Changes By Redd, Bucks Are Still Blue
After spending his summer winning a gold medal with Team USA at the Tournament of the Americas, Milwaukee Bucks guard Michael Redd said he entered this season with a "low tolerance" for losing and a purpose.
Tasting success in such an unselfish environment made him hungrier for more. But in order to win, Redd felt he needed to sacrifice one of the more impressive individual statistical streaks in the league - he had improved his scoring average in each of his first seven seasons. It made sense, since Redd averaged a career-high 26.7 points last season and it added up to just 28 wins for the Bucks.
"I came into the season with the mindset that I didn't have to score a whole lot of points for us to win because we've got a real talented team," Redd said recently. "I wanted to be more of an all-around player this year, limit the scoring and trust my teammates."
Eleven games into the season, Redd looked like he was on to something. The Bucks were 7-4 following an impressive 97-95 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, which followed wins over Cleveland and the Los Angeles Lakers. "It looked promising," Redd said, "and from there it went downhill."
Downhill is being kind. More like plummetting down the bottomless pit in Sparta (a reference to the movie 300, for you guys that don't know), wiht the Bucks losing 23 of their past 33 as they prepare to host the Washington Wizards tonight.
Redd missed the first meeting against Washington with a deep bruise in his left thigh and the Bucks got clobbered 101-77. Redd didn't play, but the game captured the problem the Bucks have faced whether or not he's on the court: They can't score points.
The Bucks rank 22nd in the league in scoring at 94.9 points per game. Milwaukee has failed to reach at least 90 points 15 times this season - including a season-low 69 during a 45-point loss to Detroit on New Year's Eve - and is 4-11 in those games.
"We don't score points like we have in the past," Redd said. "Our offense is stagnant. We don't have a rhythm offensively. We have enough fire power to score. We just haven't done it."
On the nights the Bucks have done it, they've found success. They are 9-2 when they score 100 or more points.
It doesn't help to have an inefficient offense when the Bucks are also one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, giving up 101.1 points per game. They have the third-worst point differential (minus-6.2 points) in the Eastern Conference.
Redd is averaging a career-high 3.6 assists, but he is scoring almost four points fewer than last season (23 points per game). Scoring less, and sharing the ball, hasn't equated to more wins but he doesn't plan on changing his approach.
The losing will likely cost him a shot at making the all-star team for the second time. But he can't win without help, and he isn't getting much aside from point guard Mo Williams (16.5 points, 6.7 assists) and the steady improvement of former No. 1 pick Andrew Bogut, who is averaging 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds in 16 games this month. Chinese rookie Yi Jianlian started out hot but is grinding into that wall that first year players hit after that first 30, 40 games.
"It's been hard," Redd said, "the way things have been going. At the same time, I still love this game. I still have a passion to win. And I still have good vibes about our team. I just have to keep plugging away. I can only control what I can control."
It was a common theme for all 12 members of the U.S. National Team which dominated the rest of the Western Hemisphere in Las Vegas. After being surrounded by so much talent, it was going to be a terrible adjustment to their NBA squads. Redd, the sharpshooting savior for the team, is probably getting hit the hardest. But it hasn't been too bad for everybody:
Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince came back to the Central Division-leading Pistons. Amare Stoudemire traded in Jason Kidd lobs for alley oop passes from Steve Nash with the Pacific Division-leading Suns. Dwight Howard made the leap from good to great and has Orlando in first place in the Southeast Division. Tyson Chandler joined Chris Paul in New Orleans and Hornets have the best record in the Western Conference.
Carmelo Anthony linked up with Allen Iverson in Denver and the Nuggets are in first place in the Northwest Division. LeBron James has lifted Cleveland out of an early funk and into the discussions about the elite teams in the East. Deron Williams reconnected with Carlos Boozer has the Utah Jazz in the playoff picture again. Kobe Bryant, who was pining for the Chicago Bulls all summer, went back to Los Angeles thinking his team would stink - and the Lakers have been terrific.
The only members of the team who can relate to Redd are Kidd, whose Nets have been a major disappointment and have had him reaching for the Advil, and Mike Miller, whose Grizzlies have been singing the blues - again - in Memphis.
Redd spurned Cleveland to sign a six-year, $90 million extension in the summer of 2005, but while the Cavs have improved each season and advanced to the NBA Finals last season, Milwaukee has moved backward.
The Bucks haven't had a winning a winning season since George Karl and Ernie Grunfeld left following the 2003 campaign. Since then, general manager Larry Harris has hired two Terrys (Porter and Stotts) and a Larry (Krystkowiak) to coach them and they have been to the playoffs just once - in 2005-06, when they went 40-42 and the Detroit Pistons swept them in the first round.
The constant failings have many in Milwaukee calling for some drastic changes. Just about every player, with the exception of Bogut and Yi, has been mentioned in trade rumors and Harris appears on shaky ground in the final year of his deal. The Bucks reportedly rejected a recent proposal that could've brought Zach Randolph from New York.
Asked if he felt the Bucks needed to make some moves, Redd shook his head. "We've blown it up the last three, four years," said Redd, who was stapled to the bench when the Bucks advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals his rookie season in 2001. "Each year, we have an influx of new players. What we need around here is stability and a core guys to be here for a long time. all the great teams, they stay together for a long time. We'll see. You never know what happens."
The ridiculous part is, despite the turmoil, despite losing seven of their past nine games, the Bucks are just 1 Â½ games behind Indiana for the eighth spot in the East.
"The good thing about it is, it's not over," Redd said. "We still have a chance to get into the playoffs."
There's also a good chance that it can get worse.
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