Tag Archives: Charlie Bell

Scott Skiles apologizes for 35-win season … GM Hammond plays injury card

Asked by Bucks beat writers what his message to fans was with the Bucks disappointing season coming to a close, coach Scott Skiles made an apology:

“I would apologize. Look, I’m responsible for this. I understand that. I would never run from that. It’s my responsibility to get the team to play at the highest level they can play at, and obviously I failed at that. This has been a very difficult season and it’s going to stay with me for a long time. We’re going to try and get better. Do our best to get better. For all of us, that’s not a good feeling.” — Scott Skiles’ season post-script.

Given that the Bucks by the end were just an April Fool’s Day buzzer-beater in Indiana away from the 8th playoff spot in the East, one can say that the coach’s sometimes baffling player personnel decisions are partly responsible for his team not making the playoffs.  The Bucks should be preparing for a Round 1 series with the Bulls, and, as I wrote earlier this week, it was a blown, easy opportunity to fuel the rivalry with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Chicago.

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Quote to note, GM John Hammond: “We’re just not playing pro basketball at the moment. We have injuries. Big deal. Every team has injuries. It’s getting to the point where there’s no excuse for the way we played tonight. No excuse whatsoever.” — Andrew Bogut, the Bucks 2011 nominee for Defensive Player of the Year, after one of the Bucks worst performances of the year, an 11-point Saturday night home loss Feb. 5 to coach John Kuester’s mutinous Detroit Pistons.

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Bucks GM John Hammond, in a lengthy interview aired during the final Bucks broadcast, was not in the apologetic mood that the press found Scott Skiles in at seasons end.  Hammond was anything but, in fact, as he was feisty in defending his history of winning — “I’ve always won.”  And, as expected, Hammond played the injury card.

Bucks players missed 277 total games last season, and, that of course, explains their poor record.  But not everything.

The injuries do not explain the Bucks’ Jekyll and Hyde management of them, which varied from pushing players back too soon early on to the opposite approach in the 2nd half.   The Bucks didn’t realize Brandon Jennings had a fractured foot until he had played five quarters on it, for example.  They then monitored his minutes a bit too much for his (or anybody else’s) liking when he returned.

The injuries do not explain the chemistry lost from last season due to Hammond’s offseason moves.

In particular and most importantly, the injuries do not fully explain the Bucks’ abysmal backcourt play.  Nor do the injuries change the fact that Hammond in the offseason cleared from the Bucks 2010 bench every last guard who played behind Jennings or John Salmons.

Salmons and Jennings were healthy at the same time for less than half of the season, and as a result both players struggled mightily to find an offensive groove.   Behind them, it took about half a season for the Bucks to realize that Keyon Dooling wasn’t competent to run the point.  Beyond Dooling there was the ever-entertaining, yet often-aggravating adventure that is pint-sized veteran Earl Boykins.  Other than Earl, the Bucks were forced to sign Garrett Temple to two short term contracts.  Shooting guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, acquired from New Jersey in the offseason, had some moments but rode the bench.  CD-R doesn’t think he’ll be back next year, no hard feelings.

Gone were Luke Ridnour, Royal Ivey and Jerry Stackhouse in free agency.  Gone was Charlie Bell to Golden State in the Corey Maggette deal.  Gone was Jodie Meeks to the 76ers last February in a trade for Ivey, center Primoz Brezec and a draft pick (injured Darington Hobson) who the Bucks cut in December.

Gone was any sense of backcourt continuity or bench experience with Skiles’ offensive and defensive demands.  This was painfully obvious in December and January while Jennings was sidelined with the foot fracture.

Gone was a spot in the playoffs.

The honest approach for the 2010 NBA Executive of the Year would be to own up — like Skiles did — to his share of the responsibility, but that would run against the grain of Hammond’s past practice with the press (and, by extension, the fan base); and he apparently doesn’t believe it’s in his best interest.

(It seems that I forgot all about Michael Redd, who tried unsuccessfully to mesh with Jennings/Ridnour/Bell last season. The Bucks were 12-18 in the games that Redd played.  Redd missed the first 72 games this season, but, sorry about the omission.  It does occur to me that Jennings probably thinks his GM is nuts, or, in the very least that he doesn’t care much for cohesion.)

Notes: Sixers shooting guard Meeks will be the lone member of the 2010 Bucks starting for a 2011 playoff team. … Kurt Thomas remains on the Chicago bench but seems to have lost his backup center minutes to (too lazy to look up his first name) Asik. …  Guard Ivey is the 10th man on the Thunder bench.

Note to Scott Skiles: Last season’s forwards, please

The Bucks 2010-11 Bucks in their first two games look eerily similar to the 209-10 team that tried and failed last Nov.-Dec. to work Michael Redd into its rotation.  The Bucks with Redd stood around on offense; the ball didn’t move; they lacked chemistry and consistent defense; and they lost twice as often as they won (the Bucks were 6-12 when Redd played).

To be fair, that team — like this season’s Bucks — had injury issues.  After a 6-3 start Andrew Bogut went out for six games with a deep thigh bruise and Luc Mbah a Moute missed a couple of weeks with a bum ankle.  Mbah a Moute has been hobbled by a bad ankle in the Bucks first two games this season, and Bogut has been limited by foul trouble, his healing right arm and some conditioning issues.

What last year’s Bucks team had that the current Bucks do not was a backup center in Kurt Thomas; a backup point guard nicknamed Frodo who knew the offense as well as the coach and played with desperate energy; and they had the unselfish “D-Wade stopper” Charlie Bell, who made sure that the ball was going in the post to Bogut.  With the unsung hero Bell starting in Redd’s place, last year’s Bucks were 19-16 including a couple of clumsy, disjointed losses with Redd firing ill-timed bricks in a reserve role.

What last year’s Bucks team didn’t have was a logjam at forward; they had a simple rotation (when Redd wasn’t playing).  The eight-man rotation of Jennings, Bell, Luke Ridnour, Carlos Delfino, Mbah a Moute, Ersan Ilyasova, Bogut and Thomas was well-knit, smart, unselfish, and extremely hard-working. Nobody outrebounded that team by 23 boards (the T-Wolves had a 62-39 rebounding advantage). That team never gave up 19 offensive boards. What’s different about this season?

1) Not once last season did Skiles relegate Ilyasova and Mbah a Moute to scrub 26 minutes … COMBINED.  And;

2) Not once during the 2009-10 82-game schedule did the Bucks suit up without a legitimate backup at center for Bogut.

Those two factors are directly attributable to the rebounding failure in Minneapolis Friday night, and the failure to win “50-50” plays and get to loose balls in the paint.  And it’s no accident that when Skiles played Mbah a Moute, finally, late in the 3rd quarter, the Bucks pulled back into the game and erased most of a 17-point T-wolves lead.

On the court for that run were Brandon Jennings, pint-sized Earl Boykins, Corey Maggette, Mbah a Moute and Bogut.

Skiles can’t solve the backup center problem until GM John Hammond acquires a backup center.  But coach Skiles can remember last season, and some of the things that made the Bucks tough, scrappy and competitive for most of it.

More Mbah a Moute, now that he’s able to play, and some renewed trust in Ersan Ilyasova are two of those things.  Here’s hoping Skiles remembers them tonight in the home opener against Larry Brown’s Charlotte Bobcats — no strangers themselves to scrappy play and tough D.

A must win home opener: Both the Bucks and Bobcats are looking to avoid starting 0-3. With a difficult Portland-Boston back-to-back on the schedule next week for the Bucks, 0-and-3 could very quickly become 0-5.

Unsung Player: Charlie Bell

   Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade (3) drives to the basket against the Milwaukee Bucks' Charlie Bell, left, in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010, in Milwaukee.   In all this excitement over whether the Heat would tank and set the Bucks up against the Celtics in Round 1, I forgot that yesterday was Unsung Player Day, an annual celebration started in Japan by a crazed Laker fan named Don at his blogsite With Malice.  This must also have meant that at some point it was April 14th in Japan.

My Unsung Player Day Bucks honoree is Charlie Bell. Of course. No, he’s not the typical unsung player — he started 39 games for the Bucks this year. But since the acquisition of John Salmons, Charlie’s been relegated to the DNP-garbage time zone by the coach who loves him, fellow Michigan State alum Scott Skiles. (Yes, Charlie was a Flintstone, and with a year 2000 NCAA title on his resume and a “FLINT” tattoo to prove it, I realize I’m pushing the unsung player rules.)

The DNP-garbage time zone: In March CB got 5 DNP’s and played 164 mins in 10 games. Most of the minutes were played when he was rushed back into the lineup after Carlos Delfino went down March 26 against the Heat and missed four games. Prior to that, Charlie had been sitting. The Bucks split those four games and the 6’3″ Bell spent one of them guarding Lebron James in Cleveland (a game the Bucks had in their grasps) while Bucks fans groaned every time Charlie chested James up on D or rose to shoot a three.

It’s the strangest thing. CB’s a defensive specialist who’s been the Bucks’ most consistent 3-baller most of the season (39% until recently) yet he’s the guy in Milwaukee whose misses register with fans the most.  That’s saying a lot, as Jerry Stackhouse now fires away for the green and red. …

…  This was the season I wrote that “trying to get Bucks fans to appreciate Charlie Bell is like trying to get Republicans to read the health care bill.” I might have even tweeted that.

CB appreciatiation shouldn’t be that difficult. In January, he hounded D-Wade in two games over three days (13-39 shooting, 43 points). Brandon Jennings even called him “a D-Wade stopper” … in public. (I know, I know, it was close to singing Charlie’s praises, but bear with me …  there’s more.)

This was during a stretch in Jan.-Feb. (after Michael Redd went down for the season) in which Charlie started at guard with Brandon Jennings, shot 43% from Downtown, mugged every opposing two guard in sight and the Bucks went 8-4. Yet the local media handed the credit to newcomer Stackhouse, who hardly played in many of those games.  How such an obvious snub was even possible after the Bucks ran a popular “Charlie Bell Do My Job” promotion last summer, I don’t understand.  Milwaukee can be a strange town. But it certainly qualifies Charlie for the ranks of the unsung.

The Bucks had a rough season starting a rookie at point guard while dealing with Michael Redd’s on-again, off-again comeback from knee surgery, all the while trying to work two new forwards (Delfino and Ersan Ilyasova) into the rotation. Andrew Bogut, after a fast start, was injured in November and not fully healthy again until January.

Brandon Jennings exceeded everybody’s expectations in managing all this change — and deserves the ROY for it — but through it all there was steady old Charlie Bell, guarding everybody from Lebron to Kobe to Durant and D-Wade.  Overall, the Bucks were 21-18 with CB starting at guard, 19-16 before Salmons arrived — and a few of those losses came as a result of Redd’s experiments in fitting into the lineup.

The evidence is there. It’s irrefutable. The Bucks have won with Charlie, and at a playoff level clip. If nothing else, he’s one of the best 2-spot defenders in the game.  Yet the Bucks 22-8 record since Salmons will be what stands in the memories of Bucks fans.  Or it will be Brandon Jennings in his rookie year and Andrew Bogut’s All-Pro second half. Or Bogut’s horrific season-ending injury against the Suns.

If fans do think of Charlie, it may well be for one shot — a game winner Kobe Bryant hit over him in OT Dec. 16.  It seems there’s probably little doubt that shot’s a tune that’ll be sung somewhere, sometime, probably even right now.

Bucks Weekend: Ugly, uglier, ugliest… East playoff peek

Friday: Heat 87, Bucks 84 – MASH unit on standby.

Sunday, 2:00 p.m.: Memphis Grizzlies @ Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks-Heat game at the BC Friday night was injury marred before it started, as the Bucks played without center Andrew Bogut (strained upper back muscle) and the Turkish clutch, Ersan Ilyasova (bad case of the flu). It started ugly, with the Bucks seemingly confused off the opening tap about who was guarding Dwyane Wade. It got uglier in the 2nd quarter when Heat center Jermaine O’Neal hyperextended his right knee driving around Primoz Brezec

Then it got real ugly. Carlos Delfino was knocked to the floor on a drive and then jumped on and stepped on — hard — by Heat forward Udonis Haslem as Haslem rebounded the miss. Delfino’s neck absorbed most of the impact of the off-balance Haslem’s weight, and he lay motionless for nearly 8 minutes before being carted off the floor on a stretcher and taken to the hospital for X-rays. The lowlight reel looks like an episode of M*A*S*H. Or Rollerball meets M*A*S*H.

The preliminary prognosis for Delfino sounds OK, as he has full movement in all of his extremities. The X-rays are still pending (UPDATE: The X-rays were negative). … It’s just too improbable and rare to see a player lie on a basketball court unmoving for as long as Delfino did, then be wheeled out of the arena on a gurney. I’m kind of freaked out writing about it, and could care less that the Heat won a game that the Bucks would have preferred to end at halftime.  As of early Saturday, the Bucks injury report looks like this:

Carlos Delfino: At St. Luke’s Hospital with pain in his neck and jaw, undergoing X-rays. Should be resting for at least a couple of days.

Andrew Bogut: The muscle strain in his back “doesn’t have anything to do with what happened last year,” says Bucks coach Scott Skiles. “This is in his upper, mid-back. It’s just a strain. I can’t imagine it being very long. It’s more or less just back spasms, and normally those things don’t last very long. I’m hoping he’ll be able to play Sunday (against Memphis).”

Ersan Ilyasova:  Received IV fluids in an attempt to clear out a bad flu bug and play against Miami but had to sit out the game. Delfino received IV treatments about a week ago for the same, so the bug is apparently making its way around the Bucks locker room. This may or may not explain some of the Bucks sluggishness of late (I’m remembering the 3-9 start on the Bucks last 50-game winner, 2001; a team-wide flu bug may have calmed coach George Karl’s ire, maybe a little).  Better now than in the playoffs.

Jerry Stackhouse: No, there’s nothing wrong with his shooting arm, it’s just Stack being Stack. Against the Heat, Stackhouse shot 2-10 from the floor, sinking his shooting  % over his last 10 games to 31.1%. He missed all three of his attempts from downtown, dropping his 3-ball success rate in his last 10 to 22.5%.  The so-called “spark” is gone, GM John Hammond, but that’s nothing that Dallas Mavs fans couldn’t have told you about 35-year-old Stack before you signed him. The Bucks as a team are shooting poorly from 3-point-land and shooting too many of them in these last two losses. It’s too easy to create the obvious nicknames out of Stack’s name to highlight the problem, so let’s just say that Jerry’s not helping.

Why isn’t my blog as good as Ball Don’t Lie? I try guys, I really do. Sometimes not as hard as I could, but check this out: Highlights of Charles Barkley broadcasting the Heat blowout of the Bulls Thursday. I was watching Tennessee-Ohio State that night, sorry to admit.

A lineup change for Memphis on Sunday?: Here’s hoping that Skiles puts Charlie Bell back in the starting lineup while Delfino is recuperating. Although Bell bottled up Wade twice in three days Jan. 30 – Feb. 1 — prompting Brandon Jennings to say that it looked like the Bucks had “a D-Wade stopper” — Charlie started the game on the bench and didn’t play until Delfino went down. Bell had another “stopper” game in Nov. against the Grizzlies’ O.J. Mayo, harrassing last year’s ROY runner-up into a 6-18 shooting night (15 pts) while scoring 19 himself in the Bucks win. The Bucks won in Memphis without Bogut and Luc Mbah a Moute, who stayed in Milwaukee recovering from early season injuries (Michael Redd joined the team on its 4-game road trip after the Memphis game).

Skiles may have signalled some regret about not starting Charlie on Wade, finding it kinda remarkable that his starting defenders couldn’t keep track of one of the game’s best players on the opening tip possession, a reverse layup by Wade. “We had two guys with their backs to the play, and another guy just standing there watching,” Skiles griped in post-game interviews.  

Not having Bogut in the paint to anchor the defense didn’t help matters Friday, but if nothing else, CB would have clung to Wade like a cop short on a ticket quota (hey, it’s better than the first simile I came up with). And he’s a better 3-point shooter than the Bucks who’ve been bricking it up from the Land of Ray and Reggie as if their career shooting percentages say it’s a good idea (note that John Salmons‘ shooting numbers say that it is a good idea for him to be shooting from downtown).

East Playoff positioning: The Heat’s (39-34) win in Milwaukee pulled them within two games of the Bucks (39-32) on the loss side, and the Bobcats (38-34) beat the Wiz in Charlotte to keep pace. While the Bucks have the tie-breaker against the Heat (3-1) and a 2-1 edge on the ‘Cats, they also have the toughest remaining schedule, not a bad thing considering that the prize for finishing in 5th place in the East could be a first round matchup with the Celtics. The first round opponent could well be the Hawks, too, but winning 5th does come with one certainty — it puts the lucky winner in the Cavs’ bracket for the semifinals. Optimal for the Bucks (and for the Cats and Heat) is 6th place, a first round matchup with the Hawks at #3, with the Orlando Magic to look forward to in the semis.

Let’s take a look around the East to see where the still-positioning teams are at, something I used to do regularly in these Bucks Weekends but got away from for one reason or another, probably not good ones.

Boston Celtics: Beat the Kings easily Friday in Boston but the rest of their 5-game homestand looks like a made-for-TV ratings push by the NBA. In fact, that’s what it is: the Spurs, Kevin Durant and the Thunder, the Rockets (who’ll be watching on Final Four night, anyway?) and a Sunday marquee vs. the Lebrons. The Celtics are healthy and playing well, casting aside a lot of premature speculation that they’re finished. Not these guys. The Bucks can’t play much better than they did in beating the C’s in Milwaukee March 9, and it still took some good defense by Bogut (on Paul Pierce) on the last possession to secure the win. The Celtics have become more focused since then.

But it seems many NBA observers, and Bucks fans too, are mistaking the Celtics more lax, health conscious 2010 regular season approach as a sign of weakness. Maybe it is. They know they’re not Dwight Howard’s age anymore. But even without KG, Ray and Rondo and a tired Pierce were a tougher out for the Magic in 2009 than the Cavs.

The C’s have a two game cushion on the Hawks but a schedule tough enough to make things interesting, including two games vs. the Bucks. The Celtics could drop to 4th and the Bucks could be the team that puts them there and sets up a Milwaukee-Boston matchup in Round 1. Although Andrew Bogut plays inspired ball against the Celtics big men, trust me — the Bucks match up much better against the Hawks. 

Atlanta Hawks: Lost in Philly to the Sixers, who apparently don’t realize that they’re sacrificing lottery pings with every win. The Hawks fell to 17-19 on the road, as big a reason as there is for the Bucks, Heat and ‘Cats to prefer the Hawks over the Celtics in Round 1. Reason #2 is the Hawks mediocre, 13th-ranked defense. Number 3 is point guard Mike Bibby, a good-shooting veteran, but no Rajon Rondo, whose rabid intensity gets old quick. The Bucks get away with playing a lot of Luke Ridnour against the Hawks, something Skiles does to keep Lucky Luke’s shooting on the floor. That doesn’t fly against the Celtics, who tend to treat Ridnour like a pinball. That’s right, I’m calling the Hawks soft, apologies to Josh Smith.

Three of the Hawks’ remaining 10 games are as tough as they get: home and home against the Cavs, and a game in Atlanta vs. the Lakers. The Hawks best chance at 3rd is to win on the road in Milwaukee and Charlotte, and hope the Bucks can help them out in two games vs. KG, Ray, Pierce and Rondo. The Hawks are a game behind the Celtics on the loss side and the Celtics own the tie-breaker as Atlantic Division champs.

Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade missed a few games last month but is back with a vengeance, determined to make his teammates better on this playoff run. “I’m just trying to be a team player,” he said in Milwaukee, as if to say his Heat don’t have a chance of winning a playoff series if his young teammates don’t learn to share the burden. Michael Beasley, he’s talking about you becoming a star. And Wade is right — he’s largely responsible for Beasley’s development and success, for now. (It’s a good thing for the rest of the NBA that Kobe Bryant doesn’t share those sentiments about his Lakers.) Looming on the horizon are free agent possibilities that say this could be Wade’s last season in Miami, though right now that’s not nearly as important as center Jermaine O’Neal’s hyperextended right knee (a Bucks-Heat casualty Friday). Wade and Miami have nine games left and the 8th place Raptors are the only opponent on it not bound for the lottery. The Heat just might win out and box the Bucks down to 6th.

Charlotte Bobcats: Larry Brown‘s team is currently 2nd in NBA defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions), and did I mention this is a Larry Brown team? The ‘Cats are in the middle of a five-game homestand filled with lottery opponents until game 5 next Friday vs. the Bucks, when the season tie-breaker is on the line. Shooting guard Stephen Jackson‘s been red hot lately, All-Star Gerald Wallace continues to play like one and has become one of the more efficient scorers and best defenders in the East. Center Tyson Chandler is finally back from injury for the playoff run but Brown continues to start ex-Sixer Theo Ratliff, which is weird like all things related to the Sixers. 

I still can’t believe Brown traded one of his favorite 2001 Sixer defensive pests, Raja Bell to Golden State for Jackson. But then, Bell was hurt and the Cats are seeking their first playoff appearance in franchise history, something Brown and owner Michael Jordan really, really want. And Nellie would have given them Jackson if NBA trade rules allowed it.  If the ‘Cats lose to the Bucks April 2, it’s a two-game setback and will likely banish Charlotte to the 7th spot and a Round 1 matchup with Howard and the Magic.

Toronto Raptors: Hello Cleveland. Goodbye Chris Bosh.

It’s sucking time at Basketbawful

If the streaking-for-the-playoffs Bucks 101-93 loss to the Clippers in LA didn’t bring Bucks fans down to earth, or at least out of the clouds, how they did it might. After Brandon Jennings scored 14 points in the 3rd quarter to pull the Bucks back into the lead after they had fallen into a 16 point hole, the Clips came out in the 4th playing a 2-3 zone.

That’s right, the Bucks were down 16 to Chris Kaman and the Clippers. Bogut!

The Bucks couldn’t solve the zone or shoot the Clippers out of it. Playing without forward Carlos Delfino and with Charlie Bell relegated to the bench after a poor first half (Charlie started at guard and Salmons moved over to Delfino’s forward spot) the Bucks rimmed 6 three-pointers in the first six minutes of the 4th, two by Jerry Stackhouse, two by Luke Ridnour and one apiece by John Salmons and Royal Ivey. Suddenly they were down 86-78 and couldn’t claw back. Unfortunately, this is why some of our guards (Stackhouse, Ridnour) are 30% in their careers from Downtown.

Kaman had 20 pts and 7 boards, all of them excruciating to watch. Did I mention Royal Ivey? I did. Ivey came in for Bell in the 3rd and sparked the Bucks’ comeback with some rabid D (two steals) and a much needed 3-pointer. Nice to have Ivey back … and wouldn’t it have been great to have him around last season?  It sucked that we didn’t …

BASKETBAWFUL‘s “30 reasons this kind of sucks”: Is it that time of year already?  With the Bucks winners of 12 out 13 going into the Clippers game, losing just once since John Salmons joined the club, Andrew Bogut realizing his All-Pro potential, Rookie of the Year talk for Brandon Jennings and Coach of the Year talk for Scott Skiles, is this really the time to think about the bad stuff?

11. The Milwaukee Bucks: They fleeced the Bulls out of John Salmons, immediately went on an 11-1 run and moved from sub-.500 to the fifth seed in the Leastern Confernece. Andrew Bogut took a break from high-fiving himself to become one of the better centers in the league, Brandon Jennings is learning to pass the ball, and the Bucks as a whole are buying into Scott Skiles’ “bust your ass on defense and outhustle the other team” system. It’s all clicking in Milwaukee, which will inevitably lead to unreasonable expectations for the 2010-11 season. Just wait. It’ll be all, “Once they get Michael Redd back, they’ll be even better. This was a season to build on!”

But no, no it won’t be. Look, I’ve seen this before. Hell, the same thing happened last season when the Bulls obtained Salmons and then rocketed into the playoffs. This chemistry spike won’t last. Michael Redd, once he returns from yet another knee surgery, still won’t be a true franchise player. Salmons — assuming the Bucks hold onto him — will revert to form. Bogut, for all his improvement, probably won’t be a franchise player. And the Milwaukee players will eventually tire of Skiles’ taskmaster tendencies. It’ll happen. It’s just a matter of time.

You’re right, Bawful, that did suck, and here’s why:

Brandon Jennings will become a great point guard in the NBA. The Rookie of the Year talk you’re hearing isn’t in Italian (Jennings played in Italy last year), it’s in English. Kid Money really is that good, and will only get better.

Andrew Bogut is a franchise player. He will very likely be an All-Pro this season, and the Bucks have not had an All-Pro center since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the early-mid 1970’s. We’ve had an All-Star center, Bob Lanier one time, and a very good Jack Sikma, but they were nearing the end of their careers on those great 1980’s Bucks teams. Bogut is 25 and hooking left, hooking right … into his prime.

Sure, it’s taken a while for Bogues to realize his All-Pro potential, but now he’s playing with teammates who aren’t fighting it and has a coach that expects franchise-defining play out of him. He’s putting up a strong 16.2 pts, 10.5 rebs per game, and there’s nothing flukish about those numbers, nor anything stopping him from adding a bucket or two to the scoring average.

No, those aren’t Jabbar-like numbers, and they’re not as good as Dwight Howard‘s, but, like Howard, Bogut is defined by his defense. AB is second only to Howard in NBA defensive rating. In other words, the Bucks play the best defense in all of basketball when Bogut is on the court and Dwight Howard is sitting … or eating, exercising, napping or doing anything other than playing in an NBA game.  AB’s right behind Howard in blocked shots, too, at 2.5 per game.

The Scott Skiles defense, the constant pressure D that wears opponents down,  it eventually wore out Skiles’ players at his previous stops in Phoenix and Chicago. The idea that Skiles will wear on his players to the point where they tune him out is nothing we haven’t heard before. Bogut addressed this in a long Wojnarowski article at yahoo NBA this week, affirming that the Bucks are very much in tune with Skiles. In fact, Bogut said there is nothing “wearing” about Skiles at all.

This could change, of course, but Skiles’ is in just his second year with the Bucks. It took him four years to wear out the Baby Bulls. If Skiles’ run in Chicago is any indication, the Bucks should hit their peak with the coach over the next two seasons. We’ve got some time. And Bogut and Jennings, too.

The chemistry spike and Michael Redd, however, is right on the money, Bawful.  It’s not clear what will happen with that situation. Will Redd come back next season? Can he fit in if he does, despite all evidence to the contrary? The Bucks have proven perfectly willing to put their fans through this tired drama over and over again, and I like it a lot less than you don’t. Now that you mention it, I can already hear the wheels squeaking down in St. Francis … “We can move Salmons to forward, start Redd at guard with Jennings and Bogut and The Prince.” … It sucks, it really sucks.

And we don’t know if John Salmons will stick around or opt out this summer. It’s a cause for concern, and I’m not trusting anything anybody says on the matter right now, least of not Bucks GM John Hammond, who’s been known to say one thing, do another. You’re right, Bawful, that does suck.

On the plus side, Hammond has stocked up on draft picks and the Bucks have three of them this summer, barring any further deals. They’ll have the Bulls 1st round pick, a 2nd rounder from the Sixers and their own pick.  You forgot to mention that, Bawful, because draft picks don’t suck at all. They’re good, and with three of them, odds are the Bucks should be able to find some additional help for next season, maybe even a power forward to help us break the Bob Boozer Jinx.

Maybe … But next year at this time, I do expect the Bucks to be a little further down the Eastern conference “things that suck list” — and I don’t think that’s an unreasonable expectation.

Quote of the day:  “What we have here are a bunch of guys with a chip on their shoulders, with something to prove. We’re a bunch of underdog guys, in an underdog city. Milwaukee is the butt of a lot of jokes and on TV and the movies, but we’ve got a bunch of hard-workings and that suits this city, the people here.” — Andrew Bogut to Adrian Wojnarowski in this week’s feature article at Yahoo.com.

Andrew Bogut named East player of the week… The Charlie Bell Factor, too

Andrew Bogut and the Bucks were the buzz of the league last week, and that was before they beat the Utah Jazz  with gut check defensive stands and clutch shooting. The Bucks center even won over the round mound of TNT, Charles Barkley. 

Monday the NBA named Bogut Eastern Conference Player of the Week, March 8-14, over Lebron James, rival center Dwight Howard and Bobcats guard Stephen Jackson.

Bogues led the league in blocked shots for the week (3.7 per game), was second in rebounds (13.7) and scored 19.3 ppg. AB began the week with a monster game in the Bucks win over the Celtics (26 pts, 17 boards and 4 blocks) and continued his strong play in wins over the Jazz and Pacers.

Heck, he didn’t play that well offensively in the latter two wins, though he anchored the tough defensive stands that turned back the Jazz, on a 23-5 tear before losing to the Bucks and Thunder last weekend.  Suffice it to say Bogues has had better weeks during the 2009-10 campaign; it’s been his coming out party as a force in the league to be reckoned with, an All-Pro center.

Nice that the NBA is noticing, in light of the All-Star snub AB  received from the East coaches and Commish David Stern just a few weeks ago. A belated thanks NBA, and we’ll take that 5th seed in the playoffs, too. As for Bogut?

“Thanks [for the fan support] for the player of the week award I was fortunate enough to receive,” he tweeted. “Still a lot of work 2-do.” 

The daily newspaper in Milwaukee has even noticed Bogut’s breakout season. Journal Sentinel sports editor Garry D. Howard left that “Jerry Stackhouse was the spark” thing behind and wrote a laudatory piece on Bogut and Skiles.

   Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade (3) drives to the basket against the Milwaukee Bucks' Charlie Bell, left, in the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010, in Milwaukee.   The CHARLIE BELL FACTOR: It’s real, trust it, know it, never mind the Hollinger ratings (rarely kind to defensive commandos). Bell has been on the bench as Skiles instead plays Stackhouse, leading to talk that Stack sparked the Bucks’ turnaround. Nevermind that Charlie was the shooting guard Skiles relied on most when the Bucks turned things around after their long and losing trip West.

Charlie’s still an X factor determining the Bucks success, as he played heavy minutes in the 12 games between the last game on the 1-5 western trip (at Houston) and the disjointed loss to Houston on the eve of trading deadline (the last game the Bucks played without John Salmons). In the 12 games in between the Houston losses, the Bucks were 8-4, with Charlie averaging 31 minutes per game. 

Yet there are many in the Bucks fan base convinced that Charlie doesn’t make a positive impact on their team’s performance. Let’s go to Charlie Bell’s game logs (what would I do without you basketball-reference?) for a closer look.  

CB’s avg. line in those 12 games:  31 mins, 40% shooting but 42% (20-47) on threes, 13-18 from the line, 2.5 rebs, 1.8 assists, 10.2 ppg. 

That three point shooting % is not a typo — Charlie was shooting 42% from the land of Ray and Reggie during the turnaround stretch that preceded Salmons’ arrival. This includes lousy bad night — a 1-6 outing and a loss in Toronto.  Minus that game, and Charlie was draining nearly half his shots from Downtown (46.3%) for three weeks. It was a shot in the arm the Bucks needed.

Here’s more: 7 steals, and only 8 turnovers in 371 minutes. That’s baallll control, an extremely stabilizing court presence for Brandon Jennings, who has to be allowed to make mistakes (and does) running the point in his rookie season. Michael Redd was finished for the season, the Bucks were working Stackhouse into the lineup — somebody had to help Bogut and Jennings restore order.

And for all the defensive muggings that Charlie lays on opponents, Charlie gets off scot free — only 23 fouls total, or 2 per game.

Some highlights: Bell had 18 in a win against Philly Jan. 27, part of a 5-game stretch in which Charlie averaged 13 ppg.

Bottled up Dwyane Wade, not once but twice in three days. On Jan. 30 Bell hounded Wade into a  7-19 shooting (23 pts) night,  “one of his most frustrating games of the season,” according to the Miami Herald. Jennings called Bell “a D-Wade stopper.” In public.

In the rematch two nights later Feb.1 the Bucks held Wade to 20 pts on 6-20 shooting, as Bell and Luc Mbah a Moute alternated on Wade. “The Bucks might have ‘a D-Wade stopper’ in Charlie Bell,’ as rookie Brandon Jennings said. Or they might not,” went the Herald game report. “But what is certain is that the Bucks have become Heat stoppers.”

First game off the road: At the BC against the Raptors, the Bucks played their starters heavily — Jennings, Bell, Bogut, Delfino and Mbah a Moute — and fed Bogut in a 113-107 win. The starters accounted for 86 of the final tally, Bogut leading the way with 27.   Bell shot 6-9 for 13 pts, dished out 3 assists and didn’t turn the ball over in 36 minutes. It was a statement game to the home fans that things were coming together for the Bucks, that they could win and this was how they were going to do it.

In those first dozen games coming off the western trip, Stackhouse was new, working to fit in. The hope that Redd would be able to fit in was recently lost, Salmons wasn’t here yet. Jennings was mired in a shooting slump. Somebody had to step up and help execute the game plans, maintain Skiles’ constant pressure D on the perimeter. Bogut stepped into his All-Pro stride, all-Rambis defensive whiz Luc Mbah a Moute moved into the starting lineup, Carlos Delfino began shooting better…

… and there was Charlie Bell, the X-factor, hitting 42% from 3-point land, the former point guard taking care of the ball, making plays and supplying in-your-face defense.  The Charlie Bell Factor — the Bucks can depend on it.

Quote of the Day:  “This team is bad.  This team needs a few pieces, and to build a new identity.  Right now there’s nothing.  They’re one of the worst offensive teams, one of the worst teams defensively, they’re a shell of their former selves.”  —  Need4Sheed blog guest writer Boney on the Pistons.

And to think the Bucks split with that shell of the Pistons.

Mad Ants!.. Charlie Bell in Africa… Led Zeppelin Olympics video

NBA.com reported this week that the Bucks have switched Development League teams, losing their affiliation with the Tulsa 66ers when the team was purchased by the Oklahoma City Thunder (yep, that's officially the Supersonics' new name — apparently the Seattle-fleeing cowboys weren't too impressed with the Bob Boozer Jinx proposal, the Rawhides).

The Bucks will now send their 1st and 2nd year players to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where they'll join the invasion of …

The Mad Ants.

"Ants are ants" … "NOT these ants."

The Fort Wayne Mad Ants, also the affiliate of the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers, are promoting last year's D-League star Bucks guard Ramon Sessions with the Bucks switch but Ramon won't be anywhere near that picnic. Rookie small forward Luc Mbah a Moute, the Bucks 2nd round pick, might do some time as a Mad Ant and it's possible 1st round pick Joe Alexander could find himself in the D-League if Mbah a Moute is more NBA-ready at this point (don't scoff — if Alexander doesn't find his game, no reason to keep in Milwaukee). In either case (and it would be one or the other to Fort Wayne but not both) it does appear that being a Mad Ant would be a lot more fun than sitting on the bench in Milwaukee …

Mad Ant mascot The Madam Ants

The NBA's Basketball Without Borders Africa kicked off yesterday (Sept. 3) in Johannesberg, South Africa as NBA players, including Bucks guard Charlie Bell and Racine native Caron Butler of the Washington Wizards, toured the city's Apartheid Museum and visited an AIDS hospice.  Today, the sixth annual Africa camp — a Special Olympics camp — opened and the players rolled out the pill, with former Buck and NBA hall of famer Bob "the Dobber" Lanier, now special assistant to NBA commissioner David Stern, doing the honors.

Here's Charlie doing something that wouldn't be allowed around the lions at the Milwaukee Zoo.

Charlie Bell in Johannesberg

Notice that he's not quite touching the lion cub, though it's apparently well fed and deeply sleeping … but that's still good work, Charlie. How often does anyone get to sneak in on a sleeping lion?

I have a feeling Charlie's role as Michael Redd's back-up will be more expansive this season than last. I foresee trouble ahead between coach Scott Skiles and Redd, who's not one to warm up to the concepts of team play or defense. Charlie should get some opportunities, and with Richard Jefferson and Joe Alexander on hand he won't be called on to play small forward as much as he was last season.

Last season was a forgettable one for Bell, as then-GM Larry Harris neglected Bell's contract negotiations but then surprised him by matching the free agent offer he received from the Miami Heat. Despite not being too happy about being a Buck and mired in a season-long shooting slump, Bell's defense and toughness earned him minutes under coach Larry Krystkowiak and will probably impress Skiles, too. He is a Flintstone, after all. Look for Charlie to have a solid, productive comeback in 2008-09.

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

The British did the world a fine thing by commissioning Led Zeppelin guitarist and maestro Jimmy Page to compose its London 2012 presentation for the Beijing Olympics closing ceremony. The eight-minute piece – which featured Page, singer Leona Lewis and a reworked version of "Whole Lotta Love" – created quite a buzz all over the planet and earned a thumbs up from the toughest of critics — Led Zeppelin fans, who were more than a little anxious about how it would come off. Page called it as "a wonderful, compact statement of why we're all here, which is London '12"; and raved about Lewis, describing the staging as "so her, so classy" and her vocals "dazzling."  

And if there are any lingering doubts about how cool it was to Zeppelin-ize the Olympics, check out this video montage put together by Zep fan Videofleet.  Beijing, basketball and Led Zeppelin!  Brilliant!!!

I'd watch that vid a second time before scrolling down further …

Someone sent me a picture a few days ago

in my email

and

I've been trying hard

to

forget it

ever since.

Would be VP Sarah Palin

On second thought (well, it won't load to the site for some reason) … it seems the basketball gods have conspired with the Led Zeppelin gods to ensure your unfettered enjoyment of those two fine things in life.