Tag Archives: Richard Jefferson

The “Ginobili rules” of the West don’t put the Spurs in title contention

He took the ball on a bounce after a sloppy, tipped inbound.  He held it too long, allowing precious seconds tick away, robbing his team of any chance for an offensive rebound if his final shot missed.  He advanced then toward Luc Mbah a Moute, one of the best defenders — if not the best defender — in basketball.  He drove hard left but Mbah a Moute was there first.  He pushed Luc off with his right arm but not far enough — Mbah a Moute stayed right on him as he planted a pivot foot.  He had no time and no choice but to jump full back, with both feet — traveling — and tossed up a 20-footer that barely lofted over Mbah a Moute’s outstretched hand.

No whistles.  The jumper poured through the hoop at the buzzer, giving the Spurs a 92-90 win over the Bucks.

“He” is Manu Ginobili, Charles Barkley’s second favorite player.  How about Charles’ boy this week?

“You mean that he travelled?” – Sir Charles doth speaketh.  “… That’s a travel. In all 50 states, that’s a travel.”

Not in San Antonio, Texas, on a Wednesday night in December — and not when the 10-13 Milwaukee Bucks were on the verge of pulling off a Texas sweep of the teams with the best records in the West.  Are the Spurs and Mavs truly title contenders?   Maybe.  But no, not if Boston and Miami continue playing the way they’re playing, not really.  Not if they’re struggling — and the Mavs failing — to beat the Bucks in Texas.

It’s been two-plus seasons since Ginobili, Parker and Duncan made the West Finals but the story seems to be that this summer they “banded together” for a title run in 2011. It’s an improbable story when you consider that they haven’t really been close to a title since 2007 when they last won; and it’s not a story everybody’s buying into — the Denver Nuggets certainly didn’t on Thursday night.  FoxSports “In the Paint” NBA analyst Marques Johnson this week qualified  his take on the Spurs and Mavs as “the best in the West” with a telling … “for now.” And he says it twice for emphasis.

Marques (1977-1984) was the greatest forward to ever wear a Bucks uniform, the only Buck not named Kareem or Sidney to be a 1st team All-Pro.   It’s always strange to see Junior Bridgeman‘s #2 up in the BC rafters (though they on the court together for roughly half the game, Bridgeman was Marques’ backup) while Marques’ #8 is still in circulation, worn by rookie Larry Sanders (heck, I’d wear it too if I were a Bucks rookie).  Like Barkley, Marques is more keen on the Mavs chances — probably figuring that Dirk Nowitzki is the one player whom none of his contending Bucks teams would have had a defense for.  The Spurs?  “The Spurs are the Spurs,” Johnson shrugged.

But the thing that’s going unmentioned in the NBA this week by Marques, Barkley or anybody is that neither the Spurs or Mavs looked like championship contenders against the Bucks — a concession perhaps to the idea that the Bucks have the unluckiest 10-14 record in basketball and are so-under-the-radar in terms of contention that you need sonar to track them.  The Bucks haven’t backed away from any challenges since Andrew Bogut came back into the lineup, including the Heat, but that’s not the point — nobody’s going to talk about the Bucks until they start putting the ball in the basket with more regularity, go on a winning streak and actually beat the Heat, which they’ll get two chances to do the first week of January.

The point is, the Bucks were screwed in San Antonio — no other way to put it.  The refs didn’t just eat their whistles on Ginobili’s buzzer beater, they were loathe the entire game to call fouls on the Spurs starting five.  That isn’t going to happen if and when the Spurs meet Kobe, Gasol and the Lakers in the playoffs.

Here’s the foul story: One on Manu, one on Parker, one on DeJuan Blair and three on Tim Duncan, who was guarding Bogut most of the night and basically humped his arm with the score tied 90-90 and the Bucks trying to feed their All-Star center in the post.   No fouls on Richard Jefferson.  That’s six fouls in 150 minutes played by the Spurs starters — or an astounding one foul per 25 minutes played, which means the refs were not about to whistle even 5 fouls on the Spurs starters per 120 mins of available PT in a half.

Brandon Jennings was hacked all night by Tony Parker and battered to a 4-18 shooting night.  Yet the Bucks, with John Salmons and Corey Maggette all but benched for the game and Carlos Delfino still recovering from a head injury, had the ball with the score tied at 90 and 30 seconds to play.

The following night in Denver it was more of the same for the Spurs, playing at full strength against the Chauncey-less Nuggets.  Duncan fouled out two or three times by my count but was only whistled for four, even as his counterpart, Nene Hilario, was fouled out.  Parker — who fouls everybody in sight — was caught for all of one foul playing 37 minutes.  In the end it was Manu twisting for a layup to give the Spurs the lead and then saving the game by leaping into Carmelo Anthony‘s path to draw a charge as time expired — taking the winning points off the Denver scoreboard.

Was Ginobili there, planted in position in time?   It was close, too close not to question — but it was Manu.  Of course the call went his way, whether or not what he did was to jump — leap, literally, both feet in the air from the weakside — under Carmelo as Carmelo (31 pts in the game) was gathering to lift to the rim.

But hey — it was Manu.  Tough luck, Carmelo.  “Bullshit,” said Nuggets coach George Karl.  The Spurs are now 22-3, the best record in basketball and they’re playing at full strength in December. It’s the fastest start in Spurs history.  But I watched the Spurs lose twice this week, and so did you — only to see the refs award them the wins.  No, the Spurs are no title contender — they don’t have the muscle in the paint to help Duncan and truly contend, and no amount of magical refereeing will allow the Manu and Parker and RJ show to carry them to the finals.

Call the Spurs a lucky 22-3, as lucky as the Bucks 10-14 mark has been unlucky and injury riddled.  As lucky as the Bears 9-4 record atop the NFC North (oh, that’s probably stretching it).  The luck of things in the NBA have a tendency to even out over the grueling 82-game schedule — let’s not go ahead and crown their asses yet.   Remember, against the Bucks, the Spurs were posterized in the 4th quarter by, of all people, Drew Gooden.


“I still don’t think he’s a center” — Kevin McHale on the Hawks Al Horford — who is not a center despite the Hawks insistence (under Mike Woodson anyway) that Horford is a 6’11″center.   In Boston, Horford had just hit an early 18-footer against the Celtics, and McHale noted that Horford’s improving 18-footer was the thing that “separates him from other big forwards.”  Al Horford, power forward.  Too small to start against Andrew Bogut and other centers (that task goes to Hawks big man Jason Collins), and too small at 6’9 to appear on center ranking lists.  Hopefully, commentary like McHale’s is a sign that Bogut will be making his All-Star game debut in Los Angeles in February.


Bogut since his return against the Magic Dec. 4:  19.8 pts – 14.2 rebs – 4 blks – 1 steal – 2.3 assists per game.  Add in the possessions that he turns over by taking charges and the result is a center playing better now than Dwight Howard.  Overall, Bogut leads the NBA in blocks per game (3.1) and has the 3rd-best defensive rating in the league (96.5 pts allowed per 100 possessions when he’s on the court) behind Kevin Garnett and Howard.  That’s the sort of company AB keeps these days.

If Bogut keeps it up and continues hitting 55% of his shots (50 of 89 since tipping it off against the Magic), the Bucks should weather the current scheduling nightmare (and AB’s horrendous free throw shooting) by earning a few tough road wins in the West — and be right on the Bulls’ tails by late January.


Speaking of centers and the Bulls, Joakim Noah will be out nursing a broken right thumb until after the All-Star break.  With the Bucks in the middle of the toughest stretch of basketball in the league this season, fate (or Bulls management) has conspired to make sure the Bulls don’t run away with the Central.  The Bulls can’t and won’t keep up their 16-8 pace (and 3rd-ranked defense) without their defensive anchor in the paint having the All-Star season he was having — but the Bucks have a six game hole to climb out of while playing the toughest December-early January schedule in the league.

The Bucks play Dec. 28 and Jan. 24 in Chicago.  Noah will miss both of those, which means the Bucks won’t get a chance to see the Rose-Noah-Boozer Bulls until Feb. 26 in Milwaukee.  That’s too bad, because a Bucks-Bulls game without Joakim Noah is like playing the Celtics without Kevin Garnett — it takes the fun out of the battle for the paint.  I wonder if Bogut will miss him.

I can’t help but wonder, though, given that 2-handed push shot that Noah throws up at the rim,  what he needs his right thumb for?

Forgotten Man: Richard Jefferson has played more minutes than any NBA player… yet he’s the Bucks few talk about

Richard JeffersonRichard Jefferson is the man Bucks coach Scott Skiles plays more than any other. In fact, Jefferson’s played more minutes than any player in the NBA to this point, thanks to the Bucks grueling schedule. (They are one of only six teams to play 26 games so far, Charlotte in the East and Utah, Portland, Sacramento and OK City out West being the others). Yet Jefferson is not a player who gets much scrutiny or praise from fans whether it’s on our forum here at Sportsbubbler or others. Discussion about Michael Redd or Andrew Bogut? Those never seem to end.

Jefferson, despite the big trade of Yi Jianlian that brought him here and the court time he gets, is somehow flying under the radar, at times a forgotten man.  It’s an odd phenomenon but it’s also part of who R.J. is as a player. To get to the bottom of this, let’s go back to last year when R.J. was a New Jersey Net.

[No, I don’t know who the brunette on R.J.’s arm is (the tag just says she’s a model – no kidding) … EDIT: Turns out that’s R.J.’s wife, Trinidadian supermodel Teresa Lourenco.]

I was at a Nets-Bucks game last December  and you wouldn’t have known Jefferson  was on the court much of the time. The Bucks played well that night, if not consistently. It was Mo Williams bobblehead night, and he and Michael Redd decided to have a shootout in the first half. Mo had 21 at half; Redd made sure to outscore him with 24 (or maybe it was the other way around). In any case, it was kind of sickening when you realize they were on the same dam team and at one point when Mo was on fire, Redd nearly threw a temper tantrum over it as the team came to the bench during a time out(our Bucks, what a team!).  In spite of (and because of) the Bucks fireworks, New Jersey hung around, won the 4th quarter and won the game.

Afterward, the feeling was, how’d the Nets do it?  They weren’t shooting well for much of the game or so it seemed, and they looked out of sync despite Jason Kidd running the show.  Kidd hit a clutch three in the 4th, that much I remember. But R.J.? Couldn’t have even told you that night how he did. I just checked the boxscore from the game and can report that R.J. had a quiet 19 points in 39.5 minutes to go with 1 reb and 1 asst in all that time.  Kidd and Vince Carter were on the court even morethan R.J. — 40+ mins for both of them. Redd played just as much and had 35 pts, most of it in the 1st half, and his Bucks lost at home.

I came away with the conclusion that Jefferson (and Carter and Kidd, too) had done a lot of little things on the court that escaped notice, none more important than playing consistent, though unspectacular, defense. Also, the Nets knew how to win the game — the Bucks were 0-4 vs. the Nets last season and it wasn’t because the Nets were necessarily outplaying the Bucks. All four of those games were close — the Bucks just couldn’t figure out how to win any of them. The Nets had numerous heroes, from Josh Boone to Bostian Nachbar (who’s now playing in Europe or Russia or somewhere). It didn’t seem to matter who the culprit was — New Jersey found a way to win. It was the little things – things the Bucks were not doing and hadn’t been doing for years.

R.J.’s not the best of shooters, never has been, though some fans may recall how clutch he was against the Bucks early in his career. Is R.J. a slasher?  Well, the book on him coming to Milwaukee was that he was, but that was part of the case made that R.J. and Redd would be “complementary players.” R.J.’s slashing was limited at best in New Jersey. What sticks out in my mind about R.J. in his career are jump shots he hit over Big Dog in his rookie year (2002) and more of those in the 2003 playoffs againt the Bucks. It’s never a good idea to put too much stock in the highlight dunks that show up on SportsCenter.  Regardless, he hasn’t been a slasher as a Buck — in fact it looks like he’s lost some hop.

According to 82games.com shooting stats, 77% of Jefferson’s shots are jumpshots, a higher percentage than the shots of the alleged jumpshooter, Michael Redd. Redd takes the ball to the basket much more than many fans realize. When the trade was made, I viewed Redd and R.J. as much more “like” players than pieces that fit together. They’re hardly complementary.

Jefferson’s no great passer or rebounder, either, although it was also said when the trade was made that R.J. would be a good rebounder. Bucks fans should know what a good rebounding small forward looks like: for the majority of team history the Bucks have had SF’s who hit the glass more and better than R.J. — Big Dog, Terry Cummings, Marques Johnson and Bob Dandridge come to mind. Sticking with the more recent past, R.J.’s not the rugged boardsman Big Dog could be when the team needed him to be.

So what does R.J. do on the court?  It’s those little things that help win games — playing hardnosed, constant-pressure, ball-denying D; working hard every possession and never giving up on a play (a couple of things Bogut could improve on); doing more than enough (but not too much) with the ball on offense to remain a threat and maintain spacing for his teammates; getting to the line; keeping the ball moving on offense; being a good teammate; and, thinking and believing that his team is going to win. These are all things that rub off on teammates and, if and when they do, it’s called leadership. Plus, Jefferson is able to maintain intensity without seeming to get tired, despite the heavy minutes that coach Skiles keeps him on the court. It’s a long list.

Up to this point in the season, R.J. is off to his best start ever shooting from 3-point land. Whether that continues or not is anybody’s guess, but he’s never shot as well as he is now for an entire season. Whether R.J. continue to hit threes or not shouldn’t play into how Jefferson is appreciated by fans. The intangibles that R.J. brings, those things that don’t always show up in the box score, are much more important to this team, especially as they learn Skiles’ defensive system.

If there’s one word that best fits the intangible R.J., it wouldn’t be “defense” or even “leadership” (though both of those things are part of it). The word is ATTITUDE.

Bucks vs. Sixers:  Two wins in a row under their belts and the Bucks tonight face the Sixers, a quick athletic gang who can’t shoot straight. Also waiting for Andrew Bogut and the Bucks in Philly is Sixers center Sam Dalembert. Dalembert hasn’t been playing so well this season but in his last two games against Bogut and the Bucks, Bogut had more turnovers (7) than points scored (6).  Here’s the box score from the last one. It ain’t pretty.  I have a feeling that Bogut is looking for some redemption tonight.

Bucks frontcourt steals OK City’s thunder

Dez Mason dunks over Tyrone Lue Wednesday - AP photo Sue OgrockiLooking at the schedule, if the Bucks are 9-10 at the end of November, Bucks fans will have reason to rejoice. If they're 8-11, that's a big step in the right direction, too.

Last night's win ON THE ROAD (remember what road wins are like?) against the Oklahoma City Thunder  was the kind of game the Bucks need to have in order to win 8 or 9 of these first 19 games in November  Are the Bucks going to beat San Antonio, Cleveland or Boston? Not much of a chance. The Thunder? This is a team you jump out on early, keep 'em down and close them out, no matter that the Thunder were playing their first home game in team history.

(I still think the Seattle swindlers should have named this team the Rawhides, but the OK City Thunder "group" are not the sort of ownership folks who take advice well. Just ask the good people of Seattle.)

How did the Bucks, who looked no different from last season's Bucks in the opener against Chicago, get it done in Oklahoma? They went early to the big advantage they have against most teams — Andrew Bogut — and played inside-out in building a decisive lead.

OK City, with Kevin Durant, big forwards like Chris Wilcox and Nick Collison and rookie point guard Russell Westbrook, is an interesting team, but they have no center to handle Bogut. Bucks coach Skiles, who's never had much of a big man in his previous jobs at Phoenix and Chicago, did what he could not do against the Bulls — he took advantage of the Bogut advantage. Bogut scored 8 in the first quarter, finished with 11 at half and the Bucks were on their way. Suddenly three-pointers fell for the Bucks, Charlie Villanueva got loose 20 points and 12 boards, and the Bucks built a 20-point 3rd quarter lead. 

There were a few more highlights:

The benching of Michael Redd in the first quarter. When Redd plays selfish and starts chucking (0-3 to start the game, bad shots all), sit him down. Simple stuff. Don't worry Bucks fans, Redd won't be here that much longer, but at least we now have a coach who will park Redd's butt on the bench. Redd recovered to have a solid, 20-point game, but was caught selfishly trying to pad his scoring in the 4th quarter with a hold-the-ball, dribble-right, dribble-left, chuck-the-ball-up play that also should have landed him on the bench. The shot he flung up there, with a defender in his face, nearly injured the OK City player under the basket when it shanked the rim and rocketed toward the baseline. Coach Skiles, let's once and for all put an end to this sort of bush league basketball in Milwaukee. Bucks fans have had more than our fill.

Richard Jefferson: 20 points on ten shots. That sort of efficiency will win some games for the Bucks. Jefferson at small forward was another big advantage the Bucks held last night against the Thunder, who play former Time Warner Cable pitchman Dez Mason and Jeff Green at small forward.

Charlie Villanueva: Can he get 20 pts, 12 rebs every night?  Maybe, if he gets the opportunities and can find some consistency playing near the basket. After logging only 6 minutes of PT against the Bulls opening night, Charlie showed Skiles that he ought to be out on the floor. For all of OK City's size at forward and Wilcox's athleticism and dedication to the boards, Charlie V has a much more dynamic offensive game than any of the OK City bigs (Bogut does too) and piled on to the frontcourt advantage that the Bucks exploited last night.

The other Charlie: Charlie Bell played backup point in the 3rd and 4th quarters, and was in control of the game, if not the officials who seemed dead set on helping OK City make it something of a game. It looks as though there will be plenty of minutes for Bell this season, backing up Redd and Jefferson. That's a good thing.

Two days off before the home opener Saturday: They'll need the rest to jump Toronto at home 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 will also give 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 with Bogut, Villanueva and Jefferson. The Bucks do not have an edge over the Raptors in the backcourt.

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.

Premier nite: Bucks vs. Bulls

Michael Redd not winning againWhhewww, made it back in time for the end of the 3rd Quarter and the entire 4th quarter of last night’s season opener for the Bucks.  

Just back from Tibet (glad you asked) and all points in between where I sought the wisdom behind the Bucks drafting of Joe Alexander with the #8 pick last June. It was quite a journey, though much like the story of the holy grail and the Maltese Falcon, it only led to more questions, not answers. Such as this:

Why is the Dahlai Lama so interested in talking about nothing but Brett Favre?

Sounds of the game, Bucks vs. Bulls:

CLANG!!  Welcome to the end of the 3rd quarter of the Bucks-Bulls season opener. Those are Bucks shots flying off the iron, and big forward Malik Allen is shooting them. Why? Nobody knows. Tyrone Lue is on the court as the point guard. Why? Again, nobody knows.

Fwhoosh … Most  of everything the Bulls threw at the basket in the 4th quarter, beginning really at the end of the 3rd when Kirk Hinrich drained a three to open a 7 point lead for the Bulls. Goddam Kurt (or is it Kurdt) Cobain for forever casting doubt upon how one is supposed to spell Kirk.

CLANG!!  Welcome to Michael Redd in the 4th quarter, missing his first four shots as the Bucks fall behind by 13 and he continues to hold the ball up in his palm like the statue of liberty allowing defenses to set. Who told him that was a good move.

Deafening roar of silence:  Richard Jefferson in the 4th quarter, as most of the offense went through Michael Redd (because obviously that’s worked so well in the past and won many more games than the Bucks have lost).

Yeahhh! My buddy Nick who had called in the 4th quarter to see what was what. He was flipping back and forth between the Bucks and the Celtics-Cavs game, and had decided that the Bucks were about six steps behind either the Celtics and the Cavs.

J-Mo: Yeah, that’s about right.

Nick: It’s Celtics and Cavs in the East this year, those are the top two.

J-Mo: Yeah, that’s about right. Detroit’s slipping and Cleveland’s better than ever.

Nick: And you know who’s going to give Cleveland the bump?

J-Mo: Mo Williams

Nick: Yeahhh!. (Same yeah as above). Mo seems to instinctively know where to get the ball to Lebron.

J-Mo: And he can shoot. He was the 2nd-best shooter in the NBA last year. (82games.com for uninitiated). Bucks traded their best shooters in the offseason. (Mo and Bobby Simmons). Only Nash was better than Mo shootingwise.

(Nick flips back to the Bucks game).

Nick: Man, they’re down 13!!!

J-Mo: Get used to it — the first 33 games are brutal, 20 on the road. They’ll be lucky if they win 10 or 11.

(Silence on the cell phones as we watch the game).

Nick: Man, this team ain’t going to the playoffs. They’re getting slapped by a mediocre team, the Bulls.

J-Mo: Nope, they’re not going to the playoffs. And these mediocre Bulls, it’s obvious that they have loads more talent than the Bucks. They proved that last year in the garbage game the Bucks never had much of a chance of winning (Sessions’ 24-assist game, which the Bulls won easily). How many of these Bucks, especially the guards, would get playing time on the Bulls?

Nick: Jefferson, maybe Redd. Bogut.

J-Mo: Redd’d have to change the way he plays to get any PT in Chicago.

Here’s a good line from Tom Enlund’s Journal Sentinel game story:

The Bucks held a small lead until late in the third quarter, when the Bulls went on a run sparked by Deng, Gordon and Kirk Hinrich.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Bucks had the smart kind of “Deng, Gordon and Kirk Hinrich” talent that the Bulls have?

CLAMP: The sound of the Bulls defense locking and setting as Michael Redd palming the ball and arching it back behind him as he faces the defender and the defense sets. Who told Michael Redd that when you get the ball it is a good idea to remove it from triple threat position (pass, drive, shoot) so that the defense can get set and lock in. He did this two or three times in the 4th quarter and after he did it, neither he nor the Bucks scored but for Bogut grabbing an offensive rebound over Noah and getting fouled.

Sure, Redd scored 30 and the fantasy Redd fans will be happy. The rest of us have seen this too many times. Give Scott Skiles a week before he gets sick of the Bucks formula since 2003.

THHWACK: Andrew Bogut kicking Joaqim Noah’s ass all 4th quarter. Noah can’t handle Bogut. Most teams can’t. Bogut grabbed at least three offensive rebounds in the 4th that served to keep the score from getting ugly. Bogut’s left handed baby hook from the right side of the paint looks good. Feed him the ball, Coach Skiles, and let RJ touch it too.

Deafening roar of silence 2: What happened to Richard Jefferson in the 4th quarter? I wonder if Skiles planned for the ball to run through Redd or whether Redd just tried to take over irregardless of the game plan, a la last season.

I guess we’ll find out soon. If the season opener was any indication, more change is to come.

Why Williams was a Mo’ better fit for Cavs than Michael Redd… plus more Luke video!

Nets GM Kiki Vandeweghe and East Coast tanWho is this guy to the left and what does he have to do with the Mo Williams trade to Cleveland?

That’s New Jersey Nets GM Kiki Vandeweghe, who instigated the trade that sent the Nets Richard Jefferson to the Bucks for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons.

The two events that dictated the Bucks direction this summer and left Mo Williams the odd man out in the backcourt were the hiring of coach Scott Skiles and the Jefferson trade with the Nets. Those events may also have been two of the luckiest breaks the Cleveland Cavaliers have received in the Lebron James era.  

In Skiles, the Bucks hired a coach who preaches defense and ball movement like religion and demands pass-oriented point guard play, that elusive “true point guard” stuff you hear so much about in the NBA. Mo, despite his growth as an offensive player over the last three years, had developed a prolific scoring game not only for himself but for opposing point guards who ripped through the Bucks league-worst defense.

If the writing was on the wall for Mo when Skiles was hired, notice was duly served when Vandeweghe and the New Jersey Nets set out to acquire Yi Jianlian. Just as quickly as Bucks GM John Hammond could say “done deal,” the Bucks course was locked on a double-barreled offense featuring Jefferson and Michael Redd, rendering Mo and his offensive talents expendable. Nobody in Milwaukee was eager to give the troubled Redd-Williams backcourt another go-around anyway.

Many Bucks fans are aware of all the above, but it seems some in national media just can’t get a grasp on why the Bucks made this trade. ESPN’s John Hollinger spent a good chunk of his column Thursday not comprehending it, wondering if “Herb Kohl’s shadow government” forced Bucks GM John Hammond to make the trade. (Wish I’d made that up but I didn’t; Hollinger truly does sound confused).

Is the Jordan dome the right for for Cavs GM Danny Ferry?The Cavaliers had been desperate to find a 2nd scoring option to Lebron James since their season ended in Boston in May, and had been pursuing a trade for Michael Redd. (Who can forget the Paint Cleveland Redd campaign?) With the Jefferson trade June 26th, suddenly the Cavs found their targeted 2nd option off-limits. This development could be called a blessing in disguise were it not so poorly disguised. The smart, simple answer had always been Mo. And Mo was very available without the many high risks and costs involved with acquiring Redd. The Cavs were not a team that should ever have been interested in taking those risks. Despite the disappointing game seven loss to the Celtics, Cleveland had impressed in the playoffs that they were much closer to championship level than many observers had thought. Of course, they needed to to improve. Next season is the first of two more title shots before Lebron becomes an unrestricted free agent, and big men Ben Wallace and Zydrunas Ilgauskas aren’t getting any younger. But no drastic roster change was necessary for the Cavs to contend next season.

For all the talk from Cavs fans that a Redd acquisition would put the Lebrons over the top, there were just as many Bucks fans saying “please, take him.” The Bucks guard would have come with a heavy price, the obvious being his gaudily expensive contract ($51 million over three years). Without Redd’s salary, the Cavs boast  the NBA’s second-highest payroll and pay over $10M to the league in luxury tax. Add to those costs the prospect of the Cavs giving up valuable pieces of their contending roster to get Redd — forward-center Anderson Varejao the most rumored player.  But perhaps most importantly, Redd’s offensive makeup could have posed some serious challenges to the Cavs on-court chemistry. True, the Cavs have long sought a dangerous 2nd option — and even wooed Redd in 2005 free agency — but Michael Redd hasn’t been a 2nd option since 2003 when he was the 3rd or 4th option for the Bucks, gunning three-pointers in the sixth man’s role. Too much change might have been disastrous for the Cavs; with Redd, big changes would have been required of both player and team.

Go team go! Team spirit in blowout loss to CelticsContrary to popular belief, Redd in Milwaukee has not primarily been the off-the-ball spot-up shooter type who stretches defenses that the Cavs were looking for. Redd got his points last season lowering his shoulder and driving to the hoop out of isolation, shooting long range jumpers (out of isolation), posting up smaller defenders and converting from the foul line, where he was 13th in the NBA in free throws made and attempted. He’s accustomed to controlling the ball. Let’s look at how Redd scored and compare it to Mo within the context of Lebron James and the Cavs.

Breaking down the shooting stats at 82games.com, no less than 49.34% of Redd’s 22.7 ppg scoring came on “inside shots” and free throws. As a two-point jumpshooter (42% made) and three-point shooter (36.3%) Redd had the kind of 2007-08 season that shatters myths about “great” shooters. He hasn’t been a great shooter for a couple of years. Although the shooting stats bear out the truth of this statement, they won’t stop arguments about it.  

Contrast this with Mo, who scored 66.9% of his 17.2 ppg on 3-pointers and 2-point jumpshots. Mo led the Bucks in 3-point shooting and was second in the NBA to Kyle Korver in 2-point jumpshooting, and was easily the teams best shooter last season. Mo added 5.7 ppg on inside shots and free throws. He also led in free throw shooting (85.6%).

Now let’s look at Lebron, who was remarkably not so good shooting from the outside and tallied 64% of his 30 ppg on inside shots and free throws — 19.2 ppg.

On paper, it certainly looks like Mo will be the better compliment to Lebron’s penetration and open court game than Redd would have been. A good half of Redd’s typical offense is similar to much of what Lebron does. The overlapping of like-styles isn’t always so complementary, a good example being the Vince Carter-Richard Jefferson pairing that didn’t work out as planned in New Jersey. Whereas Mo is a shot in the arm, a natural and fiscally sane fit, Redd could have been very expensive weird science.

Mo vs. Redd when they’re not shooting: 

  • One advantage to Redd is that he is a superior post up player, something for Skiles to exploit next season. Redd, listed at 6′ 6″, is the better rebounder than Mo, too, but the Cavs, the top rebounding team in the league, were not looking for rebounding in the Bucks backcourt.

  • The rest of the comparison goes Mo’s way. He shot much better than Redd last season – a result of better shot selection in addition to shotmaking. Mo runs the floor better than Redd, hustles more, is the better passer, handles the ball extremely well and can break a defending point guard down to free himself for a 15-20 foot jumper seemingly at will, much like Sam Cassell used to. Both Redd and Mo can break a defense down, but Mo is more likely to make a pass out of penetration.

  • Mo and Redd are equally terrible defenders.

Cavs GM Danny Ferry on Mo Williams to Journal Sentinel yesterday: 

“I think playing with LeBron, he’s someone who can help push the tempo a little bit and help LeBron and other guys get easier baskets. I like him. I think he’s a competitive player who can make big shots and one of those guys capable of rising to important times.”

Mo’ money for Cleveland

In addition to the obvious savings with Mo $8.6 million avg annual salary to Redd’s $17M — the Cavs now have $2 million that they didn’t have before the trade. In dumping the combined salaries of Damon Jones ($4.45M) and Joe Smith ($4.8M) in exchange for Mo’s $8.3M 2008-09 salary, the Cavs shaved their payroll by about $1 million, which in turn reduces the team’s luxury tax payment to the league by about $1M.  

The Cavs will save even more if – as the Akron Beacon Journal’s Brian Windhorst expects – acquiring Mo Williams removed any leverage point guard Delonte West may have had in his contract negotiations. The Cavs offered West the minimum $2.8M to play this season, after which he’d become an unrestricted free agent. West, a much better defender than Mo but not as dynamic offensively — would either back Mo up at point or start alongside him. Assuming he takes the offer, which he is expected to do, the Cavs save the bigger raise he might have received and the luxury tax that would have come with it. Cavs Gm Ferry when delivering the corporate report on the immediate fiscal impact of the Mo trade, can say the team saved anywhere from $3-5 million on its 2008-09 books.

The Cleveland end of this deal is so filled with positives, I can’t help but wonder if there are future considerations due the Bucks. Cavs’ forward-center Anderson Varejao would still be a great fit alongside Andrew Bogut in the Bucks frontcourt. Oklahoma City also has a power forward of interest, Chris Wilcox. One would hope that it’s understood at least tacitly that Bucks GM Hammond, when he took on Damon Jones’ contract to close this deal, earned a few chips that he can someday call in. Ferry owes him one.

The Cavs should also be sure to thank Nets GM Vandeweghe for following through on his promise to Yi that he would “come get him” if he ever got another GM job after Denver.


The hits just keep coming for the Cavs. Now Mo is promising to play defense. He said this yesterday in a conference call interview with Journal Sentinel:

“Defense comes with a lot of different things. You’ve got to want to do it; you’ve got to have the mentality to do it. I’ve got away from that the last few years, for whatever reason. We can go on and on for the reasons. I’m excited about the opportunity, and I reiterate I know what it takes to win. There’s no secret it takes defense.”

Cavs fans can’t believe their GM pulled it off. This from Paint Cleveland Redd organizer Dan Labbe at Cavaliers Corner:

“If I told you yesterday that Ferry could get a 17 and 6 point guard without giving up [Wally] Szczerbiak or Anderson Varejao, you’d have called me crazy.”

Szczerbiak and Varejao, of course, were speculated to be the central pieces to the Michael Redd trade buzzing before Vandeweghe and the Nets stepped in with the offer for Yi.

It seems that if it wasn’t for bad luck, Cavs fans feel they wouldn’t have any luck at all. Until now. Cavalier Attitude breaks down the trade. The web editors are downright slaphappy at Cavs central: “Mo Bang from the Cavs” announces the headline of the feature on the team website. I think you get the idea.


Looking for a good elegy to Mo Williams’ last season as a Buck? The Bratwurst wrote an in depth, balanced review of the entire team back in April, and his analysis of Mo was perhaps his the masterwork of the series.

If you don’t have 90-95% faith in my numbers crunching, Brewhoop is the place to go. Frank’s got the fiscal impacts nailed on this trade.


At ESPN.com, John Hollinger concludes that Oklahoma City “won” the trade because the Rawhides (I’m just going to give them a name for now) received two forwards for their rotation, Desmond Mason and Joe Smith, in exchange for two players at the end of the bench, point guard Luke Ridnour and forward Adrian Griffin. I don’t agree. While the Rawhides definitely improved, I think the stakes were much, much higher for the contending Cavaliers who also instigated the trade and had to overcome a potential dealbreaker in Damon Jones’ contract. It was suggested on Sportsbubbler Bucks forum earlier today that the writers at ESPN may be high. It was a just a joke at the time.

And now, it’s Luke Ridnour video time:

Luke ventures into the land of the giants …

Arenas’ Jefferson-Milwaukee trashtalk disappears from NBA.com blog

Gilbert Arenas posing as writerHow gutless are Gilbert Arenas and the online gatekeepers of NBA.com, where the Washington Wizards’ $111-million-guard is the featured NBA blogger? Arenas’ schoolyard taunt at Richard Jefferson and Milwaukee is nowhere to be found on his Agent Zero: the blogfile.

Arenas has made a little noise lately about retiring his blog, blaming “technical difficulties” with the media in America, but a globetrotting trip to China, Europe and beyond prompted a lengthy July 13 entry about his travels. Along the way he added some thoughts on summer NBA player transactions and had this to say about the trade that brought Richard Jefferson to Milwaukee:

“HAHAHA. Oh, man, now that is funny. When I heard that, I started laughing. Oh man, did I start laughing. You know why? Because every player hates Milwaukee. Nobody wants to live in Milwaukee. I’m sorry, Milwaukee, to come down hard on you, but no one in the NBA wants to play in Milwaukee. From him going from New Jersey (actually New York, because he lives in New York), from New York to Milwaukee is like going … let’s just say it’s not going to sit well with you. That was a funny one when I heard that one. I know Yi is happy though.”

Hit delete – that paragraph is now gone from Arenas’ blog, no doubt disappeared into the nether of some NBA.com flak’s hard drive.

But not before Bucks fans reacted with all sorts of discussion about diversity, quality of life, segregation, economic opportunity, crime rates, the state’s horrible black incarceration rates, Milwaukee’s black brain drain (Atlanta came up), jobs, things to do, night life, Julius Erving’s refusal to play in Milwaukee after being drafted by the Bucks in the 1970’s — yes, Bucks fans delved into it all for couple of days on Realgm.com (I admit responsibility for some of it). And trashtalked Arenas, of course, while also noting that the Bucks organization hasn’t been all that attractive to players in the last five or six years. Bucks fans had a lot to say about Milwaukee, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly.

Mostly lost in the wide-ranging discussion was that the target of Agent Zero’s dis’ wasn’t Milwaukee so much as it was Jefferson, his former U. of Arizona Wildcats teammate and an increasingly unfriendly rival. (Badger fans will remember those two in passing from the 2000 NCAA West Regionals, as Wisconsin went on its way to a fourth date with the Flintstones in the Final Four.)

Last summer Jefferson and Arenas sparred in the media over a $3.5 million donation Jefferson made to build a new gym at AU. Then it got a little ugly, again on Arenas’ nba.com blog. If Arenas was joking in any of this, nobody’s getting it. And now Agent Zero is pretending his latest never happened, save for the reader comments responding to smacktalk that is no longer there.

Arenas and NBA.com ought to put Arenas’ statements back up. He thought them; he wrote them; NBA.com has (or had) given him the license to post them. Arenas and the publishers of the website — the league — should either let the statements stand and if they feel damage control is in order, reframe, respin, whatever the urge is, in a new post. It’s disrespectful to readers of his blog to simply “disappear” it all.

Yes, the NBA is a business, and, yes, it is entirely possible that the Bucks, part of NBA.com, demanded the removal of the Arenas’ comments. But the NBA and Agent Zero are in the business of developing online editorial content for fans. The honest and ethical thing to do is to stand by the content and serve the readers and NBA fans, not the interest of the business or Arenas’ image, foot-in-the-mouth though it’s been since beginning his blog two years ago. 

The cat’s long out of the bag and prowling all over cyperspace, linked at Dimemag.com, Ballhype.com, JSOnline.com, hundreds of sites in between, and now the mighty Bob Boozer Jinx. Axing the comments and pretending Agent Zero never wrote them doesn’t serve Arenas or the NBA — it just makes both look bad and wastes many an NBA fan’s time.

“Technical difficulties with our media,” Gilbert? A Dikembe Mutombo finger to that. It’s hit it or quit it time.

Someone please tell Journal Sentinel that Richard Jefferson is not an All-Star

Puhleese make me an All-StarWhy do those who run Milwaukee’s daily newspaper seem to believe that bullshitting Milwaukee Bucks fans will bring us back to the Bradley Center next season?

Gary D. Howard, Journal Sentinel Sports Editor, fouled out in the first few paragraphs of the column he wrote in yesterday’s paper, a blatant yet well-meaning attempt to make his readers feel good, really good, ecstatic even, about the acquisitions of pitcher CC Sabathia by the Brewers and forward Richard Jefferson by the Bucks.

Sabathia, who won his first game as a Brewer last night, has the Brewers bouncing around the clubhouse about their postseason prospects. Howard, however, is a basketball guy, and his column was about making Bucks fans feel as good about Jefferson as the Brewers fans feel about Sabathia.

He does this by:

1) Starting out the column talking about Brett Favre, a big no-no, irregardless of how good Sabathia or Jefferson may be;

2) Describing both Sabathia and Jefferson as “all-stars” as if there was some parallel between the two athletes.

Sabathia’s no mere “all-star.” He won the Cy Young last year, a declaration that, in 2007, he was the best player at the pitching position in Major League Baseball. The NBA equivalent is to be named 1st Team All-NBA. This makes Sabathia parallel to, say, Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic, the center on this past season’s All-NBA 1st Team.

The last Buck to be named 1st Team All-NBA was Sidney Moncrief in 1983. Marques Johnson made the 1st Team in 1979, the year before the advent of Bird and Magic; also the year Marques shot at will and averaged 25.6 points per game and only 3.0 assists per game. True, Marques’ shots were good ones — he shot 55 percent from the floor before the dawn of the three-pointer — but the team finished 38-44 and did not make the playoffs.

(Michael Redd take note: the last player in a Bucks uniform to be allowed to shoot at will and control the ball the way you’ve been allowed to these last five years was Marques in 1979 — and look how the team finished. Marques never played that way again after that season, and never again averaged more than 21.7 points a game in his career, while his assists rocketed up to 4.6 per game and the Bucks became a 50-60 win team. I realize that comparing you, Mike, to Marques Johnson is completely unfair to you, but … just saying.)

But that’s it for the Bucks in the last 30 years — only two, count ’em two, Sabathia-equivalent players: Sidney and Marques. Honorable mention goes to Terry Cummings (2nd Team All-NBA 1985).

So what does this have to do with Gary Howard’s column? Everything … because Richard Jefferson has never been an All-Pro, period. Not 1st, 2nd or 3rd Team.

In fact, Richard Jefferson has never made an NBA All-Star team. Not once in his seven-year career. Look it up.

Jefferson was a Top Ten scorer in the league last year, averaging more points per game (22.6) than All-Pro Marques Johnson ever did except for the 1979 season in which the Bucks failed to win. Last season, only five players in the NBA scored more points than Jefferson. Yet RJ did not make the All-Star team. His team, the New Jersey Nets, finished a disappointing 34-48.

So how did Richard Jefferson become an All-Star in the eyes of the Journal sports editor? Nobody knows. Maybe Howard figures that anybody in the Top Ten in scoring is an All-Star in his book.

But we know how that goes in Milwaukee. Michael Redd‘s been in the Top Ten in NBA scoring four of the last five years yet his team has never won. He did make the All-Star team once – in 2004, the year the Bucks almost won and finished 41-41. He was also 3rd Team All-NBA that season. 2004 also happens to be his lowest scoring year of the last five (21.7 pts avg) and the only season in Mike’s career that he averaged five rebounds per game. Redd was All-Star, and the Bucks almost won. That now seems like a long time ago.

The trend is fairly clear. Getting into the Top Ten in scoring doesn’t necessarily make a player an all-star or a winner. For many players, including Redd and Jefferson, if you’re scoring in the Top Ten, chances are you’re hurting the team, pursuing what Bucks center Andrew Bogut late last season called “individual accolades.” Wonder who he was talking about?

Oddly enough, Jefferson hasn’t pursued individual accolades all that much in his career (when the Nets were winning, Jefferson was scoring much less, often a third option) but things began to change for the Nets in 2007, going sour as Jason Kidd all but gave up on the team and asked for a trade. Suddenly, Jefferson’s scoring went up. To me that’s a bad sign.

The Bucks now have two guys who like to score the ball a lot, drive to the hoop and get to the line, but couldn’t win games in the Eastern Conference last season playing the way they did. One has been an All-Star. The other, the new guy, has never been more than a 2nd-Team All-Rookie selection (2002) in the NBA. Sounds to me like a concoction that will give Scott Skiles headaches all year if it’s allowed to suit up for the Bucks.

So why again am I and other Bucks fans being told by the editor of the big daily in town that the new guy is an All-Star?

You got me. Nobody knows. For the record, it’s not coming from the Bucks organization or John Hammond. (Click here for the full transcript of Jefferson’s news conference Monday.)

To be fair, Howard’s not the only one in local media saying or writing “all star Richard Jefferson” since the trade. But as an NBA fan who supposedly respects Bucks fans/his readers (and therein may be the problem) Howard should know enough not to publish jive.

Richard Jefferson meets Milwaukee… Nets sell Yi jerseys… Brewhoop Hammond trilogy

Milwaukee will be introduced to forward Richard Jefferson today at a press conference, where he’s expected to have all sorts of ways to explain that story from Nets GM Rod Thorn about how unhappy he seemed when Thorn told him about the draft day trade that sent RJ to the Bucks for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons.

“He didn’t seem very happy about it,” Thorn said after talking to his agent and text messaging him. Thorn didn’t say whether Jefferson said anything at all one way or another beyond seeming to be unhappy, though I’m sure his agent said plenty. Somehow in Milwaukee, Jefferson has been repeatedly refered to as “All Star forward Richard Jefferson” though he has never made the All-Star team. (It’s basketball-reference.com again – scroll all the way down for the career achievments).

Bucks fans will be relieved to know that RJ doesn’t pass the ball much either … but he does other stuff …


Yi Jianlian - JerseyMeanwhile, in New Jersey …

The Nets are ecstatic about the deal — and happy to have Bobby Simmons $10 million per year clearing out for 2010, setting the team up nicely for Lebron James pal and part Nets owner Jay-Z’s plan to lure the King to Brooklyn and the new Nets arena. The Nets are also busy giving away Yi jerseys with every season ticket purchased from here on out and happy with the three young players they picked up in the draft. Brooke Lopez (I still say the team that develops Robin Lopez will be happier in the long run than the Nets with Brooke), Ryan Anderson and Chris Robert-Douglas out of Memphis, a hustle player who can guard three positions. The NY Times reports on the Nets website:

“It opens up a truly new fan base for us,” said Brett Yormark, the Nets’ chief executive. “Yi is going to give us the opportunity to be relevant to Asian-American fans in ways we haven’t been before.”

Within hours of the trade’s confirmation, the Nets’ marketing efforts were in full swing. Their Web site had a splash page of Yi in a Nets uniform, announcing, “Something big has come to New Jersey.” They offered a free Yi jersey to everyone who purchased a season ticket. According to Yormark, the Nets sold 200 season tickets in the 36 hours after the trade.

Check out the Nets store here. It’s all Yi all day.

Meanwhile … back in Milwaukee

The Bucks don’t seem to have a marketing plan in gear for the players on the team just yet, as Hammond isn’t likely done reshaping the roster — though Bango did appear in the city’s Fourth of July parade. (Nobody works much in Milwaukee in the summer.)  Yi had been the pitchman used in the Bucks store and and in many of the team’s ticket appeals.

Brewhoop scored a long interview with John Hammond and its well worth the read. Comes in three parts and in pint glasses too like the Lord of the Rings, wherein it is explained how the one ring came into being and found its way to Michael Redd who may or may not relinquish it to Richard Jefferson … though he could, and somehow this could all work with Mo Williams as the point guard, and why not because Scott Skiles is kinda like Gandalf and will make it work, somehow, someway.




Oh, and Joe Alexander can guard the 4 spot, Hammond says, though he won’t be expected to do that all the time or most of the time, though he could if called upon.

Here’s Liv Tyler, who could play the elvin love interest in the story if Mo, Redd and Jefferson resist the power of the ring through the sacred art of teamwork, ball movement and defense.

By the look in her eyes, she’s beginning to run out of patience.

Liv Tyler as Arwen