Shots in the Dark
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NOT MILWAUKEE, Nov. 29 -- Far be it for me to suggest this, but besides taking a much-needed road win from the Lakers in Los Angeles on Tuesday, the Bucks also need to take a cue from the STAPLES Center.

It's time to turn out the lights.

In the 20 seasons they played at the MECCA (yes, that's my entry on that page), the Milwaukee Bucks won one NBA title, made another Finals appearance, notched 12 division titles and won 582 of the 791 regular season games (a .737 winning percentage) they played there.

What some would call shortcomings -- the crowded concourses, a gimmicky multi-colored floor and the small capacity (11,052 for the last few seasons) -- some would call ambience. As for amenities? Ha! The seats were wood with a vinyl back pad. Cup holders? You have two hands! Luxury boxes? The whole building was shaped like a box!

The MECCA was the equivalent of your grandparents telling you they walked two miles to school.

Uphill.

Both ways.

But the best thing about the old MECCA (besides that great floor, of course) was moments before tipoff, the Bucks would turn down the lights over the seats, leaving only the court lit. I don't remember any other arena (except Madison Square Garden) turning the lights down for the game.

What it said to anyone watching in the arena or on TV: the floor was the stage, the game the thing.

And as cool as it was to see Morgan Freeman sitting next to Jack Nicholson courtside on Tuesday night, that's about the extent of crowd anyone should want to see when they tune in to a game. As a matter of fact, all NBA arenas should do this. The NBA's been doing it for All-Star Games since 2003 in Atlanta.

So, my plea to the Bucks: pay an hommage to yourselves. Keep the luxury boxes and the cup holders at the Bradley Center, but return to your roots, set the mood, turn the lights down low and make your new floor a stage again.

Maybe the mojo will come back too.

Meanwhile, back in L.A., if the Lakers' hadn't gone lights out, Michael Redd would have shot them out. Tuesday night was the night Redd played like Kobe Bryant: scorin' (45), boardin' (eight), dishin' (six) and theivin' (four). All around, it was better than his 57-point night against Utah.

And this time, the Bucks won. It was a much needed win for the Bucks who, when they go on a West Coast swing, usually lose everything but their luggage.

Tuesday night was a good night for the division as a whole as the Bucks and Pacers both won on the road, and the Bulls dispatched the Knicks for the second time in as many games.

That, and it looks like the Pistons seem to have their edge back. I was going to write about it, but Jeff Dengate took care of the topic quite well here. I'm not ready to say the Central is back (one game does not a season make), but at least it's not the Atlantic.

JUMPING ON THE HEADBANDWAGON

A headband, what, weighs an ounce, maybe two and gets slightly heavier when saturated with sweat?

Unfortunately for the Bulls, that tiny piece of terrycloth has become an albatross around their collective necks.

Much has been made about Ben Wallace flouting team rules and rockin' the headband against the Knicks on Saturday.

There are the hyperventilating columnists at ESPN. Chris Sheridan said:

"Wallace's act of public insubordination Saturday night (by wearing a headband and blatantly violating a team rule, prompting Skiles to remove him twice against the Knicks) was so egregious, I can't believe he'd even think of further escalating things and further alienating the front office.

Egregious, eh? Marc Stein also weighed in:

"We repeat: He's simply out of bounds, by an expensive-fine, borderline-suspendable margin."

Suspendable? A little harsh for a headband, don't you think?

The Chicago Sun-Times headline sums up how I take this whole thing: "Ben not sorry, Skiles not worried"

''I'm pretty honest about this kind of stuff, and I don't see it as that big of a deal,'' Skiles told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Things like this come up. We happen to be in a moment in time when the littlest thing can be pounced on and judgments made.

''We're not the only team to have this rule. We are in the minority. And I'm virtually certain there are people who are going to say: 'It's a stupid rule. Why have it?' And there are probably other people that say: 'What's the big deal? We're paying somebody a lot of money. Follow the rules."

I think the whole thing is a hoot. Teams have rules. Bulls players can't wear headbands. (Jerry Sloan doesn't let the Jazz wear them either.) The Yankees players can't wear mustaches. The Arizona Cardinals aren't allowed to win football games. You get the drift.

Ben Wallace broke his team's rule. Skiles took him out until he took it off and fined him for being a malcontent. Case closed, right?

Sure it is, even if the Chicago Sun-Times' Brian Hanley reports Ben's not sorry:

''Am I sorry? I'm never sorry about anything,'' Wallace said. ''I remember when I first hurt my wrist a couple years ago, I was walking around feeling sorry for myself until I met a guy who didn't have any hands.

''Those things we can change, we can get over those things. So don't ever feel sorry for anything that you can work out and get over with the next day.''

Excellent idea.

Now, if Wallace could stop acting like the Bulls thought Tim Thomas would last season (a negative influence on the kiddies), then maybe Chicago can get back on track.

HEADBAND OF BROTHERS


Andrew Bogut
The whole to don or not to don got me thinking about others in the Central who chrome the cranium with the terrycloth.

Of course, there's LeBron, who's always sporting the headband.

Then, there's Andrew Bogut. He wouldn't be able to get away with this hairband from the Barrier Reef Barbie collection on the Bulls. Or think of Al Harrington. He goes for a double-double no-no with the headband and the Mohawk.

I'd like your take. What do you think of this whole situation? Mail us!