O.J. Mayo and Brandon Knight just want the Bucks to get an identity already

9 Comments

The Milwaukee Bucks have not won a game in 2014.

Considering the 7-33 Bucks are the NBA’s worst team, who knows when they’ll break their nine-game losing streak? They’re capable of winning any game – though all seven of their wins have come against teams with losing records – but they’re not going to be favored any time soon.

To the surprise of nobody, Milwaukee’s veterans are beginning to express their displeasure. Winning cures all ills, but the Bucks have had no feel-good moments to ease the pain of their sick season.

Caron Butler wants more playing time, and O.J. Mayo and Brandon Knight want an identity.

Mayo, via Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel:

“You look around the league, you’ve got some teams that are defensive teams,” Mayo said. “You’ve got some teams like (Houston) and the Warriors that are offensive-minded, like Portland and Denver, they’re going to get up and down, spread the floor.

“You’ve got teams like Memphis, Chicago, physical, defensive-minded. Here we are at game 40, we don’t know what we are right now. It’s going to be hard to collect wins when you don’t know what to expect.”

Knight agreed with Mayo. Via Gardner:

“That’s a great point,” Knight said. “If you look at the Bucks, what are we known for? We know this team here (Houston) is known for their inside presence with Dwight and scoring a lot of points. And they’re going to shoot a lot of threes as well.

“So what is our identity? I think that’s something we have to define and we have to play to that identity if we’re going to be anywhere near the team we want to be.”

I’m sorry, but the Bucks have an identity.

They’re the worst offensive team in the NBA, scoring just 95.6 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com/stats.

They shoot poorly, don’t get to the free-throw line and turn the ball over too much. On the bright side, they’re only slightly below average at offensive rebounding. But all together, their offense distinguishes them from the rest of the NBA.

If their offensive rating holds – which isn’t a given, considering scoring typically rises during an NBA season – it would the worst in an 82-game season since 2003-04, when the Chicago Bulls (93.9) and Toronto Raptors (94.6) had lower marks.

Milwaukee also the worst defensive-rebounding team in the NBA (identity!), but that’s unlikely to reach a historically bad level.

The Bucks can’t simply choose to be a strong offensive team like the Rockets or Warriors, a strong running team like the Trail Blazers or Nuggets or a strong defensive team like the Bulls or Grizzlies.*

Those teams have the players to succeed in at least one facet of the game. The Bucks don’t.

*Memphis has struggled defensively overall this season but ranks sixth in points allowed per possession in the last month.

Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $40,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Monday’s late games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 5pm ET on Monday. Here’s the FanDuel link.

In his assessment, Mayo also complained about getting irregular minutes. And perhaps Larry Drew should end the fluctuations – and sit Mayo. The Bucks have been drastically better when he’s off the court.

With Mayo:

  • Offensive rating: 92.1
  • Defensive rating: 107.7

Without Mayo:

  • Offensive rating: 100.1
  • Defensive rating: 102.5

That’s the difference between being the worst team in the league and just regularly bad.

Then again, doesn’t being the worst team in the league come with a stronger identity than being just regularly bad?

Mayo and Knight should be careful what they wish for. Instead of seeking an identity, they should help Milwaukee go from terrible to merely subpar in a few areas – and there are a lot of areas where Milwaukee is terrible to choose from.

Teams rarely choose their identity and then play to it. Typically, their identity is established based on the skillsets of their players. Milwaukee is better off with no identity than the identity it has now – bad defensive rebounding and even worse offense.

And good news for all: Even if the Mayo and Knight help the Bucks lose their identity, they’re already so far back in the standings, that meager improvement probably wouldn’t cost them the top seed in the lottery. Then, in June they can draft a player capable of helping the team form a positive identity.

Report: Clippers’ management remains committed to re-signing Blake Griffin

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Maybe Friday night in Utah, maybe not for a few weeks, but the Clippers season is going to end before they reach the conference finals, and with Blake Griffin sidelined by injury. It’s an all-too-familiar scene. It will be six seasons of the Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Griffin experience in Los Angeles, and they will not have gotten out of the second round (unless you think they can come back on the Jazz from down 3-2, then beat the Warriors).

That has come with a lot of talk about the Clippers breaking up the core. Jordan remains under contract, Paul would be too hard to replace, and that leads to a lot of speculation — inside and outside the league — that Griffin could be on the move this summer, when he becomes a free agent.

That’s not what the Clippers want, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in a video essay.

Management remains committed to signing him to a long-term deal this summer, league sources tell me.

Doc Rivers has said he wants to bring back this core. Multiple times. His argument is that this is a 50+ win team that is one of the better teams in the NBA, why would you take a big step back rather than look for the tweaks that get the team to a title?

Steve Ballmer has the checkbook deep enough to pay both Paul and Griffin max money (although keeping fellow free agent J.J. Redick as well would be difficult). The Clippers will have one of the highest payrolls in the NBA, and is this team worth that? Especially in a conference where the Mount Everest of Golden State is not going anywhere for a few years, not to mention the Spurs and Rockets will remain good, Utah is on the rise, and so are teams like the Wolves. The Clippers will be a good team that needs a lot of breaks to go their way to really contend — how much would Ballmer pay for that?

The Clippers need to do some soul searching this offseason.

Just don’t be shocked if the result of that is them running this team back again.

Playing through sore knee, Jimmy Butler says “I’m good,” will go in Game 6

Getty Images
1 Comment

At this point in the season, everyone is banged up. It’s just a matter of degree.

But with Rajon Rondo listed as out for Game 6, the Bulls’ need a big game from Jimmy Butler if they are going to extend this series to a Game 7. And he is not near 100 percent.

In Game 4, Butler banged knees with a Celtic and it impacted him during Game 5, as Vincent Goodwill detailed at CSNChicago.com.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn’t even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn’t elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

“I’m good. Everyone’s a little nicked up; I’ll be all right,” Butler said in the locker room.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune added this detail.

Boston has done a good job of limiting the number of times Isaiah Thomas is exposed on defense, having to cover Wade or Butler. Essentially, the Celtics switch in sort of a matchup zone to keep IT covering a shooter on the wing, even if his man goes up and sets the pick. Zone’s can be exposed (there’s a reason they’re more a change-of-pace rather than a basic set defense in the NBA), but it involves getting into the middle, getting into the paint. Which comes back to driving the ball and pushing off, things that Butler is struggling to do at his usual level.

There are a lot of other factors favoring Boston in Game 6, but if Chicago is going to force a Game 7 Sunday they need Butler to be an All-NBA level player.

Knicks’ Joakim Noah has expected shoulder surgery to repair rotator cuff

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) — Knicks center Joakim Noah has had right shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff, a procedure that could sideline him until training camp.

The Knicks say Noah had the surgery Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed by Dr. David Altchek.

The team didn’t give a timetable for Noah’s recovery, but coach Jeff Hornacek said late in the season that if Noah had the operation, the recovery time could be five months.

Noah had an injury-plagued season that ended early when he was suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. There are still 12 games remaining on the penalty that he will have to serve next season when healthy.

Noah had surgery on his other shoulder last season, limiting him to 29 games in his final season in Chicago before signing a four-year, $72 million deal with New York.

PBT Extra: Pacers offseason moves start with Paul George

Leave a comment

Larry Bird, when not delivering All-Star Game bids, should be spending his time lighting candles and praying in churches all over Indianapolis that Paul George makes an All-NBA team.

If PG13 makes the cut, Bird’s job this summer becomes more clear: Offer George the designated player max extension, get him to sign the deal, then get back to building a contender around him.

If George doesn’t make the cut, things get much tougher for Bird. I discuss all of it in this new PBT Extra.