So how does a team build on a surprise 46 win season?
How about by blowing things up and starting over.
Okay, so it wasn’t that drastic for the Milwaukee Bucks. They retained most of their core pieces from last season. Andrew Bogut is still in the middle (and don’t worry, everyone is saying positive things when it comes to his health). Brandon Jennings is looking to build on a strong rookie season. The Bucks established their core last season and spent the off-season strengthening the depth around that core. Still, nine new players is a lot of turnover from one season to the next, typically something more common in a lottery team than a team that nearly won a playoff series.
Fortunately, it’s looking like the Bucks did their homework in making the commitments they made this off-season. There is good reason to believe, for all the distress that some of the moves the Bucks made this off-season caused, these guys are going to fit well together and gel quickly.
Chemistry had a lot to do with the Bucks success last season. Time after time, Coach Scott Skiles cited the harmonious locker room free of egos as a big part of the team’s willingness to play defense and show accountability. Obviously Media Day isn’t a great barometer when it comes to figuring out what kind of chemistry a team will have in the upcoming season, but the players are saying the right things so far.
“We brought in some veteran guys, and veteran guys in the locker room too. They have such great character,” said one of the new acquisitions, Chris Douglas-Roberts. “There’s no egos in that locker room. That’s the build-up of a very good team and it starts up top.”
One of those veterans the Bucks brought in was Corey Maggette. Despite being a west coast guy with a reputation as less than generous on offense, Maggette was all smiles on his first official day as a Buck. Maggette was forthcoming when asked for his thoughts on Hammond’s moves and his coming to Milwaukee.
“I’m very excited,” said Maggette. “The pieces that he’s (John Hammond) put together, if you look at all the players and teams around, the Bucks have made the most moves. And it’s positive moves. Hopefully we can get the chemistry together and be a really good team.”
Maggette has those familiar faces round him to ease his transition.
“The new guys, me, CD-R as well as Keyon and Earl, were coming to fit in but it should be a smooth transition. I know Keyon really well, as well as Earl, it’s a great transition coming and seeing those guys again.”
Milwaukee didn’t throw these guys together recklessly. Maggette, spent a few seasons in Los Angeles with Keyon Dooling and one with both him and Earl Boykins. John Hammond was an assistant coach on that team and liked each of them enough to bring them all back together again in Milwaukee. Dooling also spent last season playing with Douglas-Roberts on New Jersey. Also Assistant Coach Jim Boylan spent a half season coaching Drew Gooden in Chicago after Skiles dismissal. It’s clear Milwaukee had a certain level of comfort with all of their new faces and knew what they were getting into before they made any moves.
Gooden points out that so long as the coach is back, getting everyone on the same page is a little easier.
“The best guy to have is the coach,” said Gooden. “It’d be different if we had all these guys coming back and Mike Brown coming in, you know what I’m saying, it’d be different. I played in Coach Skiles system when he left, under Jim Boylan. Something about Coach Skiles, when he gets on a team, he kind of gives them some sniffing salt.”
Very few people care about how well a group gets along if they are losing games though. Milwaukee brought in all these new players because they represented a talent upgrade over the players they are replacing. Everyone on this roster knows expectations are sky high this season with one player after the next talking about division championships and extended playoff runs.
Soon, the time for talk will be over. And then, we’ll see if Hammond’s off-season chemistry experiment will be a success.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com