Tag Archives: Phoenix Suns

The Big Trade: Notes on Eric Bledsoe, a guy named Moose, bad knees and luxury taxes, and Jason Kidd

Eric Bledsoe made his debut with the Milwaukee Bucks last weekend, after being traded from the Phoenix Suns for Greg “Moose” Monroe. Licences: Standard non-commercial use.

With Eric Bledsoe in the backcourt, the Bucks have a legitimate No. 2 scoring option at guard to complement Giannis Antetokounmpo, three wins under their belt already and are poised to take the next to step to become contenders in the East. Sounds good, doesn’t it? It was good national story spin for the Bucks last week when the trade of Bledsoe for Greg Monroe (and two draft picks) went down. And why not? It’s nice to see the NBA media paying attention to the pro basketball team from Milwaukee.

But the trade didn’t sit quite right during the week, like that feeling you had after trying the “secret sake” at Jerry’s Sushi Hut on ’80s Flashback Night. The feeling didn’t go away after watching Bledsoe’s first two games with the Bucks over the weekend. Maybe it was the Lakers game on Saturday, a rough night for the Bucks starting guards and Khris Middleton. They shot 7 for 28 on the night, Bledsoe going 0 for 6 from 3-point-land and 4 of 12 for the game). In the mix of misses were a bunch of “bad” shots — bad form for the Bucks, usually a very good shot selection team. Malcolm Brogdon, who gave up his starting point guard job in the Bledsoe trade, played smart off the bench and Giannis was Giannis the MVP with 33 pts and 15 rebounds.

But the Lakers game was one game, a sloppy win on the 2nd night of a back-to-back (only 12 more of those left boys) against a young team. Monday against Memphis, the Bucks and their coach showed that not much had changed in Milwaukee from the week before. When Kidd went to his bench in the 3rd quarter, the offense stalled, scoring just 7 points in six minutes. Still, the Bucks built an 80-72 lead with 3:02 left in the quarter, but were outscored 22-9 over the next 7:23 to fall behind by five, 89-94. The shots weren’t falling, the Grizzlies had control of the game, and Bucks coach Jason Kidd had managed to rest Antetokounmpo for only a quick breather before the quarter change.

These were precisely the minutes that were Monroe’s. The Moose came off the bench to provide a steady supply of easy offense in the post, good rebounding and slick passing to open teammates as the Bucks played inside-out, a rare thing in the NBA these days, but as effective as ever. After the trade, one idea was that some of these minutes would go to Bledsoe, who could lead the offense while Kidd rested Giannis a few minutes. But Kidd has yet to play Bledsoe without Giannis in the game. Bledsoe sat on the bench through the entire Memphis run, watching his new teammates fall apart in his Milwaukee debut.

Enter Bledsoe and starters Tony Snell and Khris Middleton after a Bucks timeout inside of 8 minutes to go. The Bucks suddenly went on a 14-3 run, then closed out the game with solid defense. Bledsoe was everything advertised — the quickest man on the court. He drew fouls, eventually fouling Mario Chalmers out of the game. He grabbed rebounds (4), he turned the ball over (1), he had a nice assist to John Henson (1), the Bucks center by default. He caught the Grizzlies sleeping by bolting to the hoop for a layup while they were setting up on D. The Grizz promptly called time out, victims of an 11-2 Bucks run in the space of 2:41. Bledsoe had capped it with a show of speed, quickness, basketball savvy and ability to get to the hoop and finish. And he showed, to anyone who cared — why the Bucks made the trade.

If the Lakers game was one game, so too was the Memphis game.

Bad knees

It wasn’t too long ago, just a few months, that the Phoenix Suns shut Bledsoe down for the final month of their 2016-17 schedule, reporting that “Bled” had been playing through knee soreness. It was his left knee, the one surgically repaired in Dec. of 2015, the third major knee surgery of his career. A meniscus tear in his right knee, the other knee, was surgically repaired in Oct. 2011, and then the cartilage removed altogether in 2014.

Three major knee surgeries in four years and a sore knee last season. But you wouldn’t know it from the coverage of this trade — no mention in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel coverage by Matt Velazquez, nor many other places. The story in The Sporting News was the only one that focused on Bledsoe’s injury history, deciding that Kidd was taking a risk to win now, without risking too much. Bledsoe’s tweeted request to be anywhere but Phoenix can be viewed as a form of self-preservation. What player wants to grind away what’s left of their knees and career on a team just now adopting Philly’s “trust the process” motto?

Suddenly he’s a Buck, and being a Buck is great for Bledsoe. Milwaukee wants to win now, make the playoffs and win in the playoffs, all the while touting 22-year-old Giannis as the first or (depending how you describe Lebron) second coming of Wilt Chamberlain meets Michael Jordan. The superstar needs a quick point guard who can help him destroy NBA defenses. It’ll be a good match.

It’s not so bad either for the Suns, who cleared out Bledsoe’s $15 million salary next season to stay about $12-$15 million under the salary cap while they develop as many as three 1st Round draft picks. One of those could be the Bucks pick, but the Suns will only get the pick next season if it’s in the range of 11th to 16th. Based on team expectations and the unique way the pick is protected, the Bucks probably won’t convey the pick to Phoenix until 2020. Phoenix also gets the Bucks 2018 2nd round pick if 48th or lower.

Added bonus for Suns fans: They get to do the MOOOOOSE call for a few months if Monroe plays in Phoenix (looks like he might not).

Greg Monroe and P.J. Tucker grapple during the Bucks playoffs series last April against the Toronto Raptors. License: Standard non-commercial use.

The Bucks in this trade lost their most reliable scorer off the bench, Monroe, whose inspired play last March when his playing time increased helped drive the Bucks strong finish. The Bucks run to the playoffs featured an 18 wins – 6 losses streak where Monroe played 25.5 mins per game, the most he had all season, and scored 13.9 pts per game on 55.3% shooting, and hauled in 6.8 rebs and dished 3 assists per game.

Monroe’s production went up in the playoffs to 15.5 pts and 8.8 rebs per game through the first 4 games, the message wasn’t lost on coach Kidd. He had all but benched current starting-center-by-default Henson — until the fateful and still controversial game 6, when Kidd pulled Monroe for Henson after Moose was hit with a 2nd foul in the first half. The Raptors didn’t look back until the 4th quarter when the Bucks were dominating the game and it looked like a Game 7 in Toronto was inevitable. It wasn’t.

So naturally, when the 2017-18 season opened with Matthew Dellavedova — who lost the starting point guard job to Brogdon — and Henson getting more playing time than Monroe, there were rumblings all over town about “same old Kidd, still can’t manage a game”; and the Bucks were “playing the bad contracts they’re stuck with”. No coach in their right mind would play “Delly” the minutes Kidd gives him, and why was Kidd bothering people with Henson after benching him last year? Where was Monroe?

Giannis was making headlines, scoring 208 points in the first six and the Bucks had a 4-2 record, not bad for a bunch of guys who weren’t really playing well. But something wasn’t right in the Bucks camp, possibly very wrong as they lost four straight with Moose on the sidelines with a calf muscle injury. The Bucks looked like a team that would again have to fight to get into the playoffs, not the East contender they imagined themselves to be.

And then the trade went down. Coach Kidd hadn’t lost his mind after all — he didn’t want to be stuck playing Delly and Henson. Maybe one, but not both. He decided to roll the dice on Henson being able to play his best basketball; and I guess this means that Kidd really has been on the lookout for a better point guard all this time. And here is Bledsoe, a super-quick, attacking point guard who rebounds, too. The simple math looks something like this:

Bledsoe + Henson + Brogdon > Monroe + Brogdon + Delly

… and if not, Monroe’s $17.9 million contract was expiring at the end of this season anyway, and there was no evidence to say that Kidd was ever going to stop tinkering with Moose’s minutes and match-ups. In making the trade, Kidd eliminated a personal negative the fans were ready to gnaw on like a hambone, potentially a savage mess for the coach, the players, everyone involved.

In case of some unforeseen calamity or if Bledsoe’s knees don’t hold up, the Bucks still have Brogdon and Delly and the pit bull defense of super-sub DeAndre Liggins, plus a few million dollars created by the trade to find a big man to help out during the playoff push, if it comes to that (and it should). They’ve got $3.44 million to be exact, a rather big deal for the Bucks, whose noses were right up to the luxury tax line before they made the trade.

And let’s not forget that the Bucks expect the return of their injured 20.1 points per game forward, Jabari Parker, in February.

Luxury taxes and Jabari Parker

The Bucks in this trade lost the expiring $17.9 million contract of Monroe, which was expected to come in handy next summer when the Bucks hoped to resign Parker. Bledsoe’s $15 million contract next season will eat all but $2.9 million of the Monroe clearance, leaving their player payroll at $105 million. See Bucks contracts here.

The current luxury tax gate, where teams pay $2 for each dollar spent on the “over” side of the gate, is at $119.266 million. Assuming a 3 to 5% increase in the salary cap next season, the luxury tax gate would move to $123-$125 million (estimated). The Bucks have $105 million committed to the 11 players currently under contract for 2018-19, which includes Bledsoe and the $3.9 million to be paid to Larry Sanders and Spencer Hawes.

The math says this leaves $18-$20 million to pay Parker and two new players to make the required 14-man roster. Supposedly Parker turned down an offer from the Bucks to play for more than that, but sources also said Parker recently held up a bank in Saginaw, Mich., and was believed to be holed up at Michael Redd‘s house in the Columbus, Ohio, area. Redd is said to be an expert X-Box baller.

What really happened is that Parker talked to NBA.com writer Steve Aschburner (who used to work in Milwaukee for the old Sentinel) and Aschurner wrote an  in-depth update on Parker last week. It’s another fine article from Aschburner, featuring interviews with Parker, Paul George, Andrew Wiggins and knee surgery rehab expert Derrick Rose.

When Aschburner asked Parker about whether the Bucks coaches had given him any work “to draw him close” to the team to prepare for his return, Parker had this to say: 

“Next question.”

In other words, the Bucks offered less, probably much less than the going rate — the maximum $148 million contract signed by Parker’s “top 3 pick” 2014 draft-mates, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. Parker, of course, turned them down.

And what Kidd wanted more than anything was not Parker but one of those “real point guards” basketball nuts in Milwaukee have heard so much about ever since the previous owners’ Bucks traded Sam Cassell to Minnesota in 2003. So the Bucks jumped to it when Bledsoe became available, and now they have more than just a point guard — they’ve got a guy who can beat Parker in any sanctioned knee surgery scar showdown.

Now that Kidd has Bledsoe and Giannis, the Bucks would sooner trade Parker than hand him anything resembling $148 for five years. Yes, Parker is on the trading block, more likely than not, and it’s a safe bet that every Buck not named Giannis Antetokounmpo, Malcolm Brogdon, Thon Maker or Eric Bledsoe are right there with him.

Shouldn’t have had that “secret sake” at Jerry’s Sushi Hut.

Bledsoe vs. the Bucks guards,

… or the start of a very long stat analysis of Bledsoe and the Bucks 2016-17 guards that will be in the next post down, but below is a chart made at basketball-reference.com which illustrates some major topics to be addressed during what I’m sure will be an amazing journey into the Valley of Sensory Deprivation by NBA statistical analysis. (ed. note)

“Dynamic” was the word of the week at Bucks headquarters when describing Bledsoe. The new Bucks GM, Jon Horst, used it a couple of times in announcing the deal, and NBA-TV analysts Greg Anthony and Dennis Scott both picked up on it. Scott even added “dynamism” to the vocabulary.

Dynamic is defined by “constant change, activity or progress” Dynamic is a good thing, and Bledsoe’s numbers reflect a player who is active in all facets of the game, has a nose for the ball, likes contact, beats defenders off the dribble, gets to the rim and the free throw line, and moves the ball around better than the average NBA point guard.

There’s no question about whether or not Bledsoe is an instant upgrade to the Bucks backcourt. He can create his own shots and draw fouls by getting into the D past the first defender, something the Bucks guards struggle to do almost every game.

  • Bledsoe goes to the free throw line more often than all three of the Bucks guard starters from last season COMBINED.
  • He was nearly a 20-5-5 player in Phoenix during his four+ seasons there, averaging 18.8 points, 6.0 assists and 4.8 rebs.
  • He turns the ball over a lot – 4th in the NBA among starting point guards last season.

Here’s that chart: “Per 36 minutes” stats for Bledsoe and former starting point guards Brogdon and Dellavedova, plus starting shooting guard Tony Snell.

Per 36 Minutes Table
Player From G BIER FG FGA FG% 3P% FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Eric Bledsoe 2010 421 7.40 6.1 13.7 .444 .334 5.2 .800 5.0 6.1 1.9 0.7 3.6 2.6 17.5
Malcolm Brogdon 2016 84 6.80 5.4 11.7 .464 .419 2.3 .856 3.7 5.7 1.5 0.2 2.0 2.6 14.4
Matthew Dellavedova 2013 301 2.81 3.6 9.1 .392 .388 1.4 .834 3.1 6.0 0.8 0.1 2.1 3.3 9.9
Tony Snell 2013 303 2.34 3.8 9.0 .422 .380 1.0 .818 4.2 1.7 0.8 0.3 1.1 2.3 10.3
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/9/2017.

 

BIER = Basketball Impact and Efficiency Rating (also means “beer” in German).

Also Note: “Turnovers in basketball games” though not found in any dictionary definition of “dynamic” may be considered part of its noun variation, “dynamism”, which, thanks to Dennis Scott, was included with Bledsoe in “the big trade.”

Source-erole

  • Sporting News was the only media about the trade interested in Bledsoe’s injury history: http://www.sportingnews.com/nba/news/nba-trade-rumors-eric-bledsoe-news-bucks-suns-giannis-antetokounmpo-jason-kidd-coach/e4bgwqo5bf4o10g44n7o94ckj
  • ESPN and NBA.com on Bledsoe’s past injuries: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/18920619/phoenix-suns-shut-pg-eric-bledsoe-remainder-season –
  • http://www.nba.com/2015/news/12/29/suns-eric-bledsoe-out-for-season.ap/
  • http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/14459203/eric-bledsoe-phoenix-suns-miss-rest-season
  • NBA.com news on the trade: http://www.nba.com/article/2017/11/07/report-milwaukee-bucks-nearing-deal-eric-bledsoe-phoenix-suns#/
  • NBA contract numbers: https://www.basketball-reference.com/contracts/PHO.html
    • for the Bucks: contracts/MIL.html
  • NBA.com – Steve Aschburner’s really really good feature on Jabari Parker: http://www.nba.com/article/2017/11/08/milwaukee-bucks-jabari-parker-finds-bright-side-rehabbing-acl-injury#/
  • Deadspin on Bledsoe’s tweet: “One of the best athlete tweets ever” – https://deadspin.com/well-thats-probably-it-for-eric-bledsoe-in-phoenix-1819774495
  • Gamebooks at NBA.com, Bucks-Lakers, Bucks Memphis, Bucks-Cavs
    • https://data.nba.net/10s/prod/v1/20171113/0021700194_Book.pdf
    • https://data.nba.net/10s/prod/v1/20171111/0021700182_Book.pdf
    • https://data.nba.net/10s/prod/v1/20171107/0021700149_Book.pdf
  • Basketball-reference.com for all basic stats, tables, per 36 stats, player info linker, etc.

More ridiculous video of Stephen Jackson

In this installment, featuring the Golden State Warriors of the short-lived Jackson-Corey Maggette era, Jackson is kicked out of a 2009 Suns game for, what else?   Being himself.

Only this time Warriors coach Don Nelson one-ups Jackson a few plays later with his own ridiculous ejection from the game.  That’s our Nellie.

Drew Gooden, apparently, really did deserve a break today.  Gooden is suspended for tonight’s T-Wolves game, punishment for thwacking Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson in the head as Henderson drove for a layup.  Read all about it.

The John Salmons watch.  I was one who thought Salmons was going to bounce back and have a solid season, reminding Bucks fans of the Fish who led us into the playoffs 2010.   Alas, somebody had to go to move the above-mentioned Maggette out of Milwaukee and Salmons (and a Kings draft pick) was the bait that got it done.

Salmons and the Tyreke Evans-led Sacramento Kings beat the Lakers last night, 100-91.  Fish had 13 and more importantly, clocked in 30 minutes guarding a relatively inefficient Kobe Bryant (14 missed shots), Metta World Peace and … Devin Ebanks.

Devin Ebanks?

Schedule cancellations beg critical questions of Bucks owner Herb Kohl

The cancellation of the November schedule has cost the Bucks four Saturday night home games, including games against the Bulls and Knicks.  It also increased the degree of difficulty of the 68 games still on the calendar, based on the 2011 final standings.

The Bucks would play 55.88% of their games against 2011 playoff teams, assuming no more games are lost.  Prior to the cancellation that percentage was 54.88%.  If Bucks owner Herb Kohl thinks his team is playoffs-worthy, he would do well to consider how much steeper the road to the playoffs will be if and when the lockout ends, and how much steeper it will get if December games are lost.

What’s that?  The failure of the owners and players to reach a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) has caused a one percent increase in difficulty for the Milwaukee Bucks?  Boo hoo.  And isn’t that scheduling disparity partly the Bucks fault for sinking into sub-mediocrity last season and losing a playoff spot to the Pacers?

Yes, and the Pacers are part of the point — one of the games lost is a home game against the Pacers, a plum opportunity to begin righting last season’s failures.  Not-yet-cancelled are two games in Indy and a game in Milwaukee.  Ratchet up the degree of difficulty a bit more with Pacers home court advantage against the Bucks, something the Bulls will also enjoy if the games cancelled remain off the calendar.

And it only gets more weighted against the Bucks the closer one looks at what was lost and what remains.

  • The lockout has cheated Bucks fans out of a chance to see Steve Nash and the Suns at the Bradley Center Nov. 12 (another Saturday showcase). The game in Phoenix is still on the calendar. The Bucks have not won in Phoenix since February 1987, the last of the Bucks seven straight 50-win season, Don Nelson‘s last season as Bucks coach, Moncrief, Cummings, Pressey, Pierce, Sikma and John Lucas in the fold, and a rookie Scott Skiles, too.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge and the Portland Trailblazers have proven to be a nightmare matchup for Bogut and the Bucks. A Bucks-Blazers Saturday night game was one of those cancelled.  Still on is the game in Portland, where the Bucks haven’t won since 2006.
  • No, the Bucks haven’t yet had a road game against a Western Conference team cancelled. All 15 of those are still on calendar. The Bucks were 4-11 on the road in the West last season. Ratchet that degree of Bucks difficulty to about 60%.  The road to the 2012 playoffs will be a steep uphill climb for the Bucks.

If December is cancelled, the Bucks will lose only a single road game in the West, a trip to Memphis. That’s early in the month, following a trip to New York and a Saturday marquee featuring Milwaukee’s favorite ex-Buck, Ray Allen, and the Celtics, tough games all.

Kohl and the Bucks front office have got to be eyeing that Celtics game and rueing the day more games are tossed into the shredder.  A Celtics game is one of those money-making, potential sell-outs, an easy-marketing homecoming for Ray, one of the last chances to see the current Celtics before they rebuild (Ray and Kevin Garnett will be free agents after this season).  It’s a natural for the Bucks’ 2012 home-opener, ready or not.

The Celtics are followed by a string of five matchups that should give Bucks fans a good gauge on where their team is headed this season: at home against rebuilding Detroit and Denver in flux, on the road to Washington to play John Wall and the Wizards, home for Corey Maggette and Charlotte and then on to Indiana.

Playoffs?  Not if the Bucks can’t get it together enough to win some of those games.  They cannot afford another start like last season’s 6-wins, 12-losses disaster. The first 22-games of the schedule, prior to the lockout and the cancellations, provided a solid chance for a decent start — assuming only the 2010-11 records of the opponents.

Then Dirk Nowitzki and the champion Mavs come to Milwaukee for their only appearance, Saturday, Dec. 17, another candy marketing game the Bucks front office should be loathe to lose.  A tough opponent, of course, but the loss of this game would leave the trip to Dallas still-to-come.  From a competitive standpoint, the Bucks can ill afford the cancellation of the first three weeks in December.

All of which begs the questions:  How much does pro basketball game talk matter to many NBA owners?  Specifically, how much does it matter to Bucks owner Kohl, who has yet to play more than a supporting role to the small market hardliners in these negotiations?

Unlike small market hardliners in Cleveland and Phoenix (when Nash leaves or retires) and Boston (rebuild after 2012) and San Antonio (aging San Antonio) the Bucks aren’t rebuilding or looking ahead to a near-future rebuild.  Ostensibly, they have more in common with the Bulls and Knicks — the Bucks want to play and win now with Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings, and put a forgettable, injury-plagued 2011 season behind them.

But like Portland Trailblazers owner Paul Allen, the so-called “Grim Reaper” on the owners’ side, Kohl has spent years playing and paying big under the current system, and losing in a market much smaller than New York or Chicago.  There’s talk that Allen is taking a hard line in the negotiations because he wants to clamp down on player salaries and exceptions to position the Blazers for sale.

Kohl has lost more than Allen in the current system, and paid big in recent years for the likes of Michael Redd, Bobby Simmons, Dan Gadzuric, Corey Maggette, Drew Gooden, tax accounting write-offs in the flesh.  There’s been little or no recent talk of Kohl selling the Bucks, and the real politick in Milwaukee and Wisconsin says even discussions over a new arena are years away.

But rumblings of a sale could sound at any time.  Kohl isn’t getting any younger and will retire from the U.S. Senate next year at age 77, and, while Kohl has never made the Bucks books public,  it’s safe to assume his team has more in financial common financially with Allen than he does with the “play now” teams in Chicago, New York, Dallas, Los Angeles and Miami.

At some point — and we may have passed this point already — the “play now” owners are going to push hard for a resolution, to end the 50/50 or 48/52 squabbling over how much “Basketball Related Income” (BRI) the players should get.  The owners have already bettered their financial position by $200 million per year and about $1.2 billion over the next seasons.  That’s a tremendous giveback by the players at 52% BRI.

With the two sides so close on the BRI, it’s the “play now, win now” owners vs. “don’t play, write another season off” mode.

(Editor’s note: Not more than a few hours after this post went up, one of the “play now, win now” owners, Miami Heat owner Mickey Arison, was fined $500,000 by the NBA for tweeting that he wasn’t the owner fans should be upset about. “You’re barking at the wrong owner,” Arison tweeted in response to a fan who accused Arison of ruining the game.

“The response clearly fortified the belief Arison is part of a more moderate group of owners, mostly from big markets, who don’t share the opinion of the majority of hardliners who think the NBA needs to keep the players locked out to achieve financial concessions,” reported Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski.  That belief is certainly one held here.)

At what point does Kohl look at the first Saturday in December and say, “I need my team to be on the court against the Celtics” on that night?

Which kind of owner — write-it-off or play ball — is Kohl really?

Broken hand, sprained wrist, dislocated elbow end Bogut’s season

A broken right hand, sprained right wrist and a dislocated right elbow have stopped Andrew Bogut‘s All-Pro season cold. The Bucks center wrenched his arm in a fall last night against the Phoenix Suns in the 2nd quarter, beating the Suns Ama’re Stoudamire down the court for a breakaway dunk. Bogut’s legs flew out from under him on the play, aided by a (slight) shove from behind by Stoudemire, who was slapped with a flagrant foul but remained in the game. 

The Bucks released the following statement early Sunday morning: 

“…. Andrew was examined at the Bradley Center by team orthopaedic physician Dr. Michael Gordon and then taken to Aurora Sinai Medical Center by ambulance for more tests.

“Further testing and imaging at Aurora Sinai showed that Andrew sustained a dislocated right elbow, a sprained right wrist and a broken right hand. He was released from the hospital and no timetable has been determined for his return.”

Typical Ama’re: Bogut injury video replay shows no commitment to defense or laziness

Lazy.  Disinterested.  Noncommittal.  Bad.  All of these words and more have been used to describe the defensive play of the Phoenix Suns and their star forward Amar’e (apostrophe please) Stoudemire. A certain Hall of Fame center with four championship rings to his name used some of them when he played in Phoenix, thinking that some public discussion of the Suns defensive principles might help to improve his team. It didn’t.

What would Shaq have called this play, Amar’e trailing Bucks center Andrew Bogut on a breakaway dunk?

“Passive-aggressive” comes to mind. Dangerous. The preliminary reports say that Andrew Bogut’s right elbow was “slightly” dislocated in the fall. X-Rays revealed no broken bones. There’s no word yet on how long Bogut will be out, or whether he’ll be back in time for the playoffs, which begin in two weeks.

Stoudemire was assessed a flagrant foul for the shove in Bogut’s back on the breakaway. The discussion is already centered on whether or not Stoudemire intended to foul or injure the Bucks center. Of course he didn’t intentionally put his arm into the back of Bogut in midair. Of course he didn’t intend for Bogut to fall the way he did.

Such intentions would have required commitment, and Ama’re Stoudemire isn’t committed to playing defense, much less running hard down the court to the defensive end.

No hard fouls from this guy. No flying, Lebron James-like attempt to block the shot into the next county. Not Ama’re.

There’s no commitment to laziness, either. You see Ama’re running with Bogut, too late, trying to catch up, failing, but catching just enough of his quarry to lay an arm on his back and shove — not a hard, committed shove — just a little one, enough to throw Bogut off balance and flatten his jump, pushing his legs out of equilibrium. A committed lazy player would have given up and watched Bogut dunk it. But not Ama’re.

Amar’e Stoudemire on defense apparently can’t seem to commit to laziness or a foul.  Or, as we all saw in the 2007 Western Conference semifinal vs. the Spurs, to leaving the bench during a fight.  He … kinda left the bench but … kinda didn’t. He not only missed the fight but the next game, as the NBA suspended him for leaving the bench and the Suns lost the series. He didn’t “intend” to commit that wrong either.

So Amar’e didn’t “intend” to commit a foul that caused a potential season-ending injury to a would-be All-Pro center with the playoffs approaching. I get that.

It’s typical Ama’re — forever doomed to be a half-baked star in a league of fully committed stars. And once again, he’s wrong.

AP recap: Bucks 107, Suns 98.

Note: I wrote this post during the 2nd half of the Bucks-Suns game and had it posted within an hour or so after the game, if not sooner. It accurately summed up how I feel about Amar’e as a player, and still does a few days after the injury.  The video of Bogut’s fall that I posted initially was the video clip of the Suns live broadcast because it was the only one I could initially find online.  However, as fans all over the country debated the play, how Bogut’s fall became so horrific and whether Ama’re had done anything wrong, it occurred to me that people probably weren’t looking at the same video.  The comments have been that divergent.

There are in fact, two videos offering two different views of the play.  What I’ll do here is post both videos.  The FoxSportsNorth Bucks broadcast, which shows in slo-mo the contact and the timing of when and why Bogut grabs the rim, is embedded above. The Suns broadcast, which has been the more widely viewed video, is below.

Calling John Hammond: Why Michael Redd i$ not on hi$ way to Phoenix

Jason Richardson becomes a SunWhat about the Phoenix Suns need for a high scoring shooting guard did Bucks GM John Hammond miss?  The Suns on Wednesday traded forward Boris Diaw and starting guard Raja Bell to the Charlotte Bobcats for the Cats’ shooting guard, Jason Richardson. After the trade, Suns GM Steve Kerr had this to say:

“We felt like we needed to shake things up a little bit. We wanted to add a great scorer in the backcourt to give us better balance to take some of the pressure off of Steve (Nash).”


Does that description of the Suns needs by GM Kerr not scream Michael Redd?  And why does this sound kinda familiar?

A little over a month ago (34 days to be exact) I remembered that the Suns had put Diaw and backup guard Leandro Barbosa (who sliced through the Bucks D at will Tuesday night) on the trading block last summer. It’s on the record. I wrote about it when the Suns were in town to play the Bucks. I even offered some crazy advice:

“Given how active the Bucks look without Redd and that coach Skiles sure wouldn’t mind two more quick, active players with playoff experience, Bucks GM Hammond should take a good look at this trade, if Phoenix is willing.”


I got a little ambitious about it too and tapped into the Phoenix Suns Realgm.com fan forum to see what Suns fans thought about a Redd for Diaw and Barbosa trade. They were somewhat interested but wanted more, a power forward for instance (doesn’t everybody these days? And don’t they already have Amare Stoudemire?). One thing Suns fans generally agreed upon, however, was that the Suns wouldn’t trade Raja Bell, their starting guard and their best perimeter defender. This is why we discussed Barbosa instead of Bell, whom I assumed was off limits. As it so happens (and didn’t happen) he’s also the one guy on the Suns (other than Shaq) who happens to be a Scott Skiles kind of player.

Well, the Suns did part with Bell. (Suns fans, how could we have ever agreed to misjudge this so badly?) Now Bell and Diaw are Bobcats, and Jason Richardson is a Phoenix Sun.  I can’t help but wonder whether John Hammond ever investigated a trade involving Diaw and one of the Phoenix guards for Redd, and why the Bucks couldn’t pull off this deal. Such is the speculative life of a blogger in the close-to-the-vest Hammond era, bearing in mind that it is possible that the Bucks simply had no interest in such a trade (oh, it hurt to write that; why am I even attempting objectivity?).

There was no question the Suns were in the market to get better now, this year, NOW while Shaq is still a semblance of the old Diesel and while Steve Nash still has a few tricks up his sleeve at point guard. Very much in favor of a Phoenix deal for Redd at least being discussed is that Jerry Colangelo, the Suns CEO, is at last report an unabashed Redd fan. Colangelo headed up the organization of the 2008 Olympic team and took Mike along for the show. I find it hard to believe that with the Suns looking for a scoring guard, Colangelo would have forgotten about Redd.

Richardson is an excellent player, as Bucks fans saw last weekend in a game the Bobcats nearly stole from the Bucks at home. At 28, Richardson is a year younger than Redd, is more athletic and an all-round better player as far as rebounds, assists and steals. He’s shot the ball better than Redd in the last couple of years as well. (That list of basketball things in Richardson’s favor has been getting longer). Yet neither player is a Raja Bell type defender, and, yes, there was a time when Redd was the more highly valued player.

There is one facet of Redd’s game that still has a higher value than Richardson’s: His contract. Redd is paid about $3.5 million more per year than the Suns new guard. Richardson has 3 years and $40 million left on his contract; the Bucks are on the hook to pay Redd $51 million over the next three years. 

My conclusion here has to be that $11 million is plenty of incentive to call Charlotte instead of Milwaukee when looking for a shooting guard.

Other players: Rookie point guard Sean Singletary also went to Charlotte, while the Suns got small forward Jared Dudley and a 2010 second-round draft pick.


Nash dismayed by trade:  The trade of his best pal, Raja Bell, caught Suns All-Pro point guard Steve Nash off guard, too. In an Arizona Republic story, Nash talks about being “emotionally drained” by the trade and worries about whether the Suns will “blow up” the team after this season.

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Bucks flounder in the 4th: There were times last night when Don Nelson’s Golden State Warriors ran circles around the Bucks. There were times the Bucks tightened the defense, hit some shots and clawed back into the game the Eastern Conference way – with toughness. Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva had gained control of the paint for the Bucks with some good interior defense, and it looked as though the Bucks were poised for a road win against one of the NBA’s laziest defensive teams. At the end of the 3rd Quarter, it was an 82-81 game, Warriors in the lead. 

In the 4th quarter, the Bucks forgot everything they did to make it a game and were, for the second night in a row, suckered into a run-and-gun shootout they couldn’t hope to win. The Warriors ran the Bucks out of the building 37-15 in the 4th for a 119-96 final score.

It all happened when the centers, Andrew Bogut and Andris Biedrins went to the bench.  By the time Skiles put Bogut back into the game it was far too late. Nellie didn’t bother putting Biedrins back into the game, as though he knew it was over once the Warriors got rolling. He was right. Skiles resorted to veteran bench point guard Tyronn Lue to restore a sense of order for the Bucks (didn’t work). Michael Redd, working well with Bogut in the 3rd, had one of his best games of the year going … until the 4th. Skiles had this to say:

“We don’t yet get how hard you have to play and how focused you have to be for a period of time to win an NBA game. This is a good group of guys, and we just have to learn that toughness.”


Bucks were also playing their third game in four nights and looked the worse for wear and tear. It wears me out just writing about the Bucks early schedule but I think I’ve just used the last “Bucks nightmare schedule” card I had by the laptop. The entire stack is gone, and my sources at the Spalding company say that they are not printing any more this season.

Next post: Schedule excuse expires.

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

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

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




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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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