“Since Andrew has been out, we have been playing a more up-tempo pace, a faster style of play,” John Hammond said when addressing reporters to introduce Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh. “Obviously you add Monta to that. The other part of running though is you can’t run without the ball. I think Ekpe is going to help us in that regard we needed to increase and help our interior defense. This guy is going to be a very good goaltender for us a guy that can protect the basket like that I think can help us on the defensive end.
“If we’re getting stops like that we can get out and run and push it. I would sure think it would be a fun exciting style of play to watch. I think our fans will enjoy it and I think some wins will come along with that.”
Milwaukee has been playing much faster this season. The Bucks ranked 25th in the league last season with a pace of 89.8. This season, they are up to the seventh fastest pace in the league at 92.7. The speed is more in line with how Scott Skiles likes to play. He wants to run, he wants his team to get up the court quick. And believe me, it’s always been a focus for him. For the last three years, he’s answered questions about running the same way. In fact I’d wager that he’s pretty tired of talking about it.
“I know the prevailing wisdom is that the coach has buttons over there and he just pushes them, ‘We’re gonna run tonight! Run guys!’ We wanna run every night, that’s what we want to do,” Skiles recently said. “We want to attack before the defense gets set. We just do.”
Rather than just keep talking about it, Milwaukee is set up to keep getting up and down quick with the recent additions of Ellis and Udoh.
More importantly, the Bucks have been sharing the ball very well lately. Over their past five games, Milwaukee has 38, 32, 26, 30 and 29 assists. A league high 38 last game. When a team is playing fast and moving the ball, they become much more dangerous offensively. Over the past three games, Milwaukee’s offensive rating has been higher than 110 points per 100 possessions four times. Not only are the moving the ball, they are getting good looks. Without training camp this season, the Bucks had little time to get to know each other before the season started. They essentially spent the first few months of the season building a rapport that’s starting to show now.
“Typically you’d have some practice time to work on that kind of stuff and in effect, the games are actually practices,” Skiles said last night. “Even when we were 4-9, we still showed signs of wanting to give the ball up and trying to make the right play.”
Fitting in Ellis, historical a ball stopper even as an up-tempo player, could be difficult. But there’s some reason to be optimistic, even if your head just exploded that I of all people just wrote that setence. With Mike Dunleavy, Beno Udrih and sudden passing threat Drew Gooden around him, Milwaukee might be able to keep moving the ball successfully, even if Ellis plays as Ellis always has.
And if the Bucks keep moving the ball, they might keep making shots. There’s still a ways to go for this team defensively and Udoh could help there a lot, but it’s perfectly reasonable to expect some visually pleasing and successful Milwaukee Bucks basketball over the next couple months leading into the playoffs.
“You go into this process hoping that you can improve your team, main ingredient main purpose is to try and do that,” Hammond said. “I think we accomplished that. Adding Monta and Ekpe to our team, I think we made ourselves better not only for this season, and look, we know what we’re trying to do right now, we want to win, we want to win now, we want to be a playoff team.
“I think it helps us for the immediate. But the thing that really pleased me about this opportunity is not only did we improve our team for the immediate, but I think that we improved our team for the future. We’ve got two young players at 26 and 24 years old that can help us now but as I said, just as importantly, and I don’t want to say more importantly but you could take it that way, two great future potential long pieces for us.”
Ellis echoed the good feelings.
“I think it’s a great deal for both teams,” Ellis said. “I had 6.5 years in Golden state, some was good some was bad and we just felt like it was time to close that chapter. Hopefully we can move the ball and get some wins.”
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.