Points of Contention

Skiles, players address team's offensive struggles

By Truman Reed

Shooting Woes

Bucks head coach Scott Skiles says "But we don't feel like we're playing close to what our potential is. There's no reason to panic, but we need to get to that point."
Photo: Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images

While it is true that statistics can be misleading, several of them were pretty telltale through the Milwaukee Bucks first 14 games of the 2010-11 National Basketball Association season.

The team ranked last in the NBA in field-goal percentage at .409, last in points per game at 90.6 and last in assists per game with 17.2.

Head Coach Scott Skiles was well aware of the numbers. They weren't sending him into panic-button mode, but he did acknowledge that his team needs to start doing what it takes to upgrade them - and the team's 5-9 record - with a sense of urgency.

"We have to play better," Skiles said. "I think it would be very discouraging if we were playing well and still getting beat. Then we'd have to stop and say, `Wait a minute, maybe we're not that good.'

"But we don't feel like we're playing close to what our potential is. There's no reason to panic, but we need to get to that point. We need to let the guys know what we expect from them."

Through the first 14 games of the season, only two Bucks - ironically two of their newcomers - were shooting above 48 percent from the field. And those two players -- Earl Boykins, shooting .543, and Jon Brockman, hitting at a .533 clip -- were only averaging 11.1 and 10.3 minutes, respectively.

"One of the areas where we need to make improvement is in guys being consistent with their form," Skiles said. "A lot of shooting is mental and some of it is technique. Sometimes we're jerking it, or our feet are moving around and things like that where typically, if you're a good shooter, you don't do.

"So we're working on it. Hopefully we'll get better at it."

Center Andrew Bogut knows the Bucks have too much offensive firepower in their arsenal to be averaging below 91 points per game.

"The ball's not going in the basket," Bogut said. "We're stagnant offensively. I think we're thinking too much. We're thinking about making mistakes. We've just got to play basketball, move the ball, share the ball and take our shots when we're open.

"We knew this would be a struggle, but not that it would be this prolonged. We've just got to work through it."

Veteran guard Keyon Dooling realizes that the shooting woes have been widespread.

"Offensively, we've been struggling," he said. "We've got a lot of guys who aren't shooting the ball well, myself included. Offensively none of us are playing up to our potential, possibly with the exception of Brandon. We've just got to get a few more guys to get it going.

"Eventually, it will work itself out. But it's hard right now."

The Bucks have certainly missed Carlos Delfino, who has been sidelined since November 9 with a neck strain, but Skiles said the team's struggles go beyond the absence of one of their best shooters.

"I don't want to minimize what Carlos does, because he does provide us with some spacing out there, and he can put the ball on the floor and make a play for somebody else," Skiles said. "He's a very good rebounder. But having said that, the NBA revolves around going in the post, pick-and-rolls, bringing guys off down screens and then spot-up shooting. We're doing those things. We've just got to make pro plays. We had 19 missed shots last night in the paint. We've just got to be able to make shots."

Bogut believes that is all about answering opportunity's knock.

"I think guys just need to get used to what we expect around here," he said. "The coaches aren't going to say, `I want you to shoot,' or `I don't want you to shoot.'

"When you're open, you have to shoot the ball"

Second-year point guard Brandon Jennings shoulders much of the responsibility for getting the team where it needs to go.

"You try to run plays for everybody and get them into in the game," Jennings said. "But after awhile, if things aren't happening, I have to take control and start pushing the ball up the floor - not shooting all the time, but just being aggressive and making plays for other people."

"I want to see the ball moving, guys getting open shots and taking open shots with confidence. It starts with me. I have to bring intensity every game."

Skiles said the team's struggles have sometimes gone beyond shot selection.

"We've had breakdowns late in games," he said. "One of the things that's happened to us is at really key moments, when we need to make a play, we've struggled to make it. Sometimes we'll have a bad play, like an errant pass. That's hurt us. We've got to try to get that cleaned up.

"Obviously we want to score more points than we've been scoring in general, but when we get a game where we get it to two, we've had trouble making a good decision at that point. In close NBA games, there are plays at the end of the game that often make the difference. It could be an offensive play; it could be a defensive play. We've struggled on the offensive end to make the correct play.

"It's always easy for the coach or for a fan to stop the film and say, `We've got three guys open. Why don't we see it?' But when you're in the game, it happens quickly and you don't always see it. We have to get better at those things. We also have some shots we're turning down, and our execution needs to get better. But our players, let's face it, in the real world, they get paid to make those plays. They need to do a better job of making them."

And that, guard John Salmons pointed out, requires teamwork.

"We've definitely got to stay together and stay focused on the goal," Salmons said. "It's been a tough start. Nobody expected us to start out like this.

"We've just got to stay with it. Sometimes good teams have to go through some tough times to get where they want to go. We just have to stay together, keep working as a team and keep moving."