Bucks dig down deep
Team rises above mounting adversity together
By Truman Reed
Jon Brockman scored the team's second basket on a reverse layup, took a feed from Carlos Delfino and exploded down the lane for a dunk and then converted a Brandon Jennings pass into another slam within the game's first 5 minutes, 51 seconds.
Scott Skiles probably felt like killing the messenger.
Shortly before his Milwaukee Bucks March 1 game against the Detroit Pistons at the Bradley Center, Skiles was informed that forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute would have to be scratched from the starting lineup, having been rendered unable to play by flu-like symptoms.
Starting center Andrew Bogut would be unavailable for at least a week due to a muscle strain in his ribcage area suffered during the team's Saturday game against the Chicago Bulls.
Forward/center Drew Gooden had been shut down for four to six weeks to be treated for the plantar fasciitis that had been hampering him nearly all season.
Forward Ersan Ilyasova, three days after returning from a right eye contusion, had sustained a concussion during practice the previous Friday and would be out indefinitely
Guard Michael Redd had just begun limited workouts with the team following nearly a year-long rehabilitation from knee surgery.
Skiles realized he would most likely have to turn to veteran center Earl Barron, whom the Bucks had just signed to a 10-day contract, for help in the post despite the fact that the 29-year-old Barron had barely met his teammates during a brief shootaround earlier in the day.
As they have done several times this season, the Bucks dug down deep and pulled out a victory, defeating the Pistons 92-90 to halt a two-game losing streak.
"It was a good short-handed win," Skiles said minutes afterward.
The day began with a traditional shootaround, but this one carried an extra twist. The coaching staff found itself in a situation similar to the one that occurred earlier this season when Garrett Temple was signed to a 10-day contract out of the National Basketball Development League and they had to put him on the fast track immediately.
Skiles was pleased at the results.
"Earl was active," Skiles said. "All he had was the shootaround. It's hard to throw a lot at a guy, especially when we're having our normal shootaround. We only had about 15 minutes to kind of get specific with him. He's an energy player, and he helped us tonight."
Barron, who had appeared in 101 NBA games with Miami, New York and Phoenix over the course of a four-year career, averaging 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds in 15.4 minutes, played 12 contests with the Suns earlier this season. His last appearance had come December 19, and the Bucks came unexpectedly.
"I was actually at the gym Monday evening working out," Barron said. "I got a voicemail, but I didn't check it until I got in my car. My agent said, `Call me immediately. It looks like you're going to Milwaukee.' So I went home and started packing just to be on the safe side. Then they called me and asked me if I could make a 7 o'clock flight around 2:30 or 3 o'clock. I said, `Yeah,' then I finished packing and let everybody know the news and headed to the airport.
"I was just doing cardio, sprints and treadmill. I hadn't hadn't played five-on-five in awhile. The past week or so, we played a few times to see where I was cardio-wise. My body felt good and my conditioning felt good."
He got his crash course Tuesday prior to the game.
"It was tough trying to learn the plays," Barron said. "They were giving me a crash course on the offense. There are a lot of sets, but they kind of made it simple for me tonight - a lot of screens, fill the open spots, pick-and-roll ... I'll get a chance to go in tomorrow and watch some film and pick things up as quickly as possible so the next time I go out there I'll be more familiar with the offense."
The Bucks started Jon Brockman at forward and Larry Sanders at center, so they had to adjust to different roles, too, and both of them delivered.
Brockman scored the team's second basket on a reverse layup, took a feed from Carlos Delfino and exploded down the lane for a dunk and then converted a Brandon Jennings pass into another slam within the game's first 5 minutes, 51 seconds.
The bruiser from the University of Washington totaled eight points and eight rebounds. He talked after the game about answering opportunity's knock.
"It's kind of a mixed feeling because you don't want guys to be hurt," Brockman said. "You don't want your teammates to not be out there with you. But we've still got to go out and do our job, and we've still got to work. We did a good job of just adapting tonight. We had some weird lineups.
"Our guards just did a great job of finding me when my man stepped up. It was fun to be able to go out there and do that."
Sanders struggled to get his shot to fall, but came up with eight rebounds and a team-high three blocked shots.
Barron made his Milwaukee debut at the 3:55 mark of the first quarter. He had six rebounds in his first 6:23, logged nearly 16 minutes of action and finished with four points, nine boards and a block.
"I just wanted to come in and make it tough for them down in the paint," Barron said.
"As soon as I get on the court, I want to bring energy, energy, energy ... hustle, get on the floor, crash the boards, try to get every board on both ends ... and make the shots. Hopefully I can get some pick-and-pops in the next game and make some jumpers. I just want to try to continue to get this team some wins."
Brockman was impressed at what Barron was able to accomplish in a pinch.
"He's been here 10 hours," Brockman said. "I've never really been in that position, so I don't know how overwhelming it would be, but I can imagine. He did a good job of doing what he did without getting frustrated if he didn't know something.
"To get thrown out there not really knowing what we do and having an effect on the game, Earl did a great job."
Guard Keyon Dooling wasn't surprised.
"If you know anything about our game, you know Earl Barron's an NBA player," Dooling said. "He averaged a double-double last year at the end of the season. He comes from a good pedigree program in Miami, so he learned how to play the game of basketball. He's a big guy who's mobile who can pick and pop and he has a high basketball IQ.
"You've got to tip your hat to John Hammond and the scouting department for bringing in a quality player, as well as Garrett Temple earlier when he was here. He and Earl are both quality players."
Dooling, who contributed 12 points and two assists to the victory, was impressed with how the entire team answered the call.
"It was a very gratifying win for us because we had some adversity," Dooling said. "And we still haven't really found our stride this season. That game was a game of will and a game of preparation and a game of effort."
The veteran guard was asked if he and his teammates cautioned each other to look out for wet spots when they took the floor so they didn't sustain any further damage.
"When we brought it in before the game, we said, `It's a professional sport, a high-risk sport. Guys are going to go down. Guys are going to get sick. Guys are going to get hurt. It's a great opportunity to step up,'" Dooling said. "It's what you work for, especially guys like Brockman and Larry Sanders, who don't have to look over their shoulders because they know their minutes are coming. And they brought it tonight. Defensively they were great, energy-wise they were great, and we went out and got a win."
Brandon Jennings led the Bucks with 21 points, grabbed five rebounds, handed out four assists and soared high to reject a corner jump shot by Detroit's Will Bynum with 16.2 seconds to play.
"I didn't really want to run out too fast and give it up," Jennings said. "So I kind of slowed up a little bit. He went up, and I went up and gave it all I had.
"That's just making plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter. That was something I asked for last night and I knew Coach was going to challenge me. He kind of kept the ball in my hands in the fourth quarter and I had to contribute."
Contributing, in Brockman's estimation, was what this victory was all about.
"It was a good team effort," he said.