First-time Bucks share coaches’, teammates’ discontent

Reflect upon frustration-filled 2010-11 season

By Truman Reed

Drew Gooden and Keyon Dooling

Drew Gooden said, “We really didn’t have our complete team together at one time, but then again, it’s no excuses."

The 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks season did not meet the expectations of Head Coach Scott Skiles.

It yielded no satisfaction to those players who were on board for the franchise’s first playoff trip in four years in April of 2010.

Making the matter unanimous, it didn’t sit well with those players who wore a Bucks uniform for the first time last season, hoping to help the team build upon its success of the previous campaign.

One of the key additions to the Milwaukee mix during the 2010 offseason was forward/center Drew Gooden, a veteran of eight previous NBA seasons. The 6-10, 250-pound Gooden signed a free-agent deal with the Bucks on July 8.

Since entering the NBA as the fourth overall selection in the 2002 draft, Gooden had appeared in an average of nearly 73 games per season, playing in fewer than 69 games just once – in 2008-09.

Gooden, however, was stricken with plantar fasciitis, missed 32 consecutive games during one stretch of the season and played a total of just 35 contests during his first season with Milwaukee. He was frustrated enough with his own fate and then could only look on as many of his teammates were bitten by the injury bug as well.

 “It was a tough season for us, especially myself as an individual, battling my foot injury, but we had a lot of injuries this year,” Gooden said. “We really didn’t have our complete team together at one time, but then again, it’s no excuses.

“We did what we could and tried to push to our goal of making the playoffs and making a run in the playoffs. That didn’t happen so as men, as professional athletes, all we can do is move forward and look to get better.”

Guard Keyon Dooling, signed as a free agent by the Bucks one week after they brought Gooden aboard, knew all too well how injuries continually put his new team up against the wall on a continuous basis. But the pro’s pro refused to use adversity as an excuse for the team’s performance.

“You never want to talk about injuries or lineup changes or things of that sort that you can’t necessarily control,” Dooling said. “All you can control is your performance. I don’t think we all performed at a high enough level to be able to win.

“I think we worked hard. I think we were committed, but we just didn’t get it together as a team.”

Dooling’s analysis was backed up statistically. The Bucks ranked last in the league in points per game and field-goal percentage, and all but three of them shot below their career field-goal percentages over the course of the season – some substantially so.

“Putting the ball in the basket was huge for us this year,” Gooden said. “It was tough at times to get points when we needed. We got as many defensive stops as we could and all we needed to win basketball games; it was just the other way around on the offensive end, not being able to convert baskets and especially late in the stretch, down in the fourth quarter.

“I think that’s just something we’ll have to get better at.”

Dooling agreed.

“I’ve been on some teams that weren’t very good,” he said. “I don’t think we were a bad team. We were a mediocre team. As far as moving forward for next year, we want to use this feeling to drive us and motivate us. Coming back in good shape is so very critical for our team so we can hit the floor running. With that being said, the sky is the limit.

“We still have good players and we have a lot of potential. We’ll have a year of experience playing together under our belt so we should be better next year.”

Jon Brockman came to Milwaukee in a July 21 deal that sent Darnell Jackson and a 2011 second-round pick to Sacramento. He not only proved to be a blue-collar worker at power forward -- as the Bucks expected he would -- but was forced to play more minutes than anticipated at center, particularly in the 17 games starter Andrew Bogut missed due to injury.

Brockman was the only player on the Bucks roster to shoot better than .500 from the field, hitting at a .511 mark. But he, too, was far from satisfied with the season.

“I’m going to remember it,” Brockman said. “You remember all your seasons. It was a great group of guys, but we didn’t do what we could have done, and I think that’s just going to eat at me a little bit for awhile.”

Dooling took heart in the fact that despite the Bucks’ shortcomings in a number of areas, they persevered.

“The results are what they are, but we came in here, we laced our shoes up every day as professionals,” Dooling said. “I think the coaches coached extremely hard, I think the general manager did the right things to try and make moves to win. I think everybody came in everyday and worked hard and tried to get better.

“We didn’t mathematically get eliminated from the playoffs until pretty late in the season, so we still were fighting for something and playing for something. We didn’t ever throw in the towel or surrender. We continued to play the game. We ended the season on a great note. We got a win in Oklahoma City, so next year we have to just come back and be better.”

Gooden echoed those sentiments.

“I can’t take away anything from what my teammates and I did this season when we stepped foot on that court or had the opportunity to step foot on that court because one thing we did do was play hard and you can never say it was a lack of effort,” he said. “It was frustrating that you play so hard and you’re right next to the rim and you miss a layup and the other team comes back and they hit a three on you and you lose by two points. “It was tough watching that from the sidelines and it was also tough being a part of that once I was able to play.”