Tag Archives: Kirk Hinrich

Hawks grounded: They’ve “tuned out” coach Larry Drew, according to Atlanta sports columnist

And we in Bucksland think our team has issues …

The Atlanta Hawks’ self-imposed problems, the ones on display last April in the playoffs against the Bogut-less Bucks — the Hawks’ stand-around style of play, the schizophrenic focus, the haphazard, switch-heavy defense, the lack of size — have not gone away.

As the Hawks basically stood pat this summer (signing free agent Josh Powell?  Really?) while firing coach Mike Woodson and hiring Woodson assistant Larry Drew, those problems festered as the Hawks played the softest schedule in the East based on opponent strength.  Now they’re growing as the Hawks’ final 22 games include matchup after matchup against the league’s elite.

The Bulls blew out the Hawks in Atlanta Tuesday night, 114-81. Afterward, Atlanta Journal  Constitution sports columnist Mark Bradley declared it official:  The 40-31 Hawks, still in possession of the #5 playoff seed in the East, the Sixers on their heels, have “tuned out” coach Drew, probably at about the 60-game mark. (Read Bradley article HERE.)

They’ve won 40 games because they still have talent; they’ve lost 15 home games because they don’t care enough to apply that talent when application requires effort. Stop shooting their beloved jump shots? Start guarding somebody? Why bother?

Say it again: Fifteen home losses for a team that boasts two All-Stars, a third player of All-Star caliber and the league’s reigning sixth man of the year. Fifteen home losses, nine of them by double figures. The NBA’s worst team shouldn’t be getting hammered like this at home on such a regular basis, let alone one that has been to the playoffs three years running and will get there again this spring.

The Bulls blowout was reminiscent of the Bucks destruction of Atlanta back in November.  Challenge the Hawks, throw a sticky, physical defense in their grills, and they’re liable to quit on the game by halftime.

Since that game, of course, the 28-41 Bucks have had plenty of troubles of their own, but have played well enough in the last 10 games (6-4 with the Sacramento Kings on tap at the BC tonight) to satisfy that they haven’t tuned Scott Skiles out.  The ever short-handed Bucks, after pushing the Hawks to seven last April, have split four games with Atlanta this season.

The Bucks know the Hawks well, and picking apart Bradley’s basic description of the Hawks is old hat here at the Jinx:  Did the Hawks deserve two all-stars this season?  Is Josh Smith’s game really “All-Star caliber?”   Isn’t the Joe Johnson-centric offense rather elementary to guard half of the time?   Should anyone really be surprised that the Bulls, Heat and Lakers are thumping the Hawks?

But it’s more fun when Hawks fans are doing the picking apart.

The comments beneath the story from Atlanta readers range from,  “Why does Josh Smith’s shot selection stink?” … to “our All-Star is playing in New Orleans or New Jersey.”  Woe be the Hawks brass who passed on point guards Chris Paul and Deron Williams in the 2005 draft and selected with the #2 pick forward Marvin Williams, just turned 19 years old and with all of one season at North Carolina on his resume.

It’s still a bit shocking that the Bucks, with the #1 overall pick, actually considered taking Williams over Bogut, even for a minute.

Some of the most entertaining comments (from a Bucks perspective) are from the columnist, Bradley.  (Who does that under sports blogs at daily newspapers?   I’m convinced NBA fans in other cities have more fun than Bucks fans.)  Here’s Bradley’s most telling take:

Here’s the problem: Can’t trade Joe because he makes too much; can’t trade Horford because he’s the heart of the team; can’t trade Jamal because he’s going to be a free agent; can’t trade Marvin because who’d want him?

By process of elimination, the only real candidate for a trade is Josh Smith, and he’s one of the most talented players in the league.

Here was the take tonight from TNT’s Chris Webber on “Inside the NBA”:

The Hawks problems “started in training camp” with the same roster that, last season was “small and bad,” Webber said.  Coach Drew bears some responsibility for the bad part, but the roster problems were there when he took the job …  “We’ve been saying it since last year [in the playoffs] … They don’t have a big man.”

Suffice it to say that the Hawks are in store for a quick exit from the playoffs, probably at the hands of the Magic or the Heat, and will hope to detonate their core this summer and rebuild around Horford.   They might even get a big man worth playing and stop listing Horford as a center on the All-Star ballot.   Bogut and the Bulls’ Joakim Noah would approve.

And with the Hawks likely desperate for change this off-season, it’s one more reason for Bucks GM John Hammond to exercise more patience with their still-developing young core than they did last summer.

Lockout possibilities aside, does either team really have other realistic choices?

(I’ve always thought the Hawks blew it in the summer of 2009 when they didn’t really get in on the bidding for unrestricted FA Andre Miller, took a pass on Ramon Sessions and resigned Mike Bibby, who translated via trade into Kirk Hinrich , no savior, no.  How good would Sessions’ speed and penetration-first game look on the Hawks?  Better than what they look like now.

But they’re still missing a big man in a league where the good ones aren’t exactly available for trades, even if the bait is Josh Smith.  Sam Dalembert, anyone?  Tyson Chandler?  Nazr Mohammed?  Nenad Krstic?  Kurt Thomas?  Joel Przybilla?  Those are the top unrestricted free agent centers this summer, the brighter side of Kwame Brown and Erick Dampier, et. al.  Now that I’m thinking about it, the Bucks could use a center, too, to back up Bogut.)

How good is Andrew Bogut? Bucks center is only entering his prime

He’s only 25 years old, and has improved with every season of his five-year NBA career, to the point where he was an obvious All-Pro selection and easy choice on the NBA All-Defensive team. In “the land of the giants” there are two: Dwight Howard and Andrew Bogut.  A broken hand only changes this fact of NBA life for the time beng as the Bucks center plays into his prime.  Yet in reading the many great tributes to Bogut’s 2010 season written since his season-ending injuries Saturday, you’d think AB had been permanently crippled, or worse.

How good has Andrew Bogut become? Prior to the 2009-10 season, I predicted the Bucks would win 33 or 34 games, while struggling with their rookie point guard and dealing with the health and uncoachability of Michael Redd. I figured they would finish anywhere from 10th-12th in the East, better than a lot of NBA junkies had them if only because coach Scott Skiles would demand the kind of intensity and defensive commitment that would keep them in a lot of games. Playoffs? Forget it. 

There were however, two big IFs that could (and would) put the Bucks in playoff contention: IF Brandon Jennings could exceed expectations and IF Bogut returned from his career-threatening lower back injury and established himself as an All-Star center. Jennings delivered and helped get the Bucks off to a good start. But by mid-January it still hadn’t quite happened for Bogut. Almost, but not every night. For many Bucks fans and even Bogut’s coach, Scott Skiles, the tendency was to focus on the tough nights: a couple of bad games vs. Big Ben Wallace, a rough night against Brendan Haywood and the Wiz, foul trouble against the monsters of Cleveland, the usual struggles vs. Sam Dalembert (why didn’t AB make the All-Star team? Four coach votes in the East right there weren’t going his way and the Bucks hadn’t played the Heat or Hawks yet; and I’m pretty sure Larry Brown voted for Al Horford). Then there were six games missed in late November with a strained/bruised left leg that raised questions about whether the Bucks would ever get into a rhythm playing with their center.

By January, Bogut finally got healthy and the big IF happened. More than anything, it happened on defense as Bogut became active in the paint night in night out. Whereas before he was tentative on the help, Bogut was rising up to challenge every shot that came through the paint. The Skiles defense is simple: 1) Apply constant pressure on the ball; 2) Show help but don’t leave your man – no switching on picks or double teams; 3) Let no shot go unchallenged.  This funnels drives to the bucket but doesn’t create a great deal of rotating help for a center leaving his man to go for a block. Bogut had to learn how to play like the help didn’t matter, to challenge above the rim instead of positioning to take charges (a habit he’s had to break), and he did.

Bogut blocked 40 shots in JanuaryMILWAUKEE - APRIL 08: Andrew Bogut #6 of the Milwaukee Bucks wears a mask over a broken nose suffered earlier in the season during a game against the Boston Celtics on April 8, 2008 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Celtics defeated the Bucks 107-104 in overtime. From Getty Images., 39 in February and in March 44 (in 14 games for a league-leading avg. of 3.14 bpg). Suddenly he appeared in the Top 5 of the NBA defensive ratings and stayed there. By mid-March he had separated from the pack behind Howard, and then there were two. There was Dwight all alone at the top, his Magic giving up 95.0 pts per 100 possessions when he’s in the game; and there was Bogut and the Bucks at #2, allowing 97.9 pts per 100, the only other player/team under 99 or 98. This was mirrored on the blocked shots leader board (Howard 2.8 bpg, Bogut 2.5, Haywood a distant 3rd with 2.1).

Bogut’s Bucks are the best defense in the league … when Dwight Howard is eating, resting, sleeping, playing X-box with D-Wade or Chuck, messing with his i-phone, doing anything other than stepping on an NBA court for the Magic. The stats are there: Add the steals and charges to the equation and Bogut’s been averaging more than 4+ denials per game since January. But more importantly, Bogut — like Howard — is the literal, psychological and strategic center of everything his team does defensively. They’re real NBA centers in the throwback meaning of the position; they’ve become a rare breed.

The rebounding was always there (10.2 rpg, 10th in the NBA, top 10 in rebounding percentage). The offense is improving all the time. The left-handed jump hook is softer than the right but he shoots both with ease. He’s facing up opposing centers and taking them to the hoop this season. He’s not afraid to take a 12-foot jump shot anymore (in the 2008 Olympics he was hitting 3-pointers for the Aussies, so look for his face-up shooting to become more of a weapon in seasons-to-come).

AB has always been one of the best passing big men in the NBA, with Tim Duncan being the only other center I can think of who’s good for the occasional behind-the-back bounce pass to a cutting teammate. Even the free throws are finding the bottom of the net. After a bad start at the line, Bogut has made 66% (108-158) in the new year, signs that he’s outgrowing the Dwight-Shaq liability at the line. No, his 15.9 pts per game doesn’t scream All-Pro and he’s not a particularly efficient scorer as far as big men go (his 52% shooting could be better).  But his scoring line is fairly consistent — if Bogut is scoring 15 or more against you, chances are the Bucks are winning the game (in the 40 Bucks wins he played in, Bogut averaged 17.7 ppg), and they’re doing it primarily with defense.

Star power: Andrew Bogut in action for the Bucks.The bottom line is that the Bucks were winning. Much has been made of the acquisition of John Salmons at the trading deadline, and true, Salmons made the Bucks complete and dangerous, a good shot to make it to the East semis before Bogut’s fall. And too much has been made (in Milwaukee, anyway) of the Jerry Stackhouse pick up. The Bucks and Bogut had turned it around in mid-January during a long, six-game road trip West and were 8-4 in the 12 games leading up to the trading deadline. The Bucks had already righted their season when Salmons joined the team, and their center, the #1 pick that the team is building its future around, was playing like an All-Pro.

It really is a shame that fans won’t get to see Bogues in the playoffs this season — and it’s a shame that the Celtics and Hawks frontlines will miss him … this time.  Bogut’s only 25 years old.  A broken right paw isn’t going to limit his mobility or stop his left handed hook.  It’s not a knee injury or anything at all like the lower back injury that ended his 2009 season. The surgery was successful, the bones in his hand will heal, his dislocated elbow will knit, and he’ll be as good as new by late summer, probably playing for Basketball Australia in the world games. He can begin rehab in six weeks, according to Bucks doctors.

Come next fall, AB will be the same All-Pro center who was leading the Bucks into the 2010 playoffs, only better. One constant of Andrew Bogut’s career is that he has improved some aspect of his game every season of his five in the league, whether it was blocking shots in 2010, learning Skiles’ defense last season, or developing parts of his offensive game.

“Get used to this guy Bogut,” TNT analyst Kenny Smith said in March after Bogut scored 25 pts, grabbed 17 rebs and blocked 4 shots in a Bucks win over the Celtics. “He’s going to be in the league a long, long time.”

BUCKS vs. BULLS pregame:  You can’t blame Joakim Noah if he’s relieved about Bogut’s absence from tonight’s game in Chicago. In three previous games against Noah and the Bulls this season, Bogut averaged 21.7 pts, 13.7 rebs, 4.3 blocks, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals. Bogut was a beast against Chicago, and the Bucks are 2-1 on the season series, the Bulls eking out a 4th quarter win in the 3rd game of the season, just days after the Michael Redd experiment fell apart once again.  Noah was held to 4 pts in that N0v. 3 matchup. 

But now what?  The Bucks have activated backup center Dan Gadzuric, but don’t expect him to play much. Most of the post responsibilities will fall to Kurt Thomas, who’s biggest concern will be staying out of foul trouble against Noah. Bucks forwards Ersan Ilayasova and defensive ace Luc Mbah a Moute will be asked to do more in the paint, and that’s not a bad thing for the Bucks. Ilyasova is a matchup problem for the Bulls.

This’ll be John Salmons’ first game against his old teammates. One hallmark of the earlier matchups was Salmons vs.  Charlie Bell‘s pressure-cooker defense, which obviously can’t happen now that Salmons is in Bell’s starting spot. Now it’ll be Salmons vs. Kirk Hinrich, one of the NBA’s best defensive 2-guards and a Skiles protege.  Hinrich and point guard Derrick Rose are logging heavy minutes on the Bulls desperate push for the playoffs and are coming off a 50 point game against Charlotte (Bulls won).  Luol Deng is back for the Bulls after missing most of March with a thigh strain and is also playing heavy minutes, as is rookie forward Taj Gibson.  Noah and Brad Miller split the center minutes.

Hak Warrick gets some PT in the rotation, but the Bulls are essentially a six-man team on their playoff drive. And Rose wants badly to be in Cleveland for Round 1. The Bucks will have a tough time keeping him out of the paint, which is where Rose’ll be headed in the absence of Bogut. The Bucks can clinch their playoffs, though not their position, with a win.  This is going to be one intense game.

“Forget Gordon, I miss Skiles”: That’s the view from Chicago blogger i94 Sports, going down memory lane to two-and-a-half years ago when Skiles lost the Bulls and was fired, or they lost him and he quit, or … nobody’s quite sure what happened but the Bulls and Skiles parted ways amid talk that he had worn the team out. Luol Deng and Ben Wallace trouble? The better approach would have been to fire the players and keep Skiles, i-94 says:

“Some times, I think all the “Bulls miss Ben Gordon” stories would have been more accurately aimed at a certain former head coach. Just imagine if Derrick Rose had a coach who stressed defense for the last two seasons.”

You don’t have to Chicago – just watch Brandon Jennings.

Charlie, you’re such a dumb-twit: He’s at it again, twitting over Tweeter, tweeting on Twitter. Charlie V just can’t twit it. Apparently “something” happened at the Pistons practice yesterday and now Charlie Villanueva is very upset (apparently at coach John Kuester) and tweeted about his frustrations, and rookie forward Austin Daye has something to say on Twitter too. He’s “twisted” mad. 

Remember two years ago when Larry Krystkowiak challenged Charlie to a fight in a practice and called him a wuss when he backed down? “Some powere forward you are, Charlie,” or something like that. Oh, the memories. And that great Charlie V work ethic! Such a pro, this Detroit Pistons forward is. Need4Sheed.com is all over it.

Detroit – he’s all yours now.

Bucks coach Jim Boylan: In the spirit of Al McGuire

Members of the 1977 Marquette Basketball team.  Left to right: Jim Boylan, Bill Neary, Ulice Payne, Butch Lee, Jim Dudley, Gary Rosenberger, Bernard Toone, Jerome Whitehead, Craig Butrym, Robert Byrd and Bo Ellis.Find Bucks assistant coach Jim Boylan in that suave, Billy Dee Williams cool,  disco days meets “The Great Gatsby” photo to the right and win the first ever Bob Boozer Jinx door prize.

The photo, from the Marquette archives, via a Sports Illustrated ‘Where are they now?’ feature, is the official team photo of the 1977 NCAA champions. Boylan is farthest to the left, seated in the back of the ’34 Packard, wearing the only all-grey tux. Left to right from Boylan: Bill Neary, Ulice Payne, Butch Lee, Jim Dudley, Gary Rosenberger (in the passenger’s seat), Bernard Toone, Jerome Whitehead, Craig Butrym, Robert Byrd and Bo Ellis.

It seems odd, yet somehow fitting, that Boylan would take a seat furthest in the back — he was nowhere near the back of the ride on the ’77 Warriors. As the starting point guard, he was in the drivers’ seat more often than not. But then, no player is behind the wheel of the Packard in the team photo, an important, and quite deliberate pose. Warriors coach Al McGuire was nothing if not a basketball artist; his motif was the essence of “team.”

Or, as McGuire might have told the story of the photo shoot years later and probably did, the coach had reserved the drivers’ seat for himself but lost his tux on the way to the photo shoot or somesuch and decided to bench himself out of the picture, the sort of thing that McGuire would do, the team being less about him and more about the players (whether that was true or not).  There was something magical about Al McGuire telling a story, spinning myth and street legend with wisecrack yarn and Manhattan snap.

Up until his death in 2001, when asked who, of all the players he coached, his favorite point guard was, McGuire would get serious and the answer was always the same: Jim Boylan. Sometimes he’d say Boylan was his favorite player, period. Boylan reminded Al of Al.

Al McGuire

I came across a great story on the Chicago Bulls website about Jim Boylan and the Bulls after Boylan took over for Scott Skiles last December. What caught my eye was the following quote from Boylan:

“I told the guys that we shouldn’t concentrate so much on winning. Let’s concentrate on letting go of the things we can’t control and free ourselves to be the kind of players we know we are. Live in the moment.”

That quote from Boylan, Bucks fans, is the Al McGuire basketball philosophy to the letter. It was infused throughout the basketball world in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when McGuire was on top of that world and players, especially those on Al’s home turf in state, were told to just play “in the moment” and forget the scoreboard. The coaches would let you know when to look at the scoreboard and the clock. It was all very mystical and Zen, long before Phil Jackson won championships and wrote “Sacred Hoops.”  It was very McGuire.

Boylan, at age 52 — after two college coaching jobs (Michigan State under Jud Heathcote and head coach at New Hampshire) and five jobs as an NBA assistant (including his first with Mike Fratello in Cleveland and two with Skiles, in Phoenix and Chicago) — is still Al McGuire’s point guard.

The Bucks job is Boylan’s sixth assistant post in the NBA, reunited for a third run as Skiles’ lead assistant. He joins Skiles’ most impressive staff to date, with Lionel Hollins from the Memphis Grizzlies, a 20-year NBA assistant and Kelvin Sampson, one of the best college coaches in the game. Rounding out the staff are Kohler’s own Joe Wolf, an up-and-climbing NBA coach-in-the-making from the CBA and the D-league; and Bill Peterson, the coach who developed Finley, Nowitzki and Nash in Dallas, and was responsible for Ramon Sessions development last season for the Bucks.

They’ve have all been “hired” for two weeks or more now (the Bob Boozer Jinx blogs about Skiles and his assistants are archived here.) This is a staff geared to develop its own stars, not to coach somebody else’s 2nd or 3rd tier NBA “stars.”  Boylan’s story with the Chicago Bulls offers even more insight. On a Skiles-Boylan team, the ball will move and the tempo will be up in transition. It’s been described as an Eastern Conference version of the Phoenix Suns phenomena — Eastern Conference because, on a Scott Skiles team, defense will be played.

When Skiles left Chicago in Boylan’s hands, Boylan sped up the tempo even more, and the Bulls talented point guard, Kirk Hinrich shot less. Sometimes he didn’t shoot at all, as though he were channeling Boylan style of point guard play. The Bulls stat hounds ignored the scoreboard and the shooting stats, and instead tracked ball movement and pace like it was religion.

Looking ahead to next season, don’t expect overpaid shooting guards to freeze the Bucks offense by palming the ball, holding it with the dribble, then lowering a shoulder into the teeth of the defense with no passing mindset. Sloughing off in transition won’t be a good idea, either.

Monday, I’ll have a take on Bill Peterson and his development work, and I’m projecting a suprising revelation in the mix. For now, check out some more Jim Boylan in-action photos from J.E. Skeets yahoo blog “Ball Don’t Lie.” It’s true — Boylan does kind of look like the evil president from “24.”

The catcher’s crouch:

The “I just might kill Hinrich during this timeout I’m about to call” pose:


One final coaching note:  Former Bucks coach Terry Porter (2003-05) is back on what New York Post columnist Peter Vecsey calls the NBA “coaching carousel.” The buzz in Phoenix says he’s the leading candidate to fill the job Mike D’Antoni vacated last week. Porter, an asssistant with Detroit the past two years, is believed to be the first candidate Suns GM Steve Kerr interviewed for the job, Charles Gardner reported yesterday at JSOnline.  Vecsey saw opportunity coming for Porter a month ago in his column, and I swiped Vecsey’s crystal ball for a day or two in an early BBJ post.

Bucks fans may never know why then-Bucks GM Slickless Larry Harris rescinded the vote of confidence he gave Porter at the end of the Bucks injury-riddled 2004-05 season. When Bucks owner Herb Kohl fired Harris in March, he told us the firing of Porter was “Larry’s decision” — but then Herb had been labelled a meddler by ESPN’s Marc Stein and was on the defensive about that “growing reputation” and perception.

In any case, Porter got a bum shake from an impatient GM who didn’t have a plan for building the Bucks. Porter deserved another year, if for no other reason than it is bad policy to treat a hometown hero with such little respect when being a hometown hero is part of the reason Porter got the job in the first place.

Terry’s been coaching in Detroit the last couple of years — under Flip Sanders, one of the coaches Harris supposedly fired Porter to bring to Milwaukee (I’ve come to doubt that’s the real reason Porter was fired) — which says something about how well-regarded Porter is in NBA coaching circles. Suns GM Kerr is looking to bring a defensive edge to the Suns, and who better than the top assistant in Detroit? Phoenix, with Nash and Stoudamire and Shaq, looks like a good opportunity. It’s about time Porter got a second chance to head a team.