51 Q: Will loss of veterans hurt Bucks?

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The Milwaukee Bucks’ one-year turnaround last season was remarkable and not at all expected. After winning a league-low 15 games in 2013-14, they finished sixth in the East last year and gave the Bulls, a popular preseason title pick, an actual series in the first round of the playoffs. This despite losing future franchise centerpiece Jabari Parker to a torn ACL in January and trading their best outside shooter (Brandon Knight) midseason for a point guard who can’t shoot whatsoever. It’s a testament to Jason Kidd’s growth as a head coach and his fit with this roster, and also to major developmental strides made by the likes of Khris Middleton, John Henson and Giannis Antetokounmpo, that the Bucks managed to go from laughingstock to respectable so quickly.

Most of the attention this summer has been on what the Bucks did right, re-signing Middleton to a below-market deal and signing Greg Monroe to shore up their offense up front. It’s tempting to make them a lock for another playoff run (and I’m inclined to do the same, honestly). But it’s not as much of a sure thing as it seems, in large part because of the loss of two veterans who were important rotation players last season. The Bucks gave away Jared Dudley to the Wizards, Zaza Pachulia to the Mavericks and Ersan Ilyasova to the Pistons, and they leave a void that might be harder to fill than anticipated.

Monroe is a massive upgrade over Pachulia on the offensive end, giving the Bucks a legitimate first option inside. Pachulia wasn’t much of a shot-blocker, but he was perfectly adept at doing the dirty work on defense and being in the right spots. With Monroe in the fold and Antetokounmpo and Parker expecting to see some time at power forward, the Bucks have depth and versatility up front. Maybe Henson makes another leap, or Miles Plumlee (who didn’t play much after coming over from Phoenix at the deadline) cracks the rotation. But Pachulia’s presence will be missed.

That goes double for Dudley, who rebounded from a disastrous year with the Clippers to become an important rotation player for the Bucks. He found his niche as a small-ball power forward and was one of Milwaukee’s most reliable outside shooters, hitting 38.5 percent of his threes. He’s exactly the kind of versatile defender the Bucks enter training camp needing, and they gave him away.

Ilyasova’s value is a little harder to pin down. He’s not the defender Pachulia and Dudley are, but he was a reliable outside shooter on a team with so little offense. His loss should be mitigated somewhat by the return of Parker, if he’s even close to full strength.

Overall, this Bucks team is an improved squad from the one that surprised last season, but calling them a contender in the east is premature. A lot has to go right for them to reach that level. A full recovery from Parker is a start. Carter-Williams becoming an even passable shooter is another thing. Monroe’s defensive deficiencies should be able to be masked by the Bucks’ other bigs, but without Pachulia’s steady presence, there’s a risk of some regression there. If the Bucks can maintain at least something close to what they were on defense last year, an improved offense should be enough to make them a surefire playoff team at the very least, with the potential to be even more if enough breaks right.

Jamal Crawford finds it “baffling” no team has called to sign him yet

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Iman Shumpert got his call from the Brooklyn Nets.

Carmelo Anthony got his call from the Portland Trail Blazers.

Jamal Crawford is still waiting for his call, and he’s confused why it hasn’t yet come. From Shaun Powell of NBA.com.

“I know I can play,” Crawford told NBA.com, “and I would think my reputation is still solid. It’s baffling to me…

“Physically, I feel better than I did last season,” he said. “I’m able to get my body together. My skill set is sharp. I feel that I’m good. My mindset is be patient and hopefully something good comes about it. I’ll be ready for the opportunity.”

Like Anthony, Crawford needs the right role, but he can help teams.

He’s not young at age 39 but, in the right situation, he could help a team get buckets off the bench. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year has slowed in recent years, and his defense is a bigger concern to front offices, but the man still averaged 7.9 points per game last season off the bench and lit it up for the depleted Suns at the end of last season (including a 51-point game against Dallas). 

Some team is going to give Crawford a chance. Probably. Until then, he is staying ready, waiting for the phone to ring.



Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks over not one but two Pacers (VIDEO)

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Once Giannis Antetokounmpo gets rolling downhill, good luck.

The Pacers found that out the hard way with not one but two players getting dunked on by the Greek Freak. On the same dunk.

Damn. That’s not fair.

It’s also not the only highlight play for Antetokounmpo on the night.

Milwaukee was up double digits on the Pacers early in the fourth quarter, and of course, Antetokounmpo was leading the way.

NBA teams enhancing fan experience with high-tech replays

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ATLANTA (AP) — NBA fans will soon be able to look up at the big videoboard above the court and get a different look at that deep Trae Young 3-pointer early in the first quarter. Or see a different perspective of that monstrous Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk.

In a reversal of roles, NBA teams are bringing the video game experience back to the live action – one arena at a time.

The Atlanta Hawks Friday will become the fifth NBA team to unveil significant financial investments into new 360-degree replay technology designed to eventually give fans the power to change the way they see the game.

“It’s the wave of the future,” said Hawks vice-president of live experience Joe Abercrombie, who says the technology also is “one more thing to give people a reason to come” to the arena.

The Bucks, Mavericks, Pacers, Wizards and now the Hawks are using the technology to package and replay highlights in the arena during games. The Bulls, who host the 2020 All-Star game, are scheduled to come online next month.

“It’s very nice. I especially like that up-above view,” said Allen Hazlett a fan from New Berlin, Wisconsin, after seeing the new technology at Thursday night’s Bulls-Bucks game in Milwaukee.

“I think it’s an added benefit for the fans. For those that aren’t here all the time, to see that, I think, really ups the fan experience for them. I don’t think people realize until you go somewhere else and you don’t see it how lucky we are to have this arena. Everything here is state of the art.”

The six teams have joined NBA partner Intel, which provides the technology for the new video replays. The process begins with 38 5K video cameras strategically located around arenas. The high-tech cameras work together, bringing 360-degree replays to in-game video boards, TV broadcasts and fans’ devices through social media.

It’s the latest effort by teams to entice ticket-buying fans to come to new and renovated NBA arenas. Atlanta spent almost $200 million to renovate State Farm Arena; Milwaukee last year opened its $477 Fiserv Forum.

“For us it was really a no-brainer,” said Matt Pazaras, the Bucks’ senior vice president for business development and strategy.

“There’s nothing like seeing a Giannis dunk live, and if we can supplement that experience with this technology, great. But if people are experiencing the Bucks wherever they are, hours away or thousands of miles away, we can still make the experience better.”

NFL fans already have seen 360 replays on TV. Those replays start from the traditional side camera before swinging around to bring the viewer behind the quarterback.

Not that the NFL was first in line.

Gamers have been manipulating all-angle replays for years. Video game-savvy kids may roll their eyes when their parents come home from NBA games eager to share their stories about their first looks at 360-degree replays.

Those video games were designed to mimic the real games. Now it’s time for some role-reversal.

Rich Green, Intel’s director of sports, said popular video games Madden NFL 19 and NBA 2K20 “have camera angles and if you do replays, you can spin the camera around.”

Added Green: “Now we’re going to have that in live games. Now they can watch their favorite player and follow just him. It increases their level of engagement.”

The new technology isn’t just for the fans.

Coaches and scouts can make use of the enhanced replays to improve player evaluations.

“I think the future of this is going to weigh heavy for basketball operations and player development,” Abercrombie said.

Players now have better tools to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Abercrombie said players who take dozens of shots in a practice can now study their shooting form in a new way.

“Players have asked ‘Can I shootaround and you take a look at the way I’m shooting and I want to spin around and take a look at the way I’m releasing,”‘ he said. “You think about traditional coverage of a game, there’s only four angles. Two on the floor and two up.

“When you think about 360 view and repetitive shooting over and over again, they can say ‘Oh, I see where my tendencies are.”‘

Hawks CEO Steve Koonin, a former executive at Turner Entertainment, says TV sports leaders have dreamed for years of the day fans could control the way they watch a game.

“We’ve been reading for years that ‘You can be the director,”‘ Koonin said. “Actually, you can do that with this. The capabilities are unbelievable. … We think it’s the next generation of sports media.”

Green said there is more to come as new ways to utilize the technology will be found that are not yet possible.

Green said such high-tech terms as “voxels” – similar to pixels in the 3D age – and “volumetric video” will become common. He said fans will be able to follow a game from the viewpoint of their favorite player.

“How you watch a play could be completely different from how I watch it based on how we control what angle we want to see,” Green said. “That’s why we’re just scratching the surface.”


Watch Lance Stephenson get into flopping battle in China


You can take the flopper out of the NBA but you can’t take the flopping out of his game.

Unable to land an NBA contract this season, Lance Stephenson signed with the Liaoning Flying Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association. He has taken his flopping skills to China.

However, he may have met his match with one Chinese player, who tried to sell a non-contact, off-the-ball, sniper-in-the-grassy-knoll level flop that even legendary flopper Vlade Divac would have called extreme. The Chinese referees saw through that and awarded a technical to Stephenson’s team.

Then Stephenson drew another foul later in the game with a flop as he tried to grab the ball away from a player after the play. That drew a foul on the opposing player, who complained and then got his own technical.

It’s all just Lance being Lance.