The coach’s perspective
Part I: New crew presents Skiles with more options than ever
By Truman Reed
"On paper right now, there are probably going to be some different challenges than I've had the last couple years with regard to that," Skiles admitted.
The Milwaukee Bucks holdovers and their newcomers have expressed their approval and excitement over the roster reconstruction engineered by General Manager John Hammond during the 2010 offseason.
And they are not the only ones who are acknowledging how driven Hammond is to building the Bucks into one of the NBA's upper-echelon teams.
Head Coach Scott Skiles has worked closely alongside Hammond during the aforementioned reconstruction, and when the 2010 National Basketball Association campaign tips off at the end of this month, he'll be handing out the hard hats to his crew.
In this two-part series, Skiles weighs in on a number of topics, beginning with his take on the offseason wheeling and dealing and the new-look squad he is molding.
Providing the Bucks can maintain a relatively clean bill of health, Skiles figures he will have some difficult decisions to make as he formulates his lineups. He is encouraged by the fact that he will have a variety of options that he did not have during his first two seasons on the job.
"On paper right now, there are probably going to be some different challenges than I've had the last couple years with regard to that," Skiles admitted. "We feel like we're a deep team. We got good bench production last year, but still felt like we wanted more, and wanted to get deeper. We feel like we've done it.
"That goes back to the chemistry question. Probably more nights than not, there's going to be a couple of guys that are out of the mix who maybe don't deserve to be out of the mix. Maybe they've played well, but other guys have played well, too, and it comes down to a coaching decision and things like that. We need to understand that going in."
Skiles has been around the NBA block enough times to know that no matter how deep a roster a team is perceived to have, it rarely becomes a lasting dilemma.
"Almost all the time, these things work themselves out naturally and you're not put in that position," Skiles said. "But sometimes they do. If we've got guys that aren't playing as much that probably deserve it, it probably means we're having a heck of a year. "
Skiles does admit that his job will most likely present different challenges than it has in the past. But anyone who has followed his career knows he has never backed down from one of those.
"Our depth does excite me," Skiles said. "It's also going to probably make my job a little bit harder, but that's good. We want that depth. I normally play a lot of people in a game anyway. I'm not afraid to go to the bench.
"So if we have depth, people should know they're still going to get on the floor. Hopefully it will come into play, that if we do have an injury or any other sort of situation that people will look back 50 games into the season and say, `Hey, that's a deep team. The reason they're having success is because of the depth they've acquired.'"
One of Skiles' immediate objectives will be to formulate a plan to fill the center position if Andrew Bogut's recovery from offseason surgery limits his availability early on.
Kurt Thomas, who lived up to his reputation as a pro's pro while filling in for Bogut at the end of last season, is no longer with the Bucks, so Skiles will have to look in other directions if he's forced to improvise.
Two of his options will be forward/center Drew Gooden, who is beginning his ninth NBA season after signing a multiyear free-agent deal with Milwaukee on July 8, and second-year power forward Jon Brockman, a bruiser whom the Bucks acquired in exchange for Darnell Jackson and a 2011 second-round pick on July 21.
Yet another possibility is 6-11,235-pound rookie forward/center Larry Sanders, whom the Bucks selected with the 15th overall pick in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft out of Virginia Commonwealth.
"That's one of the things we need to figure out," Skiles said. "Obviously Drew has played there some. We don't know yet what Larry is going to be able to do. He's probably going to take his lumps like all rookies do in the exhibition season, but at least we'll get to see him against other NBA people and see where he's at.
"Brockman is certainly never going to get backed down by anybody down there, but he does have a height disadvantage. But if you think about playing, let's say, Boston, with their size, it becomes an issue. But there are other teams that trot 6-9 guys out there at the `5' spot and on those nights, you don't worry about it as much."
Skiles and the word "worry" somehow don't seem to belong in the same sentence. But it is difficult to imagine anyone in his profession being more driven to maximize what he has, whether that happens to be a little or a lot.
"I don't talk about myself too much," Skiles said. "Hopefully I'm always getting better. You don't want to all of a sudden stop and say, `I'm as good as I'm going to be.' During the season, postseason, deep into the summer, I'm always looking at games and seeing things I could have done differently, decisions I made.
"But you know, the game is going quickly. You have a plan. You have information. You make the decisions as best you can. Sometimes they don't work. You feel like you're making them for the right reasons. They just didn't pan out. Hopefully I'm always getting better."