Trust: Can the Milwaukee Bucks do it defensively?

It’s not on only Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings this season, but they’ll play a big role in helping to right the Bucks defensive woes. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

2008-09: Average defense, below average offense.
2009-10: Great defense, below average offense (For half the year, but a good offense in the second half. Until Andrew Bogut was hurt again at least.)
2010-11: Great defense, one of the worst offenses of all time.
2011-12: Fairly good offense … but a below average defense.

They just can’t quite seem to figure out this balance, eh?

We’re not in a place that’s very unfamiliar as fans of the Milwaukee Bucks. Things aren’t all that different than they were after that glorious 2009-10 season. The expectations are of course. But again, we have a Bucks team that feels like it’s established what it wants to do on one side of the ball and has to figure that other side out. No, this isn’t exactly unexplored territory. Of course, who ever would have expected, under Scott Skiles, that it’d be defense they need to grasp?

But the players know it. The organization knows it and Skiles knows it. He talked about Milwaukee’s 180 degree turn on media day:

“We felt like going into last season, one of the things we talked about with the guys was could we keep our defense similar to the year before and get better offensively, and if we could do that, we’d have a very good year,” Skiles said on Monday at the Bucks’ media day. “Well, we got a lot better offensively and got a lot worse defensively. Now, it’s flipped.”

The organization and the players sure seem confident that the right steps have been taken to correct the defensive problems that plagued the team last year though. There was gushing praise of the five to seven shot-blockers the team would have waiting at the rim this season, for anyone that got past Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.

Of course it isn’t just one or two shot-blockers that makes a defense. They sure don’t hurt, but alone they can’t do much. It takes a commitment from the perimeter into the paint and all the way back to the rim. Most importantly, it takes some stellar communication and trust when you’re dealing with athletes as talented as the ones in the NBA. Monta Ellis seems to get this if today was any indication.

There’s some optimism that surrounds this group. People think there’s enough talent to do some pretty good things. Potential was a big buzzword on the live stream. When pressed on what the team needed to do to live up to its potential, not just defensively, but overall, Ellis didn’t focus on what he and Jennings, the de-facto leaders had to do. He focused on what everyone had to do.

“We just need one common goal and we’ll be all right,” Ellis told Jim Paschke as he sat down for an interview on the live stream. “It’s not Brandon Jennings and the Milwaukee Bucks, it’s not Monta Ellis and Milwaukee Bucks. It’s the Milwaukee Bucks. We all fall under one umbrella.”

“We have to trust one another,” Ellis went on. “We have to trust Scott and his system and how he wants us to play. If we get everybody on the same page we gonna win and everyone is gonna look good. If we losin’, everybody is going to look bad, not just one of us.”

It seemed like trust was what unlocked the Bucks offensive rhythm last season. When the ball started to move and guys started trusting that their teammates would knock down some shots, suddenly the Bucks were a lot more difficult to defend. Obviously that was a team that had upgraded talent at a few key spots on the perimeter and that made it a lot easier to trust, but the trust still had to be earned.

Maybe this is a team that feels like it had upgraded inside defensively and is ready to trust each other on that side too. We knew last year that the Bucks didn’t have the greatest one-on-one offensive talent. So they worked around the idea of using each other. And this year we know there aren’t obvious defensive stoppers everywhere, but there are some capable players. He’s out for training camp, but we know Luc Richard Mbah a Moute can defend. We know Samuel Dalembert has defended well in the NBA for quite a while. We know just a few years ago that Jennings was more than capable of holding his ground on defense with Bogut behind him.

It seemed like a massive task before last season for the Bucks to figure out the offensive piece. But they did that. For some reason, it doesn’t seem as daunting that they start defending more like every other Scott Skiles team ever. If they can do that and maintain that teamwork that made them a pretty passable scoring team last year, it’ll be interesting.

How interesting? I’m not ready to make top six proclamations the way Ellis and many others were today, but they might finally be able to crack that top-eight again.

Categories: Media Day!

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  1. @JeremySchmidt

    “8th seed or bust” on the banner, not cool for a fansite.
    not clever, not funny. just lame, and you may regret it if this team turns out to be marginally successful and exciting.
    Youre lucky I enjoy your writing enough to keep visiting this site or you would be out one tremendous bzzucks fan. And to think Ive even been so loyal as to occassionally click on the adverts on this site, only to continually be blindsided by such unwarranted pessimism.

    Seriously can we cut the negative attitude crap? Im not asking you to be dishonest but as a pre-requisite to choosing to cover the Milwaukee Bucks you should realize that…..YOU ARE COVERING THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS!!! You should embrace the underdog mentaility of the whole thing. If you can’t do that you’re missing the boat and should probably pack your bags for LA or South Beach. Sure there has been some questionable roster management over the years but still how many small market non-expansion teams are competing for NBA titles these days? What the eff do you expect? Mother-Flippin. Realistically the bucks could go as high as 5th seed or plummet to much lower depths this year. Its gna be interesting either way and I for one have an excitement for the upcoming season that is untainted by any sobbing about not having anthony davis or dwight howard on our roster.

    • I’m not here to promote the Bucks. I’m here to write about what I’m seeing. I have no affiliation with the organization. I’m not a mouthpiece for them. I think there are a lot of great folks working there who I respect quite a bit. I think a lot of the decisions the team makes are short sighted. I’ll write what I see. Just because I grew up here and have enjoyed the game since I was a child and can attach a lot of memories in my life to this team doesn’t mean I have to lie about what I’m seeing. I would never in my life alter my voice simply because I felt like I should be supportive of a team. I literally only write what I’m seeing and I try to do it in the most entertaining way possible.

      I love that you feel comfortable enough to be honest about your opinion, and I love that you check out the site. I just can’t be any other way though. I hope you’ll keep coming back and we’ll promise to try and keep coming up with ways to entertain and inform on a daily basis.

      • Its just an attitude issue. If you or a host of other qualified individuals had been GM for the Bucks during the previous 5 year stretch I am VERY doubtful that they would be in a much better position now. Thats how much the cards are stacked against them. Add in the fact that we are talking about an unstable franchise that could potentially move or be contracted given a few really bad seasons and it becomes more understandable why they are always such a middling team. We’re not going to be the Heat or the Lakers or even the Thunder for that matter without some kind of miracle happening. But at least we’re not the bobcats, or raptors, or pistons, and we’re still fun to watch. You may not be affiliated with the team but you have high-exposure due to the true-hoop network being linked on ESPN, so I think you owe it to the readers directed here to not be a total downer, at least not in the banner of the website. ‘8th seed or bust’ is just a really immature stance given that:

        a) There is no obvious solution to make this team a contender, the recent management hasn’t made too many big mistakes

        b) Only Portland has experienced injuries to star players to the extent the Bucks have over the past decade. Had Bogut and Redd been healthy the history may have been quite a bit different and non-middling.

        I suggest you stop being a prissy entitled little brat, unless you see some surefire way for this team to get better.

        • Sorry, you’re not a prissy little brat, that was totally uncalled for and I apologize.

        • I just see some teams that have thrived in small markets and I don’t think Milwaukee should settle for low expectations. I agree re: Bogut and Redd, maybe everything changes if they work out better. Or if the Bucks get the number one pick in the Oden/Durant draft and not the Bogut/Williams draft. Luck is a huge factor. But organizations have to put themselves in position to be lucky.

          I’ve never implied I could do a better job as a general manager or necessarily called the general manager out as a problem. I think the issues this team have start higher than that and run throughout.

          This organization has made some pretty big gaffes that arouse suspicion over the years. I feel like the content here is balanced enough that a tagline on the top of the screen doesn’t make or break the site.

          But again, I’m totally cool with you leaving your opinion on anything we write here. We’re always trying to do better.

          • Schmidty:

            Generally love the commentary, positive and negative. Thumbs down to the tagline, though. But perhaps this is an opportunity to rally the Bucksketball community. A contest to replace the tagline, I say!

            Here are my top 5 ideas:
            1. Ball swing and penetration!
            2. Upstarts of the Central
            3. Over 93 feet of fury! (collective team height)
            4. Fear the deer. (ultra safe pick)
            5. Bango wants to eat your children. (less safe pick)

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  3. Ok Im over it. Its your website and youre entitled to your own opinion. Just be careful what you wish for.

  4. Last season started with a West Coast road trip that Bogut didn’t participate in and then he broke his foot. The rest is history. My point is that the defense centered around Bogut and with him out for the season the rest of the team did their best to cover, but they were obviously lacking in size & experience without a true center.

    I think management made a good effort to fix that problem. I’m excited about this season and I’m looking forward to seeing this new team play together.

    I miss the LIKE button on the comments section. I don’t like the ‘8th Seed or Bust”. I do like Jeremy. I do like Sillybilly. Go Bucks!

  5. Controversy!

    I don’t think the tagline is entirely unrealistic, all things considered. Uncomfortable and depressing sure, but the team isn’t built to contend for a spot in the upper half of the Eastern Conference. Perpetual rebuilding without a superstar makes winning a championship even harder than it is.

    If they defy those expectations, I’m sure Jeremy won’t be disappointed 😉

    • True, and I want to apologize for any hostility. I know that we are all fans here and will enjoy success regardless of our outlook for the season.

  6. I’ll have everyone know, I’d love this team to succeed and blow away me and my tagline. I would have no shame in that. I would welcome it and admit every step of the way I was wrong.

  7. Hi, appreciate your interest in the bucks. I’m more optimistic than last year and fell in love with them this last year all the way from PA.

    I probably don’t care if they win. I really am looking forward though to seeing them play. I wonder why I’ve chosen them and maybe a couple others from the League?

    Can they do it defensively, forgetting about last year? Yes. But the year is so very long, and the ball bounces so many ways, and teams still shoot 50%, and the game still is decided in the last five minutes. I tend to look at bigger things concerning personnel.

    I think my main draw to your site and the Bucks has been Skiles? I think he has perfected the demeanor for the NBA? It’s not micromanaged, so he’s treating people like adults. He seems consistently serious in a realistic way to me, so players are reminded of the stakes. He’s approachable on a personal level, so players can know where things stand, and how to improve. I don’t see other coaches being able to do this stoicism. He’s professional and unemotional at this point in his career, like the best gleaned from the old school.

    Would you sometime speak on what a coach can do? All these things I believe are very thought out: there’s Woodson’s stance, Gentry’s gaze, Adelman’s personalness. I absolutely love how they stare into the abyss waiting for the thought that moves. Just wonderful to witness that “thinking on one’s feet”. It’s an inner spirituality that does a lot of existing in that void. The coach or fan knows the team like the back of their hand, and then wishes to tweak it without disturbing an achieved delicate balance. Truly a privelidge position to be in.

    I think most of these blogsites are talking about coaching, yes? And these gentlemen are at the very center of a year-long hercule-ian effort and millions of investment dollars, not to mention their own private affairs.

    (If anyone has talked about Skiles in the past already, a link would be intriguing and suffice, thank you.)

  8. The “Banner”, “8th seed or Bust”, is actually perfect for this website. As Bucks fans hoping for a better future, sometimes we need a hard dose of reality and realize this team is not built to win a championship, nor is it making any strides to do so. Small markets build via the draft, or die paying for marginal players, and the Bucks have chosen the latter. I’m certain we could have traded Bogut for a nice draft pick or picks, and tanked hard for a high draft pick, yet we decided we’d waste Bogut’s value on Monte Ellis. The truth is, we could have stunk it up in a heart beat without Bogut AND kept Jennings, Ilyasova, Harris etc., some nice young pieces who need more time to develop. Instead, we are quite literally, going for the 8th seed or bust.


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