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.