unveil the 2011 All-Star starters, the Bucks turned in a horrendous 2nd quarter in Chicago, were never really in the game afterward and found themselves at their lowest point, a 16-26 record, 13.5 games behind the Bulls.  They desperately needed to make a statement that their 2011 season wasn’t over, and they made it the following night in Milwaukee, beating the Atlanta Hawks, 98-90.

There were no earth shattering, SportsCenter highlight dunks from Bogut in the victory, but he hauled in 14 rebounds and took a charge and blocked a shot that turned the momentum the Bucks way at the end of the second quarter.  In the 4th, when the game was on the line, the Bucks limited the Hawks to 1 for 14 shooting for 9 minutes and held them to 15 points in the quarter.  The 2nd quarter block and ensuing fast break would find its place on the NBA highlight reels for the week, a fitting statement for the defense-first season Bogut has had.

Defense wins games, and a center’s job is to anchor the defense and control the traffic in the paint.  Among NBA centers, Bogut has only defensive rival:  the Magic’s Howard, of course, perennial All-Star and the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year.  Honors aside, Howard and Bogut have a lot in common:  They are true centers in a league that has drifted to the 3-point line, and they are established defensive forces on the basketball court.

Unfortunately, the matter of “what’s a center?” is not resolved in the All-Star selection system.  Horford and other “centers” such as Lee, Andrea Bargnani and Marcus Camby, log most of their minutes at power forward, especially when matched up against a Bogut or Howard.  The coaches must name one reserve center on the conference All-Star teams, and, as evidenced by last season’s vote for Horford, the reserve center doesn’t have to be a full time center.

“[Bogut]’s probably more of a true center than a lot of the other guys that people have talked about at that position,” said Howard’s coach, Stan Van Gundy, last season after Bogut was snubbed.  “Most of them are power forwards playing up a position, while he’s like Dwight, more of a true center.  I don’t think there’s any question he’s an all-star caliber guy. But when you’re picking 24 guys out of 400 in the league, it gets difficult.”

There is competition for the East’s All-Star reserve spot.  Shaquille O’Neal, still “The Diesel” in limited minutes for the East-leading Celtics, was second in fan voting, due largely to both the largess of Shaq and the Celtics’ East-leading record.  Bulls center Joakim Noah, third in the fan voting, was off to a strong start with the Bulls before a broken hand sidelined him until after the All-Star break.

Roy Hibbert was scoring 16 points per game for the Pacers early in the season but has tapered off.  Brook Lopez of the Nets is scoring 18+ points per game, but the Nets are losing and Lopez can’t seem to grab a rebound (only 6 per game, half of Bogut and Howard’s haul).  The Raptors Andrea Bargnani scores 21.4 pts per game but spends an awful lot of time far outside the paint — he’s actually list in most places as a forward.

That leaves Bogut, 4th in fan voting, his scoring down (12.9 ppg) this season as he slowly makes his way back to 100% after last season’s injury.  Bogut, whose Bucks aren’t winning as much as most preseason prognosticators had predicted.  Bogut, the 3rd Team All-NBA center after last season, the 11th leading vote getter in the All-NBA balloting.

Bogut, leading the league in blocked shots and Defensive Plays, and one of the league’s top 5 rebounders.  Howard, of course, is top 5 in those categories, and is an All-Star.  He’ll start the 2011 game at center.

Not to say that Horford does not deserve All-Star recognition (he does, moreso than any other Hawk), but Horford is not in the top 10 in any of those categories.  But then, Al Horford is not a center.

In the NBA, circa 2011, Andrew Bogut is a center.  As a center plying his trade in the Eastern Conference, he’s earned the honor of backing up Dwight Howard at the 2011 All-Star game.

No back-up for Bogut at center

“Man, the Celtics are big in the middle,” I realized, watching Jermaine O’Neal muscle the Sixers around in the post for half of the preseason scrubfest the Celtics played in Philly tonight. The C’s have Shaq, too, ready for action while starting center Kendrick Perkins recovers from injury.

Our less-than-100-percent center, Andrew Bogut, will have his hands full when he gets back into action.  The centers in Chicago and Orlando will be there too, working the paint to keep the Bucks out of the Eastern Conference top four.  Given all the other problems the Miami Heat pose, Big Z has had Bogut’s number for years.

For all the offseason changes made by John Hammond, the Bucks GM left the backup center’s seat on the Bucks bench empty.  New Bucks Jon Brockman and Dwight? Drew Gooden, they’re not centers.  Rookie Larry Sanders, for all that wingspan the Bucks drafted — he’s a rookie.  And let’s hope coach Scott Skiles has the decency to keep Ersan Ilyasova out of the center mix as he tries to find playing time for Ersan and Luc Mbah a Moute after the addition of Gooden.

In other words, as overloaded and versatile as the Bucks are at the power forward spot that has jinxed them for almost 40 years,’ they’ve got no backup center for their 25-year-old All-Pro as he works his way back from the broken arm and mangled finger that ended his 2010 season. (And no, retread Brian Skinner doesn’t cut it).

Meanwhile, Bogut has yet to play this preseason. Is it time to worry in Bucksland?  Frank over at Brewhoop thinks it’s about time to fugedaboutit and get Bogut out on the court.

And while there won’t be any guarantees that Bogut can stay healthy–whether it’s related to his arm, back, knees, etc–the Bucks may not have the luxury of playing it safe for too long.

They don’t.  Truth is, the Bucks have one NBA center on their roster, and their chances of moving up in the East ride with him.

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.

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.”

Bucks Weeked: Bogut gets Shaq’ed… Terry Porter and more

ShaqShaq dominates Bogut: School was in session Saturday at the Bradley Center for Bucks center Andrew Bogut and fans as a well-rested Shaquille O’Neal demonstrated what superstar center play can do for a team. Shaq beat Bogut in the post time after time, shooting his half-hook over him; hitting that push shot in his face; wheeling around him for dunks and even hitting his free throws on his way to a 29-point, 11-rebound tutorial. Shaq shot 12-16 from the floor and shared the wealth with four assists as the Suns won 104-96. “He looked like he was in his prime again,” Bogut told reporters after the game. The Bucks did make it interesting as Ramon Sessions led rookies Luc Mbah a Moute and Joe Alexander (with Bogut and RJ) on a charge that pulled the Bucks to within 81-80 midway through the 4th quarter. But Shaq, Leandro Barbosa and Steve Nash stopped the young Bucks cold with an 11-2 run to put the game out of reach. Sessions led the Bucks with 23.

The lesson here for young centers like Bogut is that Shaq can still be Shaq, and they’re not all that. Wonder what he’s got in store for Dwight Howard?  The asterisk shall be removed from Shaq’s entry in the Bob Boozer Jinx center rankings, where I’m happy to report that I knew Bogut and other centers weren’t all that and had the Diesel listed third, with said asterisk.




The Bucks fired Terry Porter two days after the predraft workout of Andrew Bogut (left).

Bogut gets the Shaq treatment:  Phoenix Suns coach Terry Porter gave Shaquille O’Neal the night off Friday in Chicago, part of a rest-a-Shaq plan for Suns back-to-back games. Why not do the more obvious thing and rest Shaq in Milwaukee on the second night of this weekend’s back-to-backs?  Andrew Bogut.

“Most likely he probably will play, in that type of scenario when they have a post presence. And historically (Andrew) Bogut has hurt the Phoenix Suns in the last few years so we will definitely try to play him (Saturday),” Porter said.


As Bucks head coach 2003-05, Porter conducted Bogut’s pre-draft workout two days before being fired (see photo at right). Saturday is Milwaukee native Porter’s Bradley Center debut as the head coach of the Suns, his only BC appearance this season. Porter might, however, want to rethink his rest-a-Shaq schedule. The Bulls blew out the Suns 100-83, dominating on the boards in the 1st half. The Bulls? Dominating the glass?  (Yeah, I wrote this before Shaq humbled Bogut on Saturday; but c’mon – the Bulls, dominating the glass?) 

Celtics bench handles Bucks:  Well, it was good for three quarters, definitely an improvement and without Michael Redd in the lineup. The Celtics were at full strength and led 75-70 heading into the 4th quarter. The Bucks fumbled this game away while Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Celtics center Kendrick Perkins were on the bench to start the 4th. Richard Jefferson, who led the Bucks with 20, and Andrew Bogut were likewise taking breathers as the Celtics got going with three steals. Coach Skiles quickly sent Bogut back in to help restore some order, but the refs hit Bogut with his 5th foul on a ticky-tack call. So much for that Idea.

Next thing Bucks fans knew Lucky Luke Ridnour‘s alter ego, Crazy Luke came to play; Charlie Villanueva put on his Redd shoes and chucked up a couple of ill-advised long jumpers; the whistles blew and blew on the Bucks; and the game was over. Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn’t even bother putting Ray back into the game. He didn’t need to – the Bucks lost it to the Celtics’ other Allen, Tony. With a game against the Suns Saturday night, Skiles didn’t bother putting Bogut back in either. R.J. also got a rest.

Joe Alexander scored his first NBA hoop Friday — a 3-pointer in garbage time. Joe finished with 3 pts. …. The Bucks frontcourt played solid and the Bucks held advantage on the scoreboard while Bogut was on the court, despite some embarassing moments: Perkins blocked his shot not once, not twice but three times!!!  Possible effects of spending an Olympic summer in Basketball Australia’s cortisone gulag?  Bogut had 11 pts, 8 rebs. Charlie V added 13 pts, 12 rebs, almost all of it in the first half.


Devin Harris spoils Iverson’s Debut debut:  Allen Iverson hit the floor running for the Pistons Friday night, then proceeded to watch ‘Tosa’s own Devin Harris shoot free throws all second half as the Nets won in New Jersey, 103-96. New Jersey point guard Harris was 19-22 from the line and scored 38 pts, being hacked equally by the Pistons guard crew, including four from Iverson in the 3rd quarter. 

As eye-popping as Harris’ performance was, Iverson should work his way into the Pistons defensive schemes easily enough. The bigger trouble for Detroit following the Iverson trade is losing Antonio McDyess’ help in the paint. New Jersey center Josh Boone had his way Friday with the Detroit frontline, scoring 9-12 from the floor for 18 pts, and grabbed 14 boards. This shouldn’t surprise Bucks fans: the 6′ 10″ Boone gave Bogut fits last season in the Nets’ four wins against the Bucks. These Pistons are softer than ever under the hoop and off-season acquisition Kwame Brown is no kind of answer. The Cavs, Sixers and Magic have gotta like what happened in the New Jersey paint. Bogut and the Bucks will take note, too.


Indiana Pacers forward Troy Murphy, right, drives to the basket against New Jersey Nets forward Yi Jianlian (9), of China, during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008. Yi Jianlian says “Hi”: He must be waving hello to all of us in Milwaukee because what he’s doing there Saturday against Pacers big forward Troy Murphy can’t possibly be defense, can it?  After beating Iverson and the Pistons Friday, the Nets went on to Indianapolis where the Pacers the previous Saturday had surprised the Celtics in a win. New Jersey had no better luck than Boston, losing big, 98-80. Yi and Nets center Boone in particular had rough nights, shooting a combined 3-16 after teaming up for 30 against Detroit. Yi finished with 2 pts, 11 rebs in the loss. The guy he was allegedly guarding? Murphy rumbled for 17pts, 10 rebs. Both the Nets and the Pacers are 2-3.

How ya doin’ Yi?  In five games as a starter this season, Yi is averaging 9.2 pts and 7.8 rebs in 25 mins. Along the way, he’s blocked five shots and taken care of the ball, which was a problem here last year. He’s turned it over just six times so far.

 

Boris DiawRemember when the Suns put Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw on the trading block last summer in hopes of acquiring a veteran star to help Shaq and Steve Nash make a run at a championship? (No, Chad Ford at ESPN, the Suns could not possibly have thought that moving up your overhyped draft would get them to the NBA Finals). Michael Redd, some speculation went, would be a natural fit for the Suns, who could use a prolific scorer to give Nash another option.  Barbosa ($ 6.1 million salary) + Diaw ($9 mill) = $15.1 mill, a nice, neat fit under NBA trade rules with one Michael Redd ($15.78 mill).

Rumors surrounded Diaw and Barbosa and a few teams in the days before the draft. On draft day the Bucks swung the Yi for R.J. trade and suddenly Redd was off the table. Well, what about now?  Barbosa and Diaw are still in Phoenix, coming off of Porter’s bench. Given how active the Bucks look without Redd and that coach Skiles sure wouldn’t mind two more quick, active players with playoff experience, Bucks GM Hammond should take a good look at this trade, if Phoenix is willing.

Diaw, 26 and entering his 6th NBA season, can play three positions – shooting guard, small forward and big forward. As always, in accordance with the jinx that is the title of this blog, the Bucks could use some help at power forward. So far this season, Diaw’s minutes are down under new Suns coach Porter.

Barbosa, also 26 and in his 6th NBA season, is known for his full court speed, ability to get to the rim and his 3-point shooting. He’s a career .408 3-point shooter, 7th best among active players. (Redd, at .384 is 18th active, but a very average .365 since becoming a starter 5 years ago). Barbosa is the type of guard who thrives in Skiles’ ball movement offense and would look great flying all over the court with Ridnour, Sessions, R.J. and Luc Mbah a Moute. Add Diaw and the two Charlies and the Bucks would have a versatile, athletic team to go with their big center, and plenty muscle on the bench for the East.

At this stage in Redd’s career, playing with Steve Nash is a better deal than anything Skiles has to offer with Ridnour and Sessions. Nash = open 3’s. Redd’s nearing 30 and probably shouldn’t be bothered breaking in a young point guard (Sessions) which is where the Bucks seem headed over the next year or so. Redd’s been down that road before with T.J. Ford and Mo Williams. While Skiles is speeding things up in Milwaukee, Terry Porter is slowing things down in Phoenix, emphasizing half court offense and defense. Redd would be the prolific scoring remedy to complement the inside game of Stoudemire and Shaq, and Nash would make it work. Redd’s defensive shortcomings would still be there, but a new environment might be what he needs more than anything else.

What about Terry Porter? Would he want Michael Redd to join him on his second head coaching job? This is an unknown. Redd had his breakout season under Porter, and there seems no reason Redd and Porter couldn’t be reunited. This is a good trade for both teams, right? Or is there a reason? Prior to Porter’s last season in Milwaukee, he gave this interview to Inside Sports. Even then, the coaching emphasis for Redd was “to get other guys, other teammates involved”; to “make the adjustment by making his teammates better”; and this:

…. “We don’t have a bona fide superstar, we don’t have a Shaq or a KG or a Tim Duncan, so there’s no true anchor like that. Mike (Redd) had a great year last year and it’s going to be a lot of pressure on him to try to duplicate that this year and try to get the same numbers. But we really try to rely on teammates offensively and defensively.”


Sounds as though the ball movement and decision-making issues with Redd were brewing the season before the Bucks maxed Redd’s contract in 2005. It’s that idea that Redd is not Kobe, and shouldn’t ever have tried to play like him. I’m sure, however, that Porter realizes that many of those issues never would have arisen in Milwaukee if the Bucks had started an experienced point guard in the backcourt with Redd. The Phoenix Suns don’t have that problem.

Ranking Bogut and his contract – The top ten (or 13) NBA centers and their money

MILWAUKEE - APRIL 08: Andrew Bogut #6 of the Milwaukee Bucks wears a mask over a broken nose suffered earlier in the season during a game against the Boston Celtics on April 8, 2008 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Celtics defeated the Bucks 107-104 in overtime. From Getty Images.Is Andrew Bogut the best center named Andrew drafted in the 2005 lottery? Is Bogut a Top 10 NBA center? What does Mehmet Okur, the center for the Utah Jazz, get paid?

These are things Bucks fans need to know as Bogut last week inked the five-year contract extension he more or less demanded from the Bucks. The agreement reportedly guarantees $60 million to Bogut over five years. Add Bogut’s $6.3 million salary, which is not part of the extension, and Bogut will be under contract for a guaranteed $66.3 million over six years, through the 2013-14 season. 

As projected back in April on the BBJ (almost to the dollar) that’s a fairly good deal for the Bucks, in line with the contracts of Sixers center Sam Dalembert, New Orleans’ Tyson Chandler and the Cavs’ Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

But what about these “incentives” that could add $12.5 million to the guaranteed money, bringing the potential worth of the extension up to $72.5 million? That’s nearly the “Yao money” that the Bucks, as a lottery team, needed avoid paying a 23-year-old center with a lot left to prove. Sure, he can “prove it” earning those incentives, but why not just make all-star getting $12 mill a year? What more incentive is needed?” The incentives are “team-based and individual” according to Journal Sentinel, which didn’t cite a source for those details. Bogut’s agent later told Brewhoop that the incentives were along the lines of “play like Dwight Howard get paid like Dwight Howard.” Or, All-NBA pay.

But enough about the contract. Without further ado, meet the inaugural Bob Boozer Jinx 2008 NBA center rankings.

Dwight Howard can touch his chin to the rim1) Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic. First team All-Pro; 2nd team All-Defensive; leading rebounder in the NBA three years running (14.2 avg. last season); 4th in blocked shots. Only 22-years-old and has not missed a game in his four-year career since being the 1st pick overall in the 2004 draft. Shot 60% from the floor last season (3rd in the NBA), but only 59% from the line, which hurt the Magic as Howard led the league in free throw attempts. “Hack-a-Dwight” is the new “Hack-a-Shaq” defense. Howard was 6-15 from the stripe against the Pistons in decisive game five against Detroit in the playoffs, which the Magic lost by five. Coulda made the difference.

Howard this season starts year one of his five-year $85 million extension ($17mill avg), the max extension (CP3 got a similar max extension). He’ll earn $13.76 mill 2008-09.

Duncan slams on Richard Jefferson2) Tim Duncan and his Spurs were tough enough in the paint to beat the Suns, and there’s nothing like Duncan magically transforming into Dirk Nowitzki to hit a game-tying three to demoralize the Suns in Game 1 of that series. Is Duncan a center? If Pau Gasol, who was pushed around all over the NBA Finals, is a center, so is Duncan, who plays the 5 much of the time in the Spurs dangerous small lineups, and is usually guarded by the opponents’ centers, such as Shaq. Duncan anchors the Spurs D in the paint and was first-team All-Defensive 2007 and 2008. Sounds like a center to me. At 7′ 0″ 248 lbs, Duncan is one of the best big men in NBA history. Averaged 19.3 pts and 11.3 rbs per game last season, 1.9 blocks, 7th in the league. Four championships. 31-years-old and plenty of gas left in the tank.

Duncan’s salary is $20.6 mill this season. He’s set to make $62.2 mill over the following three years.

Stoudemire vs. Duncan3) Amare Stoudemire/Shaquille O’Neal  Stoudemire is no longer the Phoenix center now that Shaq is in the paint, but he’ll be called on to play the low post during the stretches of the season that Shaq is bound to miss. Phoenix acquired Shaq and fired coach Mike D’Antoni partly because of the lack of defensive toughness from Stoudemire and others (two straight playoff losses to Duncan Spurs didn’t help). Amare’s still one of the best scorers in the NBA around the basket.  Averaged 26.7 points and  9.7 rebounds last season, earning 2nd-team All-NBA alongside Duncan as Yao slipped due to injuries.

Soudemire’s contract extension was 5 years $72.6 million, $14.5 million per year avg. He’ll be only 28 years-old when he’s done playing out the remaining three years. Bogut can earn current “Amare money” if he makes the incentives in his contract. By the time Bogut’s extension is in effect, however, Stoudemire will be in the backloaded years of his contract, at $15-16 mill per.

ShaqShaq at age 36, is a part time player unless he comes roaring back next season to his 2006 form, which didn’t seem likely at the outset of 2008-09 but is beginning to occur now that he has days off. Shaq utterly dominated Bogut in a Nov. 8 Suns win in Milwaukee. doesn’t seem likely. Combining Shaq and Stoudemire at #3 may be cheating, but it’s as though Phoenix has a center-and-a-half. Few teams in the West are tough enough to compete with the Suns in the paint (Spurs, Rockets, Jazz). Shaq has lost a step but he’s still Shaq. No center who follows Shaq on this list has proven that he is indeed better than a well-rested 36-year-old Shaq.

Shaq’s salary is $21 million per year through 2009-10.

Yao4) Yao Ming. 3rd-team All-NBA last season despite missing 27 games. Six-time All-Star and 4-time All-NBA selection. Yao’s a 22 pts, 10 rbs per game center who is, however, at 7′ 6″, 310lbs, not proving very durable. He’s missed 86 games over the last three years. Best free throw shooter among the centers at nearly 86% over the last three seasons. Not a shotblocker or a charge-taker, and could rebound more than he does for a 7′ 6″ guy. His Rocket teams win — 107 wins over the last two seasons — but his Rocket teams win just as much without him.

Yao, 27 or so, starts year three of a 5-year $75 million deal – $15 million avg. per year. I hope that if the Bucks are willing to pay Bogut near-Yao money with these reported incentives that one of them is based on improved free throw shooting. Bogut shoots better than Shaq from the line but even Howard outshoots the Bucks center from the stripe. (I take that back – no one in the NBA should be offered a contract incentive to make free throws.)

Pau Gasol traveling5) Pau Gasol/Andrew Bynum* Gasol is a gifted offensive player, but you’d almost have to put Kendrick Perkins on the list ahead of him after the Lakers were shoved around all over the NBA Finals by the Celtics. Still the Lakers went on a tear after acquiring Gasol last year and Gasol (18 pts, 7.8 rbs) will have Bynum to help him out in the paint next season. But really, Gasol is a lot more like big forward Dirk Nowitzki than he is like center Tim Duncan.

*Andrew BynumBynum averaged 13.1 pts and 10.2 rbs until he hurt his knee (before the Gasol trade). After surgery this summer, he’s is a bit of a question mark (hence the asterisk and the double entry here at #5). Still, the Lakers should have few worries about the inside game next season. Bynum, the 10th pick in the 2005 draft, played strong against Bogut in their head-to-heads last season, with Bynum coming out on top. He’s considered by many around the league to be the best center from the 2005 draft.

*Bynum has reportedly asked for a five-year $85 million extension, which would put him in the Howard $17 mill per year level. Good luck with that Andrew, as it looks like Chris Paul is the only player from the 2005 draft who’ll get Howard money. The Lakers will look to keep Bynum as close to Bogut’s $12 mill deal as possible, though Bynum still hasn’t proven that he can stay as healthy as Bogut. With the season underway, Bynum does not yet have his extension and will earn $2.8 mill 2008-09.

Gasol’s contract is a guaranteed 6 years $86 million, a max contract that puts him in Stoudemire’s neighborhood. Like the Bucks max Redd contract, Gasol’s is backloaded – three years and $49.3 mill left to play out, a situation Bucks GM John Hammond was wise to avoid by keeping Bogut’s annual increases relatively flat.

Marcus Camby about to swat one6) Marcus Camby has never had much of an offensive game but has been one of those rare players who thrives on the defensive end. The Nuggets center last season led the league in blocked shots, was 2nd in rebounding to Howard and made 1st team All-NBA Defensive. Trouble is that after the playoffs, it’s difficult to tell where the Nuggets and Camby are at, or where coach George Karl’s head is at. Camby, for one, has been upbeat about next season. The oft-injured center outplayed his contract incentives for the first time, earning his full $11.2 million salary, with career highs in games played, minutes, assists, blocks and rebounds at age 33. I’d rank him ahead of Gasol but for that sweep business in the playoffs.

Camby was traded to the LA Clippers last July. Camby’s guaranteed $19.65 million this season and next.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas7) Zydrunas Ilgauskas. A tough spot to pick, as a combination of a good offensive-defensive game becomes a rare find in NBA centerville, which brings us to Cleveland, the best rebounding team in the NBA for a few seasons. The Cavs’ toughness starts with their 7′ 3″ center. After missing the better part of two seasons early in his career with injuries, Z has been a remarkably consistent scorer, rebounder and defender in the paint for Lebron James’ entire career-and-one. Ilgauskas can score 15 in his sleep off his rainbow set shot, still the most effective offensive weapon the Cavs have outside of Lebron. The James-Z offensive combo was probably not used as much as it should have been in the Cavs-Celtics series, but the Cavs showed that a championship is much more within their reach than many NBA wags had thought. (C’mon, the NBA wags had all but handed the title to the Lakers).

At age 33, Z may only have a good year or two left, but experience counts. Bogut and many other younger centers haven’t distinguished themselves enough (or in Bogut’s case, have not outplayed Z head-to-head) to be ranked ahead of him.

Ilgauskas took a pay cut in 2005 to stay in Cleveland, and this season enters year four of a five year $50.6 million contract. The final two years pay $22.3 mill.

Mehmet Okur8) Mehmet Okur began his career in Detroit but the Pistons couldn’t afford to keep him after winning the 2004 championship. No skin off then-coach Larry Brown’s nose as Brown often left 24-year-old Okur on the bench to keep Darko Milicic company during the Pistons playoff run. In Utah, Okur replaced big Greg Ostertag, still around from the Stockton-Malone years, and teamed with power forward Carlos Boozer — also acquired that offseason — to give the Jazz toughness inside to build around. By 2006 Okur was averaging 18 pts, 9 rbs per game. By 2007 the Jazz were back to the 50-win level and Okur was in the All-Star game.

Okur and his incredibly hot wife, Yelez OkurThe knock on Okur is that he’s no shot blocker or great athlete; and who wants a center who shoots threes even if he is the best three-point shooting center in the league? (.388% last season, better than any Buck.) Utah coach Jerry Sloan, however, has played to Okur’s strengths — and there’s no denying Okur and Boozer’s toughness inside. Over the last two regular seasons, the duo has averaged about 20 rebounds per game. In the playoffs this year against the Rockets and the Lakers, they cleaned an average of 24.1 boards off the glass (Okur had 11.8 per game). They’re tough and it’s put the Jazz right on the Lakers’ heels in the West.

Okur, 29, is a bargain in the center market with a 6-year $50 million contract. He’s set to make an average of $8.75 per year in the final two years of the contract, but the final year 2009-10 is a player option. With the Boguts, Dalemberts and Chandlers of the NBA making $11 million-plus by then, expect Okur to look for a nice raise.

Sam the man9) Sam Dalembert was drafted by Philly in 2001, at the height of the Allen Iverson/Larry Brown era, when the Sixers beat the Big Three Bucks in the East Finals and went on to play the Lakers for the title. After not playing much behind Dikembe Mutumbo his first year, he missed his entire second year with injuries, then came back to join the Sixers decline after Brown jumped to Detroit. He has yet to develop much of an offensive game to go with his sometimes dominating defense, yet it’s the defense and rebounding that has been pivotal in the Sixers turnaround, which was in the rest of the NBA’s face in the second half of last season. As a team, the Sixers can be defensive demons. Dalembert, 27, is entering his prime and hasn’t missed a start in two years, averaging 10.5 pts and 10.4 rbs (7th in total rebounds) last season. He was 3rd in the league in total blocked shots (2.3 per game).

Dalembert’s D can be stifling. He handed Bogut his two most humiliating games last season, outplaying him in three of the four Bucks-Sixers matchups. The game logs ain’t pretty. Dalembert had 22 pts, 8 rbs, 3 blks in the first matchup, a Sixers win in Milwaukee (Bogut had 6 points). The Bucks took game two, with Bogut playing well, though Dalembert had 16 pts, 16 rbs. The third matchup was a Sixers blowout with Bogut held to 5 pts, 4 rbs, turning the ball over five times. Game four was another wipeout of the Bucks, with Dalembert getting 18 and 10, while Bogut failed to score a hoop, got just two rebounds and called it “the worst game of my career.”

Dalembert has three years left on a backloaded six-year $64 million deal, and will be paid $36.4 mill in those years. This avg. $12 mill pay keeps him about $1 mill ahead of Bogut’s pay, though that narrows 2009-10 season. That might seem like a lot for centers who have never been all-stars and whose teams have not won a playoff series. But that’s the inflated market value that is the NBA. Sam hasn’t been the most popular player in Philly, and neither has his contract. Now that the Sixers have Elton Brand and could be contenders in the East, however, don’t expect many complaints about the center.

Tyson Chandler10) Tyson Chandler (Tie) came into the league out of high school and spent the first two years of his career looking absolutely lost on the court in Chicago, which had obtained his rights in a trade for Elton Brand. This was bad mojo in the post-Jordan Bulls era. Along came coach Scott Skiles and Chandler often found himself on the bench, counting his millions and taking on criticism that athleticism had been wasted on him. The Bulls signed declining veteran free agent Big Ben Wallace in 2006 and sent Chandler packing to the Hornets. In New Orleans, Chandler’s found a home and a role — dunking the ball off Chris Paul and Peja Stojakovic passes and tearing it up on the offensive boards. Chandler led the NBA in offensive rebounding the last two seasons; 2nd only to Howard last season in field goal percentage and 3rd behind Howard and Camby in overall rebounding (11.6 per game).

So why is the ultra-athletic Chandler ranked behind Dalembert, Okur and Ilgauksus?  First, he’s nowhere near the defensive presence Dalembert is, nor is he as mean in the paint as Sam; and he’s no shotblocker. Second, Ty’s got no offensive game to speak of, other than the aforementioned dunking. To his credit, Chandler is a hustle player who kills lazy rebounding teams and has thrived playing with CP3 in the West. But Hornets coach Baron Davis runs little or no offense for Chandler — no coach would. Against the Bucks last year Chandler averaged 17.5 pts, 15.5 rebounds in two Hornets wins. In a stretch last March, however, playing against the better teams in the East (plus Chicago and Indiana) Chandler averaged 11.6 pts (on his season avg of 11.8) but his rebounding was down three boards a game to 8.6. Still, the Hornets went 6-2 and split with the Celtics.

Chandler, 26 next season, has a 6-year $63 million deal that he signed with the Bulls; it pays him $34.6 mill over the next three years just above Bogut’s guaranteed avg. salary over the next six. 

Andrew Bogut 200610) Andrew Bogut (Tie). Bucks coach Scott Skiles would likely object to having his 23-year-old center in the same club with a guy who spent years in and out of his doghouse in Chicago. But that was then, this is now. Other NBA fans might whistle homerism and question whether Bogut should be ranked this high — his 14.3 pts, 9.8 rbs averages last season are no better than those of Kings center Brad Miller or Bobcats center Emeka Okafor, and short of Clippers center Chris Kaman’s; and Kaman blocked more shots than Bogut despite playing in only 55 games.

But here’s where Bogut gets credit for toiling away on Michael Redd’s hapless Bucks; respect vs. West players for playing in the increasingly clogged paints of the slower-paced East; and where his passing skills earn some props. Tim Duncan and Paul Gasol may be the only centers on this list who pass as well as Bogut — Dalembert and Chandler certainly don’t. Bogut is tough to rate because his development and production have been hurt playing with uncoachable ballhogs his entire career. What he’s done is focus on one-on-one matchups with other centers, and worked to take care of business in the paint regardless of all the wrong play going on around him. (Look out Sam Dalembert — Bogut’s looking for a few rematches.) Skiles, of course, is out to fix the wrong that has been the Milwaukee Bucks. The team has only won 94 games since drafting Bogut #1 in 2005.

“I’ve got to tell you,” Skiles said Friday at Bogut’s contract-signing press conference, “In watching almost every minute of every game (on film), I got a little tired of seeing when Andrew did run the floor and seal his man under the basket, a three-point shot going up. It’s not brain surgery. If you have big guys that run the floor and cover their man up right by the basket, they oughta get the ball.”

Unlike Kaman, Dalembert, Okur and Chandler, players older than Bogut, there’s still plenty of upside left to Bogut’s game. Last season he finally had a head coach, Larry Krystkowiak, in his corner and made the biggest strides of his career, showing that the Bucks could run low post offense through him and win games (hence the tie with Chandler of whom the same cannot be said). In fact, the Bucks often struggled most when Bogut’s teammates freelanced away from the low post game plan. Defensively, Bogut made his biggest strides and a concerted effort to block shots (9th in the NBA); and was 3rd in offensive charges taken. The new “no flopping” rule shouldn’t effect Bogut because he doesn’t flop. He has taken a beating from opponents driving at will against the Bucks weak perimeter defenders. A big flaw in Bogut’s game has been his Shaq-like free throw shooting and lack of an outside shot – but then those are Howard’s big flaws too.

Howard, Bogut, Bynum, Atlanta’s Al Horford and Portland’s Greg Oden (yet to play an NBA game) are the young centers to watch in the NBA next season. I’d keep an eye on Shaq in Phoenix, too.

*Bogut’s guaranteed extension is 5 years $60 million, bringing his six-year total to $66.3 million. It seems that both sides in the Bogut negotiations came to the table understanding that Chandler and Dalembert money — $12 million in 2009-10 — was the fair and equitable base for Bogut. The $12.5m in incentives? It’s still not clear what those are but Bogut’s agent David Bauman mentioned Dwight Howard in saying that the incentives are, in part, based on all-star achievement. That’s misleading because the incentives don’t reach “Howard money.” They make Bogut’s possible avg. earnings $14.5 million per year — currently Yao-Gasol-Stoudemire money. Howard’s avg salary, $17 million, is the All-NBA standard for an extension these days. Should Bogut make 1st, 2nd or 3rd Team All-NBA in the next few years, that would mean the Bucks are winning a lot — and that the contract is indeed a very good deal for Milwaukee.

Overall, I like the contract — it’s right in line with the market, including the incentives. In fact, I predicted the figures back in April. Then why does it still feel that the Bucks paid too much for their young center, steadily improving as he is, but with so much left to prove in the NBA?


Skiles vs. Shaq vs. Krystkowiak

Note to Steve “the Homer” True or anyone getting ready to interview Scott Skiles (and fans who might have missed this when I posted it a week ago).

Before you ask Bucks Coach Scott Skiles again about the fight he had with Shaquille O’Neal when they were teammates on the Orlando Magic, come to the Bob Boozer Jinx first. Homer, who interviewed Skiles last week on his ESPN Radio show (if you missed it, we’ve got the podcast featured on the Sportsbubbler Bucks main page), put the question to Skiles like this:

“The Living Legend: The intensity of Scott Skiles. So intense he reportedly once confronted then-Orlando Magic teammate Shaquille O’Neal for loafing in practice. True or false?

“Uhh, true, but it was in self-defense.”

“You don’t have to elaborate if you don’t want to,” Homer said.

“No, it was self defense.”

No is right. (Which is why, Homer, check here before you interview Skiles again.) ESPN’s Chris Sheridan got to the bottom of it last year and wrote the definitive “Skiles vs. Shaq story.” Let’s review:

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: Mutual admiration society between Skiles and Shaq. Continued friendship between Skiles and Krystkowiak. Shaq and Krystkowiak? No hard feelings, respect. Magic win 50 games that season, Shaq’s second in the NBA.

Krystkowiak tells it far better than I do. Here’s that link again.