Jake's Take: A Battle of Past vs. Present, 12/08/10
Jake LeRoy [@JakesTake34]
Bucks vs. Pacers
Tonight's contest pits the once Milwaukee point guard of the future against the current Milwaukee point guard of the future. It wasn't too long ago that many thought current Pacer point guard T.J. Ford was going to be the point guard that engineered the Bucks offense for the foreseeable future. Ford was fresh off the Naismith College Player of the Year Award and taking his Longhorns to the Final Four for the first time in 56 years. He may have been small, but his speed and electricity were going to be more than enough to thrust Milwaukee to the next level.
Flash forward five years and Ford is on his third team after leaving his promise in Milwaukee unfilled. Brandon Jennings has taken over the reigns as the current point guard of the future, except without the back issues and with actual range on his jumper. Those two qualities alone have given me a much greater level of comfort than Ford ever provided.
Contemplating Ford's and Jennings' place in Milwaukee Bucks point guard lore got me thinking about other floor generals who have recently passed through the Bradley Center. I quickly realized that the Bucks have had a decent run of point guards over the last 22 years. None of them have been great - there's a whopping zero all-star game appearances as Bucks between them - but most have been in the upper half of the league's point guards at the time.
This run of success began in 1988 when Jay Humphries split time at point guard with Paul Pressey. Humphries took over the starting gig for good the next year and proceeded to average 14 points, 6.2 assists and 1.8 steals over four mildly productive years in Milwaukee. Plus, he rocked a nice ‘stache/flavor-saver combo. So he had that going for him, which is nice.
Humphries was followed by the severely underrated Eric Murdock. I was always a big fan of Murdock growing up and thought he was destined for better things. He was a nomad toward the latter part of his career, playing for six teams in his last five years. His best three years came in Milwaukee, though, where he averaged 14.2 points, 6.9 assists and two steals a game. He also once did this.
"The Shermanator" Sherman Douglas was then sent back in time to change the fortunes of one lucky franchise. Sadly, that franchise was not Milwaukee's, or any others for that matter. The "Little General" gave hope to short, pudgy points guards everywhere, single-handedly inspiring a generation's worth of Khalid El-Amins. Douglas may have been inspirational, but his 10.6 points and 5.6 assists were underwhelming.
Terrell Brandon and Sam Cassell combined to put together a very good run of point guard play from 1997 to 2003. Brandon hit midrange jumper after midrange jumper on his way to 15.8 points, 7.6 assists and two steals per contest over 1.5 years in Milwaukee. Cassell has the longest tenure of the bunch, doing much of the same things as Brandon but with more on-court chatter, bigger teeth and better efficiency. Cassell averaged 19.1 points and 7.3 assists in his four years as a Buck.
Ford and Mo Williams alternated manning the point from 2003 to 2008 with Ford starting in 2003 and 2005 and Williams in 2004 and 2006 through 2008. Ford's back and inability to harness his own speed never allowed him to have the kind of career in Milwaukee that most expected. Williams offered some downtime hilarity, inspired a few "shave your back" chants and displayed a flare for the dramatic. His love of his own jumper, among other things, didn't vibe with the team's wishes, though.
That brings us to the present. As you've just read, a bevy of very solid but not great point guards came before Brandon Jennings. The one constant among that collection was neither ever really got the Bucks anywhere. Sure, Sam I Am had a good run, but it was short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful. This is exactly why Milwaukee needs Jennings to be better than very solid, because that only gets you so far. If Jennings can learn anything from those who came before him, it's that mediocre just isn't going to cut it.
- The Bucks learned very quickly in the first quarter that they need to keep their heads on a swivel when Roy Hibbert has the ball. Within the game's first five minutes, Hibbert hit four cutting teammates with passes out of the post, victimizing Jennings twice with passes to Darren Collison. Hibbert has the height (7-foot-2) and skills (3.2 assists per game) to make the Bucks pay with passes over the top. It just means the Bucks have to be that much more aware of the man they're defending.
- Danny Granger shoots the ball with what is almost negative effort. He releases the ball with such ease, it seems like there's some sort of catapulting mechanism implanted in his palm that does all the work. It's very Dell Curry-ish. It's a quick, but accurate, release that could seemingly travel for miles with little to no effort.
- The Bucks need to start getting back on defense after a made basket. On multiple occasions, Indiana used quick inbounds and outlet passes to get either an easy basket or free throws after one of their players beat their Milwaukee defender down court. It's like Hibbert's post passing; the Bucks need to be more cognizant of what the Pacers are doing at all times.
- Is there any doubt that Tyler Hansbrough has replaced B.J. Armstrong as the most baby faced athlete in the history of professional sports? I assumed once he went pro the facial hair wouldn't be far behind. That certainly has not been the case. If anything, I think he has less facial hair. He's like Powder, but with head hair.
- I don't know if this is a pregame ritual that James Posey still practices, but I remember him giving out the biggest man-hugs during Boston's championship run in 2008. These were serious "I'm sorry for your loss" hugs where he'd lean in and whisper sweet nothings in to Paul Pierce's ear. If anyone recalls the many hugs Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz shared in the Red Sox dugout, it was like that but on steroids. I can't fault him, though. The Celtics got their championship and he got his $6-million-a-year contract.
Closing It Out
Un-freakin-believable! The Bucks needed that and they needed that bad. For a team that's been plagued with poorly executed last-second plays, that last-second play couldn't have been executed any better. With only 0.5 seconds remaining on the clock, the Pacers had to know a backdoor alley-oop was the play call. There's not much else you can do. But Milwaukee flawlessly executed the play, and it all started with the player least likely to set a pick.
The 170-pound Jennings laid what seemed like an immovable screen on the 250-pound Jeff Foster, getting just enough of Foster to give Andrew Bogut the space he needed to get the tip-in. The power with which the pick was set would lead most observers to believe that it was the super-girthy Oliver Miller doing the picking.
The game-winner capped solid games from both Jennings and Bogut. Jennings finished with a team-high 22 points to go along with five boards and four dimes. Bogut struggled from the field, but still managed to post a very fine line of 17 points, 11 boards and five blocks. None of this could've been possible without Ersan Ilyasova, though. Turkish Thunder was at his most functionally spastic tonight, finishing with a season-high 21 points and 10 boards. The effort marked the second 20 and 10 night of Ilyasova's career, with the first coming last year against Orlando.
The Bucks again struggled from the field, but were able to make up for it at the charity stripe. Milwaukee made 40 trips to the line, converting 32 of those attempts, including a nice 7-of-10 effort from Bogut. Jennings chipped in with a 9-of-13 night from the line while Ilyasova hit 7-of-8, showing a return to his preseason form of drawing fouls and converting. The 32 makes gave Milwaukee a 10-point edge over the Pacers, who shot 22-of-31.
This is most definitely the kind of win the Bucks needed. These are the kind of wins that can help a team regain its confidence and propel it on a lengthy winning streak. They're now one win over Houston away from what should be considered a successful 3-1 homestand. That'll be just the confidence boost they'll need when embarking on the dual West Coast road trips that follow.Until Friday...
Note: These are the views of the 6th Fan Blogger. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this articles are not necessarily the views of the Milwaukee Bucks.