It feels like I’m watching the same movie over and over. I know what’s going to happen, I know who the good and bad guys are, the sub-plot never changes and the setting is always cold. Only it’s more frustrating than a typical film, because before I ever started watching this gloomy presentation I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it.
Surprise has had nothing to do with the frustration the Bucks have left thousands of Bucks fans and I with during their current 4-13 stretch. No, we all knew this team wasn’t exactly ready for primetime, despite being thrust into the spotlight after an 8-3 start propelled by Brandon Jennings better-than-expected debut. A team comprised mainly of cap figures and future cast-offs rarely is able to keep its head above water in the NBA, much less thrive.
Yet, somehow I still don’t feel any better about things.
I’m still frustrated that the Bucks continue to lose and seem to have little hope of turning things around with any real consistency this year. And while the logical question to ask is where the blame falls, the more important question is, why are the Bucks even faking it? Why not just scrap it, sit the Charlie Bell’s and Michael Redd’s?
The answer is money. With the Bucks taking in less than 500,000 dollars-per-game right now, a playoff appearance would serve the Bucks the way a five-hour-energy drink serves you and I: a temporary respite for someone (the Bucks in this case) who is down in energy (money in this case). It’s important to the organization financially that the Bucks are competitive all year and in the Eastern Conference, being competitive is enough to land a team in the playoffs. If the Bucks aren’t competitive, fans won’t show up, won’t talk about the team and won’t contribute any money. I stopped by Mayfair in the weeks following Jennings’ 55-point game and found one store with a Michael Redd jersey and one with a Bucks license plate featuring the purple and green of years past. That was all of the Bucks merchandise I found at one of Milwaukee’s largest malls.
The buzz has not been high after years of mismanagement and lotto finishes and while it’s likely the organization knows a playoff appearance won’t flip the script for the Bucks and turn them from the Brewers little brother to the Brewers big brother, the Bucks have more to sell than just the lone “even a blind squirrel finds a nut” season. With Jennings talents, Andrew Bogut, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Ersan Ilyasova’s respective hard working demeanors and youth there are finally a few pieces that may fit the Bucks puzzle of the future. The Bucks know where their future is headed, despite Michael Redd’s minutes.
I know you’re frustrated with Redd. He’s struggling. And he’s shooting a lot. And he isn’t doing much else. None of us are enjoying Michael Redd circa 2009. But the Bucks don’t have a lot of options at this point. There may have been deals on the table last year, but those deals aren’t likely there at this juncture. It was hard to predict Redd would suffer such a precipitous fall so quickly and with an additional year on his contract at over $17 million, he’s awfully difficult to trade if he isn’t playing well. Trading Redd is currently a pipe-dream and the only way it becomes any more probable is by playing him and hoping he can turn things around. If it’s the last year of his deal and it’s clear he’s hurting the team more than he’s helping, then the buyout and send him home arguments gain steam. But now? They have no merit, especially since Jodie Meeks showing precious few glimpses of readiness. And if Jodie Meeks were showing he could consistently out-play Michael Redd and be an answer for the Bucks, I don’t doubt he’d be receiving loads more minutes.
Despite thoughts to the contrary, Scott Skiles doesn’t hate rookies. There is so little data to prove anything of this sort, it’s almost absurd to discuss. He’s playing Brandon Jennings, the team’s leader in minutes, 35 minutes a night. Last year, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute played the third most minutes on the Bucks and averaged over 25 minutes a game. With the Suns, Skiles played newly acquired rookie Joe Johnson over 30 minutes a night in a starting role before being relieved of his duties. In his first full season in Chicago he played four rookies over 20 minutes a game. Where does this “Skiles hates rookies” thing come from? It seems more to me that he hates anyone who doesn’t play defense and is generally surly on the bench. That gives him the “old-school” look and conversely means he probably doesn’t like rookies, because “old-school” coaches don’t. The data indicating he doesn’t’ like rookies is fairly limited.
Joe Alexander didn’t play last year, but it seems that had a lot more to do with things happening on the practice court and off the court totally than it had to do with anything else. There must be a reason the organization gave up on him after merely a season. Yes, Brandon Jennings occasionally is yanked from games early or doesn’t come back in when everyone thinks he should, but that seems to have less to do with him being a rookie that needs to learn a lesson than it does with him playing poorly in those games. When Jennings was taken out against the Wizards, he was getting abused by every guard on Washington. When he wasn’t on the court at the end against the Lakers, Luke Ridnour was making plays. Jennings and Ridnour don’t have the size to play together against big backcourts and even though it’d be ideal all the time for Jennings to be learning, Skiles occasionally coaches for wins, not for development.
Whether that is right or wrong, I don’t know. The Bucks have made it no secret that they want to advance to the playoffs, so when Ridnour is out-playing Brandon Jennings, it seems like he’ll get the call late in games. I guess the thinking is that Jennings is learning enough in the usual 35 minutes he plays.
So here the Bucks sit. In limbo, wandering the NBA as a team good enough to beat the lower class and compete with good teams on the right nights, but bad enough to pose no real threat to a focused mid to upper level team. A playoff berth remains the goal and is certainly within the Bucks reach, but that’s no real accomplishment. At least not one that will prove to matter very much after Milwaukee is handily dispatched in the first round. At that point fans will be subjected to the same movie they watch every game, only with a little more fun involved.
But we as fans at least have the future to look forward to. And that’s the only thing that’s getting me through this movie.