Tag Archives: Allen Iverson

The Revenge of the Airball, part XX: Lou Williams shoots down the Bucks in Philly

The Curse of the Airball. Revenge for all that ever went wrong for Nellie’s Bucks in the Golden Age.  That’s what the Sixers represent.  But the Bucks in the Michael Redd era have never seemed to grasp the importance of a Philadelphia 76ers game, not like Ray Allen and Allen Iverson did. Now that Redd’s little more than the elephant in the room that no one sees, the Andrew Bogut Bucks still can’t seem to grasp it.

Last week Scott Skiles’ record against the Philadelphia 76ers fell to 2-and-7.  Lou Williams remains one of the biggest reason why, as the Bucks can’t seem to figure out how to prevent Williams (who came off the Philly bench behind Dru Holiday) from playing like an All-Star against them.  With the Sixers trailing 94-92 in the final minute, Sweet Lou launched a bomb from downtown, about two feet behind the line, over John Salmons’ outstretched arm.  It found the bottom of the net.

It was one more highlight for the Sixers in a long history of crashing Bucks’ hopes, and it ensued off of one of the Bucks most embarrassing possessions of the season — 48 seconds of agony as point guard Earl Boykins dribbled and dribbled, failed to advance the ball, threw up one shot that Andrew Bogut and Salmons corralled and brought it back out to Boykins so he could do it all over again, after playing catch with Drew Gooden, who shouldn’t have been on the court at that point.

The Revenge of the Airball, indeed. Since the Sixers traded Iverson to Denver four years ago, they have won 11 and lost 4 against the Bucks. Williams and forward Andre Iguodala are all that’s left in Philly from Iverson and Mo Cheeks’ 2006-07 team.

The Revenge of the Airball struck again in Philly

The Bucks just can’t shake the mojo that the Philadelphia 76ers have over them, and they fell victim to it once again Friday in a regrettable 90-79 loss to the (ouch) 2-10 Sixers in Philly.    Throw the team records out — Sixers have won three of the last five matchups and 6 0f 8 since Scott Skiles took over as coach.  Philly had won 7 straight before the Bucks seemingly broke the spell last January in what was likely Allen Iverson’s last game in the arena where he staged so many of his career highlights – the Bradley Center.

The Sixers have always been the Bucks nemesis, their greatest rival when times were good and Nellie’s Bucks in the early 1980’s were one of the best teams in the NBA — one of the best teams in history never to win a title, and certainly the best team in NBA history never to play in the Finals.  Forget 1991, the year the 48-win Del Harris Bucks were swept out of the playoffs by Charles Barkley’s Sixers —  there was something else amiss in Philly’s recent domination of the Bucks.  It can be traced back to Iverson’s first shot in the NBA, an airball that bounced harmlessly out of bounds on Nov. 1, 1996.

Was the spell broken last January?   Alas, no — “The Airball” is still exacting its revenge, and the Sixers showed Friday that they don’t need “The Answer,” Andre Iguodala or Sam Dalembert to stymie the Bucks — Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams will do just fine, shades of 2008 and 2009 when the Sixers were winning seven straight against the sluggish Michael Redd teams.  Interesting to note that Young and Williams are Mo Cheeks players, guys who, like their coach in his playing days, have always seemed to light up when they see a Milwaukee Bucks uniform.

The 5-8 Bucks. The silver lining for the Bucks these days could be the realization that, for the most part — until last weekend — they’ve been playing fairly well against a tough early season schedule and coming up painfully short in a few close games (two against the Hornets, OT in Boston and Saturday in a very winnable game against the Thunder, playing without Kevin Durant, the league’s leading scorer.  Add that one-point loss to either of the Hornets games as one the Bucks want back.

Yet it’s some consolation that their strength of schedule ranking is 12th in the league, better than everybody in the Central Division but the Bulls, with two Central games on the schedule this week in Cleveland and Detroit.  On some level, the Bucks have simply been an unlucky team that can’t catch a break.

The Bucks schedule for the first 35 games is tough, at no time tougher than next week when they head west for a Utah-Denver road swing, then come back home to play the Heat and the Magic.  No, it’s not much consolation, but the Bucks record should eventually turn around.  It will probably take a while … and they’ll have to do some good work on the road in the west in December to mitigate the depth of the hole they’ll likely be in come January.  Maybe they’ll even get lucky a time or two.

Revenge of the Airball: The Sixers’ strange spell over the Bucks

What did the Milwaukee Bucks ever do to the Philadelphia 76ers?  Was it drafting Julius Erving in 1972 when he didn’t want anything to do with Brewtown, and, a few years later — preventing the Hawks from signing him out of the ABA?  Or was it drafting somebody named Russ Lee six picks before the Doctor?  Did the Bucks commit some cosmic offense to the basketball gods in the first round of the 1987 playoffs when they failed to close the Sixers out in Philly, moving the Dr. J retirement party to the Bradley Center — ensuring that the Doctor would suffer his final loss in front of Bucks fans?   Didn’t Doc owe us at least that, small enough consolation though it was for the pain and suffering he and Bobby Jones and Mo Cheeks caused in the 1981, ’82, ’83 and ’85 playoffs?

Was it the Milwaukee police arrest of Charles Barkley in December 1991 for breaking some duffus’ nose outside Rosie’s on Water?  A Milwaukee jury had the common sense to acquit Sir Charles of any wrongdoing, agreeing the punch was thrown in self defense.  … Or was it this, on Nov. 1, 1996? —

Allen Iverson’s first shot in the NBA: (Unfortunately, some entity — the NBA, the Sixers or the Bucks — claimed protected rights on video of Allen Iverson and Ray Allen’s first minutes in the NBA, so the video evidence of AI’s first NBA shot and Ray Allen’s first made NBA 20-footer and first made NBA 3-pointer is no longer available … but read on ….)

I have a feeling it has something to do with that shot — the airball — #1 overall pick Iverson’s first field goal attempt in the NBA, his first shot on the Philly home court that he would ritually kiss before each game — an off balance fall-away off an aborted drive — drawing no rim in his premiere game for the fans who would grow to love him.  That shot, the airball, even as his rookie Big East rival, Ray Allen, tickled the bottom of net with sweet jumpers, sinking both his first midrange two and, before he Answer could respond, his first high-arcing shot from 3-point land, that place that would become forever known as the Land of Ray and Reggie.  The rhetoric of the 1996 draft — “Stephon Marbury creates shots for others/woulda been better for the Sixers” prognosis was out on parade, voiced in the clip by Bucks bland-alyist Jon McGlocklin — though you’d have to know that Johnny Mac was also taking a backhand swipe at the Bucks for drafting Marbury #4 and swapping him for a future draft pick and Ray, whom the Timberwolves had taken 5th.  McGlocklin was one of the many thousands who thought the Bucks needed a “true” point guard, not a scorer, and obviously had similar thoughts about the Sixers, who had already had a young gunner — 22-year-old Jerry Stackhouse — in the fold.  *(see notes on Stackhouse below)*

Iverson went on to score 30 opening night, 1996, but the Bucks won the game, 111-103 and took the season series 3-1, then winning the first two the next season in Larry Brown‘s first year as Sixers coach.  But Brown and Iverson turned the tables in the remaining two 1998 Bucks-Sixers games, then went 9-4 over the next four season, beating the Sam, Ray & Dog “Big Three” teams 7 out of ten times.  If the Iverson-Ray rivalry was on — and it was — advantage Sixers.  Nothing screamed this louder than the bitter 7-game 2001 Eastern Conference Finals, still the NBA standard for crooked refereeing.  Most of the shady stuff occurred in Philly but Game 4, the crucial game that would have put the Bucks up 3-1, was hijacked at the BC in a blur of calls and non-calls as the walking wounded Sixers were given new life. The series would live on in infamy, tarnishing Shaq’s 2nd title in LA if only the East Finals were more well-remembered. But they’re not.   One of the NBA’s greates travesties wasn’t left on the cutting room floor of ESPN columnist Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball (publ. fall 2009) — Simmons simply forgot it.  That’s OK, Bill. The Bob Boozer Jinx remembers.

Since Iverson dropped 5 of those first 6 games against Ray Allen, the Sixers are 28-15 vs. the Bucks, with many of the Answer’s career highlights achieved at Milwaukee’s expense, including a 45-point masterpiece in a 124-120 OT win in Philly, Jan. 3, 2000.  For a few years, Iverson held the record for most points by an opponent at the Bradley Center (broken last season by Lebron James), dropping 54 on Michael Redd and Mo Williams, good defenders that they weren’t, more interested in filling up their own box scores than stopping AI from filling up his and winning the game. It was pure streetball that night at the BC, and Iverson was worth the price of admission. There was a down season for the Sixers against the Bucks after Brown quit and resurfaced in Detroit, and another in Iverson’s last full season in Philly, when he took one look at the rookie Andrew Bogut and realized that Ray Ray probably hadn’t been a Buck for years. The rivalry had become one-sided. The airball had been avenged, and it probably should have ended there, in Dec. 2006, when Iverson was traded to Denver for Andre Miller.

But it didn’t end there, and lately, the Revenge of the Airball has hit the Bucks hard: the Sixers have won 8 out of the last 10, and had won six straight until the Bucks 91-88 victory Jan. 27, very likely the Answer’s last game ever on the Milwaukee court that has been so kind to him. I was there to see it, and though Iverson gave way to Louis Williams in the 4th quarter, I caught a basketball high watching AI chase Brandon Jennings all over the court, both of them wearing #3, the young Buck honoring the old Sixer, his hero. I also believed I was witnessing the breaking of the Sixers’ spell. When Iverson left the team a couple of weeks later for personal reasons and didn’t come back, and the Bucks went on a 15-2 tear after acquiring John Salmons, I was sure it was over. Boy, was I wrong.

Wednesday night the Sixers, a dismal 24-47 and without two of their best players, Williams and Thaddeus Young, blew the Bucks out of the Bradley Center. Willie Green (16 pts) couldn’t miss until his team was up by 20. Rookie point guard Jrue Holiday (15 pts) proved unguardable for Jennings and Luke Ridnour. Center Sam Dalembert, as usual, locked down Bogut, with some help from 2nd-year big man Marreese Speights, and Dalembert was almost perfect under the basket for 12 pts, 10 rebs. Andre Iguodala played lock down defense on Salmons and was off to the races in the open court, where Iggy’s Sixers teams are at their best. Power forward Elton Brand, who’s done most of the damage for the Sixers vs. the Bucks this season (also singled out as the force of gravity slowing down Iggy and the gang since becoming a Sixer) didn’t have to break a sweat or make more than a shot. Brand was 1-7 from the floor in 27 uninspired minutes, while the Sixers young guns had a blast. Jodie Meeks, traded by the Bucks a month ago with Francisco Elson to the Sixers for Royal Ivey, Primoz Brezec and a draft pick, got into the act with 7 pts. The Bucks managed to make up a few points in garbage time for a 101-86 final.

Clearly, the Sixers’ mastery over the Bucks has extended beyond the corn-rowed one and the rivalry of a decade ago. Iverson was in Denver and Detroit and Memphis for the eight most recent Bucks losses, make that nine. The Sixers are now 9-3 vs. the Bucks since trading Iverson to the Nuggets, while going 127-155 (.454) against the rest of the NBA. But coach Maurice Cheeks  had figured out that speed and nasty defense could be tough on the slow-footed Bucks, even as the detrus of Iverson and the rivalry remained, infecting his teammates with the necessary Buck-beating mojo. Iggy got it, and there was Dalembert (who seems to enjoy his matchup against Bogut). Guards Williams and Green were on those teams, and it infected Thad Young when he came along the next year. Now it seeems to have Holiday and sharpshooter Jason Kapano, too, after playing with Iverson for only a month. And, hey, look who’s back from a one-year exile in Minnesota — forward Rodney Carney, a Sixers rookie during the trade year. Carney killed the Bucks last year in a game at Minnesota, with 22-points and a 4th quarter 3-point barrage. I could mention ex-Sixer Kyle Korver here, too, but that would be redundant. There is something to this Sixers hex, the Philly jinx. The Revenge of the Airball.

If the fact that Wednesday’s loss was clearly beyond the red-hot Bucks’ earthly control wasn’t enough, take a look at how one other Sixer from those post Brown-Iverson teams did in the game. He’s on the Bucks (for now), and on Monday scored 32 in a classic 4th quarter shootout with the Hawks’ Joe Johnson. Yes, the Bucks salvation at shooting guard, John Salmons, predated even Dalembert in Phlly, playing his rookie year in Brown’s final Sixers season. Salmons played four years with Iverson under five different coaches (Cheeks the last one) shooting the ball five or six times a game off the bench if he was lucky.

Salmons was 2-12 Wednesday night in 30 mins against the Sixers and the hex, the Revenge of the Airball. He finished with 4 pts and as many turnovers (1) and fouls (2) as  rebounds (1), assists (1) and steals (1). That airball of Iverson’s just never seems to  get enough revenge.

*Note: Jerry Stackhouse started his career in Philly and played with Iverson in AI’s rookie year, but lasted only 22 games into the following season. I’m guessing that because he was unhappy playing second fiddle to Iverson and asked to be traded (he went to Detroit), Stack is probably exempt from any effects of whatever it is I’m calling this Iverson thing. Stackhouse was in just his third season when the Philly-Detroit trade went down, which tells us that …

A) Allen Iverson was horrendous to be around early in his career,

B) Jerry Stackhouse was quite the 23-year-old prima donna for a guy who would never go on to make All-Pro, or

C) Both A and B are true, and Larry Brown certainly wasn’t about to let Stack slash the tires on the Iverson-mobile.

Skiles has Bucks looking competent… The Answer is a Piston

Ramon Sessions has looked great at pointWait and see. That’s the attitude most Bucks fans are taking with Scott Skiles’ team, numbed as many of us are by years of losing — selfishly losing at that. Improvement and team basketball is what most of us want to see.

After four games, not half bad.

The Bucks are 2-2, one of the losses a heartbreaker against the Toronto Raptors Saturday in the home opener. After looking at the game film, coach Skiles had this to say:

“I was going to say I was mad as anyone losing that game last night. Those are games we feel we need to win. But then you sit down and look at the tape and you see the effort we’re giving and what we’re trying to do and it causes some optimism.”

Skiles isn’t just blowing smoke in the ballot box — the Bucks clawed their way back into the game in the 4th quarter after doing a good job hanging around through the 3rd despite some officiating that made me wonder if the refs thought the game was being played in Toronto (it was terrible throughout). Still, the Bucks played tough and by and large looked good against a team that moves the ball well and shoots the lights out. The Bucks lost it at the foul line (Michael Redd, 4th quarter) and with some questionable decision-making in the final 15 seconds (Redd again). They were right there despite a 3-13 shooting night from Richard Jefferson and a 1-6 behind-the-arc shooting night from Redd.

Sunday the Bucks bounced back with a solid effort in New York against the Knicks, placing six players in double figures and winning 94-86 in a game that was not as close as the final score. Yes, sharing is caring in the NBA, and it wins games. Rookie Joe Alexander finally got some PT in NY. 


Lose the Red home uniforms: They look worse than those purple road uniforms from a few years ago. What’s so wrong with white at home and green on the road? 

Rebounding and the frontcourt:  So far this season, the Bucks have outrebounded opponents and have done a good job exploiting the advantage they have in the frontcourt over most teams with Andrew Bogut, Charlie Villanueva and Richard Jefferson. Skiles has the team pushing the ball inside to start an inside-out game that will only get better, more balanced and spaced properly if they commit to it. (Isn’t this what Larry Krytkowiak tried to do last season?) Bogut, Jefferson and Charlie have consistently scored double figures plus, and are hitting the glass, including a 54-point, 27-reb. effort Wednesday vs. Oklahoma City.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: While 1st round draft pick Joe Alexander has hardly played and could well be headed for the D-League (well, that’s where I’d send him if he’s just going to sit on the bench in Milwaukee), 2nd round pick Mbah a Moute has looked like a wily veteran off the bench. He’s always in the right place at the right time; he rebounds, plays D, doesn’t force offense and hits the shots that come his way. Yes, it’s early, I know, but it feels like it’s been a long time since the Bucks have had a rookie who looked as competent as Mbah a Moute. He’s adjusting much more smoothly than Bogut did three years ago.

Michael Redd: Fans whinced at the sight of Redd chucking up a wild 3-pointer with a Toronto defender in his face and 11 seconds remaining Saturday, Bucks down by two. No, the shot clock wasn’t about to expire and Toronto point guard Jose Calderon had left Ramon Sessions to double down on Bogut in the post. Somebody was wide open, if not Sessions. Bucks have seen more than enough of this sort of thing from Redd. Call it selfish, call it dumb, there may be no words left for it, but this is the Bucks basketball that fans know too well; it has made 4th quarter defense all-too-easy for opposing teams and it loses games. …. The Raptors, a team stocked with great shooters, took good shots in the final minute and drained them. It was the difference in the game. To Redd’s credit, he took a step back Sunday and played more conservatively, scoring 16 pts on just 8 shots, hitting all three of his 3-pointers. Yes, Mike, you can draw conclusions from the different outcomes of the two games.

Point guard controversy:  Oh, it’s brewing all right, with Luke Ridnour sitting out with a bad back and Ramon Sessions picking up right where he left off last season, handing out 19 dimes over the weekend. Skiles did not play Sessions in the first two games but Ramon logged nearly all of the point guard minutes in games three and four. Skiles has said Ridnour will still be the starter when his back is ready, but there’s little question Tyrone Lue will move down the bench to third-string point guard. (I don’t understand why he was the backup over Sessions those first two games.) This is only the beginning of what will likely be a season-long Luke vs. Ramon issue for the team. The good part of this is that Ramon is playing well enough to push the question of who should be the Bucks starting point guard. It’s way too early for a poll, folks. 

Injuries:  Michael Redd and Luke Ridnour are day-to-day, Ridnour with a bad back and Redd recuperating from an ankle sprain against the Knicks Sunday. The Bucks take on the Wizards at home Wednesday, then head for Boston for the start of a brutal four-games-in-six-days stretch (Boston, Phoenix, Cleveland and San Antonio).

Allen Iverson Iverson’s a Piston: Detroit traded starting point guard Chauncey Billups and starting forward Antonio McDyess to George Karl’s Nuggets for Allen Iverson. Here’s the ESPN story on the trade. Don’t worry, it’s a Marc Stein story, it’s safe and can be trusted. Yes, this trade really did happen (I’m still here Chad Ford, and I’ll be watching).

The Answer is a bit too perfect a match for Detroit for the rest of the Eastern Conference to cheer this swap, especially as Billups seems to have lost a step (or two – the Celtics had their way with the Pistons guards in the playoffs and Detroit was fortunate to get by Orlando in five games in the semifinals). The Pistons weren’t going anywhere in the Eastern Conference playoffs this year. What Detroit GM Joe Dumars has done is trade two of his slower players for one of the quickest players in the league. That’s bad news for Mo Williams in Cleveland and Rajon Rondo in Boston, and poor Jameer Nelson down in Orlando. However, trading McDyess leaves the Pistons extremely thin on the frontline, great news for Kevin Garnett and the host of beastly big men and forwards roaming the paint in the East. What good is having Allen Iverson if you can’t rebound the basketball?

[Notice how I’m talking about the Eastern Conference, not about the Central Division. Pay no attention to this division rival business some seem to think exists in the NBA (that would be Charles Gardner over at the Journal Sentinel). The Bucks’ Central Division should not be confused with the NFC Central Division that the Packers used play in (now the North), where the schedule makes the rivalries matter. It makes little or no difference to the Bucks whether Iverson was traded to New Jersey, Detroit or Atlanta — the Bucks play them all four times, as they do seven other teams in the East, the majority being outside the Central].

That said, Iverson’s got quite a history lighting up the soft defenses Bucks backcourts have laid down for him over the years. He holds the Bradley Center scoring record with 54, set four years ago in December against Michael Redd, Mo Williams, Mike James and Eddie House. The Bucks split with Iverson’s Nuggets last season, with AI scoring 24 and 26 pts.

NEXT UP: Wednesday vs. the Wizards at home, 7PM. Gilbert Arenas is still out, a good opportunity for the Bucks to pick up their first home win.

NBA Playoffs: Bucks vs. Sixers 2001

The finest weekend of NBA basketball 2008 is upon us!!!  Four conference semifinal games, three pivotal Game 4’s. The only way NBA Commish David Stern could’ve planned it better would have been if the Celtics had taken care of the Hawks a little sooner so that Celtics-Cavs would also be playing, yes, a pivotal Game 4 tonight.

Lebron James and the Cavaliers are in a desperate spot: If he and his young guards don’t find their shooting range tonight in Game 3, they’ll likely fall down 0-3, a deficit no NBA team has ever recovered from to win a series. The Cavs are at home, or, to rephrase that – they’re not playing in the Boston Garden, where the Celtics seem invincible in these playoffs.

Lakers-Jazz, Hornets-Spurs, Pistons-Magic — all set at 2-1 with this weekend’s home teams, the Jazz, Spurs and Magic, needing to win, yes pivotal Game 4’s, to square the series’ at 2-2. Only the Spurs seem capable of climbing back from the alternative – Game 4 loss and a 1-3 deficit.

To help Bucks fans celebrate this, the finest weekend of NBA basketball 2008, here’s a youtube clip (thanks to rilaman) of highlights (and some lowlights) from the Big Three Bucks gut-wrenching seven-game series against Philly in 2001. Viva le Ray Allen!!! – raining rafters-arcing threes on the Sixers, the refs and an awed Commish.

Memory reboot:  Ray’s nine three-pointer detonation came in Game 3, which put the Bucks up 2-1. After Philly evened it with some help from the refs in pivotal Game 4, the Dog’s ten-footer to win Game 5 rimmed off. The Bucks blew Philly out at the BC in Game 6, setting up Game 7 in Philly …

While I’m still waiting for Ray to have one of his rainmaker shooting games in the 2008 playoffs, here’s another youtube vid (thanks again rilaman). The year is 1996, and Ray Allen’s about to hit his first NBA three … 

I can’t let that airball from Iverson go. It was one of the Answer’s first shots as a pro!!! That had to hurt.  

Nor can I, nor should I, let Jonny Mac’s typical boneheaded commentary pass, even though it’s more than 10 years old. Praising then-rookie Stephon Marbury for “creating shots for his teammates” when he’d scarcely seen Marbury play in the NBA just smacks of … typical Jonny Mac. And to find rookie Iverson lacking because he “creates shots for himself.” …  This is the Bucks commentator who’s been kissing “Michael”s butt for five years!

Why was Jonny talking about Marbury at all? Stephon and the 1996 T-Wolves weren’t anywhere near the Bucks-Philly game and there was no break in the action. While Jonny made his base comparison of rookies Marbury and Iverson, Bucks rookie Ray was rippling the nets for his first NBA hoop, shortly followed by his first three pointer. Obviously, the perfect time to talk about the T-wolves new point guard. Do you get the feeling that Jonny didn’t like the draft day trade of Marbury for Ray?  

More importantly, are Bucks fans finally, after 30 years, ready for a new color commentator?  Give the mic to Scott Williams full-time, please!!!