It’s now or never for Bucks playoff push

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Has any team been more disappointing this season than the Milwaukee Bucks?

Injuries and their anemic offense — despite having Brandon Jennings, John Salmons and Andrew Bogut — have held them back. All the way back out of the playoffs. The Bucks are three games behind the Pacers with a dozen to play.

And the next week will determine their fate. The Bucks face the slumping Knicks Friday, then a tough test against the Bulls Saturday. Then it is three in a row the Bucks must have — Charlotte, Toronto and at Indiana.

The Bucks put out a lackluster effort and got beat by Sacramento Wednesday, so heading into Friday night coach Scott Skiles knows his team can’t have any more lapses like that if they want to make the playoffs, he told the Journal Sentinel.

“We’ve got to show up,” Skiles said of facing the Knicks for the second time in six days following Milwaukee’s 100-95 victory over New York on Sunday.

“We’ve got to play hard; we’ve got to execute and know what we’re doing. That’s all just to have a chance, we’ve got to do those things.”

Milwaukee has gotten a nice scoring boost  from Carlos Delfino, who dropped 30 in each of the team’s last two games and is is hitting 49.1 percent of his threes in his last 10 games. But they will need more efficient play from Brandon Jennings, and more production out of what has been a less-than-impressive bench. They need Salmons to be on his game. The Bucks will defend as always, but they need some buckets.

Michael Redd will return to the team this weekend, but who knows what that will bring. Maybe some buckets.

Tonight the Bucks and Knicks both should be playing with a sense of desperation. Both need wins, badly. But if the Bucks don’t get it this may be the practical end of their season. And that would be disappointing.

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. guesses Vince Carter’s first NBA season was in 1987 (video)

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Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. insisted he meant no disrespect to Luka Doncic after liking an Instagram comment that called the Mavericks rookie overrated.

But this is darn sure disrespectful toward Vince Carter.

Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:

Carter – who signed with the Hawks for next season – entered the NBA in 1998. He’s old, but he’s not that old.

Hawks rookie Trae Young: ‘I know there is a lot on my plate’

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The Grizzlies plan to bring No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson along slowly.

No. 5 pick Trae Young won’t have the same luxury.

After picking Young, the Hawks traded Dennis Schroder, their incumbent starting point guard. Though Atlanta also dealt for Jeremy Lin, Young knows where he stands.

Young, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Obviously when they move the point guard they’ve had for a while, their starting point guard, it definitely opened my eyes,” Young told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from New Jersey, where he was taking part in the Rookie Transition Program. “It shows how much they are committed to me. Bringing Jeremy in as well is a good fit for us. I know there is a lot on my plate. I’m looking forward to it.”

Unlike Memphis, the Hawks aren’t trying to win now. They can ride through Young’s highs and lows.

Though I’m quite high on Young, I also expect him to struggle next season. Most rookies do, especially point guards. And the small Young could face an especially tough adjustment to NBA size and athleticism.

But he seems to be embracing the challenge with the right attitude, giving himself the best chance of emerging on the other side ready to lead an NBA team.

76ers’ Ben Simmons: ‘We’ve got to get past Boston. Those are the guys at the top right now’

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After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.

The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.

But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.

Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:

“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.

“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.

This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.

But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.

Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.

Report: Jon Leuer expected to return to Pistons by start of season

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Pistons big Jon Leuer underwent meniscus surgery, leaving plenty of doubt about his availability for next season.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

After losing Anthony Tolliver in free agency (to the Timberwolves), Detroit needs Leuer as a stretch big off the bench. Unless Henry Ellenson is ready for rotation minutes, which…

If Leuer isn’t quite ready for the start of the season, Stanley Johnson could play small-ball four, but that weakens wing depth.

The Pistons’ best hope is Leuer getting healthy on schedule.