Bucks Sundays – 2/12/12
The Milwaukee Bucks are as up and down as they’ve ever been.
A team of odd streaks, the 12-15 Bucks currently hold a road winning streak and a home losing streak. Seem a bit unconventional? The Bucks aren’t your typical NBA team.
It’s easy to look around the league and see the star teams: energetic fan bases, a motivated and talented roster, and plenty of future ahead. The opposite can be said about the franchises that are struggling, and too often in the NBA these attitudes are sustained for long stretches of time. A team like Charlotte, stuck in a 14-game losing stretch, tends to carry along too much frustration from game to game.
The thing that sets the Bucks apart from some of the other teams in the lower half of the standings is their attitude. Milwaukee acts like a team that wins with routine. Is that is good thing? I mean, why not? The Bucks put themselves in so many tough situations when they look lost on the court, commit far too many turnovers, and end up in too many large deficits. Yet they don’t suffer many blowout losses. They make too many mistakes and end up allowing a lot of early points. Yet they typically can limit their opponent to under 100 points.
To be successful in the NBA, of course you need the right talent. Yet you always need the right attitude, and the Bucks’ recent history demonstrates that perfectly. Two seasons ago they made a huge late-season surge into the playoffs, and their team chemistry was given a lot of praise. GM John Hammond has been constantly shifting the roster in part to clean up some past financial mistakes, and two seasons ago it worked. Very well. Last season was a problem, and Hammond gambled on a few locker room personalities in order to clean up their payroll again. The Bucks lost on that gamble. It was a tough year, and a lot of players criticized the team’s collective attitude.
So here we are this season. Coach Scott Skiles is a defensive-minded coach. He has been known to occasionally wear out his players, especially if they aren’t used to that style of defense. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with this current bunch. They are a younger group, and they didn’t have a training camp to learn all the new faces, like every other team in this shortened season. So while the Bucks typically have a developing phase into each game, they adjust and put up a lot of fight later in the game.
So that will change, right? After 27 games, you eventually can’t keep using the excuse that you are still working out the bugs. And that is something to pay attention to. For now, we’ll have to settle for the late-game surges that at least keep the Bucks in most games.
Watching the Bucks play, I mean actually play the game well, can be an enjoyable thing for basketball fans. They space the ball out well, they pass effectively, and they get that bit of luck you have to have on your side. Brandon Jennings and Shaun Livingston, the starting guard tandem for the last 14 games, works so well because they both bring a different element. Jennings is faster and has a quicker reaction time, while Livingston is the much taller guard and can shoot better. Both guards can flash to the basket, which helps shrink the defense and create outside shots. Carlos Delfino has thrived very well in that role, hitting 46% from 3-point range in the last 10 games.
In battle, one side can have an advantage over the other if they can create a distraction. The Orlando Magic happened to find a distraction in superstar Dwight Howard. The Bucks held Orlando offensively early on and took a halftime lead against the Magic. That of course fell apart later on, as the Bucks held Howard close to a season low in points, but allowed a 3-point explosion to another player. Limiting Howard was a good thing, and Drew Gooden did the best he could. But Milwaukee needs to keep focus on the other threats on the court.
You might have heard some interesting comments the other day from Brandon Jennings. He established the point during an interview with ESPN that he is actively researching other teams for when he becomes a free agent in 2 seasons. Obviously, it brought an onslaught of varying opinions. In today’s NBA, too many small market teams struggle from year to year. They end up with the high draft picks and some of the top players, and a handful of those players have bolted to bigger markets in the last couple of seasons. Could that be Jennings’ eventual plan? No one can say at this time. Perhaps that was his way to encouraging the Bucks to continue to build a strong roster around him.
I will say this about Jennings; it’s safe to bet that he will become a perennial leader on the court. He is still young, and if he can learn to handle himself during the tough stretches and find new ways to rally guys around him, he’ll be a star in the league for a long time. Perhaps that will be with Milwaukee for a long time, perhaps not.
Stat of the Weekend
The Milwaukee Bucks, minus Andrew Bogut, out-rebounded the Orlando Magic, who got 14 from Dwight Howard. That shows a team with some fight in them.
Monday Feb 13th vs. Miami