Tag Archives: Keyon Dooling

Dooling traded to Boston

The Celtics have taken point guard Keyon Dooling off the Bucks hands (yeah, calling Dooling a point guard is kind of a stretch at this point) clearing a roster spot for rookies Jon Leuer and Darington Hobson, who’s back in the Bucks camp after double hip surgery last season.

How’d the Celtics, who are well over the salary cap and in luxury tax land, pick up Dooling without having to give up a $2 million player?  They used a trade exception.

In addition to Dooling, the C’s will receive a protected second round pick from the Bucks — which amounts to the Bucks having to ask Celtics GM Danny Ainge, “what do we have to give you take him off our hands?”

Dooling was the Bucks biannual exception player, signed last year in GM John Hammond’s summer of disasters and will be paid $2.25 million this season.  The Bucks this summer acquired point guards Beno Udrih and Shaun Livingston, making Dooling expendable.

EDIT: “making Dooling VERY expendable.”

None of the Above: The ultimate Milwaukee Bucks draft blog

Like many NBA bloggers, I’ve been scouring the interweb-o-sphere for any and all minutia relating to this 2011 draft class that, while it began heralded as the most underwhelming draft in years, seems to have a better grip on the attention spans of the NBA obsessed than many recent drafts.

The lack of the super-duper-talented has something to do with that; nothing is true, everything is permitted and no one is wrong.  The influx of top notch talent from outside the United States knocks a lot of mock drafts reeling (except for the mighty international site Draft Express)

In this draft, the big men from Europe are better than the guy from Morehead State who ruined your NCAA bracket and the guy from Oakland who gave your small college sneaker picks credibility on your favorite tournament blog.

In this draft, the guy who ran the table at the NCAA’s earned more suspicion than upside.

In this draft, a No. 10 pick is just as good as a No. 15, and the player who drops to No. 10 just may be the last player a team would want to draft.

In this draft, trust no GM.

That’s why today, upon a visit to the Bucks official site, I wasn’t surprised in the least bit to see three players prominently featured as possible Bucks draft picks:  Shooting guard Alec Burks, U. of Texas forward Tristan Thompson and Kansas forward Marcus Morris.

The usual suspects.  All three vaguely fit Bucks GM John Hammond‘s “best player available” rhetoric.  They’re all from the competitive Big 12, all from big, recognizable state schools, all safe, sound reasonable possibilities familiar to NCAA hoops fans.  And they all shot poorly enough in college to have “upside” as basketball players.

The chances are that the Bucks, although they interviewed all three players at last week’s draft combine, don’t want any of the above.

Because in this draft, it’s better to be sneaky than bold … or good.  Bucks GM John Hammond cannot be described to be “in bold mode” after mucking up last summer with the signings of Drew Gooden and Keyon Dooling, and trading for Corey Maggette.  This was after a season in which he drafted Brandon Jennings and made a deadline trade for John Salmons, moves that solidified the Bucks starting backcourt and earned him NBA “Executive of the Year.”

That was Hammond the good.  Sneaky?  Hammond’s pretty good at sneaky in the draft.  Last season the players the Bucks had worked out were gone by the team’s No. 37 pick in the 2nd round, so Hammond took Kentucky shooting guard Jodie Meeks, a player he knew the Philadelphia 76ers were interested in.  Mid-season, he traded Meeks to Philly for … well, for nothing basically, but that’s another blog and it’s important to remember that being sneaky is all about being sneaky, not necessarily about being effective.

So what’s to gain for the Bucks in advertising interest in three players they may not necessarily want?   To trade them or the pick, of course, which is precisely what  Hammond should do.  It’s in the Bucks best interest to swap one or both of their picks (Nos. 10 and 40), plus a roster mistake (Dooling, Gooden) for the rights to draft a bit lower in the 1st round.

Because in the 2011 NBA draft, there’s no such thing as good or bad.  And sneaky, this time, is more akin to shrewd.

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Despite a lot of negative feelings about the “no competitive matchups” format of the combine, there’s plenty of fodder flying around.

***Turkish 7-footer Enes Kanter, the projected top eight pick who hasn’t played in a year (NCAA ban prevented him from playing at Kentucky) wasn’t as impressive to some as Russian-by-way-of-USC center Nikola Vucevic, the biggest player at the combine (7-0, 260, with a 7-5 wingspan.  Kanter skipped out on scheduled interviews with the Bucks (wonder what Ilyasova might’ve told him?), Jazz and Raptors, apparently part of an effort to ensure that the Wizards draft him.  Does up-and-coming center Javale McGee, who made more defensive plays per game last season than anybody not named Dwight Howard or Andrew Bogut, know about Kanter’s plans?

***Jonas Valanciunas is still considered the best big man on the board, according to Euro-scouts.  The 6-11 Lithuanian has a 7-6 wing span and led Euroleague play in rebounds per minute.  Valanciunas ain’t cheap, though.  The team that drafts him will have to immediately buy him out of his contract with Belarus Rivas.

*** Remember Providence’s Marshon Brooks dropping 52 on Notre Dame this season and 43 on Georgetown?  He’s 6-4.5 with a 7-1 wingspan, and, unlike Alec Burks, doesn’t seem to have problems sticking a long range jumper …

Trading down and selecting Brooks or Klay Thompson or centers Vucevic or Keith Benson (Oakland) might be the Bucks best bet to improve, if they can move a Gooden and/or Dooling in the process.

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.

Chemistry problem: 2010 Bucks and 2001 Clippers are a strange mix

What did Corey Maggette, Keyon Dooling, Earl Boykins and Brian Skinner have in common entering the NBA’s 2010 offseason?

They were all teammates on the 2000-01 Los Angeles Clippers, the last team that Bucks GM John Hammond coached in the NBA before taking a front office job in Detroit as Joe Dumars’ basketball operations VP.

Other than that, not much except a lot minutes on losing teams until, one-by-one last summer, Hammond brought them to Milwaukee to play for the Bucks.

Coincidence?  It doesn’t seem possible.  Maggette in 2010 was a player the Golden State Warriors couldn’t use and a 3-year, $31 million salary cap burden they didn’t want to bear through June 2013.  The Bucks proposed trade of Dan Gadzuric’s 2011 expiring contract and Charlie Bell’s $4 million per year salary was well received in Oakland, to say the least.  Done deal, thank you very much Mr. Hammond.

Dooling was a free agent whom the Bucks targeted to back up Brandon Jennings after Hammond decided his available sub-luxury tax room was better spent on Drew Gooden than on Luke Ridnour, who signed a four year, $16 million deal with the Timberwolves.

Boykins was also a free agent pickup, fan friendly bench filler behind Jennings and Dooling.

Skinner was the last 2001 Clipper added, prior to training camp.  He didn’t make the Bucks roster but early season injuries made Skinner the obvious big man roster-filler-who-had-been-in-training-camp.

The Maggette trade opened a lot of questions.  “The Machette” isn’t a player who comes to mind when one is looking to improve an NBA “good chemistry” team with the in-your-face defensive mentality of the Bucks.  He doesn’t exude “Scott Skiles player” at all — quite the opposite.  Offensively, Maggette has a well-earned reputation for getting his 20 points, damn the outcome of the game or his wide open teammates.  One of his nicknames is “Bad Porn.” Defensively, well, nobody’s ever accused Corey Maggette of being all that interested in defense.

Perhaps Hammond held a different view, having coached Maggette in Maggette’s second NBA season.  He also cleared $1.7 million in payroll making the deal with the Warriors (which he quickly spent).

Hammond and Maggette both arrived in L.A. in the 2000 offeseason.  Maggette was acquired — along with rookie Dooling — in a trade with Orlando for draft picks.  Hammond arrived a couple of months later with new Clipper head coach Alvin Gentry, who the Pistons had fired during the 2000 season.  Hammond and Gentry are part of a Larry Brown coaching tree that began in the late 1980s and early 1990’s in San Antonio and L.A., and extended to the Pistons during the Grant Hill era.

There they were, ten years ago, assembled in Los Angeles.  Maggette and Dooling, Skinner and Boykins, part of the Clippers kiddie corps; Hammond part of the coaching staff from Detroit assigned to develop the kiddie corps into an NBA team. The Clippers won 16 more games that year than they did the previous year.  Of course, the Clippers won only 15 games in 1999-2000 but improvement is improvement.  Hammond would stay only for the first year before returning to Detroit in 2001 to work for Dumars.

The Maggette trade, in and of itself, might have stood on its own despite the questionable judgement of integrating Maggette with a Skiles team.  But when Ridnour agreed to a 4-year, $16 million contract with the T-Wolves and the Bucks responded by offering their Bi-Annual Exception to Dooling only days later, the 2001 Clipper connection came into view.

July 13 – 21 was a strange week.  Ridnour, a Skiles favorite whose scoring off the bench had been key for the Bucks in 2010, had figured in the Bucks 2011 plans until Hammond made others.  Ridnour had solicited the offer from the T-Wolves and agreed to it July 13, but didn’t sign it right away.  The Bucks actually signed Dooling (and made a trade with Sacramento for forward Jon Brockman) before Ridnour finalized his T-Wolves contract.

This brought Maggette and Dooling — part of a Magic-to-the-Clippers trade ten years earlier, Clippers teammates from 2000-04 — together again in Milwaukee.  In the very least, their old assistant coach had to find it amusing.

Combine this with the availability of free agents Boykins and Skinner and it was likely too much to resist — a sign from the Clipper gods!   The chances that mere coincidence brought four 2001 Clippers to the 2010 Bucks all in one summer seems remote. Very remote.

It wouldn’t matter — and could have been fodder for a feel good 2001 Clippers reunion story — if things were panning out for the Bucks.  But the Bucks are a disappointing 12 wins, 18 losses, and, due to injuries, have had to rely on Hammond’s new acquisitions far more than planned.  Chemistry questions have arisen, with Maggette the focus after grading his Milwaukee experience an “F,” following a tough loss to the Bulls on Tuesday.

“Fear the Deer?” NBA.com writer Steve Aschburner asked last week after the Bucks lost to the Bulls in Chicago.  “Right now, Bucks the ones ducking for cover.”

Over the Christmas break, Bucks center Andrew Bogut described the current situation, or the mental saga that is  learning to play for Skiles:

“No disrespect to guys from other teams but when guys first come here and think, ‘Oh this is a tough system. Am I going to buy into it fully?’  And then they realize that our coaches keep it professional, and they make you keep the (same) system every day. Once you realize they’re not changing the system for anybody, guys start to buy in because you have no choice. … So it usually comes to that at this time of the season. Guys kind of realize that nothing is changing.  This is what wins us games. It’s a proven winner, so if we keep doing it, we’ll win games.”

The problem is that too many of the players who know the Skiles system is “a proven winner” just don’t seem to be around this season.  In addition to losing Ridnour, the Bucks saw veteran center Kurt Thomas escape to the Bulls in free agency.  The Bucks have missed them both this season.  Badly.

Starting small forward Carlos Delfino‘s  been out since early November with concussive symptoms and may not return this season.  Jennings will be out at least three more weeks with a broken hand.  Right now there are just as many 2001 L.A. Clippers on the Bucks bench as there are 2010 Bucks.

Sentimentality is sometimes nice in professional sports, a relief from the “it’s a business” aspects of it all.  But considering the good chemistry the 2010 Bucks finally found on their 30-13 finish and 7-game playoff battle with Atlanta, the sentimentality of a 2001 Clippers assistant named John Hammond — or the whims of the Clippers gods — may have gotten the better of Hammond’s current team.

Note: There is no evidence yet that forward Drew Gooden — also signed as a free agent last summer — had any previous connection to the 2001 Clippers, other than finishing the 2010 season as a Clipper.  Gooden in 2001 was a 19-year-old sophomore at U. of Kansas.

West Coast tests continue for Keyon Dooling and the Bucks

The Bucks first game without injured point guard Brandon Jennings was nothing short of an unmitigated disaster, as the Bucks not only missed Jennings badly but also seemed to forget that they’ve got an All-Star center on their team.  Among those forgetting about Andrew Bogut was Andrew Bogut.  Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, playing like an All-Star Center himself these days, showed his appreciation by dominating the Bucks like no other big man has been able to in recent memory.  29 pts, 19 rebs for Aldridge — Blazers won going away, 106-80.

Bogut scored just 5 points and had 5 rebs in 25 minutes, failed to record a block and shot 2-of-7 from the floor.  The highlight of the night for Bogut was a trip to the free throw line, where he made one out of two and bettered his season average to 46.2 %.

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Despite not showing up in Portland, Bogut’s averaging 17.9 pts   12.3 rebs and 3.1 blocks per game since Dec. 4 — his first game back after missing five with back spasms.

Those are All-Star numbers (for eight games) and there’s still room for improvement.  Against Utah Saturday, AB’s four turnovers hurt, marring an otherwise strong game in which he outplayed Al Jefferson.  And he’s still struggling to generate efficient offense.  He’s shooting just over 50% from the floor — not so hot for a center, much less an All-Star center — and because he’s made just 23-of-50 free throws in this stretch, his true shooting % is only 49.7%.

Bogut’s scoring efficiency has to come up if the Bucks have any hope of hanging on in the East standings with Jennings sidelined.  It had to come up even when Jennings was healthy.  Dwight Howard‘s a lousy FT shooter too, but he’s managed 58% true shooting so far this season.

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The big positive from the Portland game as the Bucks travel down the West Coast to play the Lakers in L.A. is that the Bucks don’t have to go back to Portland until next season.  History has shown that a Bucks team — even a contending Bucks team — can’t be judged by its performance in Portland.  The last time the Bucks beat the Trailblazers in the Rose Garden was on Jan. 21, 2007 in the Larry Krystkowiak-coached season.  Krystkowiak’s Bucks ended up in the lottery, Larry lost his job and the Skiles era began.

The Bucks shouldn’t be judged by the final score of the Lakers game tonight either — regardless of the outcome.  They’re not supposed to compete against the Lakers with Keyon Dooling at point guard and a roster that has played a single game without Brandon Jennings.

Fact: Until the Portland game Monday, Bogut (36 games) and Luc Mbah a Moute (82) were the only Bucks to play for Scott Skiles without Jennings as their starting point guard.  Mbah a Moute, having played in every game his rookie season (2008-09) is the Games-Played-for-Skiles leader, heretofore known throughout Bucksland as GPS.

While the Blazers and Lakers might as well be pre-season test runs for Dooling, the Bucks are supposed to be able to compete under almost any circumstances with the Sacramento Kings, which makes a win against the Kings on Thursday a swell consolation prize on the Bucks trip West.   Win it and the Bucks go home 11-17 for Christmas, then get ready for a back-to-back showdowns against the Hawks and the Bulls.   May the unabashed judgement of this Bucks team begin then.

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The Ersan Factor: The Bucks record when Ersan Ilyasova plays less than half the game (24 mins) fell in Portland to 4-10.*

*Rather long note:  One of the four wins was in Dallas, where Ersan played 23:06.  When Bogut and Ilyasova replaced Jon Brockman and Drew Gooden with 6:31 to play, the Bucks went on their game-winning 14-0 run.  Ilyasova contributed a 3-pointer and a highlight assist to Bogut during the run, and added a layin off a Bogut pass to make it a 16-2 run and a 99-90 Bucks lead with 3 minutes left.

Ilyasova played 22:51 in the Bucks loss to the Heat at the Bradley Center Dec. 6.  Would an extra 1:10 of playing time for Ilyasova made the difference in the game?  Maybe.  Foul trouble cut his playing time in the first half as the Heat built a 14-point lead.  Skiles held off putting him back into the game until the 1:45 mark of the 3rd with the Bucks down 10.  He played the next 11:15 of the game as the Bucks made a run at the Heat but couldn’t get it closer than 3 points — on an Ilyasova jumper.  Skiles yanked him with 2:30 left after he missed a three, grabbed two offensive rebounds and missed a jumper.  Maybe he ran out of gas.  Maybe better substitution by Skiles might have made this game a nail-biter.  In any case, the Heat game belongs in “missing Ersan Factor” loss column if for no other reason than to statistically balance out the 23-min Dallas game, which really belongs in the “Ersan Factor” win column.

The Bucks’ left feet: Brandon Jennings out — can Keyon Dooling deliver?

First it was Corey Maggette‘s left ankle.  Then it was plantar fasciitis in Drew Gooden‘s left foot.  Now it’s a left foot that really matters.  Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, who’s never missed a regular season or playoff game in his young career, will miss 4 to 6 weeks with a bone fracture in his left foot.

The timing couldn’t be worse.  The Bucks had struggled with chemistry and new personnel, injuries and All-Pro center Andrew Bogut‘s overall health since the start of the season.  After a miserable 5-and-10 start, they had begun to pull the car out of the ditch, powered by Bogut’s return Dec. 4 from a two-week bout with back spasms.  Prior to Bogut’s return, the Bucks had lost five out six games.  Since then, they’ve won four of seven against one of the toughest schedules in the league.

Jennings’ backups are Keyon Dooling, who — until recently — was turnover prone, struggling with his jump shot and generally hurting the team (seven negative game scores don’t lie); and diminutive Earl Boykins, electrifying, good-shooting but too, too short to guard anybody in the NBA.

It’s been said before and there’s no more opportune time than now to say it again:  Bucks GM John Hammond‘s decisions to let quality point guards Ramon Sessions (2009 to the T-Wolves), Luke Ridnour (2010 to the T-Wolves) and, yes, even the unsung Royal Ivey (201o to the Thunder) slip away in free agency stick out now as a glaring miscalculations.  (If the trend holds true, Ivey will be back, one way or another).  No, those decisions didn’t seem so important as long as Jennings was the Bucks iron man — but Hammond, all along, was tempting the NBA fates and winning with Jennings, until now.

Can the Bucks expect help from their guards and forwards?  It’s not as simple as it was in Nellie’s day, when not having an effective point guard meant that the Bucks could keep Junior Bridgeman, Marques Johnson, Sidney Moncrief and Brian Winters on the court as much as possible, and give Paul Pressey something to do off the bench.  “The point forward” was an invention of obvious necessity and made the 1983 Bucks more potent offensively than they already were.  The current Bucks are a different story, and Scott Skiles’ options are limited.

If there’s a Pressey on this team, he’s 6-8 Luc Richard Mbah a Moute — perhaps even better than Pressey was, defensively, and that’s saying a lot (Pressey was a multiple time All-NBA defender).  Skiles has dispatched Mbah a Moute to defend point guards in the past guard — Chris Paul, to name one.  Luc has the smarts and a decent enough handle to play the point, and he’s played in more games for Skiles than any current Buck.  But much of his offensive game remains in development.

Other forward-assisting candidates are out with injuries:  Carlos Delfino, who played some point last season, is out with a concussion; Maggette is still struggling with his own left foot, along with other issues, such as remembering that it’s sometimes a good idea to pass the ball to one’s teammates when three defenders collapse on a drive to the hoop.  Nothing new with Maggette there, and he’s not a good option.

3rd-year forward-guard Chris Douglas-Roberts may be the most likely candidate to run some point for Skiles.  A disciple of the Calipari dribble-drive, CD-R puts a lot of pressure on defenses by taking it to the hoop and can easily create movement and space off the dribble — enough to run an offense.  He’s been the Bucks most effective shooter in the Bucks last ten games (after missing the first 15 with an eye injury).  At forward, CD-R is an eager defender, often guarding players much bigger and longer than he is, but he’s better suited for guard duty.  He’s simply not strong enough on the glass to go up against many small forward in the NBA — 2.8 rebounds in 24 mins are a guard’s haul.  And with John Salmons ensconced as the Bucks shooting guard and Mbah a Moute the likely small forward for now, it only makes sense to elect CD-R as a utility point guard, if for no other reason than to extend his playing time.

For the most part, however, it’s incumbent on Keyon Dooling to step up.  In New Jersey, Dooling had become something of a 3-point bomber off the bench, only to find himself throwing anvils at the rim in Milwaukee.  It cost the Bucks a couple of games early on in the season, but in the last seven (perhaps not coincidentally, the seven games since Bogut returned from his lower back problems) Dooling has been sharp.  He’s shooting better and he’s not turning the ball over  — just 2 turnovers in the last seven games, remarkable in almost 20 mins per game.

Dooling’s defense has been fairly solid, if not very good, which became noticeable in the five-game stretch that Bogut missed.   Skiles challenged his players in those games, and Dooling was one Buck who responded.  He’s quick enough to stay in front of most point guards and his long wingspan is havoc-causing in opponent passing lanes.  But he’ll be replacing Jennings, one of the best point guard defenders in the NBA — there’s really no replacing Jennings’ dogged D or his determination.

Dooling will need help — lots of it — from all corners.  At times, he’s been a better distributor than Jennings, who’s still learning when to pick his “me-first” spots.  But if Salmons, for example, stays in his scoring funk, good ball distribution only ends with the ball finding the rim.  If Bogut can’t get his true shooting percentage up into the mid-50’s range or higher, the Bucks will continue to play most games in a five-point hole.  If coach Skiles can’t get the Drew Gooden-Ersan Ilyasova situation at power forward figured out once and for all, the Bucks will continue to wonder who they are.

Andrew Bogut might have said it best when asked what it’ll take for the Bucks to make-do while Jennings recuperates:

“It’s a matter of getting guys to play hard in their minutes, knowing they’re going to play and try to earn minutes for when Brandon is back and healthy.  Maybe we’ll find a couple of shining lights.”

Maybe Dooling is “a shining light.”  Maybe it’s CD-R who will pick up the scoring slack.  Maybe Salmons finds his groove and breaks out of his season-long slump.  More minutes for Mbah a Moute has usually meant that the Bucks are more competitive — they’ll soon find out if that still holds true.  Players “knowing they’re going to play” was a key phrase in Bogut’s comments.  He may have been referring to the sparse 12 minutes Mbah a Moute got against Utah.  He may have been referring to the 17 minutes Ilyasova played.  He may have been referring to Boykins, who’s hardly played all season.  Whatever Bogut was implying, the injuries have left Skiles with little choice but to play the nine or 10 guys available to him now.  Given Skiles’ sometimes maddening quick hooks– regardless of the matchups on the floor — and unexpected DNPs, less may turn out to be more for the Bucks.

And again, much as it was last season when Michael Redd’s knee gave out, this is another chance for the Bucks — and the rest of the NBA — to rediscover how good the Bucks leader, Andrew Bogut, really is.

Can the Bucks get a do-over?

John Salmons looked like he needed another week (or two) of pre-season.  Same for Corey Maggette, who seemed confused on defense (“Defense? What’s that coach?)  The spacing and ball movement on offense was reminiscent of some of the worst days of the Michael Redd-Terry Stotts period.

The Bucks, still a work in progress, ugly and obvious, after dropping Wednesday’s opener 95-91 in New Orleans, would do well to pick up a win in Minnesota tonight and reset the season at home against the Bobcats Saturday.

GM John Hammond’s newcomers — Drew Gooden, Maggette and Keyon Dooling — have some work to do, and they would be wise to get to it ASAP.  Coach Scott Skiles‘ patience won’t last much longer.  Defensive ace Luc Mbah a Moute and bruising forward Jon Brockman are set to return in Minnesota, and Ersan Ilyasova will not be relegated to 15 minutes of playing time often — and probably not for some time.

Maggette does warrant a pass due to his lack of a preseason, and Gooden was productive in his minutes (15 pts, 11 rebs).  But Gooden — who did have a full preseason — failed time and time again to get a hand in David Wells‘ face.  That’s the kind of defense that gets on Skile’s nerves and won’t be tolerated on a Skiles team.  Just ask Michael Redd.

The Bucks core — plus Salmons — was a winner.  It’s too early to say that GM Hammond did too much this off-season, too early to be aggravated that Hammond and the Bucks are marketing Maggette and Gooden to Bucks fans as part of a winning formula.  Yes, it’s early … but no — the Bucks team that played in New Orleans Wednesday was no winner.

Bright spots

Carlos Delfino (19 pts) – never looked better.  Good spacing, solid D, ball movement, great teamwork with Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings.  The Bucks core knows what it’s doing, nevermind the newcomers.

Andrew Bogut:  The free throw line is only 15 feet away and 50 percent from the floor isn’t quite good enough, big man.  The Bucks will need Bogut to be more efficient offensively. But in every other regard, it was great to see the Bucks center back on the court.  He was in control of the paint all night (15 boards), and Emeka Okafor (0 points) didn’t get free for a single shot the entire game.

Brandon Jennings: Watching Jennings play D — often successfully — against Chris Paul was more fun than watching him run the Bucks tired-looking offense. It’s too bad the Hornets are in the West and BJ gets only one more crack at CP3 (next Saturday). That the Bucks were even in the game was a credit to Jennings, who found Delfino’s hot hand time and time again in the 4th quarter.  If BJ’s sophomore season is a campaign to prove to the world that he’s the real deal, he’s off to a pretty good start.

Waiting for those pre-season browwnz to clear

Years ago, in what seems now like another lifetime, I was sitting on the steps of my neighbors porch on Thalia Street in New Orleans, eating a plateful of beans and rice, when my neighbor let out a sigh and looked wistfully at some point of nowhere and away, down toward St. Charles. “What’s the matter,” I asked.

“Oh, I don’t know … nothin’ really,” she said, and maybe sighed again (she probably did but, remember, this was so long ago that it may never have happened at all). “I just got a case of the browns.”

I got the feeling she wasn’t talking about the beans and rice. “The browns? What are those?”

“They’re kinda like the blues but, no, not so bad as the blues. They’re, you know, just … the browwnz.”

I haven’t found since better words to describe what the browns are than those: “just … the browwnz.”  The browwnz can be difficult to pin down, I do know that. And I’ve also come to know when I’ve got ’em.

I’ve got em now, thanks to an NBA pre-season that has seemed without end, the Bucks not healthy enough to field their starting roster even once.  The Bucks aren’t healthy yet, 27 hours before their season opener in the very place where the browwnz were identified — New Orleans.  And, no, at last check of the clock, the NBA pre-season hasn’t ended.

The Celtics and Heat tip the 2010-11 season off tonight at 6:35 pm, give or take a minute or two (yes, I’m counting the minutes).  I’m expecting Lebron to find KG, Rondo, Ray and #34 just as smart and clutch-and-grab aggressive as they were in dominating last season’s eastern conference playoffs.  For now, KG is healthy. NBA fans should know by now, after three seasons in Boston, that (sorry D-Wade and Bosh, and Dwight) a healthy KG is the most valuable asset in the conference.

It’s also worth noting that the Celtics have Lebron’s second most valuable Cavs asset, Delonte West, coming off the bench behind Ray Allen (Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mr. Cav, being Lebron’s most valuable teammate in Cleveland). The addition of West (loaded guns aside) to play with Ray, Rajon Rondo and Nate “the gnat” Robinson gives the Celtics, hands down, the best guard rotation on the planet.  Inside, KG, Jermaine O’Neal and Shaq are more than Bosh and Big Z (and Anthony) can handle, whether the Heat jell or not.   If this game is an early season sneak preview of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, no complaints here, unless the Bucks fail to give one of these top two in the East some playoff hell.

The Bucks and Hornets get going at 7:05 pm Wednesday. Brandon Jennings vs. Chris Paul, CP3 finally healthy after missing half of last season … that’s plenty of fun to watch in a season opener, and Andrew Bogut seems to be doing fine, though he’s not yet in 35-minute playing shape.   John Salmons will play — but beyond that, most everything else to do with the Bucks is open to question, given that the rotation hasn’t played together in a game.  Hence, the browwnz, and a preseason that has seemed without end.

And I know enough about the browwnz to realize that trying to answer those many Bucks questions now is hubris.

We don’t know how or whether Skiles will be able to manage his wing rotation with Fish, Carlos Delfino, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Corey Maggette all vying for PT. (This just in: Chris Douglas-Roberts is reporting on his twitter that he had eye surgery today and can’t play ball for a month.)

We don’t know whether Maggette can play tough enough D to warrant solid PT.  We don’t know whether Drew Gooden, Luc Mbah a Moute (hobbled by an ankle sprain) or Ersan Ilyasova will start at power forward. We don’t whether or not Keyon Dooling will be as effective as Luke Ridnour was backing up Jennings. We’ll have to wait and see.

We do know that this is the first season in ten years that the Bucks will go into the season without Michael Redd in a Bucks uniform.  Redd’s nowhere to be found in Bucks camp, and likely will not join his team on the bench in street clothes while GM John Hammond searches for a deal to unload Redd and his ridiculously absurd $18.3 million contract.

And knowing this with the tip-off of the Bucks season 27 hours away, I can feel those NBA pre-season browwnz beginning to clear away.