Haiku reviews 2014 edition: The Disappointments

Yup. We know, Larry. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Yup. We know, Larry. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Larry Sanders

Trouble on/off court
tried the patience of many.
Enjoys Instagram.

Inconsistency is often the hallmark of a bad season for a basketball player, but it’s hard to say Sanders was inconsistent this season. He was injured in the exhibition season. He was injured throughout most of November, December, February, March and April. He was in some trouble in November and in a different sort of trouble in April. When he played, he didn’t play very well, spare his final five games or so.

From start to finish, the whole season was a disaster.

He was able to do quite a bit of posting of scenery to Instagram throughout the year though, so that’s a plus. Well, it wasn’t always a plus. But hey, at least he had a season that made everyone forget that he got RECIEVE tattooed on his arm.

He remained undeterred and focused though, and if the picture focused social media service is any indication, his spirit remains intact and his outlook is positive. #StayNappyMyFriends and hope for Larry to have a bounce back summer leading into a bounce back season in 2014-15.

There's always next year, O.J. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
There’s always next year, O.J. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

O.J. Mayo

Hot topic: The weight
gain of a guy some call juice.
Should switch to water?

Mayo averaged 15.2 points and made 45% of his threes in the month of November, though his underwhelming 41% average from the field overall suggested that even bigger things were to come. Surely he would round into shape as a scorer and find a way to bring that shooting percentage up around his career mark, which hovered around 43%. If he could keep hitting threes at a career best pace, he was well on his way to a big season, possibly his finest as an NBA player as a scorer.

This season ended up not being his finest season. He quit making threes in December and didn’t make any other shots to make up for those misses. In virtually every road game, announcers wondered how much weight he had gained this season. He dealt with some injuries and eventually caught some mysterious illness that kept him out of the lineup in late January. Larry Drew played coy whenever he was asked about it and when he finally re-entered the lineup after the All-Star break, he had missed 10 games and nearly a month.

He returned for a handful of games, then missed another six before suddenly re-entering the rotation. It didn’t seem like he really knew what he place was for the majority of the season and by this point, the season was so far gone, I wouldn’t have blamed him for not caring what his place was anymore.

As the season wound down, it was back to the bench with another injury. He sprained his ankle against the Clippers in late March and missed Milwaukee’s final 11 games, though the Bucks had zero incentive to play him.

This was the guy who was Milwaukee’s prime acquisition over the summer. Most suspected he would be the team’s leading scorer and the focal point of its offense. He was rarely either of those things. He was as much of a disaster as anyone and his weight gain became as much of a punchline as the team’s anemic record.

At some point, people stopped asking about him and caring whether or not he was in the lineup. He was written off. But he’ll be around next season and he’ll have his chance at redemption … in some form. If Milwaukee ends up with another young wing, he may have to fight to win back the starting spot that seemed it would easily be his for the next three years. He’s another guy who could have something to prove and another guy with a contract to live up to.

Neal, likely plotting his escape in late January. (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
Neal, likely plotting his escape in late January. (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

Gary Neal

Good locker room guy.
Bringer of vet leadership.
Turns out: Not so much.

I don’t know what sort of promises were made to Gary Neal. He left a good situation in San Antonio, though it didn’t sound like it was necessarily his choice alone:

“My family loved San Antonio and I had a great three years. I will be forever grateful to Coach Pop (Gregg Popovich) and (Spurs general manager) R.C. Buford for giving me a chance to live out my dream in the NBA.

“But it is a business. Milwaukee was the best situation for me and I’m excited.”

Milwaukee doesn’t seem like a great situation for anyone, present company included. So I figure Neal expected a significant opportunity would present itself were he to spend a year near Lake Michigan. But that didn’t quite happen. After an okay November, he was out of the rotation a week or so into Decmber, battling injuries, his coach and, a week into January, his teammate.

We don’t know exactly what was promised or where ti all went wrong for Neal, but we know he shot a ton when he was on the court and generally didn’t appear to be a very effective player. He didn’t seem to bring all of the leadership and quality character qualities the Bucks apparently had hoped he would. Being a Spur at one time doesn’t mean you spread Spursness across the league in every locker room you step foot in. Maybe there was a reason San Antonio didn’t put up too much of a fight when offers started coming in for Neal.

Larry Drew

He learned this season,
sometimes tires catch on fire.
They’re hard to put out.

He doesn’t escape this list just because he’s the team’s coach. The Bucks looked no better defensively down the stretch, presumably after a season spent learning what Drew wanted them to do, than they did the first week of the season. He relied heavily on Jeff Adrien over Milwaukee’s last 20 games, despite some glaring defensive deficiencies. Maybe he wanted to preserve John Henson or maybe, as he said, he was looking for Henson to display more of a presence inside on the defensive end, but it’s hard to think Adrien’s minutes were going to work out better than Henson’s would have and Drew maintained his goal was to win games down the stretch.

The Bucks never seemed to gel. This was a team whose sum was significantly less than its parts. Veterans like Mayo, Neal and Caron Butler all spoke out about Drew’s confusing rotations. Mayo specifically said the team lacked any sort of identity in late January, long after a team should know what it is. But that wasn’t so surprising. What sort of coach is Drew? We knew that he was generally regarded as a player’s coach, but he didn’t have a pedigree as an offensive or defensive guy, just as a guy who did some okay things with some okay players. For the first time, Drew was thrust into a situation without two or three All-Stars this season and it almost literally could not have gone worse.

Yes, both Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton seemed to get better as players this season and Drew did get Giannis Antetkounmpo more playing time than anyone could have expected, but I’d say Giannis took those minutes as much as Drew gave them to him.

Overall, he could possibly be credited with some development, but this season was an unmitigated disaster and he was the one who oversaw it. He coached the worst Bucks team of all time. He coached what will probably go down as the most underachieving Bucks team of all time. If this team doesn’t drastically improve by next January, he will probably be gone.

For Sanders, Mayo and Drew, one thing is certain: The pressure is on next season.

I watch the Milwaukee Bucks often and write about what I see…

12 Comments

  1. What makes you so sure Drew will be around next season? There is some precedent for canning a coach after one year of historic ineptness, and with the new regime taking over, I have to believe that’s where they’ll start their overhaul. Drew seems like a decent man who wanted nothing but the best, but he never meshed with his personnel and gave little reason to stay on for the coming Superstar Who Will Reignite Milwaukee’s Love Affair With Professional Basketball’s rookie year. Hell, Sanders basically gave him a year-long middle finger, and OJ Mayo’s complaints had the distinct whiff of, “Hey guys, we do as we’re told.”

    Or do you know something we don’t?

    • No, I probably was a bit too presumptive, as I actually wrote most of this before the change in ownership. His fate is probably tied to John Hammond’s. If Hammond is gone, he’ll be gone. If Hammond stays, I suspect he’ll stay.

  2. For what it’s worth, I like this kind of analysis from Bucksketball: not overly harsh but probing, contextual, with a nice touch of humor, and in this case even a little bit of a literary flourish. These are the kinds of pieces that give balance to the recaps, which I like very much, too.
    Agree or disagree, I appreciate having Bucksketball around this season to provide observations about a team that I seem to be hopelessly attached to, our Milwaukee Bucks. You made the season much more enjoyable.
    In my opinion, you guys are very good — I would say Khris Middleton good, but Bucksketball is actually a bit better, more experienced and more polished. You better keep working on your game, though, or I suspect that Khris will surpass you someday.
    In all sincerity, I’m rooting for all of you at Bucksketball, and all the players on the Bucks — and, yes, even the people in the front office — to have many good and winning seasons in the future.

    • Thanks, Sfisch. You’ve earned a place in the hearts and minds of the Bucksketball Staff, I can assure you.

    • Lmao, Sfisch is almost as much a draw to this site as the articles written on it. Khris Middleton everybody, Khris Middleton

  3. Dunford in Dunbar

    Agreed. Reading Bucksektball this year was more entertaining than actually watching the Bucks. I didn’t finish a single Bucks game, but didn’t miss a post. Thanks for the good work.

  4. If Drew is coaching next year, I swear the first time I hear about a “lack of energy” from the players, he needs to be fired. That was a common theme throughout this season and I was sick of hearing it.

    Drew has done little to convince me that he’s the coach of the future. I love that he gave Giannis significant minutes throughout the season, something I’m not sure Skiles would have ever done had he still been coaching this season. but otherwise the Bucks have been an awful team. Defensively we were never very good, and it seemed all defense near the end of the season was sacrificed for average production on the offensive end.

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  6. I will be watching Wiggins and Parker videos till my face turns green…and red, and I start growing antlers.
    Heres to the season to forget and a bright future.
    I hope some day we can look back and be glad we did what we did this season.
    Who ever, what ever and why ever we did it.
    After this season I can’t help but feel a little gitty, I still am a bucks fan.
    I grew up a Bucks fan and always will be a Bucks fan no matter what.
    As a Bucks fan, each year we get a new definition of hope.
    I hope this next season this hope turns into reality…
    I believe like every year it will.
    I wish it was next season already.
    I really don’t care about the play offs.
    Honestly I’d rather watch DX till my face turns green.
    GO BUCKS…..

  7. I don’t post much, but I read ALL. Ha, good articles, thanks for the quality read breaks at work.

  8. Don’t comment here much, but like reading your stuff. I never miss it.

    I’d have to think the entire basketball side of the operation will change. My biggest reason for firing Drew / Hammond is our team has a short window of opportunity with the current crop of youngsters before we need to resign, trade, or let them walk. I don’t want Drew to be the one leading / teaching / evaluating them for another year, a year is too important.

    Plus, I don’t think you make double digit billions of dollars by rehiring the guys who led you to a franchise record low in number of wins. Matter of fact, I’d guess this group would have trouble rehiring the same staff, even if we’d been reasonably successful last season, I don’t think that’s how the sharks swim. And make no mistake, our new owners are sharks. So my guess is Hammond and Drew are tossed back into the ocean just like common ordinary ‘chum, while our sharks hire a staff as cunning, ruthless, and motivated as they are. Bucks new motto maybe should be, “No more Mr Nice Guy?”. Come to think of it, Lasry seems to have a bit of Alice Cooper in him doesn’t he? I love it!

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