Posted by lethalweapon3 in lethalweapon3's Pre-Game Preview Blog, 16 April 2014 - · 11 views
You’ll forgive Milwaukee Bucks fans if they’re paying even less attention than Atlanta Hawks fans to tonight’s matchup at BMO Harris Bradley Center (8 PM Eastern, SportSouth, Fox Sports Wisconsin).
There will probably be fewer attendees for this one than participants in Ekpe Udoh’s Book Club. But each Buck fan will have one eye darting at the sudden changes in the owner’s box, and the other aimed toward the goings-on over in Durham, North Carolina.
Today, Kohl and the Gang reached a half-billion-buck deal with a pair of filthy-rich hedge funders who have pinkie-swore they’ll never pack up this franchise and ship them out of America’s Dairyland. Now that they’ve fought off the Sixers’ 26-game losing streak and stumbled their way to the worst record (15-66, 2-16 in their past 18 games) in franchise history, Milwaukee’s also looking for any inkling from Jabari Parker that he’ll declare and deepen the talent pool for the NBA draft this summer.
As you’ve probably heard by now, this year’s Bucks are just the third team in NBA history to get through an entire season without a single back-to-back pair of victories. They join the 1986-87 Clippers and our lovable Hawks from 2004-05 in NBA infamy. Who’s the common thread on all three of those teams? Larry Drew, who played for the Clips, was an assistant for the Hawks, and now wears out the chewing gum on the sidelines in Brew City.
For sure, Larry drew the short straw when it came to available coaching gigs last summer (Mo Cheeks might disagree). But this year’s collapse shouldn’t necessarily mean his job is in any jeopardy. Aside from the draft, management struck out on so many fronts over the past year: Larry Sanders, Caron Butler, O.J. Mayo, Ersan Ilyasova, Carlos Delfino, Gary Neal, and Luke Ridnour all lived out, or played out, their worst-case scenarios on GM John Hammond’s watch.
Unaccustomed to leaning on inexperienced youngsters to keep his teams competitive, Drew has been compelled to turn to a band of green players exhibiting varied levels of will and skill (most notably, Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, John Henson, Jeff Adrien, Chris Wright, Miroslav Raduljica, and the injured Nate Wolters). Each of these guys have shown enough flashes of promise to give Drew something to show off to his new ownership tandem. In his silver-lining shpiel, Drew can tack on a bit of a garbage-time renaissance from ex-Bobcat guard Ramon Sessions (16.2 PPG, 4.7 APG, 5.2 FTs per game, 46.3 FG%, 83.9 FT% since the deadline trade to Milwaukee).
Even with new owners coming to town, LD will probably get to see through at least one of his two remaining years under contract. Surely, Zaza Pachulia doesn’t want to be left hanging. Georgia’s favorite Georgian signed an offer he couldn’t refuse last summer to join Drew up north. But he couldn’t possibly have imagined starting at center for 43 games this season (would’ve been even more, had he not missed two months with a re-aggravated foot injury).
The puff-puff-passing Larry Sanders’ throwaway season made this extra floor time essential from Z-Pac, who’s also sporting stitches over his eye after getting gashed two weeks ago in Chicago. On a team shooting 43.7 percent from the field (26th in NBA), the man who ranks in the top 20 all-time in NBA offensive rebounding percentage has become a literal utility.
With a playoff series against the top-seeded Indiana Pacers looming around the corner, the Hawks have two overriding goals in mind while playing the NBA’s worst team tonight. Execute on both ends, and don’t get hurt. Aside from Paul Millsap, pretty much everyone on the roster will get a chance at some floor burn tonight.
Knight and Sessions could serve as nice warm-up competition for Jeff Teague, who missed the 112-87 beatdown of the Bucks on January 25 with an ankle sprain. The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week may get a brief chance to show Milwaukeeans what they’ve been missing since Danny Ferry matched the Bucks’ contract offer last July.
Tonight will be an even better opportunity for Dennis Schröder (8 points, 5 assists and no turnovers in a 102-97 defeat of the Bucks on March 13) and the Hawks’ reserve guards and wings to make amends after bailing out the Bobcats on Monday night. They allowed ex-Bucks Ridnour, Gary Neal, and Chris Douglas-Roberts to wither away a cushy 15-point fourth-quarter lead right down to the closing second.
The second-unit has to be able to demonstrate an ability to hold, and occasionally expand, hard-earned leads. The more effective of the bunch will likely be among the first off Budenholzer’s bench when Game 1 kicks off this weekend in Indianapolis.