Tuesday, October 30, 2007

We're moving!

I'm pleased to report that I'm teaming up with Alex from Boeder Bucks on a new blog: Brew Hoop. The idea is the same as what you've come to expect here, only now we're working as a team, we've got a real domain name and we're under the umbrella of SB Nation, which includes some of the best NBA blogs out there: Blog-a-Bull, Golden State of Mind, and Sactown Royalty.

I've got Wednesday Bucks notes and a little welcome/explanatory message over at the new site, so take a look! This page will stay up but all updates will be over at the new site. To add Brew Hoop to your RSS feeds, click right here.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tuesday Bucks Notes

Bjorn Borg = Huge Bucks fan. Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images

  • The Bucks will carry the maximum 15 players at the start of the season. Ramon Sessions will head down to the D-League at some point.
  • I wrote in more detail below on the decision to start Mason and Yi at the forward spots, but Tom Enlund has a full write-up now at JS as well. Given the meritocratic tone of Krystkowiak's first camp, it's not surprising he's downplaying the significance of the announcement.

    "I remember playing," Krystkowiak said. "So I understand the starting talk. But the five starters don't mean they're our best five players. It's not a horse race to see which guy started, which guy had the most effective preseason. There's been hundreds of cases where a guy just makes sense to get out there and start.

    "Just because we picked our five starters doesn't mean everybody else is subject to the bench and will never have a crack (at starting). We'll find five guys to finish games also and that would be a statistic that I would like to look at at the end of the year. Not how many starts you got but who was on the floor to finish games."

    "There's no reason it has to stay the same," he said. "It doesn't have to be the same starters if we stay healthy for 82 games. It can be matchup situations with the other team, too."

  • The Bucks players voted Mo Williams, Michael Redd and Desmond Mason as captains for 07/08. The only difference from last year is Mason rather than Bogut, which isn't all that surprising when you consider it was a player vote. Mo and Redd are known to be popular, and Mason was a captain before being traded in 2005.
  • Credit to ESPN's Chris Broussard for actually coming to Milwaukee to watch the Bucks' practice. His latest blog entry is largely about LK's decision to break from tradition and open entire practices to the media, but he also reserves praise for Yi:
    One thing I learned from watching the Bucks practice is that Yi Jianlian is going to be nice. In fact, he's already nice. Athletic, skilled and a heck of a shooter, he has the look of a future star. He runs the floor well and can go by guys off the dribble. He will probably start at power forward this year, and I wouldn't be surprised if he becomes a 20-point scorer in a few seasons.
  • Alex at Boeder Bucks takes a look at the Bucks' adjusted +/- stats. Mike Redd and Charlie V are good; Desmond Mason not so much. Alex also has stuff on Bucks' odds for 07/08. I'll take the over on 35.5 wins all day.
  • Brett at The Bratwurst has a comprehensive look at the Bucks' roster.
  • Ty at the Bucks Diary is really excited about the Bucks. Except, like, the opposite.
  • Charles Gardner provides some good quotes from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce luncheon.

    "Getting torched by Michael Redd every day in practice kind of helps." - David Noel.

    "I wish I knew I was coming back. I wouldn't have sold my house." - Desmond Mason.

    "I'm bringing my bowling ball and my shoes. I'm ready." - Royal Ivey, avid bowler.

    "Every day I'm trying to make it (Milwaukee) more my home. The people are very friendly." - Yi Jianlian.

    "The first thing I'm learning is to stay away from Royal in practice. All my injuries are coming from him." - Mo Williams.

Yi and Mason are Starters

Mason last started for the Bucks on 4/19/05 Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images

The Bucks now have a starting lineup for their season opening game Wednesday night in Orlando. Surprising no one, Mo Williams and Michael Redd reprise their roles in the backcourt, while Andrew Bogut practiced on Sunday in spite of his sprained wrist and is set to start against the Magic. But Charles Gardner writes that the forward spots will feature two new starters, one an old favorite and the other a fresh face: Desmond Mason at small forward and rookie Yi Jianlian at power forward.

Mason starting probably says as much about Simmons' health than anything, which is why it would have been nice to see Bobby in the starting lineup on Wednesday. He missed a couple preseason games with soreness in his surgically repaired heel, and though he has started the past four games, he's still looking a little slow defensively. Larry Krystkowiak has been talking up the value of energy all month, and Mason certainly brings that. As a starter he'll draw the task of being the team's designated perimeter defender, since the Bucks logically try to shield Redd from other teams' wing scorers. He's never been a lock-down defender, but Mason certainly seems a better option at the moment than Simmons in that department.

While Simmons' shooting could have a nice floor-spacing effect with the starters, it also stands to reason that he'll be able to shoot more with the second unit while Mason stands to shoot relatively less while playing with the starters. Which is a good thing, so if Simmons is only playing 25 minutes anyway it might be best if he's doing it mostly with the backups. On RealGM, GAD also made the point that Mo Williams, Michael Redd and Mason have played together before and the Bucks could benefit from the existing chemistry between that trio. In any case, it would generally be a good thing if Simmons reclaims his starting spot at some point, but given the circumstances surrounding Bobby you have to give the benefit of the doubt to the coaches who see the players everyday in practice.

Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images

At the other forward spot, you can take your pick as to whether the glass is half empty or half full. Some will be disappointed that Charlie Villanueva couldn't bounce back from his injury and claim the starting PF spot, but Yi also deserves credit for being a quick study and working hard on both ends of the court. The writing has been on the wall since draft night that Yi was meant to replace CV as the resident "PF of the future," but count me among those somewhat surprised to see it happen this soon. Unfortunately neither was a world-beater in the preseason, when they each played 24 mpg: Yi averaged 10/5 on 43% shooting while CV put up 11/7 on 37% from the field. CV's probably still the better player overall and might play as much or more as Yi, but LK has said he likes the possibility of CV being the offensive focal point for the second unit. Meanwhile, Yi's defensive mobility and willingness to work on both ends in theory makes him the better fit for the starting five. You can bet LK may have been trying to motivate Charlie somewhat as well, and it does look like his intensity on the defensive end has picked up towards the end of the preseason. Credit Charlie for continuing to say the right things; he can't enjoy losing the starting spot, but he could very well be more effective there.

"There will be nights where I'm going to play more; there's going to be nights where he will play more," Villanueva said. "That's the beauty of our team, that we have a lot of depth.

"I don't mind coming off the bench. Bobby and I are two good offensive players that can contribute to any team. Any given night, it's going to be a different guy."

Yi will most certainly have his share of struggles, but that's the way it goes for rookies. If he can be an average rebounder while not being a foul machine he should be OK. He'll mostly be running pick/pops and waiting for open jumpers on offense, but he's a pretty active body and hopefully will be able to work for some offensive rebounds as well. Fortunately for Yi, many of the NBA's top PFs are now penciled in at center--Rasheed Wallace, Dwight Howard, and Jermaine O'Neal to name a few. The NBA has been trending towards smaller, more mobile bigs for a while now, and it will help Yi a great deal that Bogut can match up with teams' best post players while Yi draws smaller, more mobile defensive assignments. It's not that we should expect Yi to lock down Rashard Lewis on Wednesday night, but it's a much better matchup than Dwight Howard.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday Bucks Notes

  • The Bucks want fans to take a shot at their own version of the "Where Amazing Happens" series of commercials. Last week I posted a really good example someone did. To submit your entry, join this YouTube group and upload your entry.
  • Don Walker at the JS writes about Yi the brand.
    Chen is a part of a 10-person Yi team at William Morris that is helping Yi as he begins his new basketball life.

    Historically, William Morris has managed the careers of movie stars and literary lions. But now the company is taking measured steps into the sports world, and has begun to shape the careers of such well-known athletes as tennis star Serena Williams, Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics, professional golfer Michelle Wie and NASCAR driver Pablo Montoya.

    And now they have Yi.

    "If he plays well and he is as big a star as we think he will be, he will have a marketing career, a diverse business," says Jill Smoller, the head of the sports marketing team at William Morris. "We're going to have a great long-term strategy for him and put him in line with blue-chip companies in long-term relationships. He needs to perform as he performed before on the court and the rest will take care of itself."
  • Alex at Boeder Bucks found an interesting comment from Redd in a HoopsWorld interview.
    "Weakness? Obviously, I think our offense still needs a lot of work. We haven't put all of our sets in yet, so we're still working on our offense. Playing hard and playing defense will cover up the offense on a lot of nights."

    Well, okay. There have been some offensively challenged preseason games to be sure, but that’s definitely a new take on Bucks basketball. Here’s to hoping that the offense is indeed the team’s biggest worry.
  • Gery Woelfel has posted his 07/08 predictions over at HoopsHype. He has the Bucks finishing 7th in the East, but that's nowhere near as surprising as his finals pick: Denver over Washington. Not sure if his relationship with Wiz GM Ernie Grunfeld or Nuggets coach George Karl (his pick for COTY) might have influenced that. He picks Bogut to make the all-star team and Yi to make the all-rookie team.
  • USA Today sounds pretty optimistic about the Bucks.
  • Free Darko posted 07/08 predictions for every NBA player (except Jake Voskuhl apparently). Here are their Bucks' predictions:
    • Bell, Charlie: Commutes from the continent
    • Bogut, Andrew: I hope it's bad, whatever it is
    • Gadzuric, Dan: Decides to grow dreadlocks
    • Ivey, Royal: Will turn to Yi Jianlian and say, "Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy... the FEAR to attack. And so, because of the automated and irrevocable decision-making process, which rules out human meddling, the Doomsday machine is terrifying and simple to understand... and completely credible and convincing."
    • Mason, Desmond: Senator Kohl buys one of his paintings
    • Noel, David: Overheard telling someone that Desmond Mason is "a deep cat"
    • Redd, Michael: converts to Judaism.
    • Ruffin, Michael: wows President Bush with a hilarious Borat impression.
    • Sessions, Ramon: secret weapon.
    • Simmons, Bobby: helps himself to another Powerbar
    • Storey, Awvee: is going to be a star in this league.
    • Villanueva, Charlie: Takes league-mandated Lamar Odom lessons
    • Williams, Maurice: plays in Israel, nobody notices.
    • Yi Jianlian: installs multiple mirrors in his house to give the illusion that Milwaukee's Chinese population is rising.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wolves Beat Bucks / Saturday Notes

David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images

  • Minnesota routed the Bucks 106-85 in Minneapolis, as the Bucks ended the preseason with a thud (box score). Minnesota made every shot they took in the first quarter, and while the Bucks eventually rallied to within five early in the third, another run by the Wolves put the game away by the start of the fourth. Mo, Redd, Simmons, Villanueva and Gadzuric started.
    • The Wolves shot 61% for the game, and spent much of the first half close to 80%. Listening on the radio it was hard to tell how much of it was bad defense and how much of it was hot shooting, but needless to say it was a big step backwards for a team trying to establish a defensive identity.
    • Al Jefferson had an easy time of it with 24/12 on 9/12 fg, but the lesser players also shot exceptionally well. Tough to win when Rashad McCants, Ryan Gomes, and Theo Ratliff shoot a combined 19/23 from the field.
    • Turnovers were again a major problem, the Bucks racking up 27 TOs. Amazingly Minnesota was even worse with 30 TOs. Still, "sloppy" has been perhaps the defining adjective of the Bucks' preseason offense.
    • The Bucks' PGs were especially poor, with Mo Williams racking up 5 TOs in the first quarter and Royal Ivey 7 TOs in the game.
    • Dan Gadzuric had 16/8.
    • Charlie Bell sparked the offense in the second quarter with 10 points, but left the game in the third with a leg injury. Ted Davis said he didn't leave the bench and it wasn't mentioned in the JS game report, so hopefully it's nothing serious.
    • Yi had 13 points on just 2/6 from the field, but was active drawing fouls down low (9/12 ft). He also blocked a pair of shots, had no turnovers and just one foul.
    • Krystkowiak wasn't happy:
      “It was pathetic," said Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak. "For all the talk about our defensive effort. A lot of that was shot right down the drain. But I don’t mind being exposed right now. That’s just going to create a little more focus. We learned a lot in the preseason and we finished it off with a really poor effort. That’s an indication that we’ve got a lot more work to do.”
  • Alex at Boeder Bucks takes a look at Marty Burns' rookie predictions as well as NBA.com's initial rookie rankings.
  • Gery Woelfel reported last week that Michael Ruffin's contract required he be cut by October 26 or his contract becomes guaranteed. It's now October 27, so that leaves Ramon Sessions as the only NG'ed contract on the team. Woelfel expects Sessions to stay, which makes sense to me.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Bucks Notes

Mo and Redd were both rested vs. the Bulls Jonathan Daniel/Getty/NBAE

  • The Bulls routed the Bucks 97-81 in Chicago last night (recap). Check out video highlights here. Pretty predictable outcome given Mo and Redd rested ahead of tonight's game in Minnesota, while Bogut missed out with his sprained left wrist. Fortunately Bogut is expected to play in the season opener. Other notes:
    • The patchwork starting lineup was Bell, Mason, Simmons, Villanueva and Gadzuric.
    • Charlie Villanueva started for the first time this preseason and was the Bucks' best player for the second straight game. He scored 19 on 6/10 fg along with 8 rebounds and a couple blocks in 27 minutes. Like on Tuesday, he was aggressive going to the hoop and showed some renewed interest on defense.
    • Yi never really seemed in the flow of things, finishing 2/7 with 7 points and 3 rebounds in 21 minutes. Both of his field goals were on mid-range jumpers.
    • Charlie Bell's line was better than Royal Ivey's, but Bell still seems less comfortable running the offense than Ivey.
  • Jim Paschke was kind enough to mention us on his blog, while we've also infiltrated ESPN. Baby steps, people.
  • Dave Cotey has a good summary of Yi's first month in the NBA. While ESPN and everyone else was more than happy to report Yi's purported "no comment" to the age question on his first day of practice, here's something I bet they won't report:
    The 19-year-old Yi's age continues to be a hot topic. After not commenting on the subject when he first arrived, he eventually addressed the claims that he is older than listed.

    "I feel nothing uncomfortable with people asking these questions, but as I've said numerous times, I was born in 1987," Yi said. "Those questions are meaningless to me."

    When the "no comment" story broke, one of the Chinese posters at RealGM said Yi actually responded rather dismissively to the question--as you can imagine, he's heard the question before and doesn't appreciate having to answer it constantly--but that his interpreter tried to be more diplomatic by issuing a "no comment." Of course that looked worse in the media, so it's interesting to see this follow-up. But given this quote isn't nearly as interesting, don't expect it to be publicized. And in case you're wondering, I do think Yi is probably 22 (about to turn 23 on Sunday). Also of note is that Larry Harris claims in the article they had Yi rated third overall. My guess is this might be some spin, given most sources suggest Al Horford was correctly third on the Bucks' board.
    "I try to make the team better," Harris said. "I felt we got the best player at six, and I said all along, we would have taken him at three if he were at three. I have all the faith in the world in him, but I don't want to put any pressure on him to perform. We're going to be patient with him and develop him."
  • Don Walker writes that David Stern is expecting big things from Yi. Walker also writes that the Yi/Yao matchup on November 9th will be the first between two Chinese players, but Yao has played against Wang Zhizhi four times.
    "...From the NBA's perspective, having another bona fide Chinese superstar in waiting, he's coming here with less exposure and less experience than Yao (Ming), but there are very high hopes for him in his homeland."

    Asked for his reaction to Stern's comments, Yi, who is in Chicago tonight for the Bucks-Chicago Bulls exhibition game, seemed pleased. "This is my first season and there is a need to improve and work hard," he said.

    Asked if he was impressed that Stern singled him out in his remarks to reporters, Yi smiled and asked reporters to thank Stern for his comments.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

ESPN Preview

ESPN put up their big Bucks preview, but if you're looking for real substance you're much better off looking at the ridiculously thorough John Hollinger Insider preview from a few weeks ago. ESPN (more specifically, the incomparable Henry Abbott of TrueHoop) asked one blogger per team to contribute a little blurb about what we'd want to ask our GM, so you can read my questions for Larry Harris in the right hand column. That also gives you some idea of how hard up they were for good material; unfortunately they didn't correctly link back to my blog, so that's nice. Oh well.

As for what the "experts" have to say, they aren't too optimistic about the Bucks' chances, with no one predicting better than a 10th place finish in the East . It's not surprising--if you're coming off a 28-54 season, you don't add any stars, and you're in a small market, no one is going to go out on a limb for you, especially with the East looking stronger this year. Chris Sheridan has probably the best comment:

Probably the toughest team in the conference to predict after injuries caused them to take such a big step backward last season. If healthy, they're a 46-win team. If not, hello again, lottery.
Meanwhile, Ric Bucher sounds oddly vindictive:
A trimmed-down Michael Redd will compete for the league scoring title, and I'm interested to see Larry Krystkowiak install the up-tempo offense that his team's talent best suits. As for Coach K's claim Yi hasn't been guaranteed minutes: Watch what happens if he doesn't get them.
As you might remember, Bucher called out Larry Harris on draft night, saying Harris had never seen Yi play and that he essentially picked him solely on his father Del's recommendation (Del coached Yi at the '04 Olympics). While Harris did not travel to China this season to see Yi and the Bucks weren't allowed to see him before the draft, the Bucks had scouted Yi a number of times in international tournaments and had done plenty of video homework before the draft. So you can guess Harris didn't appreciate the implication that he made his pick based on what he overheard at the Harris family BBQ. Then after Yi signed, Bucher reported that the Bucks guaranteed Yi 20-25 minutes as a rookie. The Bucks have since gone out of their way to quash that story, but Bucher obviously isn't convinced and seems kind of annoyed by it. For the record, he picks the Bucks to finish 14th in the conference, while no one else picks them to finish worse than 12th. Take that, Larry!

I've never really understood the fascination with this story, as those kinds of minutes are pretty standard for a high lottery pick, especially for a PF playing on a team with only one other real PF. Given his handlers' main concern was getting Yi in a position where he could improve immediately, the Bucks would have been stupid not to emphasize their intent of letting Yi play, especially when they went out of their way to draft him 6th overall and then allowed a number of players who got burn at the 4 leave (Skinner, Patterson, Ilyasova). Yi's been fine so far this preseason and could very well start opening night, so I don't see anything aside from foul trouble preventing him from getting over 20 mpg anyway. The Bucks clearly want to give him every chance to succeed, and aside from that Yi seems intent on working hard and fitting in after the controversy of the summer. The idea of him going behind Krystkowiak's back by complaining to Kohl seems pretty far-fetched from everything we've seen.

So why all the fuss? I think a lot of it is simply residual from the post-draft saga, as it's a nice epilogue to the juicy "Will Yi come to Milwaukee?" story. I'd guess none of the experts (well, maybe Hollinger) have seen the Bucks this preseason or been to a practice, so it's an easy angle when you're otherwise not following the team. And no, I'm not naive enough to think all of ESPN's people are following the Bucks religiously at this point. Hype is fun when you live up to it, but there are worse things than being unburdened by big expectations. Win some games and people will notice--I guarantee it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Camp So Far...

With a week left before the opener in Orlando, it's probably worth taking a look at how the Bucks roster is taking shape. In the interests of full disclosure, I've only seen the first two games and listened to the last four on the radio. So everything here is based on a vague mixture of visual, audio, game reports and second-hand evidence. As always, big credit to the RealGM posters who have shared their first-hand accounts. You can check preseason stats here.

The MACC Fund game gave us our first real insight into what the rotation may look like--Larry Krystkowiak not only had all his players available to him, but he also used them in a manner more consistent with you know, winning games. It looks like LK is looking at a 9-10 man rotation when healthy, with Mo, Redd, Simmons, Yi and Bogut starting. The two forward spots could certainly change, pending Simmons' health and Yi's continued improvement. It seems like the latest murmurs are that Simmons may not yet be physically capable of playing big minutes, so that's the biggest thing to keep an eye on. Off the bench, Bell, Mason (or Simmons), Villanueva, and Gadzuric should see action every night, while Royal Ivey would probably be the next option depending on how Bell fares as a PG. At the end of the bench, Michael Ruffin and Ramon Sessions have non-guaranteed contracts, but both seem likely to stick with the team after the waiving of Samaki Walker brought the Bucks down to the regular season roster limit of 15 players. The rotations were similar two nights ago in Denver, though the Gadzuric and Bogut injuries and Mo Williams' ejection required Ruffin, Ivey and Sessions to get more minutes. On to the players:

Mo Williams - Seems to be showing more hustle defensively and ran the offense very effectively last Saturday (12 assists, 1 TO, 20 points on just 12 shots). If anyone was concerned about Mo slacking off now that he's got his big contract, fear not. Unlike Bell, Mo spent his free agent offseason working daily with noted personal coach Joe Abunassar in Vegas, and looks poised to improve on his breakout season. He seems to be taking his responsibility as a team leader seriously and while he may never be the "pure" point some would like him to be, he has an excellent chance of earning that fat contract. And yes, I'm going to conveniently ignore his 0-5, 2 assist, 2 technical performance...

Michael Redd - Has coasted for much of the preseason, often times not looking for his shot as he tried to allow other guys to get involved in games. In the second Utah game Redd actually had more rebounds (6) than shots (5), which I can guarantee won't happen again this season. Then last night in Denver he tallied 7 assists and 6 rebounds, pretty unheard of numbers for the old Redd. While you don't want Redd getting too far away from the thing he does best, it's encouraging to see this newfound willingness to pass, rebound and defend. While he hasn't been scoring as much, he's obviously the last guy on the team to worry about in that regard. His knee was still a bit sore over the summer but overall he's in great shape, having dropped about 10 pounds and getting his body fat down below 10%.

Charlie Bell - Was admittedly out-of-shape coming into camp and doesn't seem over the stress of his contentious negotiations. Has generally been off. His biggest problem is probably that his wife and kids are in Michigan for the school year, so before we condemn Charlie to trade bait let's give him some time. He's still fairly inexpensive (and untradable until December 20), so the Bucks can afford to be patient while he comes around.

Royal Ivey - One of the bright spots of the early preseason games (low expectations help in this regard), Ivey has shown a willingness to defend and even stick open jumpers. Should Bell continue to struggle, watch for Ivey to possibly steal some of his minutes. Any injury to the backcourt will push him into a more regular rotation spot, and if Simmons misses time look for Ivey to play more PG as Bell slides to SG and Redd more SF.

Ramon Sessions - One of two guys with NG'ed contracts, but he's young and the Bucks seem to like him so all signs suggest he'll make the roster. Hasn't played much at all but should get an opportunity to play in the D-League barring injuries to the backcourt.

Awvee Storey - Just a guy. Hasn't played much but hit some shots in the preseason opener and hasn't played much since. Has shown his reputed chippiness a couple times already, and in general from what we've seen it's kind of hard to tell why he needed a guaranteed deal. Seems likely to be inactive most nights.

Bobby Simmons - Has shot the ball exceptionally well so far when he's played (a silly 63% from the field including 6/9 from three point range), but physically he's still working his way back from his foot injury. Missed a couple games out of precautionary reasons, so that's still a big question mark. Will his foot hold up all season? Will he miss games here and there? Will his minutes be limited in some way? Kind of hard to tell right now, but a healthy Simmons is arguably the biggest x-factor right now for the team. I can't say I'd be willing to bet on him playing 75 games, but I'd be thrilled if he proved me wrong.

Desmond Mason - Some say he's still got that jump in his step, others say he appears slightly older than he did in his first stint with the Bucks. Either way his shot has not been there so far (34% from the field, 60% from the line), which is somewhat disconcerting given his offensive efficiency was well below average the last two seasons. While he can still be a contributor for his defensive effort, athleticism and leadership, he's not likely going to be an above-average starting SF anymore. Fortunately he won't be asked to create much offense if he does have to start. LK has stated he prefers Mason at small forward, but hopefully he's not asked to be a 35 mpg guy.

David Noel - I'm not going to lie, I really haven't noticed Noel this preseason, in either a good or bad way. If Simmons misses time he would move up the depth chart, but something tells me LK will try Redd and CV at the 3 before Noel gets any burn. On the bubble to be active most nights. The Bucks took a flier on him in the second round last year and he has neither embarrassed himself nor given much reason to think he's a diamond in the rough.

Yi Jianlian - Having watched Yi play in both the summer league and a number of international tournaments later in the summer, I have to say I think he's got a great chance to be a special player. Whether he's 19 or 22, his skillset is phenomenal, especially given his size and athleticism. It all starts with a sweet stroke that he can use both on the perimeter and in the post, where he also can use his quickness and good footwork to create shots. Expect to see him used mostly in pick/pop and on the perimeter as a rookie, but rest assured he's got more in his arsenal.

He'll have to deal with culture shock and an abnormal amount of pressure (both here and in China) on top of the usual rookie troubles, so it's not easy guessing what he'll be able to do over a full season. He's still trying to sort out what he can and can't get away with against NBA players (and refs), so he'll have his share of growing pains. Rebounding, foul trouble, turnovers, and guarding strong PFs in the post will all be areas he could struggle with. But everything we've seen in games and heard about practice suggests he's an extremely intelligent guy who learns quickly. So far he's gotten much better over the course of camp, including his excellent 15 point, 12 rebound, 1 turnover game last Saturday. I initially thought he'd come off the bench and be perhaps an 8/4 type guy, but I'm probably going to have to revise that upward a little, perhaps to something closer to Andrea Bargnani last year, only slightly more rebounding and much less three point shooting. With the Bucks' personnel up front I'm really not concerned about him being able to earn the minutes that he's supposedly been guaranteed--the only thing likely to prevent him from getting 20-25 mpg will be foul trouble. He's going to be good, it's just a matter of when. Next year is a much better bet than this year, but as of now he's probably the favorite to start.

Charlie Villanueva - I was definitely in the camp expecting CV to win a starting spot by having a good camp, but so far he'd been losing ground to Yi until last night the Denver game when he went off for 21/11/5. On a good note he's going to do more than Yi at least this year, but it seems like Yi's effort on both ends gives him the edge to start. While you knew his soft defense would be a problem playing for LK, his talent is undeniable and he's got a lot to prove after an injury-plagued first season in Milwaukee. The Bucks seem to be using him largely on the perimeter thus far, which is somewhat disappointing because he has a terrific feel around the hoop (something he took more advantage of last night). I'm hoping we see more aggressiveness from him going forward, though it's possible he's still a little tentative inside after coming back from all the shoulder problems. Keep in mind he faced a difficult rehab from shoulder surgery, so he didn't have the chance to work out much until the end of the summer. While the word is he was privately upset with the Bucks' drafting of Yi, he's saying all the right things and being very professional about the hoopla surrounding a player who likely was drafted to replace him.

CV's always been a tough player to figure out, and unless injuries force him to play more at SF it seems like he's going to be again relegated to more of a supporting role. A year ago CV was being touted as the Bucks' PF of the future, but it's been a rough ride after putting up 18/10 in the first four games last year, mostly due to the shoulder injury he sustained last November in Atlanta (he also had hamstring issues early last year). You can only hope he keeps his head up and works hard on both ends of the court. Coming off the bench could be a good role, as Krystkowiak has said he likes how CV can be an offensive focal point for the second unit. If he doesn't start he's certainly capable of putting up 6th man of the year type stats, especially since he should still get plenty of minutes.

Michael Ruffin - Ruffin was signed to bring a defensive option to the end of the bench, and so far LK has spoken highly enough of him that you'd think he'll still be around on opening night. Ruffin's deal is only NG'ed through October 26th, so we'll know by the end of the week for sure if he's sticking around. Given both Yi and CV aren't defensive stalwarts, Ruffin could see minutes if both of the youngsters are getting killed by foul trouble or if someone on the front line is injured. Otherwise he's a good practice guy.

Andrew Bogut - Count me among those who think Bogut is primed to breakthrough with a 15/10, marginal all-star type season. Like last year, Bogut came into camp with extra bulk, only this time he's strengthened his legs more than his upper body; hopefully that means he'll be strong enough to bang with any bigs down low without sacrificing quickness. In the preseason so far two numbers jump out: he's blocked 8 shots in 5 games and he's shooting 67% from the line. Granted, the sample size is incredibly small, but if Bogut can be around 70% from the line he can afford to be much more aggressive (and efficient) offensively. And given the Bucks were last in the league in shot-blocking, Bogut's ability to average somewhere north of a block per game would be a big help. His shot release looks cleaner this year, which will hopefully mean his mid-range shot will finally be a weapon.

It seems like Bogut has been a year behind in meeting people's expectations his first two seasons; many expected last year's numbers as a rookie, and that he'd be around 15/10 last year. Bogut is the first to admit his consistency wasn't there last year, but now everything seems to be coming together: he's a year wiser, physically stronger, and playing for a coach he seems on the same page with. Now let's cross our fingers that the MRI on his wrist doesn't bring bad news.

Dan Gadzuric - Since signing his six year, $36 million contract in the summer of 2005, Gadzuric has struggled to find a place in the rotation but that could change this year. He actually started two games at PF alongside Bogut to start the preseason, but since then has settled in as the primary backup at center. While he still tends to foul too much, in limited minutes it shouldn't be a huge concern. Where Gadzuric can help most is on the glass; he had the best rebound rate (17.2) of anyone on the Bucks last year and his energy is difficult to match. And while Gadz isn't a lock-down defender he could provide some relief if/when Yi and CV are overmatched.

Jake Voskuhl - Jake's also just a guy. He's smart enough to know what he can and can't get away with, and right now it doesn't look like he'll be relied on very much unless one of the other bigs gets hurt.

Thursday Bucks Notes

Mo didn't have a good time in Denver. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

  • The Bucks take on the Bulls tonight at 7:30 CT in Chicago. Listen to the game free on NBA.com. This game is also supposed to be broadcast in China, so watch this space for live Sopcast streams.
  • Bogut is listed as day-to-day with the wrist injury he sustained in Denver on Tuesday, but don't read too much into that. X-rays were negative in Denver but an MRI was done yesterday. Charles Gardner writes:
    Bogut underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Wednesday in Chicago, following the Bucks' practice session at Attack Athletics. He did not practice with the team but shot some free throws and did conditioning work on the side. Results of the MRI were not immediately available, and Bucks general manager Larry Harris said Wednesday night that he expected to have the results today.
  • Gardner also writes that Dan Gadzuric practiced after missing the Denver game.
    "He's had a couple dings and bruises," Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak said of Gadzuric. "He played three or four days with a sore knee but didn't complain about it. But it swelled up on him, and he hasn't been completely healthy."
  • Sports Illustrated projects the Bucks to finish 11th in the East, but don't expect them to give much explanation as to why. Their preview is mostly just has a write-up on Andrew Bogut
  • SI also has a scout's take on the Bucks. Most of it's very reasonable, but if I were to nitpick I'd have to highlight the part about Mo Williams' defense:
    A lot of teams had interest in Mo Williams last summer. He probably isn't worth all of the money he got [six-year deal worth more than $50 million], but he fills a difficult position and he was one of the better free agents available. He's become more of a scorer than a point guard, a shoot-first, pass-second guy. In the long run, that's another reason why Milwaukee is probably not a playoff team, because he looks to score more than to set up the other guys. But Williams also does a good job of keeping opposing point guards out of the paint from half-court. He's very athletic and strong, and he can guard the ball ...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nuggets Beat Bucks / Wednesday Notes

Yi meets Miss Teen Colorado. Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty

  • The Nuggets downed the Bucks 114-102 Tuesday night in Denver, evening their record at 3-3. It was a foul fest with the two teams combining for a whopping 88 free throws. The Bucks trailed most of the game, coming within a bucket of the lead in the final quarter before the immortal Chucky Atkins put the Nuggets over the top. Iverson had 21 to lead Denver. Read the JS recap here. Key facts:
    • Charlie Villanueva was the biggest bright spot, filling up the stat sheet with 21 points (9/16 fg), 11 rebounds and 5 assists. He was aggressive going to the hoop all night, which was great to see given his recent tendency to float around the perimeter. If CV wants to step up and seize the starting PF spot that's just fine with me.
    • Andrew Bogut left the game in the third with what appeared to be a leg injury, but was later revealed to be a left wrist sprain (x-rays negative). Hopefully it's not a serious sprain, because I sprained both wrists when I was in high school and it's not pleasant. Then again, Bogut is probably tougher than a 15-year old me.
    • Redd also had a nice all around game, scoring 19 points along with 7 assists and 6 boards. Yes, you read that correctly, 7 assists.
    • Yi was wasteful with 5 turnovers but continued to shoot well from the perimeter. He finished with 12 points on 4/6 fg (1/1 from distance) and 3 rebounds in 24 minutes.
    • Mo got tossed after disagreeing with a foul call in the third quarter; Mason and LK got techs as well in the sequence.
    • Bobby Simmons evidently wasn't interested in playing, picking up 5 fouls in only 8 minutes. He made 1/2 threes.
    • Gadzuric missed the game with a strained knee.
  • Truman Reed writes that Yi Jianlian is ready for the spotlight. While you would expect the stuff on Bucks.com to always have a positive spin, I always like Reed's stuff because it's a) long and b) full of quotes. Keep it up, Truman.

    "An average NBA game in the United States is viewed by 10 million people," Harris said. "One Friday night Houston Rockets game (with China native Yao Ming on center stage) is viewed by 187 million people in China. Yi comes from the capital city in China that has 15 million people and a province of 74 million people.

    "I've talked to Charlie Villanueva, who's from New York City. They have eight million people there. Yi's city doubles that, plus his province has 74 million people. I don't think people here can really comprehend that."

  • Tom Enlund writes that the coaches will likely pick the team captain(s) this weekend. Last year the captains were Redd, Mo and Bogut, with Mason being the only new guy who might be in the captain discussion. It seems like keeping the same captains would be the safe and obvious choice, though I could also see them picking Redd as the sole captain. Those are the two most politically obvious options, so we'll see if the coaches try to send a message or not.
  • NBA.com has an interview with Bogut about his journey to the NBA.
  • Brandon Haraway has a pretty solid preview of the 07/08 Bucks.
    The Bucks should have learned that they can compete in the East after so many straight dismal seasons. They have a true star in Michael Redd, a top pick center in Andrew Bogut, a better than average point guard in Mo Williams, and talent at the forwards positions in the form of Charlie Villnueva, Yi Jianlian, and Bobby Simmons. They have the personnel to do big things in the East, and they should know this, as the majority of this squad went through the good and bad last year. People forget this team was probably playoff-bound last year before Redd went down, and they played all year long without Simmons.