Opening Statements: Wizards at Bucks, Game 62
The Wizards’ have two unique challenges waiting for them in the next two games. Tonight, they are matched up against the NBA’s worst team in the Milwaukee Bucks (12-49 with a 19-percent winning percentage), and on Monday night, they will play the Miami Heat—the defending NBA champions and the NBA’s fourth-best team record-wise at 43-16. Getting motivated to play LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is hardly a chore, and given how soundly the Wizards defeated them a short time ago, Coach Randy Wittman will surely have his troops prepared for battle. The Wizards’ embarrassing loss to the then-3-15 Bucks in December, combined with their current battle for a higher playoff seed, should be plenty motivation. But beware of the Ides of #SoWizards…
If the motivation angle does not reel you in to watch this game, perhaps this will: The Bucks’ season-long frustrations have apparently pushed them to the boiling point, and they recently have pulled off a special type of double-double—two games, two fights and two suspensions (Ersan Illyasova and O.J. Mayo). The Bucks are a bad lottery-bound team, they are definitely a feisty bunch as well.
Teams: Wizards vs. Bucks
Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
Venue: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN-FM 106.7
Spread: Washington fav’d by 7.5 points
Wizards tickets … anyone?
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Q #1: So cats have been punching other cats two games in a row now… Ghostface Ilyasova thumped Reggie Evans and Hold the Mayo hit Greg Stiemsma. What is going on here?
@AnaheimAmigos: Caron Butler, Ilyasova and Mayo topped the list of highest-paid Bucks for 2013-14 with each earning about $8 million. The trio—along with Larry Sanders—also topped the list of biggest disappointments. Ilyasova, who has always been a notoriously slow starter to begin with, sprained his ankle badly and never got his shot going. He’s barely athletic enough to get his shot off under the best of circumstances. Mayo has been heavy the whole year and Larry Drew has him coming off the bench after he was penciled in as a starter back in October. Both players are frustrated and completely overreacted to two of the NBA’s known agitators.
Q #2: The Wizards have not been to the playoffs in six years, and which means there have been numerous spring and summer months filled with moral victories, competitive losses and grandiose promises from the front office of great things to come next season (draft picks, trades, etc).
The Bucks are not only going to miss the playoffs, but they are on target for the worst record in the NBA, and long spring and summer months of their own. What are the sources of optimism for next year, what is there to look forward to?
@AnaheimAmigos: The optimism comes from breaking the cycle of mediocrity. The Bucks were never going to amount to anything of note with Brandon Jennings as their best or second-best player. Now they have one potential cornerstone in Giannis Antetokounmpo and the ping-pong balls to lock up another in the long-heralded 2014 Draft.
Q #3: If Milwaukee lands the top pick, are they in position to turn things around quickly? (Also considering the Eastern Conference.) Or do you see some serious losing happening next season, too? (And would that mean owner Herb Kohl is adjusting his philosophy on what, exactly, it takes to build a team?)
@AnaheimAmigos: If Milwaukee gets a top-3 pick, they will be markedly improved. In fact, they are already better off for having dumped three of their worst defenders: Butler, Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal. The Bucks are still regular losers, but at least they’ve gotten things to the point where they’re not falling behind by 20 points in the second quarter when their bench comes in. My guess is the Bucks are about a 30-win team next year, and that they may be sniffing close enough to the playoff race to keep Kohl quelled.
Q #4: Jan. 22, 2014: Caron was quoted as saying he wanted to help the young guys develop. A little over a month later, he’s bought out and eventually signs with the Oklahoma City Thunder. What went wrong with the brief Caron Butler era?
@AnaheimAmigos: When it came to developing the young players, Caron vacillated between helpfulness and abandonment—it usually depended on his playing time. When Butler was getting his 20 minutes per game, he was fully aboard with the rebuild. But when Larry Drew used Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton as his two small forwards and sat Butler, the free agent-to-be wanted no part of it.
In short, Butler made a decent clip of jump shots and rebounded well. But he also played terrible defense while having a personal contest with Gary Neal to see who could hoist up the greater number of ill-conceived, long 2-point pull-ups. It’s not a coincidence that the Bucks have gotten better since Butler and Neal left.
Q #5: Giannis Antetokounmpo has basketball writers and purists (see here and here) completely smitten and head over heels. You cover the team on a daily basis, so you have a more objective eye. What are his strengths? What are his weaknesses, and most importantly, can he help turn the franchise around?
@AnaheimAmigos: Antetokounmpo’s strengths are his length, his athleticism and the fluidity with which he harnesses both. Giannis moves and dribbles like a point guard despite despite having a 7-foot-6 wingspan. He shares the ball to a fault and desperately exhibits a desire to get better.
Q #6: Rank current Milwaukee Bucks according to the future expected value, and only rank those who you think will be on the roster two years from now.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Top-5 2014 Draft pick
- Brandon Knight
- Larry Sanders
- Nate Wolters
- Khris Middleton
- O.J. Mayo
Wall over Wolters
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