Home / Sports / Buck Up, There's Always a New Plan
Monday, June 27, 2011

Buck Up, There's Always a New Plan

Google+ Pinterest Print
The Milwaukee Bucks have made big changes. They've corrected some bad personnel decisions, moving out underachievers and acquiring rookies and veterans who have just what the Bucks need to become an NBA contender again.

Sound familiar? It should. The Bucks, who haven't won a playoff series since 2001—and have appeared in only four since—have spent a decade building, unbuilding, rebuilding, re-rebuilding... and that continued on NBA Draft Day last week.


Sent packing in a deal with Sacramento and Charlotte were shooting guard John Salmons and small forward Corey Maggette—2010 additions who were supposed to keep the Bucks on the rise. Brought in were shooting guard/small forward Stephen Jackson, and point guards Shaun Livingston and Beno Udrih. The draft yielded forwards Tobias Harris from Tennessee and Jon Leuer from Wisconsin.


After an 11-win dropoff from the latest playoff season, should fans buy the latest fresh start? Let's ask the Observer who has a rooting interest.


Frank:
When I saw the Bucks' moves, the phrase that came to mind was, “Rearranging deck chairs on the...” Well, not the Titanic, I guess.

Artie:
More like the S.S. Minnow, ain'a?

Frank:
Is that the way you see it, too?

Artie:
In a way, but I think they got some really good players. Stephen Jackson always plays hard, doesn't quit or disappear on defense, and he won a ring with San Antonio.

Frank:
He plays hard off the court, too. Let's say he's had some behavior issues.

Artie:
True, he was one of the guys who followed Ron Artest—or whatever he calls himself now—into the stands to brawl with Detroit fans in '04. And there was that little thing outside an Indianapolis strip club in '07.

Frank:
"Little" as in firing a gun and getting struck by a car. Jackson pleaded guilty to criminal recklessness, a felony, but did no jail time.

Artie:
It does make me wonder if there are enough strip clubs in our fair city to keep him happy.

Frank:
Jackson was said to be unhappy when he learned of the trade.

Artie:
Maybe he's just tired of changing places; he's been on six other teams in 11 seasons. Yeah, he's an outspoken guy, but he's always been a really good player. And since I'm always hoping in vain for a bench-clearing brawl at Miller Park, maybe now I'll see one at the Bradley Center if Jackson pounds on some loudmouthed jerk fan.

Frank:
Make sure it isn't you.

Artie:
You know I'm a quiet spectator, but I wouldn't mind being a witness.

Frank:
But seriously, you're optimistic about Jackson and the other new Bucks?

Artie:
I've seen a lot of analyses since Draft Day, and the consensus is that the Bucks were one of the winners.

Frank:
Is some of it addition by subtraction?

Artie:
You betcha, in two ways. The trade moved out two guys who were disappointments, and it seems to be a net saving in payroll—always good for a small-market franchise.

Frank:
Especially since we now find that Herb Kohl borrowed at least $55 million from the NBA's credit arm. That isn't unusual or necessarily dire, but Kohl has said the Bucks are operating in the red.

Artie:
So are a lot of teams in the messed-up world of ridiculous NBA contracts. Now the owners will try to clean up the mess they created by a lockout, due to start July 1. We may be deep into winter before we see whether the Bucks are better.

Frank:
The trade seems to be an admission that the Bucks chose wrong last year in keeping Salmons instead of Luke Ridnour.

Artie:
But I think they've fixed that in getting Beno Udrih. He's an all-effort guy who can shoot, make free throws and really support Brandon Jennings the way Ridnour did. And they've added scoring with Jackson and depth with Shaun Livingston.

Frank:
A good idea for a team that sank to the bottom of the league in scoring and shooting percentage.

Artie:
Just in terms of talent, the new guys are an upgrade. And the draft picks are good, too. Tobias Harris is only 18, but he was second-team All-SEC as a freshman. A draft analysis on hoopshype.com compared him to Glen Rice.

Frank:
Now that's a shooter and a scorer.

Artie:
Plus Jon Leuer could be a really good bench guy. He's definitely skilled and has his head on right from four years of Bo Ryan's coaching.

Frank:
Might he be another of those big guys who'll stay outside, like Tim Thomas?

Artie:
He did his share of Big Ten banging at Madison, but he also can handle the ball and is quite athletic for a guy his size.

Frank:
But what about the lament I've heard on and off for decades: “The Bucks need a legitimate power forward.”

Artie:
When the trade knocked their first-round pick down from 10th to 19th I thought, “This still gives them a shot at Kenneth Faried." He's from Morehead State, a 200% guy every second. Listed only at 6-8, but he broke Tim Duncan's all-time record for college rebounds.

Frank:
He was still available at No. 19?Artie: Yup. He went to Denver a little later. I really think in three or four years a lot of teams will kick themselves for not taking him.

Frank:
Maybe including the Bucks, who look like they'll continue to live and die by the jump shot.

Artie:
It was mostly “die” last season. The new guys can shoot, but I think Udrih and Livingston, as backup guards, won't be inclined to stop passing and just jack it up.

Frank:
The way Maggette, for example, was?

Artie:
Yeah. And Stephen Jackson is a better player than John Salmons.

Frank:
Certainly the “I've got my big contract now” Salmons of last season.

Artie:
Here's another plus with Jackson: The ladies at Silk will be overjoyed by the extra business. And this, too: He's coming to Wisconsin at the perfect time. That new “concealed carry” law will mean he can pack heat anytime he wants!

Frank:
Quite a selling point.

Artie:
Come to think of it, now's the perfect time for the Packers to sign that other noted pistol-packer, Plaxico Burress. A gun falls out of his pants in Wisconsin, so what?

Frank:
Back to Jackson. He'll be going into his 12th NBA season; does that worry you?

Artie:
He's not all that old, 33. He was drafted out of high school at 18, played in the old CBA and overseas before joining the league with the Nets in 2000. To me that shows what a hard worker he is.

Frank:
All in all, the Bucks will go into next season—whenever that is—with modest expectations.

Artie:
Which could help them fly under the radar again, like 2009-'10. But the big key is whether Andrew Bogut will be healthy.

Frank:
It sure looked like he came back too early from that mega-injury in April of '10.

Artie:
And you can't discount all the injuries they had early last season. They never really had the eight or nine top guys working together for a long while.

Frank:
So things could have been different?

Artie:
Yeah, and so you could speculate that keeping the same crew next season might have worked. But in terms of selling tickets, it would never have flown.



Just to Let You Know...

Frank: Big news, buddy! It's World Cup time again.

Artie:
What? Didn't we just have one of those soccer nil-fests last year? I remember seeing so many zeroes on the ESPN score lines.

Frank:
This is the Women's World Cup in Germany.

Artie:
God, is it possible to have negative numbers in a score?

Frank:
Actually, America has a much better chance of winning with the women's team. I'll keep you posted.

Artie:
That's probably best. Then I won't pop a blood vessel in excitement.

Frank:
Meanwhile, I'm off to New York to see my Yankees host the Brew Crew.

Artie:
Now that's something I can get into! I hope your report for next week is an unhappy one.