Tag Archives: Ramon Sessions

Milwaukee’s daily newspaper continues odd fascination with some Bucks player named Michael Redd

Oh, we’ve heard all this before.  A very long feature today in Milwaukee’s daily newspaper on the progress of one Michael Redd, erstwhile Bucks shooting star whose NBA career came crashing down in a hail of unmet expectations, selfish play, conflicts with coaches, the side effect of #1 pick Andrew Bogut’s stalled development and, lastly, two knee surgeries.

No, the story doesn’t say anything about all of the above except the injuries but it does tell us that Redd’s “thing is not to just come back and play.”

“My thing is to come back and dominate and play at a high level.”

–Read the full story HERE. Or don’t.


What’s this, a Wizards-Cavs back-to-back?

Indeed, the NBA schedule makers have smiled on the Bucks with a back-to-back featuring the two worst teams in the NBA according to every measure known to the league except one — offensive rating, the scoring efficiency measure that has defined the Bucks woes this season.  No matter.

These are not must win games.  They are kill-your-shoe-contract, shut-down-your-center, overdose-on-pain-pills, let-Redd-play-out-the-string, send-the-coach-to-a-rest-home, fire-the-ticket-takers, win-or-don’t-show-your-face-in-the-city tests of whether the Bucks should have bothered showing up in the NBA this season.

Now that that’s out of my system …

THE WIZARDS, often referred to here as the Wiz.  Coach Flip Saunders has, as far as I’ve been able to gather, refused to vote Andrew Bogut to the East All-Star squad these last two seasons, all the more reason to suit Bogut up and make sure Javale McGee doesn’t rebound all day over Jon Brockman.  Bogut is listed as “day-to-day” with a left rib muscle strain suffered against the Bulls, but had expected to practice today (Monday).  No word on whether he did or not but it’s not as though that’s as important as Michael Redd or anything, with the Bucks desperate to not fall any further behind the Pacers this week.

The last time the Bucks played the Wiz in Washington (Feb. 9), they were utterly embarrassed as Nick Young and a guy named Cartier Martin went off on them from 3-point-land (8 for 12 combined) and we all know the Bucks can’t score points in bunches.

Beyond the box score, the Bucks were still working their starting guards back into playing shape on the comeback from injury, and it was absolutely brutal watching the Bucks try to keep the Wiz in the building in the 3rd quarter.  This will be the first time this season the Wiz sees a healthy Milwaukee back court.

THE CAVS:  It’s at home.  Former Bucks point guard Ramon Sessions is still with them, fresh off that shoulder jaw butt that knocked Chris Paul out over the weekend.

Always good to see Sessions, the Cavs starting point guard since the Mo-for Baron trade last month.  One has the sense that Paul’s injury may have been meant for the injury prone Bucks.

The Bucks early season loss to the Cavs in Cleveland (on a last second jumper by Mo) ranks as one of the most entirely avoidable, regrettable Bucks losses that still has them trailing the Pacers and Bobcats in the standings.

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.

Sessions vs. Ridnour? … Tough weekend ahead

Lucky Luke Ridnour or Ramon Sessions? The question of who should start at point guard has been ongoing since the Bucks traded Mo Williams to greener pastures this summer. That may surprise some, but there were more than a few Bucks fans who had realized at the end of last season that Sessions just might be the point guard of the future. To some it was never a given that Ridnour should start, even though Bucks GM John Hammond introduced Luke as the starter when the trade was made.

Now that Sessions seems to be in a groove and has picked up right where he left off at the end of last season when he averaged 13.1 assists in seven starts, JSOnline put the question to its readers in the form of a poll. The poll of the day, in Packer season, no less. After nearly 700 responses, Sessions is/was in the lead 47-44 percent, with 8 percent going to Tyrone Lue, the third string point guard (Tyrone must have family working on this).

The fact that the voting is so close ought to tell you a couple of things — it’s too early to decide and both are playing well. Thirdly, if we at Sportsbubbler had thought to give folks a minute or two break from the Packers by featuring a similar poll this week, the timing would have been perfect. We didn’t think of it, so the inescapable conclusion is that it’s just too early. The Ridnour-Sessions question isn’t going away anytime soon.

(As more people have voted in the JSOnline poll, Sessions is running away with it).

Both guys have missed two games. Sessions didn’t play at all in the first two games (coach’s decision), but started against the Raptors and Knicks as Ridnour recuperated from a back injury. Wednesday night against the Wizards, they played together for the first time this season and keyed the unit that brought the Bucks charging back in the 4th quarter to beat the Wiz in OT. Ridnour finished with 11 assists. Sessions with 8 as the Bucks charted 37 dimes for the game.  They also scored a combined 42 points without hitting a mess of 3’s, an impressive feat for a couple of point guards.

Did you say 37 assists for the team?  I did. When’s the last time the Bucks did that? Not during the Michael Redd era that I can remember. The 1980’s? (I’m diggin for this stat but I don’t have it yet). Of course,  Sessions had 24 himself last April in a garbage time game against Chicago but the Bucks as a team totalled 33. The Bulls, who won the game, tallied 42. There is a trend there. Sharing is caring in the NBA and also leads to wins. Here’s the video of Sessions show against the Bulls, just because it’s fun to watch so much beautiful passing:

In any case, it really is too early and both players should be tested further; there’s no reason to knock Luke down to 2nd string … yet. In their first game together, they fueled a win and finished the game on the court together. However, running circles around the Wizards second-rate guards isn’t a defining feat for either player. Prior to the Wiz, both players had notched a win and a loss as the starter. Right now, the schedule is so tough that it may not matter until January (game 34) when the Bucks will probably have to get a move on to pull their season together.

In the end, I have a feeling Skiles will probably settle on the better defender as his starter and it remains to be seen whether Sessions can consistently play better D than Ridnour, who has trouble guarding many point guards (Luke wouldn’t have done much better against Jose Calderon last week than Sessions did in the loss, and could well have done worse). It’s Lucky Luke video time:

Here at the Bob Boozer Jinx, the editorial board was ahead of the curve in realizing how stoked about Sessions’ potential both the current and previous Bucks regimes were (and still are). In fact, I sussed it out well before the pre-NBA draft hypsters did that the Bucks were not looking for a point guard in the draft, due in large part to Sessions’ potential. The Bucks didn’t work out any college point guards and took a pass on D.J. Augustin and Jerryd Bayless, a couple of pretty good point guards who were still on the board when the Bucks picked Joe Alexander.

The highlight of that story in May was Bucks development coach Bill Peterson’s comparison of Sessions’ development to Steve Nash’s — Peterson was Nash’s development coach in Dallas.

In the Reno Gazette story, Peterson, the lone assistant Scott Skiles retained from last season’s staff, went so far as to compare Sessions to the young Steve Nash, a Peterson development project in Dallas 1998-2000.

 “If you only knew [about Nash’s struggles]. Guys don’t just start out in this league and they’re lights out. I can remember nights when Nash was booed unmercifully. There were nights when they would boo him every time he touched the ball. I told Sess, ‘Look where he is now. All it takes is hard work and dedication.’ And Sess has that.”

Except that Sessions doesn’t shoot anything like Nash, who’s been the best outside shooter in the league for a while now (two-point jumpers and 3’s included statistically). Neither does Ridnour, but that didn’t stop the NBA wags from suggesting that Luke was the second coming of Nash in 2004-05 when Ray Allen was leading the Supersonics into the West semifinals playoffs. For that we go to MiniShaq’s Lucky Luke Ridnour Mix on Youtube.

Lucky Luke hasn’t yet played out his shot at a second NBA life (for Luke it’s life after Ray Allen), so for now, Skiles’ decision to keep him in the starting role is sound. Might as well see if the five-year veteran can pilot the Bucks to a few wins in the tough early season schedule.

COMING UP: Boston and Phoenix this weekend.

The Bucks head to Boston Friday for a game against the champs and Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. This is a good defensive test for Ridnour and Sessions, who go against lightning quick Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. If Michael Redd is still out with his ankle injury (and he’s now confirmed he will be), Sessions may be called on to guard Ray as well. Former Buck Eddie House, the first guard off the bench in the C’s rotation, is too big for Lucky Luke, so Sessions will likely be matched up against House as well.

Yes, my guy Sam “I Am” Cassell is still a Celtic. Unfortunately, the clown prince of basketball is not on the active roster … for now.

Saturday, Steve Nash, Shaquille O’Neal and Amare Stoudemire and the Phoenix Suns come to town (7:30PM gametime) along with a couple of good 3-point shooters who’d look good in a Michael Redd trade: Leandro Barbosa and Raja Bell. They’re both among the top ten career 3-point shooters in the league.

Can the Bucks at full strength surprise the Suns? This year is probably the last run by Nash/Shaq at the Western Conference finals and they opened the season beating the Spurs. Nash will be a great test for Ridnour and Sessions, but I’m even more interested in seeing how Bogut handles Shaq. When I did my center rankings back in July, I couldn’t justify ranking Bogut and many of the other centers on the list ahead of Shaq. I realize he’s lost a couple of steps, but he’s still Shaq, and guys like Marcus Camby, Mehmet Okur and, yes, Bogut, haven’t achieved anything or played to such heights that they should be considered “better than Shaq.” 

I plan on reassessing the centers’ rankings around the All-Star break, with an eye toward Bogut improving and (hopefully) moving up the list. Outplaying Shaq will be a great way to get his season going in the right direction. 

A shout out to The Rogue Hour, a funky blog, about sports, race and all sorts of American things (a strong and thoughtful commentary about Obama’s election win is the feature up now). And sometimes, The Rogue gives a nice plug to the Bob Boozer Jinx. Belated thanks, Rogue!

Bucks Weekend: Raptors in home opener and Knicks Sun

The oft-injured Jermaine O'NealThis is reposted from the bottom of my last column. Why? Well, it’s a Bucks-Raptors preview, but in writing it I was reminded of something I thought needed highlighting (hence the bold typeface):

The Raptors come to town boasting two of the top three 3-point shooters in the NBA — All-time!  Reserve forward Jason Kapano is #1 in 3-point shooting percentage and starting guard Anthony Parker is #7. Plus, they bring a top tier point guard to the BC in Jose Calderon. Just as against many NBA opponent, the Bucks will not find advantage in the backcourt — but the frontcourt of Bogut, Villanueva and Jefferson should decide whether the Bucks are in this one or not.

GAME TIME 7:30pm — Bradley Center and on FSN.

After today’s game, the Bucks are off to NY, a game they’d better win if only because the Knicks stole two games from the Bucks last season. Watch out for David Lee, the Knicks big forward. The Bucks lost track of him repeatedly last season and he was the difference. Beating the Knicks is the responsibilty of Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva. Hold down the paint guys and you’ll likely have a win.

Two days off before the home opener Saturday:  The Raptors will be a good test, and let’s hope another debacle like the Chicago opener doesn’t occur. It’s another game the Bucks need to win if they have any hope of posting a respectable record this month (and next month too — the Bucks are staring down a December gunbarrel of a second trip west and a back-to-back in Texas).

Saturday offers Bucks fans a first look at the new Raptors, with TJ Ford gone and Jermaine O’Neal manning the post (check that – I don’t recall that O’Neal was ever much of a post threat; good midrange shooter, though). Another advantage for Bogut? Not certain with Chris Bosh also in the paint; also Toronto has a big edge at point with Jose Calderon, making this matchup a tough test for the Bucks guards. Nonetheless, it’s still a good idea for the Bucks to test O’Neal with Bogut just as they did last night against the Thunder and try to gain a frontcourt advantage.

The Bucks and Charlie Villanueva will have their hands full with Bosh, not to mention Calderon and some of the best shooters in the league, 3-point champ Jason Kapano, a reserve forward, and starting shooting guard Anthony Parker. Kapano’s career three-point percentage is .466 – tops in NBA history. Parker’s career 3-point percentage is .426, 7th all-time and 3rd among active players, behind only Kapano and Suns MVP Steve Nash. Kapano and Parker hit 6 of 9 threes against the Sixers Wednesday night, spoiling Elton Brand’s Philadelphia debut.

Here’s the active career 3-point shooting list at basketball-reference.com. As you can see, Michael Redd is down to 18th after a poor shooting season last year; Ray Allen is 12th among active players, though he’s second only to Reggie Miller in career 3-pointers made. Charlie Bell makes the active rankings at 44th, with a .361 percentage.

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

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

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

The Mad Ants.

"Ants are ants" … "NOT these ants."

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

Mad Ant mascot The Madam Ants

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

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

Charlie Bell in Johannesberg

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

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

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


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

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

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

Someone sent me a picture a few days ago

in my email


I've been trying hard


forget it

ever since.

Would be VP Sarah Palin

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

Coach sees Sessions as potential playoff starter at point

I predicted yesterday that the Spurs would lose, this not being their year, and, of course, they won. Happens every time. I’m not the only one feeling the Spurs “same old same old” grind. Now, on to the matter at hand:

Ramon SessionsHow high are the Bucks on Ramon Sessions‘ potential? Much higher than many NBA observers seem to think, especially those writing about the upcoming 2008 draft.  The conventional wisdom around the league is that the Bucks are looking for a point guard in the draft, the current Bucks starting point guard of note being Mo Williams.

There’s little or no mention in draft talk of the Bucks other point guard, Sessions, who started in place of injured Mo in the final seven games and won the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honor for April.  Inside the Bucks camp, however, Sessions’ is a hot topic, maybe hot enough to change the Bucks draft outlook.

How good could Ramon Sessions be?

“I could see him becoming a starter on a playoff team — that’s how good he could become,” Bucks development coach and Sessions’ mentor Bill Peterson told the Reno (Nevada) Gazette Journal in April. Though the story is a month old, it’s worth looking at again with NBA lottery and the draft order on tap tonight.

Sessions averaged 13.1 pts., 13.1 assists, 5.6 rbs and 1.7 steals in seven starts, including a Bucks franchise record 24 assists set April 14 against Chicago at the BC. That was good enough to catch the attention of the daily newspaper in Reno, where Sessions played his college ball, and good enough for Rookie of the Month. It might even be good enough to lead to some Bob Boozer Jinx conclusions, such as:

  1. The Bucks may not necessarily be looking for a point guard in the draft, but would welcome Derrick Rose finding the Bucks via some lottery luck tonight. Assuming the Bucks are looking at guards in general, moving up to the number three spot is crucial. Rose and OJ Mayo, the cream of the guards this draft, will be long gone by the 7th pick.

2) Mo Williams may no longer be the Bucks starting point guard. Put another way: If Williams is on the roster next season, refrain from assuming he’s the starter. And certainly don’t assume Mo will be on the roster.

In the Reno Gazette story, Peterson, the lone assistant Scott Skiles retained from last season’s staff, went so far as to compare Sessions to the young Steve Nash, a Peterson development project in Dallas 1998-2000.

 “If you only knew [about Nash’s struggles]. Guys don’t just start out in this league and they’re lights out. I can remember nights when Nash was booed unmercifully. There were nights when they would boo him every time he touched the ball. I told Sess, ‘Look where he is now. All it takes is hard work and dedication.’ And Sess has that.”

To put a rookie who’s only played 17 games in context with the two-time MVP is high praise. Peterson worked with Nash in Nash’s third and fourth years as a pro. Nash became a full-time starter for the Mavs in his fifth season. Peterson went on to Colorado state where he was associate head coach for seven seasons until Larry Krystkowiak brought him on staff last year as player development coach.

Peterson took Sessions under his wing when Sessions was called up February and fractured his left hand in his first practice. Together they dissected Sessions game on video while Sessions sat out four weeks with the injury. Here’s more from the Reno Gazette story:

“I can’t put into words how much Coach Peterson has helped me. Whatever I need, he is there for me. We watch game film together, he helps me during practice, we work on all the little things. Coach Peterson cares about me as a player and a person.”

Skiles decision to keep Peterson is a good sign for Sessions, obviously. Assistants Kelvin Sampson and Joe Wolf also reflect the strong development bent of the new Bucks staff, and the other three coaches — Skiles, Jim Boylan and Lionel Hollins are all former point guards. Milwaukee is suddenly a good place for a young point guard to develop. The Bucks own a one-year option on Sessions for next season.

Center Andrew Bogut has already implied whom he’d like to see playing point:

“He was a true point guard. I haven’t played with a true point guard since I’ve been here, really. I think he did a great job of trying to find teammates first and shoot second. Hopefully, he’ll keep that mentality. I think he definitely deserves everything he got.”

GM John Hammonds, in the Racine Journal Times feature from ten days ago that will come to be known as “The Lazerus Interview” after a few more blogosphere resurrections, is anticipating trade interest in Sessions:

“The way he finished the season … as we continue to work the phones (in trade talks) I guarantee you his name will come up.”

Sessions’ former head coach, Larry Krystkowiak, after Sessions’ 24-assist game:

“I think he does a really nice job of finding the open guy. He has a knack for when to advance. I think he’s got what it takes to have an impact in the league. He certainly is taking advantage of his opportunities. He could be a future piece to the franchise.”

And now some brilliant analysis from ESPN’s Chad Ford, who convinced himself that most of the teams in the lottery will want point guard Derrick Rose over Beasely in the draft because Ford thinks point guards are hot:

“Now that John Hammond has taken over as GM, he’s looking for a tough leader. Mo Williams may be entrenched at the point in Milwaukee, but if Hammond gets a shot at a franchise point guard, I think he’s taking it.”

Williams is so entrenched at point that Ford’s ESPN Lottery Mock Draft has had Texas point guard D.J. Augustin locked in at the Bucks’ most likely #7 pick for weeks. New Orleans’ Chris Paul is a dazzling player, but not so dazzling that NBA teams are convinced that the small point guards in the 2008 draft are CP3 caliber.

The Bucks could always sign Damon Jones again, or Mike James or T.J. Ford. Hammond could even see what Reece Gaines is up to these days. (See yesterdays rant about Larry Harris’ point guard candy store).

For insight on point guards, let’s refer back to the Bucks coaching staff and development guru Peterson:

 “If you only knew [about Nash’s struggles]. Guys don’t just start out in this league and they’re lights out. I can remember nights when Nash was booed unmercifully. There were nights when they would boo him every time he touched the ball. I told Sess, ‘Look where he is now. All it takes is hard work and dedication.’ And Sess has that.”

The non-controvers-Yi of Yi’s rookie year

Yi with Commissioner David Stern on draft day.It all seemed so controversial last summer. Bucks management trapsing all over the world to track down their 1st round draft pick, Yi Jianlian, whose handlers would have prefered he play on the West Coast, or anywhere but here.

Yi was promised a starting position, ESPN reported. No he wasn’t Bucks GM Larry Harris lied – I mean replied. Bucks fans worried that the team had wasted the #6 pick on a guy that didn’t want to play.

The season started with Yi in the starting lineup, playing 30 minutes a game. Charlie Villanueva was relegated to reserve role and did a spectacularly bad job of it. By the end of December, Seattle’s Kevin Durant, the rookie of the year and #2 pick, was the only rookie scoring more than Yi, and only #3 pick, Atlanta center Al Horford, was rebounding more. Yi was leading them all with a .503 shooting percentage. Yi was named T-Mobile Rookie of the Month in the Eastern Conference for December, and had filled it up for 29 against Charlotte (a win) on the 22nd.

But there was a problem: The Bucks were 18-30 with Yi as a starter. On Feb. 9 — Game 49 — Larry Krystkowiak moved Yi to the bench and started Charlie V.

But there was a problem: The Bucks lost at an even faster rate, going 8-25 in games that Yi did not start or did not play (he missed half of them) the rest of the way. (Yi did start one more game in February, a loss).

This week, the NBA coaches left Yi off the 1st and 2nd team All-NBA rookie teams, though Yi did receive 13 votes in the process. (A first team selection gets 2 points; a second team selection gets one point). That means that nearly half of the 29 voting coaches (coaches can’t vote for their own players) thought Yi was good enough for second team, assuming no one voted Yi on the first team. That’s nearly not half bad.

Watching a 6’11” guy run the floor better than Tracy McGrady and shoot jumpers with Ray-Allen-perfect form wasn’t half bad either. Watching Yi get pushed around as he tried to box out for rebounds was not so good. Even worse was Yi flashing to open spots and being routinely ignored by Michael Redd and Mo Williams. There was a mean chill on this Bucks team; you had to be at the games to see it.

I was impressed with Yi — and I admit, I was hoping to be impressed. He wanted to run the floor. Yet no one on the Bucks was ready to run except Mo Williams. (Dez Mason was out the first few games I attended; Yi was out the last couple). On offense, the ball didn’t move — Redd held it, waited, palmed it, waited for everyone to stop, then drove into traffic. As a team, they couldn’t get uncontested shots. Mo could, easily enough, but only for himself. In a game against New Jersey, at halftime Yi and Bogut had six points combined.

After a few trips to the BC, it stopped mattering to me whether the Bucks should have drafted Jeff Green or one of the Florida players, Noah or Brewer, instead of Yi. After Greg Oden, Durant and Al Horford, it didn’t matter. The way the Bucks were playing, it didn’t matter. So the kid from China didn’t want to play in Milwaukee. Who in their right mind would want to suffer on the 2007-08 Bucks? Scola? No. Carl Landry, who grew up here and went to Vincent? Alright, Landry would probably love to play for the Bucks, no matter the circumstances.

I did come to the conclusion that Yi should have been coming off the bench. If the Bucks couldn’t do anything else well, at least Krystkowiak should have commited the team to rebounding. Charlie V last season was better help for Bogut under the boards, and should have been the starter at power forward. Both big forwards could have played 30 minutes, with Yi playing about ten minutes at small forward, posting up his defender.

But it didn’t matter. The Bucks lost more when Charlie was starting. Sometimes Charlie felt like rebounding, sometimes he didn’t. Sometimes he played as though all he cared about was proving that he could score just as much, if not more, than “Michael” and look better doing it. Call it the Mo Williams syndrome. By April, Yi, Mo and Charlie all seemed perfectly happy sitting in their tailor-made suits, riding out the bad vibes of the season on the end of the bench.

GM John Hammond has enthusiastically called Yi “a keeper” an “asset” and in a lengthy interview in the Racine Journal Times Sunday, said Bogut and Yi are: “two, very good young pieces … that you can build around. Bigs are so hard to find. The Boguts and the Yis … it would be awfully hard to move guys like that.”

Bogut said this about Yi in his most recent interview with Journal Sentinel:

“To have him at the 4 (power forward) and shoot the ball the way he does, that’s his main role, and I think he’s done a great job with it,” Bogut said. “I think he can spread the defense. But once he gets more aggressive, I think he needs to work on putting the ball on the floor and trying to get to the basket.

“He’s as athletic as anybody I’ve seen. Ballhandling will be a key factor for him, working in the off-season. If he gets that down, he’ll be a much more productive guy. Guys are scouting him and trying to make him put the ball on the floor.

“It’s kind of tough, adjusting to NBA guys who are much quicker than you’re used to. It’s just getting strong hands, and I think he’ll be fine. His work ethic is unbelievable, and he’ll be in the gym every day this summer.”

Sounds good to me. The NBA season is sometimes just a snapshot of basketball in time that doesn’t carry over into the playoffs or the next season. The All-Rookie team presents one of these snapshots for the league; it’s camera failed to capture the ups and downs of Yi’s first season, just as it failed to capture how well Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey played in Game 5 against Orlando last night (Stuckey missed the All-Rookie 1st team but made the 2nd).

There’s no real controvers-Yi to find here. And no reason to doubt the hope that Yi will be much-improved next season.

Skiles’ assistant hires point to Bucks rebuilding

One of the many big criticisms of the Bucks has been that the organization couldn’t decide whether to rebuild or try to win now, so they tried to do both. The results were mediocre, leading to poor, finally colliding this season with terrible — and Michael Redd’s delusion that he is Kobe, Charlie Villanueva’s insistence that he is a star, and Mo Williams’ attitude that, because he can routinely get himself better shots than the two aforementioned dummies, he might as well shoot it. Fighting through all of this was the development of Andrew Bogut, Yi Jianlian and, once the season was over, Ramon Sessions.

Thankfully, those days appear to be over in Milwaukee. GM John Hammond has hired a coach, Scott Skiles, who proved he can win with young players in Chicago. Now the coach is hiring his staff. Thus far, it is a group wired to develop its own NBA stars, not coach somebody else’s.

Nothing’s official yet, but as of this week, Jim Boylan and Kelvin Sampson are on board as Skiles’ assistants. Skiles announced last week that  Bill Peterson, Larry Krystkowiak’s player development coach who worked extensively with rookie Ramon Sessions, will stay on.

No word yet on Skiles other top choices for assistants, Memphis assistant Lionel Hollins and Kohler’s own Joe Wolf, NBA D-League coach and a Buck for a season in the 1990’s. Skiles said his staff would be the typical three assistants on the bench with a development coach behind them.

With Peterson in the development job, it could mean that either Wolf or Hollins is out of the picture, or both. In the last few days, the situation in Memphis changed and Hollins still has his job, now that head coach Marc Iavaroni has kept his. (Memphis had been in the Larry Brown sweepstakes, and when Brown went to the Charlotte Bobcats, the rebuilding Grizz settled on Iavaroni.)

Skiles also said that he expected to have his coaches hired by this week, so the new staff could be finalized any day now.

What do Skiles top choices say about the direction the team is heading? The bent is clearly toward development of younger players (Peterson, Sampson and Wolf) and extreme dedication to ball movement and smart guard play (Skiles, Hollins and Boylan played the point; ball movement was religion for Skiles’ Baby Bulls). It’s about time.

Jim Boylan, who took over from Skiles in Chicago this season and was let go two weeks ago, is simply the obvious choice to be Skiles’ lead assistant in Milwaukee. Boylan was Skiles’ lead in Chicago and on Skiles’ staff in Phoenix, and as a bonus for Marquette alums and 40-plus fans, Boylan was Al McGuire’s starting point guard on the 1977 NCAA championship team — and he’s still Al’s point guard, teaching players to “live in the moment.”  The Zen approach should go over well with Yi, whose personal coach, Jarinn Akana, was not retained by Skiles.

Bill Peterson was the player development coach in Dallas (1998-2000), the early years of Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley and Steve Nash. That worked out well, to say the least. Last season, Peterson won rave reviews from Krystkowiak and was credited with the late season splash Ramon Sessions made at the point. Skiles’ decision to retain Peterson is great news for Sessions, whom the Bucks have some high hopes for (more on that in a separate post). Retaining Peterson should be taken as a sign that not only will Sessions will be a Buck next season, he is, right now, the starting point guard. Sorry Mo, you’ve lost the job.

With all that has been said and written about what happened at Kelvin Sampson’s previous job, Sampson has been one of the best coaches in the college game for more than a decade. In the 2008 NBA draft, Sampson’s shooting guard, Eric Gordon, is slated as a top 10 draft pick – on many boards the player the Bucks would take with the 7th pick if that holds; Sampson’s big forward DJ White, is projected going early in the second round. Both players jumped into the draft after Sampson lost his job, something of a players’ endorsement. There’s no question Sampson brings to the Bucks coaching skills geared toward young, developing players. And Sampson’s not the only college coach Skiles was interested in hiring – ESPN reported that Skiles was also looking at New Mexico assistant Craig Neal.

The book on Joe Wolf, head coach and GM of the NBA D-League Colorado 14ers the last two years, is that he is set to get a shot as an assistant in the NBA soon, whether in Milwaukee or elsewhere. Wolf’s been winning in the D-League, and his 14ers are led by one of the D-League’s best players, Elton Brown. But winning isn’t the only thing in the D-League, where the “D” in development is capitalized. By all accounts, Wolf’s doing a great job, and one former player, Nuggets guard Von Wafer, raves that Wolf saved his career. Wolf as a coach has been flying under George Karl’s wing, and would probably do well to get broader experience. Any way one looks at Wolf, his appearance as one of Skiles’ top candidates is a nod to player development.

Lionel Hollins is Mr. Grizzlie. He’s been coaching on the Memphis bench since the franchise began in Vancouver (with Bucks great Brian Winters as its first head coach), and twice held the head coaching reins for the Griz. Prior to the Grizzlies, Hollins was an assistant in Phoenix for seven years, including the Suns’ Kevin Johnson and Charles Barkley years. Hiring a coach with the experience of Hollins would have been a great coups for Skiles, but probably depended on whether or not Iavaroni and the Memphis staff would be retained.

With every player on the Bucks roster with the exception of Bogut and Yi on the trading block, the coaching selections do offer some insight into how the Bucks are likely looking at their team.

  • The Peterson hire means the world for Sessions; it’s also no good for Mo Williams or Michael Redd (who quit down the stretch). Because Peterson was only in his first year under Krystkowiak, he’s not wed to players like Mo, Simmons or Redd.


  • Sampson’s hiring is about as pro youth as Skiles could get. Sampson does have experience dealing with NBA stars, as a coach under George Karl in the 2002 World Championships, but it’s not his skill set. The Bucks have a good draft pick this year, along with a developing Yi (who could benefit from NCAA coaching-style), Sessions and Bogut. Expect the Bucks to get younger to take advantage of Sampson’s presence.
  • No assistant choice of Skiles shouts – “This is good for Michael Redd; this coach will understand where Redd is coming from.” That coach is just not there, unless it can be found in Boylan’s ability to communicate with players as Skiles’ right hand man. The focus of the team is shifting overtly toward developing players, not catering to second/third tier “stars.” If a decent deal for Redd comes along this summer, especially if there are young players or draft picks involved, expect GM Hammond to jump at it.
  • Expect the Bucks to get younger, rather than look for veteran help or stars in trades. Again, as a group, Skiles’ coaching choices are wired to develop their own stars rather than coach somebody else’s. Next year will likely be a year for development and improvement, not a year to push for the playoffs.
  • This has become a long post; time to wrap it up.

Bogut speaks up: Skiles, Yi, Sessions

Nothing new on his contract situation, but vacationing Bucks big man Andrew Bogut emailed some comments about the hiring of Scott Skiles and teammates Yi Jianlian and Ramon Sessions to Journal Sentinel Bucks beat writer Charles Gardner.  The story appeared on JSonline today.

It’s a good read, though nothing altogether controversial. The Bucks center is excited about playing for Skiles. Bogut’s new coach likes how Bogut is developing as a player, improving each year – and thinks he’ll keep getting better.

About Yi, Bogut talks up his shooting ability and athleticism, and says Yi’s work ethic is “unbelievable.”

On Sessions, Bogut says the rookie’s late season run with the Bucks was the first time he played with a “true point guard” since being drafted by the Bucks in 2005. He touts Sessions for doing a great job “trying to find his teammates first, shoot second.”

So much for TJ Ford, who Bogut played with in 2006, and Mo Williams, a shooter who often found his teammates second last season, at times looked lost running the offense, and was in conflict with Michael Redd. In Mo’s defense, the Bucks looked better as a team – and won more (5-5) – in the games that Redd missed than they did when Mo was out and Redd played.

Other than Yi and Sessions, no other player is discussed, which is interesting in and of itself, though I wouldn’t read too much into it — as much as we Bucks fans would like to, searching for clues about Hammond’s thinking r.e. personel and trades this summer.  Bogut did talk up the passing of Sessions, as if to say, “the guys I’ve been playing with since I’ve been here don’t look for their teammates …”  We can editorialize from there.

From where Bogut is sitting, in Croatia, on vacation, almost certain to get the long-term extension he wants from the team, nothing good could come from pointing fingers at his teammates. He doesn’t know who will be on the team and who won’t be next season. The last thing the Bucks players need now is more negativity in the already bad chemistry.  

File it under “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Or as little as possible.