After a mid-season break due to the NBA All-Star Game, the Weekly Bucks Report returns in full force. Two Name told me he spent 4 hours writing this post - seriously...and all he wants in return is 1 comment in the comment section...so help the man out.
The Weekly Bucks Report is posted every Monday or Tuesday on CH.
I basically deemed the 2008-2009 season a lost cause as the calendar turned to February.
That was when we found out the Bucks would be without Andrew Bogut for eight weeks – which will turn out to be the entire season, playoffs or not – with a fracture in his back. Bogut joined Mike Redd on the bench after playing his last game Jan. 31 against Atlanta.
Then Luke Ridnour broke his thumb in practice 10 minutes – literally 10 minutes – after the Bucks traded Ridnour’s backup – Ty Lue – to Orlando for Keith Bogans on Feb. 5. If there’s ever an anecdote to sum up this season and the Bucks’ injury situation, that might be it.
How-evah, the short-handed Bucks have defied the odds thus far and surprised me with solid team play since Bogut and Redd were bench-ridden. Ridnour has since returned, but the play of Ramon Sessions and Charlie Villanueva has helped Milwaukee hold onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Plus, Richard Jefferson has elevated his play, averaging about 25 points a game in February.
The Bucks are 4-4 since Bogut was declared out for the season, including impressive wins on the road against Detroit and at home against Denver on Sunday. They have lost to solid teams (Cleveland, specifically), but the most encouraging sign is the Bucks never seem completely overmatched. They’ve been in every game and easily could have reversed their fortunes in a couple of those losses.
What accounts for this success?
It has to be a mixture of players stepping up and Scott Skiles implementing a system that makes average players go above and beyond their ability. The way the Bucks pass the ball under Skiles is impressive. An extra pass here and there makes guys like Charlie Bell and Francisco Elson look better than they actually are at times because the passing leads to wide-open looks at the basket.
There’s also something to be said for not having to look for a star player or two on every possession. These guys don’t have feed Bogut in the post or find Redd on the perimeter, so they’re playing a more wide-open style. I don’t know how long this will last. Sooner or later, the lack of depth on the bench will have to bite the Bucks. Right?
They’ve defied the odds thus far. If they continue buying into the style of play they’ve featured since the beginning of February, the playoffs are still attainable, as crazy as that sounds. Especially when the schedule is loaded with home games the rest of the way.
I mean, really, does the Knicks’ roster, one of the groups chasing the Bucks for the eighth spot, really put more fear into your heart than Milwaukee’s? Don’t think so. No matter what happens, it’s just nice to see this team hasn’t gone into the tank, which definitely would have happened in years past.
LBJ in town: Anybody see LeBron score 16 points in the first 3 minutes of the third quarter against the Bucks on Saturday? I couldn’t stand watching fans cheer for him at the BC, but I’ve never seen anyone take shots from such outlandish distances and watch every one go in the basket. James finished with 55 points, including 8 of 11 from 3-point range. Funny this is, despite LeBron going off, the Bucks retook the lead in that game and had a chance to win. By the way, I’ll take Sessions over Mo Williams for the long-term solution at point guard. Mo looks great next to LeBron, but he’s not committed to being a pass-first, franchise point guard and never will be.
Calm trade winds: There was a lot of conversation about the Bucks preceding the trade deadline, but John Hammond stood pat with his overachieving roster. I didn’t have a problem with this. I’m thrilled Hammond didn’t trade Sessions or Villanueva earlier this season, and now I want to see how the rest of the campaign plays out. Hammond knows one of two things: Either he thinks this assortment of players can make the playoffs and wanted to see it through. Or, he knew one move wouldn’t put this roster over the top and make it a sure lock for the playoffs. I assume the most attractive players on the Bucks are Sessions and Villanueva, and Hammond couldn’t justify trading either one of them at this point, especially because the team is in the hunt.
Player of the week: It’s pretty much going to be Villanueva or Sessions the rest of the way, and this week it’s Charlie V. Big Smooth recorded double-doubles against Chicago and Cleveland (17 points, 12 boards, and 26 and 13, respectively), and he finished with 36 points and the game-clinching shot against Denver on Sunday. Charlie averaged 20 points a game in January and is showing no signs of slowing down.
This week: Bucks have a tough trip this week, heading to Dallas and New Orleans. Washington travels to the BC Saturday. I’ll go on a limb and say the Bucks will go 2-1 and surprise us in one of those road games. The Two Name guarantee will continue living in infamy, or shame …