Broken Bandwagon
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NOT MILWAUKEE, Jan. 9, 2007 -- Um, so much for that bandwagon.

[Editor's note: We caught up with Larry Harris late Tuesday afternoon. Read CI first, then see how Harris indirectly responds to two of my three suggestions. Either way, good stuff all around.]

CI wasn't in attendance when Terry Stotts and the rest of the Bucks coaching staff received the news that All-Star in the making Michael Redd would miss four to six with patellar tendonitis, but we can imagine the reaction (and mind you, we're paraphrasing):

"Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"

CI may have been off by an "o" or two, but we think we're pretty close.

And in an unfortunate karmic happenstance, Redd aggravated the injury on a dunk (nothing fancy, straight up, straight down) with 14 seconds left in the Bucks' dismal 95-86 loss to the Cavaliers last Friday.

So, let's recap this misery, shall we: the Milwaukee Bucks' All-Star guard (well, he was going to be an All-Star guard), the fifth leading scorer in the NBA at 27.7 ppg and the man for whom the Bucks rely on 26.9 percent of their points, aggravates his patellar tendon on a late dunk in a game the Bucks really had no business losing and will be out four to six weeks.

Lest I offend, I wish I could use a certain four-letter word right now to describe my state of mind.

Ah, let me throw caution into the wind. I'm going to use it.

Crap!

There, I said it. Crap! Crap! Crap! I don't think I'm prepared for the Ersan Ilyasova era just yet.

This is not good, not good at all. First, Bobby Simmons doesn't even make it to the regular season thanks (or no thanks) to a bad heel. (That's one starter.) Then, Charlie Villanueva's shoulder starts to kill him. Who knows when he'll be back. (There goes a key reserve.) Then, Redd. (The Man, and an explosive All-Star.) Now, Mo Williams could be on the shelf for a while after spraining his left shoulder going for a loose ball in the Bucks' loss to Nuggets on Monday. (Another starter.)

If you're scoring at home, that puts three starters and a key reserve and more than half the team's points have been shelved. And if you are scoring at home, please, call the Bucks. They need people who can score.

Before the Denver game, Williams said in addition to all the stiffness Bucks players have been experiencing, they would need to keep a stiff upper lip in the coming weeks.

"One after another (get injured)," Williams told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Monday. "We lose Bobby Simmons for the year . . . OK, bounce back. You lose Charlie V . . . bounce back. And now we lose Mike. . . . It's another test for us."

Little did Mo know his injury, coupled with Redd's, would send Stott's lower lip a-quivering.

"It's discouraging," Stotts told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after Monday's game. "But you know a lot of teams are going through it. There have been teams that have responded well when their best players have gone out.

"Teams have gathered around each other and found ways to compete and win. And there have been some teams that haven't. We need to be coaches and players who find a way to compete and win games."

That they do and fast.

(Hey, what's Latrell Sprewell doing these days? He lives in Milwaukee. You think I'm joking. Actually, I am joking. OK, only half-joking.)

But seriously, I'm not a GM, but I play one (and not well, mind you) online. Here are three things the Bucks can do to keep themselves, currently seeded eighth, in the playoff hunt in the mediocre Eastern Conference.

"Blast" Through 'Drew

OK, no one calls him 'Drew, but it rhymed. And the Bucks could find a rhythm to their offense if they run it through Andrew Bogut.

One of the better passing big men in the league, set up Bogut on one of the elbows and let the wings and guards cut to the hoop. The Bucks can still nail shots from the perimeter, but with their sharpshooters out, they need to get to the hoop for easy buckets.

The Bucks are not unfamiliar with this set up. They continually ran a set called "Blast" in the game I attended in Jersey in December. "Blast" puts Bogut in the high post, with the guards on top and the wings on the free throw line extended. The guards cut through, then the wings pin down and screen for the guards, who then pop out to the wings. Or flash through the lane if they have space. Bogut can then dump passes to and fro.

One of our Eastern Conference scouts said the Bucks were also running a play -- "before everyone got hurt" -- called "Thumbs-Up Five" where Bogut again gets the ball in the high post. Ultimately, Brian Skinner ends up on the opposite elbow and the smalls cutting off each other behind the posts.

Regardless of what play they run, I give the Bucks a thumbs up if they make Bogut a decision maker in the offense. And yes, he'll need to shoot more.

Let Ruben Patterson Work

The Bucks' hardest working man this season has helped keep them afloat on both ends of the floor despite losing Simmons early. He's been tough to guard near the hoop. The Bucks will need to get him the ball. Then again, how can you ask someone who is giving 110 percent to give a little more?

Sign This Guy

This guy being Will Conroy of the Tulsa 66ers, who was recently named D-League Performer of the Week.

Conroy, a free-agent point guard, became the first ever D-Leaguer to record a 20-point, 20-assist game. If Williams is out for any length of time (or even if he isn't), Conroy would be nice to have on the roster. Teams can now sign guys to 10-day contracts. Ink him for a week and a half.

Plus, he's played two seasons for the 66ers, the Bucks' D-League affiliate. Bucks GM Larry Harris has to know his game considering that Ilyasova spent all of last year in Oklahoma's Green Country.

So, there you have it, a foolproof plan to keep the Bucks alive in the playoff race until their stars return.

And then again, Spree's available.

Fans, what do you think? Are the Bucks toast or can they survive these injuries. Let us know.