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Stephen Jackson believes the Milwaukee Bucks are one player away. Could he be that player?
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

Even as Jackson steps in, Bucks still searching for leader

By Steve Aschburner,
Posted Dec 19 2011 10:58AM

Stephen Jackson arrives in Milwaukee with a nickname, Captain Jack, that didn't necessarily fit his image as one of the NBA's loose cannons. It was a leftover from his days with Golden State, when he shared the captain duties with a pair of teammates -- and relinquished it two years later after a squabble with then-Warriors coach Don Nelson.

But when he finally got on the floor with the Bucks this month, Jackson sounded like the wise old veteran's role might suit him again. Among his many pronouncements and opinions at Milwaukee's media day, Jackson said: "I don't mind leading by example. I don't mind fighting for my teammates. I don't mind putting myself on the line for my teammates."

And this: "We have all the tools here. We got two stars in Brandon [Jennings] and Andrew [Bogut]. This [is] their team, no question about that. Me and the other guys, we gotta buy in and back these guys up."

And this: "If guys come in here not focused on a championship, just making the playoffs, we need to trade them. We need to be talking about championship and nothin' else."

Nothin' else? We shall see. Jackson's attendance through the Bucks' first week of practices was spotty, bothered first by a hamstring injury, then back spasms and then -- purportedly -- an individual, totally off-court issue.

The Racine Journal-Times reported that the 33-year-old Jackson, signed through 2012-13 for a total of $19.2 million, was antsy about a contract extension. It apparently was an issue in Charlotte last season, contributing to the Bobcats' decision to trade him to Milwaukee, the paper reported.

The tricky thing for the Bucks, besides tying more money up in someone who would be 37 by the time a two-year extension would end, is that Jackson's personality -- while strong -- isn't really that of a leader at all. That was one of Milwaukee's glaring needs last year and it still remains, an intangible in short supply for a team working its way out of mediocrity.

The ironic thing is that the Bucks' coach, Scott Skiles, was one of the NBA's consummate leaders during his playing days, a take-charge point guard willing to mix it up even with young teammate Shaquille O'Neal when things went astray. Point guard Brandon Jennings hasn't shown that nature as he begins his third NBA season.

"He's in the middle right now," center Andrew Bogut said. "He definitely needs to be more vocal, especially offensively. I think he's getting there. It takes some time. But he's playing for a point guard who was definitely that. A guy who was a barker, who yelled and screamed and was tough as nails."

Bogut has shown leadership at times, too, but struggled last year with his own health and game, muting his voice. Skiles didn't sound worried by the alpha-dog void in his locker room -- or the prospect that Jackson might fill it the wrong way -- but he would welcome a little self-policing and prodding from within the players' ranks.

"I know this might shock everybody, but there might be 10-12 leaders in the whole league," Skiles said. "That's what reality is. People look at every team and say, 'He makes the most money, he must be the leader.' Or the team might put forward somebody as the leader that they need to put forward.

"But when you're on the inside ... it doesn't necessarily mean they're the leader. Leadership is very, very rare and very hard to find. You can cultivate it a little bit but normally, somebody just kind of has it."

Bogut, healthy now, can assert himself more. And Jennings, 22, might grow more in that direction.

"I think a leader has to be vocal. I don't believe in quiet leaders," Bogut said. "You've got to talk on the court and help guys through things. Nine times out of 10, a leader's vocal."

But a vocal guy -- even when his exuberance is harmless -- isn't necessarily a leader, which is what the Bucks might learn about Captain Jack.

Said Skiles: "Everybody knows what his game's like. He's been a good competitor. There's no question that he can be a volatile player out there. Those aren't the kinds of things that bother me, as long as it's channeled in the right way. But we're going to have to see it play out."

The three-step plan

1. Stay on the court. The Bucks never got healthy from start to finish in 2010-11, losing 275 games via their 14 injured players. Skiles wound up using 23 different starting lineups (sixth most in the NBA), none for more than 19 games. That unit went 9-10.

2. Two digits aren't enough. The Bucks were 17-4 when they scored 100 but they ranked last in the NBA at 91.9 ppg, last in field-goal percentage (43.0) and last in assists.

3. Help inside. Drew Gooden's 6.8 rpg were less than what Milwaukee hoped for, but that still was the most by anyone playing next to Andrew Bogut since the Aussie's rookie year.

Three points

1. Five years ago, before the tandem of Skiles and GM John Hammond arrived, Milwaukee ranked 27th in opponents' ppg and 29th in defensive field-goal percentage. Last season, the Bucks were third and sixth in those categories.

2. Mike Dunleavy should get minutes, given the Bucks' need for outside shooting, but neither he, Jackson nor Carlos Delfino is a great fit at shooting guard.

3. Luc Mbah a Moute and Larry Sanders could make Brandon Jennings' job a little easier, or at least his stats a little perkier, if they would cut to the basket more often.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.


LAST YEAR: 35-47, 3rd in Central

FINISH: Missed playoffs

2010-11 Regular Season Standings


Brandon Jennings

16.2 PPG

Andrew Bogut

11.1 RPG

Brandon Jennings

4.8 APG


PPG 91.9 92.7
RPG 40.8 42.3
APG 18.8 20.2
FG % 0.430 0.447
3PT % 0.342 0.334
FT % 0.757 0.770
  Complete 2010-11 Stats 


16.2 PPG | 3.7 RPG | 4.8 APG

The Bucks have shown they want to grow with Jennings after picking up his fourth-year option. The team's leader in scoring and assists will want to improve his consistency as he continues to develop a pro game.


18.5 PPG | 4.5 RPG | 1.2 SPG

Capt. Jack is on his seventh team, but he's reached the playoffs with four of last six. Bucks are optimistic his scoring and assertiveness help more than his shot selection and style differences from coach Scott Skiles hurt.


11.5 PPG | 4.1 RPG | 2.3 APG

Defino bounced back from an early season concussion to lead the Bucks with 105 3-pointers. The sharpshooter, who is returning for his third season with the team, will look to contribute greatly in a contract year.


11.3 PPG | 6.8 RPG | 1.3 APG

Gooden finally spent a whole year in one place, mostly the trainer's room with plantar fasciitis and limited to 35 games. Much-traveled vet has shed 20 pounds. Needs to help Bogut with rebound, defense chores.


12.8 PPG | 11.1 RPG | 2.6 BPG

The Bucks hope Bogut is fully recovered from surgery on his right elbow, an injury that has bothered the center the past two seasons. The team's playoff hopes could rest on the play of the league's leader in blocks.

Mike Dunleavy6-9220F-GMilwaukee (No. 30 in offensive rating) is desperate for his shooting.
Beno Udrih6-3205GA legit backup/option to Jennings, absent since Ridnour left.
Luc Mbah a Moute6-8230FHis defensive skill makes him a Skiles favorite.
 Complete Roster 

ADDED: F Tobias Harris, F Jon Leuer, F-G Mike Dunleavy, G-F Stephen Jackson, G Shaun Livingston, G Beno Udrih

LOST:  F Corey Maggette, G John Salmons, G Keyon Dooling



A bum foot cost Jennings playing time, but a bigger concern was his lack of improvement over his promising rookie season. His shooting remains erratic, though that would look better on paper if he was more reliable finishing at the rim. Jennings' ability to run the offense and be more vocal in general will be scrutinized.

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