In the days after the 2007 Draft, billions of hoops fans watched the drama develop between the Bucks and the No. 6 overall pick Yi Jianlian. But somewhere after the Draft and before the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, the story morphed -- at least for this Bucks fan -- from one of international intrigue into romantic comedy.
Maybe I came to this conclusion shortly after I saw this headline
in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
: Harris hopes trip to Las Vegas will lead him to Yi
Then it hit me: Say Anything...
You see, the word "hopes" made me think of Bucks GM Larry Harris as NBA's version of Lloyd Dobler, where Harris would stand outside under Yi's hotel room, boom box held high with Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" blasting.
While some may think I'm poking fun at Harris, that's not the case. If anything, Lloyd Dobler is a symbol of persistence and patience. In the end, Lloyd ultimately gets what he wants.
Alas, Harris didn't convince his Draft choice to sign on the dotted line in Vegas in July, but Dobler's, er, Harris' steadfast pursuit yielded Yi
Speaking of yielding, that's something the Bucks didn't do this summer and people are taking notice of the Bucks' new-found toughness. Kelly Dwyer noted as much
on True Hoop
after the Bucks matched Miami's offer sheet for reserve guard Charlie Bell: "They didn't wait out the full seven days before matching, but it's become obvious that the Bucks aren't letting anyone push them around this summer."
Earlier in the Summer, Miami also made a strong push for point guard Mo Williams, but the Bucks kept Williams
in the fold.
The Bucks thought they were a playoff team last season. If everyone stays healthy, if swingmen Bobby Simmons and Desmond Mason contribute and Yi is the player Harris thinks he is, the Bucks could be in the thick of things in the improved East.
Michael Redd, fresh off helping Team USA grab a gold medal in Vegas and Williams will form one of the East's more explosive backcourts. Redd, who posted a career-high 26.7 points per game, missed a total of 29 games because of knee tendonitis, crushing the Bucks' postseason hopes in the process. Williams, averaged career-highs in points (17.3) and assists (6.1), but also missed 14 games last season because of various injuries. Redd and Williams need to stay healthy for the Bucks to have serious postseason hopes.
Matching Miami's offer sheet for restricted free agent Charlie Bell will help with the backcourt depth. That, and Bell, who can play point and the two, was the only Buck to appear in all 82 games last season. The rest of the backcourt -- Royal Ivey and rookie Ramon Sessions -- is as green as the Bucks' road unis.
With Andrew Bogut, Charlie Villanueva and Yi, the Bucks have one of the taller and more skilled front lines in the East. But Bogut missed the final month
with a foot injury, Villanueva played in only 39 games because of chronic shoulder problems that required surgery and Yi is a rookie.
Add to that Simmons missed all of last season after having surgery on his heel, Mason coming of a desultory two years with the Hornets, and the Bucks have many questions about their last line of defense. Dan Gadzuric signed a big contract two years ago, but he wasn't much of a factor last season as he too missed a significant chunk of time because of a shoulder injury.
The Bucks also added Jake Voskuhl, Michael Ruffin and Awvee Story to the frontcourt this offseason.
-- Rob Peterson
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Uh, could it be anyone else but Yi? From the initial refusal to honor tradition and visit the city in which he would be playing to playing in Vegas for the Chinese National Team while the Bucks played in the same league to his signing with the Bucks in late August with the report that he has been guaranteed playing time
Considering the Bucks have an All-Star caliber gunner at the two, a shoot-first point guard, a slick passing five and another four who can shoot from the perimeter, it'll be interesting to see how Krystkowiak fits Yi into the offense. Yi may get time, but will he get touches? And if he doesn't, how will he handle it? Will it matter to him? How will he handle guys who are as tall and as fast as he is? Can he play defense?
Right now, everything about Yi is a question. The Bucks will hope to see positive answers right away.
-- Rob Peterson
||Consecutive losses to Central Division foes last season after beating Detroit
on the season's opening night.
Career Record: 5-13 (.278)
Playoff Record: None
Krystkowiak is one tough mug. Besides mixing it up with some of the harder cases in NBA history as a player in the late '80s and early '90s, Kystkowiak's most memorable moment as a Buck came when he blew out his knee in the 1989 Conference Semis against the Pistons. As he was being wheeled off the floor, Krystkowiak gave the Bradley Center crowd the thumbs up sign. See, tough and full of heart.
But can Krystkowiak transfer his toughness to a team thought to be softer than a Wisconsin State Fair cream puff? That's yet to be seen, as Kystkowiak has a mere 18 games under his belt and he coached most of those games with four-fifths of his starting lineup on the shelf.
He'll get his chance to see how tough his charges are, and how tough it is to be an NBA head coach when training camp opens on Oct. 2.
-- Rob Peterson
KNOW YOUR BUCKS
Michael Redd is nicknamed "Silky".
Yi should help them. Charlie Villanueva is coming
off of surgery. Bobby Simmons is coming off surgery. Andrew Bogut, look for him. He has had two
good first years, but everyone will agree that he could have done better. I
think this is the year that you will see the better Andrew Bogut.
Maurice Williams and Michael Redd, both those guys
can go for 25 any night. Then you have Bogut, Villanueva and Yi on the front
line. All three can pass, all three can face up and shoot it and all three can
put on the floor and take it to the hole. That will be their strength. They will
be tough to match up with.
Weaknesses, last two years they were very poor
defensively. The focus of Krystkowiak this year is team defense. I am sure teams
looked at the Bucks as of last year and said we have got to do these things,
we can score easy. We got to really attack them. So hopefully they can change
-- Eastern Conference Scout