by Troy A. Sparks
Before the Milwaukee Bucks gained some national attention, they went unnoticed for the first three weeks of the 2009-10 season. Once guard Brandon Jennings scored his 55 points as a rookie against Golden State at home, he was on every team’s radar.
With the acquisitions of Jerry Stackhouse and John Salmons midseason, the Bucks were on a roll. Their 46-36 record and coming within a game of beating the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs had fans and the organization thinking of the team going further this upcoming season.
“I’m sure (media) was looking at me crazy when I said that we were gonna to make the playoffs, but I was serious about it,” Jennings said at the Bucks Media Day event, September 27 . “But this year, we got better talent this year and we’re more deep. I think we’re a little bit tougher.”
I agree with Jennings on the toughness part. With forwards Drew Gooden and Brian Skinner, if he makes the team, the Bucks are tough up front. Add first round pick Larry Sanders to back up center Andrew Bogut and no team in the Central Division can mess with them.
It’s the Bucks’ division to win, thanks to LeBron James, who bolted to Miami and the Atlantic Division.
“A couple of teams made some moves,” Jennings said. “The Bulls also got better with (Carlos)Boozer. The Pacers, they made some moves. It’s a lot of different teams that made some moves, but I think right now, we’re probably the favorites to win the Central Division.”
Adding some proven scorers and re-signing another threat on offense takes the load off Jennings. He has the horses to run the floor for fast breaks. For guard John Salmons, re-signing with the Bucks was the best case scenario.
“This year, it was a little crazy because of the whole LeBron thing,” Salmons said. “It was interesting as far as being pursued (by other teams).”
Salmons was asked why he came back to Milwaukee. “A lot of it was . . . I felt comfortable with the team. I knew that coming back, we were going to have a good team. It was a lot of waiting around to see what LeBron was going to do. I knew (the Bucks) wanted me from day one because I was there. You want to go somewhere where you’re definitely wanted. The other teams showed interest, but it was a lot of waiting on LeBron. That’s not what I really wanted to wait for.”
General manager John Hammond worked some magic once again to prove why he earned the NBA’s Executive of the Year award. He made offseason trades for Corey Maggette, Keyon Dooling, Gooden, Earl Boykins and Chris Douglas-Roberts to add to the key players from last year’s team. He re-signed Carlos Delfino.
Ersan Ilyasova, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will be good role players and do what’s asked by the coaching staff. One of the second round picks, Darrington Hobson, will have to learn how to play the guard position in due time. The other second round pick, Tiny Gallon, was released by the Bucks recently.
Head coach Scott Skiles likes what he sees in his team this upcoming season. “We wanted to bring John back. We were able to do that,” he said. “We wanted to get some more help up front. We were able to do that. We tried to get better offensively.
“How I feel at the end of September is different than actually playing the games. We just gotta kind of be patient and wait a little bit and see how it all comes together.”
Skiles won’t cut Bogut’s minutes to protect his hand, which he broke last season. The Bucks missed Bogut down the stretch and especially in the playoffs. Bogut admitted that his hand isn’t fully healed.
“Everyone saw how good he can be,” Jennings said. “I feel like as long as he stays healthy, he’s gonna be a big part of this season for us to be successful this year.”
The relationship between Jennings and Skiles was in its learning stages, but the second-year player survived. “At first, it was kind of tough,” Jennings said. “Once I start doing what he asks and just believe in what he was saying, it became a little bit easier.”
There needs to be more fan support for the Bucks. Last season, only five regular season games were sold out. It was embarrassing when the Los Angeles Lakers rolled into town, beat the home team on a last second shot by Kobe Bryant, and they chant, “MVP, MVP!” in the Bradley Center building.
I can tell you this: If the Bucks don’t win the Central Division with all the veteran offseason pickups they have on that team, they can’t blame no one but themselves.
Marquette’s Volleyball Team Sweep Matches
After being away from the Al McGuire Center for almost a month, the Marquette women’s volleyball team returned for some home cooking on their court. They beat St. John’s and Connecticut over the weekend, 3-0 and 3-1. The Golden Eagles, who were picked to finish fourth in the Big East preseason standings by the media, is now in the middle of the pack with a 3-2 conference record and 10-7 overall.
Not all is lost for the Marquette volleyball women in their final half of the season. After playing in-state rival UW-Green Bay, the Golden Eagles will be away for matchups at Syracuse, DePaul and Notre Dame before coming back for three home games later this month.
Before the Big East Tournament from Nov. 19-21 at Pittsburgh, Marquette will host No. 21 Cincinnati and Louisville, who are in the top three in the conference along with Notre Dame.
Marquette Media Day and Open Practice This Week
College basketball is creeping up on us and blending in with football season. On Oct. 15, the Marquette men’s basketball team will hold its annual Media Day event at the Al McGuire Center. If you ask head coach Buzz Williams what to expect from his team, he’ll probably tell you that he doesn’t know who will show up in conference play. He might talk about how undersized his team is again.
I guess last season, they were so undersized that they surprised a lot of people with their fifth place finish in the conference.
Later that evening, the men’s and women’s teams will hold their first public practices, which are free to attend. As in the past, both teams will warm up, introduce themselves and scrimmage.
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