The 45-34 Bucks are 3-1 without center Andrew Bogut and are playoff bound in the East with a seed no worse than 6th. They’ve successfully avoided a Round 1 matchup with the Orlando Magic, which could have been quite embarrassing and depressing to watch with no Bogut to battle on in the paint against Dwight Howard.
I’m sure Howard’s happy about this too, given the mano-a-mano nature of center battles and the pride that goes into the post rivalries. Sixers center Sam Dalembert, ever the Bogut nemesis, seemed a little lost on the court against the Bucks in Philly Friday, eventually picking it up in the second half to help bring the Sixers back into the game with some active help D … above the free throw line? Never if Bogut was on the court. On Saturday, the Celtics gave KG the night off and center Kendrick Perkins played just 18 mins.
But I digress. It’s time to celebrate in Brewtown, to party, literally, like it’s 1999 and Dominguez High out of Compton is the Division II state champion, the top-ranked ballers in all of California. A 10-year-old named Brandon Jennings was a ball boy for the Dominguez basketball factory, led by smooth shooting, 6’4″ senior guard Keith Kincade and sophomore center Tyson Chandler (at left), already a household name thanks to a 60 Minutes profile. Kincade scored 23 in the title gameagainst Sacramento Grant, while Chandler was held to 5 pts, 5 boards before fouling out.
The above photo came my way via an email from Dewey (thanks again Dewey!), a blogger at PlaymakerMobile. Dewey’s site is all-sports with what looks like a strong NFL focus (lots of McNabb trade stuff there now), and he’s been keeping an eye on BJ’s exploits in his rookie season.
Back to this photo: We all know what became of the Dominguez ballboy. And Chandler, a Parade and McDonald’s HS All-American by his senior year, declared for the 2001 NBA draft right out of high school. The Clippers drafted him #2 overall and traded him to the Bulls for 2000 ROY Elton Brand. After years of back trouble, grumbling by Chicago fans about “potential” and a few more in and out of Scott Skiles‘ doghouse, Chandler became a shot-blocking, offensive rebounding machine. He’s now with Larry Brown in Charlotte, a good place for that sort of specialist to be.
Funny isn’t it, that the the towering 10th grader on the left and the beaming 4th grader in the lower right would eventually end up under Scott Skiles’ tutelage, like it or not. But whatever happened to Keith Kincade?
Celtics 105, Bucks 90: I’ve never believed the reports about the demise of the Celtics, and not for once thought the Bucks could take them in a 7-game playoff, Bogut in the lineup or not. Playing without Kevin Garnett and with center Kendrick Perkins sitting out two-thirds of the game, the Celtics flexed what was left of their muscles and simply overpowered the Bucks. KurtThomas didn’t dent the Celtics front line. Ersan Ilyasova was game but too often on his own in the paint, with Luc Mbah a Moute in foul trouble. Ray Allen (21 pts on seven shots; attempted a single three pointer) Rondo and Pierce were too much for BJ, Salmons and Delfino. Sheed was a Bucks killer, as always, and Big Baby wants to fight, someone, anyone.
BJ’s brashness aside, the Celtics are not the playoff matchup for the Bucks — this year. With better inside help for Bogut, Ilyasova and Mbah a Moute, the Bucks should be ready for the Celtics in 2011. The Hawks? The Bucks are ready for them right now.
Bucks 99, Sixers 90: The Bucks won in Philly without Bogut, which, as discombobulating as that was for Dalembert, is just plain weird given The Revenge of the Airball and all things that make little sense about a Bucks-Sixers game. The Bucks managed it with half-a-John Salmons too, as their leading scorer fought a bout with the flu through halftime but looked dead on his feet by the 3rd quarter. Jennings had a bad night shooting (4-17) but I’m becoming more and more impressed with BJ’s defense. Tuesday night he slowed down Derrick Rose in the 4th quarter, enough for the Bucks to eke out a win in Chicago. Last night BJ harassed fellow rookie pg Jrue Holiday into an 0-10 start from the field, a far cry from the hot shooting night Holiday had in Milwaukee March 24.
Where’d the offense come from? Carlos Delfino was lights out with 23 pts (5-8 from downtown) and Luke Ridnour had one of those nights off the bench where everything found the bottom of the net (18 for Luke on 8-12 shooting). … Centers Kurt Thomas and Dan Gadzuric were awful on the offensive end but solid and focused on D (5 blocked shots between them). The Bucks do what they can, and it’s been good enough all year.
The Nets’ Brook Lopez got away with a goaltend to dunk the Nets into overtime against the Bulls in New Jersey, on an otherwise very workable play drawn up by coach Kiki Vandeweghe with 3.6 seconds to go. Vandeweghe set up a football-like screen for Lopez and Yi Jianlian to freely stream into the paint as Terrence Williams drove in on Derrick Rose. When Williams’ shot rimmed out, both Yi and Lopez were right there for the tap, which Lopez delivered, hand and ball clearly in the cylinder. No call, and on to OT they went, tied at 103.
In the first overtime, the Bulls jumped out to a 110-103 lead but some more terrible officiating (two no-calls on Courtney Lee hacking Rose) and two missed free throws by Rose pushed the game to a second overtime, 112-112. In the second OT, Devin Harris and T.Williams staked the Nets to a five point lead and the Bulls folded.
This was actually a pretty good game, New Jersey’s 12th win. Lopez and Yi combined for 41 pts and 26 boards; Brad Miller and Joakim Noah responded with 43 and 19, while Williams had the second rookie triple double of the season for the Nets. But refs will be refs in the NBA. And this loss by the Bulls (38-41) sets up a Sunday night showdown with the 38-41 Raptors in Toronto for the 8th playoff spot in the East.
Over at Blog-a-Bull, friendly neighborhood Bulls fans are, as usual, trying to fire coach Vinnie Del Negro.
Very, very interesting box score from Miami. Pistons fans have always regretted trading the wrong guard (Chauncey) for Allen Iverson in 2008 but very few fans seemed to notice that the Pistons went 8-2 last year with the Answer doing his thing while Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace were out with injuries. This season, it’s more of the same. Deactivate Hamilton and suddenly coach John Kuester remembers that Ben Gordon is on his team. 39 points from Gordon later and the Pistons had broken Miami’s nine game winning streak. Things are getting real obvious in Detroit, as in Michael Redd-Tracy McGrady obvious.
Somebody in the West plays defense? Of coures the Lakers do when they want to but how about the Oklahoma City Thunder? I didn’t think coach Scott Brooks had them playing Eastern Conference style D but after last night in OK City vs. the Suns, I’m a believer. The Thunder held run-and-gun Phoenix to 34 pts in the 2nd half and closed out a 96-91 win. This is the kind of game that will win Brooks Coach of the Year honors, though it doesn’t seem as though OK City fans really appreciate a good defensive performance. Or maybe it’s just because the blog I read was one of those ESPN jobs.
I’m still in awe about the final shot defensive stand the Bobcats made this week in New Orleans. Mean and suffocating it was, and game winning. The Cats and Bucks are tied as the stingiest defenses in the NBA, ahead of the Magic, Celtics and Lakers. Then the Heat and the Cavs. The Thunder are 8th, giving up 104.2 pts per 100 possessions, just ahead of the Spurs and Jazz, rounding out the top 10.
Point being – it doesn’t take much to get it together in the NBA, really. Play dedicated team D, rebound the ball, have a reliable, go-to scorer and you’ll win some games. It’s no great secret why the Bucks are 21-6 since acquiring John Salmons – they were winning and playing great D most of the year, and Salmons gave them the go-to offense they needed. The Thunder play some excellent team D for Brooks; Kevin Durant‘s got the scoring end of it well in hand. It’s the D that makes them a likable sleeper pick to get to the West semis.
With the Olympics ending and the British proving the old axiom that if you have Led Zeppelin at your disposal, it’s probably in your best interests to play some … And now with the Democratic convention underway proving again one of its most tried and true party axioms — that Ted Kennedy doesn’t really resonate with the working class in Middle America, which won’t stop the party from trying (he’s not well and I’m sorry, but it’s a strange feeling starting a week knowing precisely when and where and how many times you’d heard something before said in precisely the same way you just heard it said …)
.. It’s only fitting then that our Bucks, too, played out an axiom of their own in the 2008 Olympic games. Allow me to be the one to point it out, if only because someone should. (And because my notes got away and ended up published for a few hours yesterday) So … here’ goes:
Milwaukee Bucks players, when given an opportunity, will disappoint. They’ve done it for a few years now, to the point where it’s become enough of a habit to pass into “axiom” stage. Changes in uniform, team, environment, venue and competition could not prevent our Bucks from disappointing in Beijing, almost as if the effects of the 2007-08 season were lingering like a bad hangover.
How deep does this thing go? One of those players, Yi Jianlian, is no longer a Buck, yet even a trade with New Jersey couldn’t stop our 2007 draft pick from disappointing. He had a terrible opener against Team USA; the proud debut for the host team. There was Yi on NBC live, going scoreless in the first half, eventually being yanked from the game in the 2nd quarter after an unsportsmanlike foul. Yi did come out in the second half after the game was over and score nine points in garbage time, but that didn’t stop ESPN’s Chris Sheridan from devoting an entire column to Yi’s lousy play. Sheridan was brutal. Yi did have his moment: A key 18-foot jumper against Germany that helped send China into the quarterfinals. But he was a noshow in China’s quarterfinal loss to Lithuania. The rookie wall, it seems, is made of granite. Disappointing.
Bucks centerAndrew Bogut had the best Olympics of any Buck, but that ought to tell you how deeply ingrained in the Bucks this disappointment factor is. Bogut’s Olympics was an ordeal — marred by injury and a start in which he shot only three times as Australia looked like a rec league team unsure whether or not they were in the right gym. The Aussie coach fumbled about for a couple of games and finally found his rotation in game four to salvage the Australia tournament — but in Australia’s biggest game in eight years against Team Redeem in quarterfinals, Bogut found foul trouble, more playing time problems and a second ankle injury.
Bogut did defy the Bucks jinx and dominate against Russia and Lithuania to lead Australia to the Team USA matchup – which had to make you wonder what was going on with the Autralian team. The Australian professional league is dying from lack of interest. This national team was the last hurrah for a few veteran NBL players. The coach, Brian Goorjian has been a long time NBL coach. We may never know what was going on with the team — but did you know that in six games Bogut played less than half the available minutes?He averaged 19.7 mins per game. Out of 40. Unbelievable. Disappointing..
Michael Redd? Can Bucks fans remember back on this: When was the last time Michael Redd was not disappointing? Were there a couple of games last year in which he led the Bucks to victory? He did beat Cleveland with a buzzer beater in February. That much I recall. It was his first walk-off gamewinner ever. Perhaps it was last summer when the USA Senior Men’s team qualified for the Olympics by winning the Pan An games. Redd scored 14 pts a game in that tournament. Or maybe earlier this summer when the USA basketball cancelled its tryouts and Redd officially made the team. When the team got to Beijing, however, Redd’s role on the team eventually whittled down to nothing.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Redd was intended to be the team’s designated three-point specialist, the gunner brought on to rain highlight film jump shots to bust teams out of zone defenses. Redd began the Olympics generally receiving stints in the second quarter and the fourth. His first run, however, came up empty. He entered the game and instantly began looking for his offense, drawing a foul, missing a shot, missing another one. Coach Mike Krzyzewski pulled him from the game after 2 mins, 42 seconds. Later on in the 4th quarter it was almost sad watching Redd and Yi trade baskets after the game was decided. Sad and futile and familiar. Redd would finish the game with nine points on 3-9 shooting, three garbage time three pointers, one with 29 seconds left.
Redd would hit seven more shots over the next five games, but miss 15 and close his Olympics 10-31 from the field, 5-18 on three-pointers (27.7% rate from behind a line more than three feet closer to the hoop than the NBA’s). Bogut, believe it or not, tied Redd with five three-pointers for the Olympics, making 5/8. Who knew he could shoot from 21 feet?
But the shooting specialist, Redd, couldn’t find his shot. By the medal games, Redd was reduced to fourth quarter minutes only. He played 5:40 against Argentina and the final 26 seconds of the gold medal game. Only Carlos Boozer played fewer minutes in the Olympics. Here’s a typical Redd note from the games, this one from Aug. 16-17 after Team USA blew out Spain:
* Redd played 12 minutes in the second half, scoring 4 pts on 2-4 shooting (0-1 from downtown). He did not play in the first half, but didn’t try to force any offense during his stint in the 2nd. With all the frenetic defense and fast-paced transition the Redeem Teamers play, they haven’t had much of a role for him.
These things won’t be written about in Bucks country as the gold medals are polished in the sports pages. Why ruin a golden moment when Redd’s the Milwaukee connection to the Redeem Team? But when is Michael Redd going to be part of delivering winning moments on a basketball court? One key play is not a lot to ask, is it? Something, anything for Bucks fan to get excited about would do. Disappointing.
Realgm.com’s fine Bucks forum moderator, PaulPressey25 made a great observation on opening day of Olympic basketball play. After spending Sunday morning watching Redd, Bogut and Yi, he wondered whether their struggles stemmed from playing last season in the losing environment of the Bucks or whether the source of the problem is that, as players, they really aren’t all that good.
I’m sure many Bucks fans who saw those games had similar thoughts. The grace period on delivering excitement this coming season may be very short for the 2008-09 Milwaukee Bucks.
Well that sure was a downer, wasn’t it? But it had to be done. I will say that, having followed Bogut and the Australia Olympic team through the Olympics, things were not as they seemed in the Aussie camp. In the end, Basketball Australia got what they needed out of the Olympics — they made the medal round and found their way to a high profile matchup with the Redeem Team. Bogut went from looking like an almost substandard center in Game 1 to all-world in Game 4 vs. Russia. Very strange stuff. Perhaps the Aussies were just to too much of a team still in transition toward its next generation to have it be any other way. I do hope the Bucks are working to get the clearest possible picture on the medical treatment Bogut received on his ankle (s) during the games.
Remember this guy? That’s Patty Mills, the Aussie guard who dazzled (and turned 20) during the games. He’ll be back at St. Mary’s (Calif.) college this fall, playing Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, Gonzaga et al. in the West Coast Conference (WCC). Definitely a player to watch in the NCAA this season and a hot topic all over the college and draft boards after Beijing. In fact, he’s already been mock-drafted #14 in 2009 at Draft-Express.com! The draft junkies may may get the DTs over it, but why don’t we play some basketball first before we have another draft?
Mills was one of a quite a few players who opened a few scouting windows during the Olympics, and some of them may be worth taking a look at, even in an immediate or short term context with the Bucks … hypothetically. But there’ll be time for that in a later post. Now, in the interest of ending this post on a positive, upbeat note, here’s some more fun Luke Ridnour video.
No, Luke, no – too serious …
And don’t bother getting up, dude. Look for Luke at #4 on this Top 10 …
Continuing doggedly on my mission to spark some interest in Olympic basketball while the Brewers go yard for the playoffs and the Packers embark into the post-Favre era, take a look at what Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut was doing Friday night halfway around the world in Beijing, China.
That fiercely emphatic dunk on Andrei Vorontsevich were points 10 and 11 of a 14-7 Australia Boomer run to begin the 4th quarter of a do-or-die medal round qualifying game against 2007 Eurobasket champs Russia, hammering the Aussies home to an 80-62 lead. The.Australia run effectively buried Russia, though forward Viktor Khryapa (Chicago Bulls) made it interesting with a barrage of three-pointers after the Aussies had pushed the lead to 21. The final was a convincing 95-80, with Bogut throwing in a three-pointer with 30 seconds left to spite the equally chippy Russians. Bogut finished with 22 pts, 8 rebs. Aussie point guard C.J. Bruton scorched the nets for 22 of his own and handed out 6 asts.
Their reward? The Group A #4 seed and a an almost certain quarterfinal matchup against Team USA, which on Saturday made perhaps the strongest statement USA basketball has uttered since the Jordan-Magic-Bird Dream Team — a 119-82 blowout of 2006 world champion Spain. Team Redeem clinched the Group B #1 seed and meets the Boomers Wednesday. (Standings and latest scores). Both teams played meaningless 5th games, with Australia waltzing Sunday night106-75 over injury-conscious Group A top seed Lithuania and Team USA this morning destroying Dirk Nowitzki and Germany 106-57.
Until Friday night, the 23-year-old Bucks center’s Olympics had been disappointing and frustrating. As Australia crumbled against Croatia and Argentina, Bogut scarcely resembled the aggressive post player Bucks fans saw most of last season. Worse still was that he wasn’t playing very much and was the focus of debate about the team’s failures. Aussie coach Brian Goorjian rose to make an impassioned defense of Bogut Thursday but along the way revealed that he, as coach, was de-emphasizing his star player — on purpose. The coach apparently believed that some of the lesser Aussie players would be responsible for delivering wins and Australia’s first-ever basketball medal.
In the Russia postgame, Goorjian again told reporters that he still didn’t think the team should rely on Bogut to carry them. The coach is in obvious denial about his team. (I’d love to hear an opinion from Yao Ming’s China coach about Goorjian’s attitude toward his center).
Against Russia, however, Goorjian finally did what basketball coaches do: he played his best players and finally seemed to settle on a rotation, riding Bogut and the timely shooting of Bruton to victory. Bogut logged 28 minutes and was strong from start to finish (including a “we mean business” unsportsmanlike foul on Utah Jazz/Russia star Andrei Kirilenko to open the 2nd half). Less than 48 hours after the coach had said Bogut could not be expected to carry the team, Bogut carried the team. That’s what star players do. Unfortunately for Australia, Goorjian spent the first three games of the Olympics foolishly trying to prove otherwise.
For more about Goorjian’s curious handling of Bogut in Beijiing, I made live game notes during the Australia-Russia game and have moved those to the bottom of this, the BBJ mothership weekend Olympics post.
Team USA 119, Spain 82 Boxscore. What to say about Team Redeem that hasn’t already been said? The Team USA defense is the dominant force in this Olympic basketball tournament. Pau Gasol (Lakers), Jose Calderon (Raptors) and their world champion Spanish team were no match. Lebron James and Dwyane Wade seem to have found a higher gear of intensity that may not have existed until now. The two stars are playing with what looks like controlled fury. I don’t think either one of them cracked a grin the entire first half, as they again led the team.
*Jason Kidd shocked the world by taking and making a shot, joking after the game that he had ruined his Olympics. “My man gave me the ball and I had to take the layup – even though I didn’t want to,” Kidd said. The shot came at the 6:56 mark of the 3rd Quarter with Lebron James leading a fast break. Kidd dutifully filled the left lane just like in practice drills and Lebron found him with a pass too close to the basket for Kidd to do anythng but plant his right foot and go up for the left-handed layin — which, by the way, was textbook. Obviously feeling sheepish after the game, he snuck out of the arena like Mike Tyson the night Buster Douglas knocked him out.
*After hitting nothing but rim the first three games, Denver’s Carmelo Anthony found his jumpshot, scoring 16 pts on 6-8 shooting, 4 of 6 from behind the arc. Anthony and the Pistons’ Tayshaun Prince (Pistons) were partly responsible for the extra gaudy margin of victory, shooting a combined 7/10 from downtown, while the rest of the team shot a merely human 5/15. Bucks guard Michael Redd missed his lone three-point attempt.
* Team Redeem stole the ball 16 times, led by Chris Paul‘s 5 steals (also 14 pts). Spain turned the ball over a whopping 28 times, a rate of one turnover every 85.7 seconds.
* Lebron James led with 8 asts (and 18pts). Lebron leads the Olympics in assists through 4 games with 22 (5.5 avg).
* Pau Gasol played 33 minutes but was held check, with just 13 points on 5-8 shooting. His 7-foot-tall, 270-lb brother Marc played some solid stretches, with 8 pts, 3 rebs in 18 mins before fouling out. Marc Gasol has a good-looking mid-range shot and mixed it up against the US, getting to the line six times. Looks like the Grizzlies have a player.
* Redd played 12 minutes in the second half, scoring 4 pts on 2-4 shooting (0-1 from downtown). He did not play in the first half, but didn’t try to force any offense during his stint in the 2nd. With all the frenetic defense and fast-paced transition the Redeem Teamers play, they haven’t had much of a role for him.
Yi hits crucial final minute shot, China advances59-55over Germany: Much like his former teammate, Bogut, Nets forward Yi Jianlian rose from goat to hero status in his fourth Beijing game, swishing an 18-footer with 28 seconds to go to put China up 58-55. Yi wasn’t done. He then sealed the win on the defensive end, harassing Mavs All-Pro Dirk Nowitzki into a missed three and a turnover. Yi finished with 9 pts, 11 rbs in his best game of the Olympics while also guarding Nowitzki most of the night. Dirk scored 24 and hauled down 17 rebs, but shot only 7-20 from the field, capping the night with that horrific final 28 seconds. Somewhere in New Jersey, a GM is breathing a little easier.
Yao Ming carried China with 25 pts, 11 rebs. China made the medal round for the second Olympics in a row, and closesd against Greece Monday. It could get goofy. The loser plays Lithuania, a preferable matchup to the one the winner gets: Spurs All-NBA guard Manu Ginobili and Argentina, the defending gold medalists. (Unfortunately, it didn’t get goofy – Yao just didn’t play most of it. He scored 16 pts in 18 mins as Greece “won” the #3 seed 91-77.)
Australia 106, Lithuania 75 – With Lithuania undefeated and Croatia securing the #3 seed with a blowout of Group A patsy Iran earlier Sunday night, this game was meaningless. Australia started quickly with Bogut scoring 9 points in the first 2:20 seconds and only briefly looked back – when Bogut went to the bench for seven minutes in the first half. That stretch was the last time Lithuania pulled to within single digits. Bogut led all scorers with 23 pts on 10-12 shooting in just 16 mins. The Aussie D forced 25 turnovers, a good workout with Team USA next.
The boxscore and game lines say Bogut shot 3-3 from 3-point land, but there must be some mistake. A criticism of Bogut in the NBA is that the midrange jumper he had in college has disappeared, but what’s this? Was it a long-range jumper all along? With 3 threes last night and 2 against Russia, he now has more 3-pointers in Beijing than Michael Redd, Team Redeem’s three-point specialist. Perhaps Bogut’s trying to send a message to Scott Skiles? The message is probably for Aussie coach Goorjian. “Keep me in the game” would be appropriate.
USA 106, Germany 57 – Team Redeem jumped out to a 20-3 lead and the rout was on. Carmelo Anthony opened the scoring with a jumper, which isn’t so unusual, but when Jason Kidd hit a three-pointer and Dwight Howard made a free throw in the early minutes, Germany should have packed it in and headed for the Olympic Village.
Proving that, yes, Orlando Magic center Howard has been somewhat bored against the likes of Greece and Angola, Team Redeem’s only center woke up against Germany’s NBA big men Dirk Nowitzki and LA Clippers center Chris Kaman. Howard led all scorers with 22 pts, 10 rebs and 5 missed free throws. Kaman answered with 6 pts and 4 rebs in 17 mins, hardly worth the special German work visa that has allowed him to play for his great grandparents deutschland in the Olympics. … Kaman committed 3 turnovers in less than a minute spanning the end of the 1st quarter, first few ticks of the 2nd quarter – which is difficult to do. This is one of the reasons, 2006 playoffs also among them, that Kaman did not make the Bob Boozer Jinx Top Ten (or 13) NBA Centers’ List.
Lebron and Kobe were a combined 7-10 from 3-point land, which should probably be against the rules of fair play. The rest of the team shot just 4-16 on threes, including 0-4 from Michael Redd. On the game, Redd played nearly 13 minutes, mostly in the second half, and shot 1-9 from the floor, finishing with 2 pts, 1 reb, 1 steal and 1 turnover. … Germany has a 6′ 9″, 247-lb forward named Sven Schultze who looks precisely like Sven Schultze.
1-USA (5-0) vs. 4-Australia (3-2) – 7AM
2-Spain (4-1) vs. 3-Croatia (3 – 1:30AM
3-Greece (3-2) vs. 2-Argentina (3-1) – 9:15AM
4-China (2-3) vs. 1-Lithuania (4-1) – 3:45AM
All times are CST. NBC’s basketball channel will have all the games, and USA Network will begin broadcasting at 5:30 AM. NBC’s network daytime broadcast starts at 10AM and they may have at least a portion of the game, one would hope, especially if it’s a good game. The Olympics network won’t really stick with its plans to show men’s beach volleyball, will they? …
AUSTRALIA – RUSSIA GAME NOTES:
We have our answer r.e. the hubris of the Aussie coach Brian Goorjian.He’s apparently come to his senses (maybe Goorjian read the Bob Boozer jinx today). Bogut dominated Russia in the first half, starting and finishing strong, scoring 12 points and grabbing four rebounds. The Aussies lead at half, 49-33. They’ve led throughout, pushing it to 16 on some hot shooting by David Anderson at the end of the 1st quarter, early 2nd. Bogut was on the bench during that run, but returned when Russia cut it to 11. Five straight points in the post by Bogut extended the lead back to 14, and he muscled in the final two points of the half for a 16 point lead. Bogut played 15 mins in the half.
Unless there’s foul trouble, Bogut should get one break per 20 minute half, and clock at minimum 32 minutes a game. I’d play him 35. Bogut’s the one advantage the Aussies have over most teams in these Olympics – every team except China and Team USA. He should be on the court 80% of the time. It was asinine for Goorjian to try to prove otherwise or play it any other way.
Bogut’s 4/5 from the line, which would be a nice trend. He’s a 59% free throw shooter in the NBA, as bad as Dwight Howard. Russian center Aleksei Savraskeno had a good first half, and so did the Bulls’ Viktor Khryapa. Khrypa’s got 9 pts, 4 rebs at half; Savrasenko 12 pts, 10 in the first quarter until Australia fed Bogut and forced the 7′ 1″ center to the bench with fouls.
Other than the big men, the Russians are having problems. The point guard from Pittsburgh, John-Robert Holden (a guy with a pretty interesting story) shoots a lot but he’s not hitting. Neither is.Kirilenko.
The speedsert Patty Mills isn’t playing well for Aus but the other point guard, CJ Bruton is. He’s hit a couple of threes and has 8. Forwards David Anderson and Matt Nielson are also playing well. I don’t understand why the Aussies stick with center Chris Antsey. He’s a veteran, age 33, an Aussie basketball league MVP, etc. But he does next to nothing on the court … Bogut, Anderson and Nielson are all 6′ 11″ plus. Maybe this is at the heart of the Aus problem. It’s time NOW to transition to the younger guys, not in two years. Whether Goorjian wants to admit it or not, the games are here, and they count. Having your opponents drill home the need for transition in the middle of the Olympic games has looked awful and pathetic …and confused the players about their roles. Antsey’s only played five minutes this game, probably 2 too many. He’s backing up Bogut.
Bogut starts the half by hammering Kirilenko – “unsportsmanlike” foul. Good idea to keep Kirilenko from getting his game together. This sets off a 9-0 run by Russia, though, cutting the lead to seven points before Nielson finally scores to stop it. Bogut then pushes the lead back to ten with, believe it or not, a three-pointer!! What is he doing out there? He’s 1-2 from behind the arc for the game.
Ugly play – Khryapa blocks Bogut’s shot about five minutes in. Bruton hits a three. He’s got 11 now.Anderson’s got 11 but he’s in foul trouble (again) with three. So is Nielson (again). We’re at the point in the game where the refs may give the Russians a shot at getting back in the game. Bogut has Savrasenko in foul trouble.
61-48 – Bogut goes to the bench six minutes into the quarter, replaced by Antsey. Too short a run for Bogut. Antsey turns the ball over. Rus center Savrasenko comes in to try and take advantage of Bogut’s absence.
Russians can’t hit – Holden’s missed two threes and turned it over twice. …Antsey hits a three as I was writing about him. … 65-49 ..
Kirilenko’s still stuck on that one shot he hit. Russians finally hit a three, but it isn’t Holden or Kirilenko…. It was Vorontsevich, Andrei. They’ve fired quite a few in an effort to close the gap. Kirilenko misses another one. …
69-55. Holden and Kirilenko have hardly rested at all. The Australia D has been very good for the first time in the Olympics, and Holden and Kirilenko are shooting terribly, accounting for Australia’s big lead.
Bogut and CJ Bruton back in to start the quarter. Bruton opens with a three to push the lead to 17 – 72-55. Bruton has four threes in the game. Bogut had a quiet 3rd (just the three pointer) but the Aussies are going back to him now in the 4th. He missed his first two shots but hit the third.. Bruton misses, Bogut grabs the offensive board – Mills hits.. 78-62. Kirilenko goes to the bench, leaving Holden, Khryapa and Savrasenko. Australia’s playing their best lineup: Bogut, Bruton, Mills, Newley and Nielson … Russia can’t score.
THE DUNK: Bogut wheels in from the arc and throws down an Olympic sized jam over the defender (Vorontsevich again). And the foul! He’s got 19. 80-62 … What a statement! Russia gets Kirilenko back in the game w/ two others. Savrasenko’s out. Bogut misses the free throw. Next Aussie possession, Sergei Montya hacks Bruton – an unsportsmanlike, followed by a scrap with Nielson retaliating. Bogut steps into it too. The Russians are losing it. Bruton makes the free throws – 82-62. Three minutes into the quarter and the Aussies have outscored Russia 13-7. This is probably the game.
Bogut to the bench, Antsey in. Huh? It’s not over yet. The game’s getting chippy, but wouldn’t that be reason to leave him in? Aussies aren’t supposed to duck a potential broken nose. Maybe his arm’s numb from the dunk?
Khryapa hasn’t been a factor in the second half. He’s rebounding, but he hasn’t hit a bucket. Russia finally gets a hoop with 4 minutes left to make it 83-64. 14-7 for the Aussies in the first six mins of the 4th. Inside out game with Bogut, Bruton and Mills. Until that last hoop, nearly a three minute scorelss drought for the Russians – it killed them.
Holden hits a three w/ 2:40 left, cutting it to 12. Bogut’s still on the bench. Russians are on a 9-0 run. Goorjian puts Bogut back in after a Mills turnover.
Khryapa hits a three. Then another. It’s too late. Bruton and Nielson are hitting their free throws. Should be game barring some craziness. Rus could always employ the hack-a-bogut defense here.
.. BOGUT JUST HIT A THREE for the helluvit, as if the dunk wasn’t enough … Bruton sews it up with two free throws – he and Bogut finish with 22.
Bogut finishes with 22 pts, 8 rebs, 2 asts in 28 mins. Bruton also had 22 (4-8 on threes) and 6 asts. Viktor Khryapa led Russia with 21 pts, 9 rebs, on the strength of his three-pointer barrage in the last four mins of the game. Kirilenko was held to 6 pts on 1-10 shooting. Holden from Pittsburgh had 20 pts but shot 20 times to get it. Savrasenko had 16 in 19 mins but was invisible in the 2nd half due to foul trouble. I’d call that a win for Bogut (and Antsey), who neutralized the Russian big man.
Bogut’s 28 mins were easily the most he’s played in Beijing. That’s still not enough PT in a 40 minute game, especially with full two-minute rests at the quarters (NBA breaks are 90 secs.) Realistically, if he’s given breathers around those breaks, Bogut should play 32-33 minutes or more in a contested game. In this game, Bogut sat for 1/3 of the game until he reentered in the 4th after Khyrapa started hitting threes. Goorjian never should have taken him out of the game in the 4th. Is the coach obligated to find minutes for Antsey?
All that talk from Goorjian before the game about Bogut being “the future” of Aussie basketball, about other players defining the team’s success … I think Goorjian finally had little choice but to acknowledge that Bogut is the present of Australia basketball and that the Aussies needed to win a game NOW or go home. The team needed a big game out of Bogut and he delivered. It was the first time a big game had been asked of him, which probably explains why the Aussies are looking at a quarterfinal game against Team USA instead of Spain or Greece.
A difficult Olympics for Bogut: Goorjian seemed to use Bogut’s ankle injury (he rolled it July 31 against Angola) as an excuse to deemphasize Australia’s celebrity, $72-million-dollar contract, NBA “star” — who joined training late — and then try to make the unrealistic statemet that the team should be bigger than its best player. The Australia Boomers aren’t like the 2007-08 Bucks where it became very debatable as the season wore on who the best player was. Bogut is the man for Australia, and the reality is that Australia was only going as far as Bogut could take them. Perhaps Goorjian threw in the towel against Croatia and Argentina. Or maybe it was simply about playing Chris Antsey. Whatever the case, and it was probably a combination of all three, the coach foolishly rejected his star player until it was too late to salvage Australia’s medal hopes.
An interesting pose ….
That’s Russia’s Maria Stepanova boxing out Australia’s Lauren Jackson. Australia won the game.
Who 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).
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.
Contrary 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.
“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.
Olympic basketball kicks off this weekend, the men’s tournament Sunday morning, Aug. 10. The USA “Redeem Team” and Michael Redd begin Group B play against Yao Ming, Yi Jianlian and China. Andrew Bogut and his Australia Boomers open against Croatia in Group A.
Here’s the game schedule. Click here for NBC’s broadcast schedule. NBC will have a few of the US games live, including Sunday’s opener, but you know how NBC is, jumping in and out of the action. If it’s not on the toob (NBC or USA Network), it can be viewed live online, a great opportunity for American hoops fans to see for ourselves how the rest of the world is doing. It’s creative loafing time.
Team USA with Kobe and Lebron is a heavy favorite to bring the gold home after finishing 3rd in Athens 2004, no matter how cynical the press row has been. But let’s not get cocky. This is arguably the strongest field in Olympic basketball history. Spain, Greece, Argentina, Russia and Lithuania are expected to be in the medal running. Watch out for Bogut and Australia, and Germany. Croatia’s a sleeper. China, Iran and Angola are the also-rans.
That’s the conventional media wisdom, which might be half right. (Count how many times you hear an announcer apply the “arguably best player in the world not in the NBA” tag to different players.) I haven’t seen most of these teams play yet, so prognostications will have to wait. Instead, let’s examine the weirdness that is international basketball with a trusty ten-point Olympic primer.
1)The time shift will take some getting used to: Beijing is on the other side of the world, 13 hours ahead of Milwaukee. Group play begins at 9AM [I’ve corrected this] each morning in China, seen live in Milwaukee at 8PM and continues through the night until about 11AM the next morning — six men’s or women’s games daily Aug. 9-18. All of the U.S. men’s games, however, are prime time and night cap games in China, which means 7AM and 9:15AM tip-offs here for Team Redeem (can we come up with a better nickname?). Hoops with early ayem coffee instead of beer, plenty of time to get caught up with work in the afternoon.
2) The Olympic tournament features 12 teams divided into two groups of six, A and B. After a five-game round-robin within the groups, four teams from each advance to the quarter finals Aug. 20, where the stakes are do or die, one game elimination. The team finishing 1st in its group plays the 4th place team from the other group; the 2nd place team plays the 3rd place team from the other group and so on. For example, If Australia and Bogut finish 4th in Group A, the Aussies would likely play Group B U.S. in the quarterfinals and be sent Down Under without a medal — although it would be a good game if the refs let the rough stuff go, which they won’t (see #10). The semifinals are Aug. 22, the medal games cap the Olympics Sunday, Aug. 24.
GROUP A: Argentina (full line-up of NBA experience led by the Suprs All-NBA guard Manu Ginobili, and forwards Luis Scola of the Rockets and the Bulls’ Andres Nocioni), Australia (Bogut), Russia (Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko), Lithuania (no Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas this time), Croatia and Iran.
GROUP B: Spain (Lakers all-star Pau Gasol and brother Marc of the Grizzlies; shooting guard Juan Carlos Navarro, Wizards draftee), Germany (Mavs All-NBAer Dirk Nowitzki, Clippers center Chris Kaman), Greece (a few guys who didn’t stick in the NBA), China (Yao and Yi), Angola and Team USA.
3) No matter how much it appears to be smaller, the international (FIBA) ball is, in fact, the same size as the NBA ball (size 7, 22 inches diameter). It is not, however, the same ball. The NBA ball – “the one ball” – is a Spalding. The international ball can be made by any manufacturer that pays the licensing fees and certifies the rigorously zany process that the offical FIBA ball must undergo, including refrigeration and other laboratory processes, and a goofy paint job.
4)The international three-point line looks to be about the same as the college three-point line but is 9.1 inches further out at 20′ 6.1″ (6.25 meters) from the hoop. The NBA arc is three feet-plus further out (23′ 9″ – except at the baseline where the line tapers to 22 feet). There was really no excuse for the U.S. shooting 3-18 behind the arc the other day in its tuneup game against the Aussies — though the reason may be that NBA players don’t shoot as well as players a generation ago. In 2010, FIBA will move its arc back about a foot-and-a-half. Apparently, the rest of the world still thinks the NBA three line is too far away from the hole.
5) The lane, that trapezoidal lane, wider near the hoop. It looks just as weird as it always has, and there’s no good reason for it. What’s the purpose? To keep big men away from the basket and make post play more difficult, of course, and to equalize height advantage. That’s not a good reason. I’ve also suspected the trapezoid was designed “just to be different” from the American game, less squarish and not unlike the goofy paint job on the ball. But not for long. The trapezoids will be peeled off the world’s hardwood in 2010 as FIBA has come to its senses and will paint the standard American lane, which you already know if you hit the link in #3.
6) Zone defenseis allowed, anything goes, no defensive three seconds for guarding no one. A team can clog the lane all it wants on D, which gets back to the questions in #4 about the trapezoidal weirdness. The zones will impact Team Redeem. NBA players are used to clear-out, one-on-one basketball and post offense against man-to-man D, and generally run two root plays — pick-and-roll and give-and-go. The off-the-ball cuts that free shooters against zones are not ingrained in their offensive styles, and Lebron and Kobe never played a second of college ball where zones are allowed. Neither did center Dwight Howard. If anything is the premium in international ball, it’s zone-beating outside shooting. Many teams (Spain, Argentina, Lithuania, Greece) are stacked with great shooters, while Team USA came to China with one fewer than it probably should have. The Olympics would be a bad time for Michael Redd to start forcing offense and fall into one of his bad streaks, those slumps that for the Milwaukee Bucks have often come at the worst possible times.
7) The court is 2′ 2″ shorter and nearly a foot narrower at an even 28 meters by 15 meters, something that only the great, idiosyncratic shooters of the era, Ray Allen and Reggie Miller, probably ever paid any attention to. The three point line is already much shorter, so trimming five inches left and right along the baseline is negligible for most players. I do foresee Redd finding his heels on the out-of-bounds line a time or two if he’s running the baseline and setting up for corner threes.
8) Forty minute games just like in college, 5 fouls to foul out. Unlike college, however, there are four periods, with a two-minute break at the end of the first and third quarters (the NBA break is only 90 seconds). Much like the trapezoidal lane, there seems no good reason that this should be different from both the NBA and NCAA, other than being different for the sake of being different. This one, though, heavily favors NBA stars used to playing a grueling 36-40 minutes a game. Imagine the never-tiring Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul.
9) Fewer timeouts. In the NBA, teams get six plus a 20-second timeout. In FIBA ball, it’s one time out per period until the 4th quarter, when teams get two — five altogether plus the longer quarter breaks. No 20-second timeout. This shouldn’t matter, right? Watch various Redeem Team players try to save possession by calling 20-second timeouts when falling out of bounds or scrambling for the ball. Ahh, it’s the little things in life, good for shits and giggles.
10)International refs are tehrrr-rrible (that’s Bill Waltonese) a-trohh-shuss even, always a source of frustration — worse than college refs and far less respectful of game flow than NBA refs. This, along with the zone D, will cause some trouble for Team Redeem. The refs don’t like tough, physical defense; they don’t do make up calls (one of the most equitably sane things about NBA refs); they don’t let big men play; there are only two of them — not the NBA three; and ref nationalism brings a paranoia factor into the mix (the 1972 travesty vs. the Soviets was only the most blatant refereeing debacle). As much as the Chinese fans love them, much of the rest of basketball world is rooting against the Redeem Team. (Ed. note – FIBA’s decided to go with three refs. Nope, they don’t all have to have a common language.)
In the “friendly” games over the last ten days, the refs made it clear that they’ll be whistle-happy on Australia and its hammerlock defense. Lebron, who plays a similar style under Mike Brown in Cleveland, fouled out of a tuneup game. US center Howard, a Stan Van Gundy player in Orlando, has had a difficult time in general. Carlos Boozer, from the Jerry Sloan school of defense in Utah, has yet to find a role or playing time. In a way it’s a good thing for the U.S. that there are no Celtics, Spurs or 76ers on Team Redeem, and only one Detroit Piston, Tayshaun Prince. Clawing NBA defense is expressly illegal by international refereeing standards. (Mo Williams would love Beijing.)
Also note that many international refs seem to have a man-crush on Argentina’s shooting guard, a phenomenon heretofore known as “the Manu Ginobili factor” (Manoo factor for short).
An official FIBA preview. Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Manu Ginobili (Argentina), Andrei Kirilenko (Russia), Sarunas Jasikevicius (Lithuania) and Yao Ming for host China were the flagbearers for their countriesin the opening ceremony — a pretty good indication of how important Olympic basketball is around the world. Heavy gravitas for the basketball stars in Beijing.
Hey, those Aussie’s play rough. True to his word about how the Australia Boomers Olympic squad was going to play in the Beijing Olympics, Bucks center Andrew Bogut and team “junked” their way to a 67-55 win over Yao Ming, Yia Jianlian and China in an Olympic warm up game early this morning. Let’s go to an Aussie news report on the game from Nanjing, China at couriermail.com.au:
“In a heated match marred by the occasional scuffle and some bruising screens, the Boomers prevailed by 12 points in a preview of what they can expect in Beijing next month.
Yao shaded [transliation: slightly outplayed] Australia’s Andrew Bogut in the battle of NBA big men, but the visitors showed enough composure down the stretch to get off to the best possible start in the six-nation tournament and disappoint a vocal home crowd.
Yao finished with 14 points and seven boards, while Bogut had nine points and eight rebounds.”
Plus two blocks and an “unsportsmanlike foul” wrapping up Yao, which is what the above photo is all about.
This was just the sort of grappling “junk”-style zone play that Bogut, in town earlier this month to sign his contract, said fans should expect from the Aussie team. From JSonline.com:
“Our big guys are pretty formidable,” Bogut said, referring to teammates David Andersen and Chris Anstey. “We have to play a different style than the Europeans. We’re definitely not going to win games playing a halfcourt style, so we’re going to have to try to junk the game up. We have to try to do a lot of zone and man trapping and all that type of stuff. That’s the way we won a (world) gold medal as a junior. We have no chance playing European basketball against the Europeans.” (Watch the video from the contract-signing press conference here.)
In its game report, Dimemag.com compared the Aussies to the 1980’s Pistons. Two unsportsmanlike fouls were called on the Boomers before it was done. China committed 23 turnovers and let the Aussie’s rough play “get into their heads,” wrote Dimemag’s Andrew Katz.
In case you were wondering, former Buck Yi Jianlian was 0-3 from the floor and did not score. Yi added 4 rebs in 24 mins. “A loss like this doesn’t do much to dispel the looming ‘soft’ label pinned to both Yao’s and Yi’s chests,” wagged Katz.
Back to the Aussie press, Bogut is getting rave reviews from his teammates, who say he’s improved “out of sight” since they last played with their center in the 2006 World Championship games. This from Boomers veteran Antsey:
“I think we’re pretty tough and we’ve got a lot of international experience which is something we haven’t had a lot of in the past. Adding Bogut to the team adds a whole other level. He’s gone up a level since the world championships (in 2006). He’s just a presence and he’s worth that $60 million. He’s improved out of sight so it’s exciting to have him on the team.”
Next up for the Aussies (oops, after this warm up tournament) is a prelim Aug. 5 against Lebron, Kobe, Michael Redd and Team USA, which plays tomorrow morning against Turkey and Ersan Ilyasova – still the NBA property of the Milwaukee Bucks. After playing in 66 games for the Bucks during the forgettable 2006-07 season (sorry about that), Ilyasova jumped to the Spanish League’s AXA FC Barcelona for last season. He hasn’t missed much in Milwaukee.
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 mediaover 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.
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 …
Meanwhile, 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.
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.
I have developed what can only be called “The Chad Ford Principle.” Whatever Ford mongers out there as rumoroid fact, expect it to be false and driven by the needs of certain agents whom Ford spends far too much time listening to. And bear in mind when reading him that Ford an ethically challenged journalist who doesn’t seem to be able to put two and two together very well.
Let’s give The Chad Ford Principle a test run. If Ford writes that his sources say the Chicago Bulls are taking point guard Derrick Rose with the number one pick, expect the Bulls to pick forward Michael Beasley. In fact Ford himself is beginning to back off his “90 percent” assurance that the Bulls would take Rose, writing in mock draft 5.0 that he’s “not as confident as I was a week ago that he’ll be the pick.”
The Bulls will take Beasley and I would bet on it. Again using The Chad Ford Principle, expect the Bucks to take Anthony Randolph (LSU) and not Alexander or do something more creative with the pick.
(Note: I’ve since learned that Rose and Randolph have the same agent — former Chicago Bull B.J. Armstrong, a rep for the Arn Tellem agency. Using The Chad Ford Principle, assume that agent Armstrong is one of Ford’s key sources regarding both Rose and Randolph).
As for the Bucks moving up in the draft, Bucks GM John Hammond said last week that he doesn’t “have a deal to move up or to move down” and that he’s seeing movement among the teams drafting ahead of them. This could mean the Bucks might trade out of the first round altogether or trade whomever the Bucks pick.
That wasn’t the only Ford-broadcasted fire that was extinguished last week. Remember all that talk about trading Yi Jianlian to Golden State in a deal for developing 21-year-old forward Brandan Wright and the Warriors #14 pick? A rep from the Warriors contacted Ford last week and “took umbrage” at the rumor. This from Ford’s column last Thursday:
“A Warriors representative shot down an assertion made in a couple of my columns that the team was looking to move Brandan Wright. He especially took umbrage at the report that the team coveted Milwaukee’s Yi Jianlian. I’ve been assured that Warriors GM Chris Mullin, who makes the final decisions at Golden State, isn’t trading Wright for Yi.”
The Warriors called to demand a correction, didn’t they Chad?
And it was likely the first contact Ford’s had with the Warriors in all of this. Still, Ford didn’t quite have to the guts to label it a correction and just tacked it on at the end of his column with the following caveat:
“This time of the year, the information is flying fast and furious. Sources often have agendas, and from time to time I just get things wrong.”
That’s well and good, except that in an earlier version of the very same column, Ford wrote that, in still another trade involving Golden State and Wright, Cleveland was set to trade Anderson Varejao and their #19 pick to the Warriors. The Varejao report is apparently what prompted the Warriors to shut Ford’s rumor mill down. Ford was slinging agent slime at Golden State week after week.
Guess who Yi Jianlian and Anderson Varejao have in common? Sports agent Dan Fegan, who obviously fed Ford the Yi trade rumors last season and is at it again now with Yi and Varejao. You bet Fegan’s got an agenda. He wants Yi out of Milwaukee and Varejao out of Cleveland. Ford has been Fegan’s willing accomplice when the agent feels the need to toss grist into the NBA rumor mills. I assume Ford knows fully well that Fegan has no ability to make trades.
Ford’s problem is that this is not a “this time of year” thing; it’s general Chad Ford practice. Ford routinely references agents off the record with tags such as “a source familiar with the talks” — which is how he referred to Fegan in the Varejao rumor write-up.
In Cleveland, the Morning News called its sources and quickly debunked the Varejao to Golden State talk as “nothing more than a rumor.” The Cavaliers are apparently not as upset with Ford as the Warriors were.
Journalistically, Ford’s general practice is unethical. Because he writes for ESPN, NBA teams and the daily newspapers in NBA cities are compelled to react, in large part because he doesn’t let his readers know that he’s spinning rumors from agents — not sources from NBA teams. That’s downright unethical.
Is Ford writing for entertainment purposes only and is that an excuse? No and no, and Ford doesn’t write in an entertaining style anyway. He shows little flair for absurdity, wit, sarcasm or humor, or even the cut-the-crap asshole-ishness that sometimes makes for good writing. Overall, his style is banal. There’s so little there and so many other mock NBA draft outlets for fans, such as Draft Express and NBADraft.net.
What purpose does Ford’s column serve ESPN other than to generate site hits with agent-flushed yellow journalism? And what does that say about ESPN?
Cleveland, we have a problem here: The Akron Beacon Journal’s Patrick McManamon took an in depth look at Anderson Varejao’s situation last week and revealed something I don’t think any of us wildly speculative blogger types had realized — Varejao can reject any trade up until Dec. 5. That date matters because Dec. 5 is the one-year anniversary of the Cavs matching the contract offer Fegan and Varejao negotiated with the Charlotte Bobcats last fall.
According to NBA rules, a player can reject a trade for one year after a team matches a contract offer to keep him. The Bucks Charlie Bell, for example, could have rejected the trade to the Knicks that Larry Harris had reportedly negotiated before the trading deadline last February because the Bucks last summer matched an offer sheet from Miami to keep Bell. Now Varejao, a key piece of a potential trade for Michael Redd, could be off limits to the Bucks this summer unless Bucks GM John Hammond can make Varejao (and Fegan) happy. Remember that Fegan is also Yi’s agent and that on the Bucks Yi and Varejao would be sharing power forward minutes.
Still, Akron’s McManamon likes a trade for Redd, calling it “logical” and writing that “it all makes sense.”
McManamon does however, have more bad news for the Bucks. Guard Boobie Gibson underwent ankle surgery this offseason and could be considered off the table. If Gibson is off limits it wouldn’t leave Cleveland much to deal with beyond the Wally Szczerbiak contract and the #19 pick — not enough of a return for Michael Redd.
I’m suddenly concerned that the Bob Boozer Jinx — the Bucks jinx at the power forward position — is once again working its crazy mojo.
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 Williamssyndrome. 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.”
“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.