Jake's Take: 11/26/10 - Getting Into "the Zone"
Jake LeRoy [@JakesTake34]
Bucks at Pistons
I’ve often wondered what it feels like for a professional athlete to enter into “the zone.” What state of mind is an athlete in when they enter that rarified air when every shot goes in, every decision is the best one and every step is in the right direction? What was going through Brandon Jennings’ mind when he dropped a double nickel on the Warriors last year? How about Kobe Bryant when he scored 81, or Tony Delk when he scored 53 or Joe Alexander when he scored 16 points. Believe or not, those last two scoring outputs actually occurred.
All of my questions were answered this morning when I reluctantly participated in the Black Friday festivities for the first time. I’ve never had any interest in even leaving the house on Black Friday prior to today. For me, shopping is more of a chore than anything else. But I finally caved when my wife came to me with a divide-and-conquer strategy for this year’s Christmas shopping. After looking through the 8-inch high stack of flyers, I’m embarrassed to admit that a sense of excitement gradually enveloped me.
I knew that if I was going to do this, I had to do it right. There was no other way. If I didn’t put in the due diligence, I risked wasting a few very valuable hours of sleep. And sleep is not a commodity I disregard lightly.
Like in professional sports, the first step to defeating any worthy opponent is proper scouting. So I combed through the various flyers, picked out the potential gifts that most intrigued me, and narrowed the options down until I had a tightly-packed cluster of stores. Then, I went to the video. I requested security-camera footage from each store I planned on visiting, and broke down the typical flow of traffic through the various departments. After dissecting the footage, I felt confident that I knew the best routes to take to my intended destinations.
A mere six hours later and with the legwork behind me, the time to shine was upon me. It was time to put all of that extensive preparation to good use. After carefully traversing the death zone that was the parking lot, I made my way to the front entrance. Just prior to breaking the threshold, I took time to collect my thoughts and, suddenly, a sense of calm came over me. It was then that I knew I was ready, and that I had just entered “the zone.”
Every move I made was perfect. I saw holes open up moments beforehand. I was the 12-year veteran and everybody else was the raw, unpolished rookie. I was breaking down opposing shoppers with a collection of skillful moves that have never before been seen on a department store floor. A middle-aged woman engaged me in a game of chicken, and I gave her an eyebrow fake followed by a quick jab step, sending her careening into a rack full of men’s polos. And this woman was no defensive sieve. I looked into her eyes and, at that moment, she was pure evil.
Later, I shattered an elderly man’s ankles with the tightest, most compact spin move ever recorded. An emo kid tried to beat me to a Nerf gun, and I gave him the ol’ Kevin McHale up-and-under. I juked him so severely that he split his skinny jeans. I even somersaulted over a kiosk stacked with $5 DVDs, sticking the landing Paul Hamm-style, except with bigger, more defined deltoids.
After all was said and done, I sat in the driver’s seat of my car and basked in the moment. I tackled my first Black Friday head on, and I came away victorious. Not only was I victorious, but I experienced this borderline superhuman feeling for the very first time. I’m sure the zone I was in pales in comparison to the zones frequented by professional athletes. But, for now, I’m more than satisfied with experiencing just a small slice of the out-of-body experience known only as, “The Zone.”
- I wonder how the Detroit public address announcer as adjusted to his team’s fall from grace. He soaked up every ounce of Detroit’s success throughout the 2000s, and never missed an opportunity to put himself in the spotlight with his outlandish catchphrases. He truly loved the sound of his own voice. It can be tough for someone to adjust to life without the limelight. I can tell already that the Pistons’ struggles have affected him. He just doesn’t have the same zest in his voice. I’m not too disappointed by this development.
- Corey Maggette’s uncanny ability to draw fouls has been well-documented through the first month of the season. I can’t help but think that his constant attempts at drawing contact are playing a part in his lowered field-goal percentage, though. It seems that he’s often attempting to create contact and it’s making his shots that much more difficult to convert. In those rare instances when he doesn’t draw a whistle, his body is out of good shooting position because he’s leaning in for contact. I think he needs to find a better balance between drawing contact while still putting himself in a good position to score.
- I’m absolutely loving Larry Sanders’ crashing of the offensive glass during his first-half run. He’s been super aggressive and using his length and athleticism to his advantage. That aggressiveness needs to translate over to the other end as well, though. He’s a lot more tentative on the defensive glass. He could really become an effective overall rebounder if he went after every carom on both ends with the same vigor.
- The oft-used phrase “When it rains, it pours,” can’t describe the Milwaukee offense any better. The Bucks are struggling to score enough as is, but then there are the small things that define those offensive struggles. Drew Gooden somehow missing four straight tip-ins in the second quarter is one example. I don’t think Gooden could miss those tip-ins again if he wanted to. He hit every part of the rim. And then there’s Jennings knocking home a half-court heave at the end of the first half, only to have it come moments after the buzzer went off. It seems like opponents have been hitting those kinds of shots all season, but the one time Milwaukee does it comes too late. I’m just hoping that eventually the skies will open up and the sun will shine on the Bucks.
- Rodney Stuckey is a classic case of a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. I can’t quite figure out if he’s a starting caliber guard, or if he’s better as a combo guard off the bench. Stuckey is averaging 16 points and five assists this year after putting up similar numbers last season. He’s certainly not lacking in the talent department. There’s something missing, though. I don’t watch the Pistons enough to know what that something is, but there’s something not there. Ultimately, I think he’s probably better as a third guard and sixth man.
Closing It Out
The Bucks are currently a team that stands little chance of winning if they allow any more than 82 points. Their offense is in such a slump that they can’t afford anything more than that. If their defense fails them, they don’t stand a chance. Tonight, their defense failed them in a big way. Milwaukee has remained close in recent losses because its defense kept the team in the game. That was most definitely not the case tonight.
The Pistons scored at least 20 points in every quarter and were shooting as high as 59 percent midway through the final stanza. They were hitting from inside, outside and midrange. They drew fouls, moved the ball and limited turnovers. In short, Detroit had its way offensively tonight. I can’t say the Bucks weren’t hustling either. There were no glaring instances of supreme non-hustle. Players were working hard throughout. John Salmons aggressively chased Richard Hamilton around screens. Jennings put in a yeoman’s effort defending the bigger Stuckey in the post. Sanders blocked or altered numerous shots. It just wasn’t happening, though.
Offensively, the Bucks are really in need of someone who can consistently hit a deep shot, or at least offer a threat from deep. Milwaukee relies heavily on efficient jump shooting -- especially with Andrew Bogut sidelined -- and there’s none of that to be found. The Bucks have hit 10 of 58 three-point attempts over the last four games. Unless you’ve got a pair of Dwight Howards cleaning up all of those misses, 17 percent from deep is not going to cut it.
There was some good to be found, though. Jennings played extremely hard and used his speed as effectively as I’ve seen him do so in quite some time, finishing with 25 points and six assists. Sanders put up a second consecutive strong showing off the bench, posting a near double-double of eight points, 10 boards and a pair of blocks. Ersan Ilyasova also played well off the pine, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds for the game’s only double-double.
Right now, it’s far from a light drizzle. It’s a pounding rain mixed with a driving hail storm combined with a whiteout blizzard. The Bucks will have Chris Douglas-Roberts back tomorrow and hopefully Bogut will join him. Their presence should help alleviate Milwaukee’s offensive woes. Hopefully CDR, Bogut and a return to the Bradley Center can put a stop to this unfortunate losing streak.Until Saturday...
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.