Jake's Take: A Tale of Two Earls - 03/06/11

March 6, 2011
Jake LeRoy [@JakesTake34]

Bucks vs Celtics

Bucks 83, Celtics 89
Box Score
  • The Next Level
  • Playoffs Start Now
  • A Look to the Future
  • A Cure for What Ails Ye
  • Keeping the Faith
  • Holding Down the Fort
  • A Streak That Needs Breaking
  • How to be a Halftime Hero
  • Bucks Beat Features
  • A look through the annals of the NBA quickly indicates the first name "Earl" is not one commonly found on a professional basketball roster. As a matter of fact, Basketball-Reference.com shows only 16 players in the history of the league were given the name at birth through various spellings, be it "Earl," "Earle" or "J.R." It seems as though overcoming the name alone is a significant hurdle to clear to become a card-carrying member of the National Basketball Players Association.

    Before the NBA's current crop of Earls, it was unheard of to have two on the same squad. Earl "The Pearl" Monroe and Earl "The Twirl" Cureton each put in a dozen years but never played with each other or any other Earl. Nine other Earls made appearances in an NBA game through the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. None played with a fellow Earl.

    Then the aughts came to be. Earl Boykins and Earl Watson played together for a half season in Denver during the 2005-06 season, marking the first time two Earls shared the same jersey colors. The second occurrence came earlier this year when Earl Barron and Earl Clark played a handful of games together in Phoenix. That brings us to the current pairing of Boykins and Barron on our hometown Milwaukee Bucks.

    Physically, it'd be hard to find two players who share the same first name who are more dissimilar. Boykins is one of the league's all-time mightiest of mice, standing just 5-foot-5 and weighing in at 135 pounds. Barron is at the opposite end of the size spectrum, checking in at an even 7 feet tall and 245 pounds. This significant size difference has naturally led to differing styles of play, with Boykins focusing on scoring and distributing the ball and Barron concentrating on doing big-man things like rebounding.

    If the titles little man and big man put Boykins and Barron many inches and pounds apart, then the title journeyman binds them together. Boykins' 11-year career has included stops in nine NBA cities, including brief five- and one-game stints in New Jersey and Orlando, respectively. His career arc has also included single seasons with the Rockford Lightning of the CBA and the Virtus Bologna of the Italian League. All told, Boykins has totaled a collection of frequent flyer miles that even the busiest of business travelers would envy.

    Barron's career doesn't match the longevity or success of Boykins, but it does equal Boykins' tally of total locales. Barron has played for 11 teams in just nine seasons, with his longest single stint spanning three years in Miami. He's spent time overseas in Turkey, Italy and the Philippines. He's played for four teams in the NBA D-League and another four in the NBA, including his current stop in Milwaukee.

    All of what's happened previously brought Earl and Earl to the present-day Bucks. Boykins is on board to provide instant offense off the pine while Barron recently joined to add much-needed size to a frontline that has been depleted by injuries. Neither career will unfold quite like the preeminent Earl (Monroe), but both Earls should be lauded for their determination to make it in their chosen profession. It's an exclusive membership to a privileged community.

    In-game Musings

    • One area in which Brandon Jennings has failed to improve is his ability to create easy scoring opportunities for his teammates. You wouldn't be able to tell that by tonight's first quarter, though. Jennings made three nice plays in the game's first six minutes, finding Jon Brockman and the Prince (twice) for easy baskets. The last came on one of his patented trips across the lane and along the baseline. Typically these forays result in little more than a Jennings 20-footer, but he was able to find a cutting Luc Richard on this occasion.
    • I didn't watch ESPN's pregame telecast, but I can't imagine The Prince and Boston's Nenad Krstic were the focal point. If the first quarter is any indication, they probably should've been. The Prince and Krstic engaged in a first-quarter scoring battle that mirrored the late 80s encounters between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins. Based on first-quarter scoring outputs, The Prince and Krstic will be fighting it out to see who scores 50 first.
    • I feel like one of the more under-the-radar stories of the NBA season was Rajon Rondo's one-day stint as a Jewish softball player in Kentucky. It's a delightful story about how amateur softball figures into Rondo's offseason training regimen. Apparently it's not just for beer-swigging middle-agers.
    • Larry Sanders looks like he may be taking some of his alma mater VCU's positive energy and using it for his own good tonight. The Rams upset George Mason to advance to the Colonial Athletic Association championship, marking the third straight year VCU took out the Patriots. Sanders played a big role in the first two downings, averaging 17.5 points, 16 rebounds and 5.5 blocks while shooting 14-22 from the floor.
    • When Danny Ainge made Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen a triumvirate, the most-asked follow-up question was, "How will he find another nine quality bodies to fill out the roster?" I would say he's done a pretty good of answering that question. Between good drafting, crafty trades and bargain free-agent signings, the Celtics now have a solid bench to supplement the starters. Krstic, Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal provide a solid center rotation when healthy. Big Baby and Troy Murphy bring different valuable attributes at the four. Jeff Green offers youthful offense at either forward spot. The backcourt is a little shaky, but Delonte West can be a significant contributor when he's sane and Carlos Arroyo is plenty capable of keeping the offense moving for eight minutes a game. I'd say Ainge has done a fine job of building a quality second unit.
    • The Prince is having a very Cedric Ceballos-like game tonight. Ceballos averaged 14.3 points for his career, including a career-best 21.7, despite rarely having a play called for him. He simply found himself good shots within the flow of the offense. The Prince is doing the same tonight. He's exploiting seams in the defense and receiving the ball in good positions to score. He's taking open jumpers off ball swings. He's running the floor. This kind of player -- one who scores without plays being called for him -- is hard to come by and, thus, very valuable. I hope his game continues to develop in this manner.

    Closing It Out
    For the second consecutive game, a really good first half was undone by a poor second half. The Bucks took a six-point lead into halftime but saw it erased quickly by hitting just 5-of-19 shots in the third quarter. It looked like the Bucks might totally redeem themselves with a 12-5 run early in the fourth quarter. The offense soon went into the tank, though, scoring just four points in the game's final four minutes with those tallies coming on a desperation heave from Carlos Delfino and a free throw from John Salmons.

    Crunch time scoring has been problematic for Milwaukee all season and tonight was no different. The Bucks just can't get a good shot when the opposing team tightens the reins down the stretch. They don't have anybody that can create a good shot for themselves or a teammate and the offensive scheme doesn't produce open looks either.

    The Bucks got good efforts from Jennings and The Prince but received little else from the rest of the squad. Jennings finished with a game-high 23 points to go along with six rebounds, five assists and three steals. The Prince contributed a season-best 19 points as well as seven boards.

    Milwaukee wings Salmons, Delfino, Corey Maggette and CDR didn't provide much in the way of scoring tonight. The foursome combined for just 22 points between them, hitting 8-of-27 from the floor and turning the ball over seven times. Turnovers were a problem for the entire team as numerous sloppy passes resulted in 16 total giveaways.

    The Bucks should get some credit for staying with the Celtics as long as they did. Milwaukee has proven to be a good matchup for Boston, playing them tight last year as well as earlier this season. Hypothetical and what-ifs are useless, but a fully-healthy frontline could only have helped the Bucks tonight. That being said, The Prince, Jon Brockman and Larry Sanders held it down in the paint, leading Milwaukee to a 39-33 rebounding edge.

    Consecutive upcoming games against Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers Washington and Cleveland should give the Bucks an opportunity to pick up some ground on Indiana and Charlotte in the playoff standings. The Pacers and Bobcats have given Milwaukee every opportunity to climb back into the race. The Bucks just have to take advantage.

    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.