Timberwolves vs. Bucks Preview: Ricky Rubio Out As Minnesota Looks For Encore In Milwaukee

2010/2011 NBA Season

vs.
Min
0-1 (0-0 home) 1-0 (0-0 road)
December 21, 2011
Bradley Center
7:00 PM CT
Radio: 620 WTMJ TV: FSN Wisconsin
Probable starters:
Brandon Jennings
PG
Luke Ridnour
Carlos Delfino SG Wayne Ellington
Mike Dunleavy SF Michael Beasley
Luc Mbah a Moute PF Kevin Love
Andrew Bogut C Nikola Pekovic

(30th) 101.6 - OFFENSE - 104.1 (24th)
(4th) 102.5 - DEFENSE - 111.2 (27th)
(25th) 89.8 - PACE - 96.5 (1st)

On the Wolves: Canis Hoopus / A Wolf Among Wolves / T'wolves Blog

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks conclude their home-and-home preseason series at the Bradley Center, with Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings hoping to bounce back from their 117-96 loss to Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams last Saturday. Rick Adelman is expected to rest both Rubio (ankle) and fellow point guard J.J. Barea (thigh bruise) ahead of the team's season opener next Monday.

Tickets are still available and proceeds go to a terrific cause: The MACC Fund. Hit the link to see Bucks players making their annual visit to Children's Hospital earlier this week.

New Jax City. Following a Monday trip to New York for a doctor's visit, Stephen Jackson had an epidural shot on Tuesday and is hoping to play on Wednesday--though he'll first have to convince Scott Skiles he's ready. Barring a setback, Jackson fully expects to be in the Bucks' lineup for the opener against his former employer in Charlotte, but there's a good chance we once again see Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Delfino starting at the 2/3 positions on Wednesday. Luc Mbah a Moute could also get a starting look after getting through his first practices this week.

UPDATE: Via the official BucksPR Twitter feed, Jackson will come off the bench tonight while Mbah a Moute replaces Gooden in the starting lineup. Tobias Harris and Shaun Livingston will not play.

Rotations. The Bucks had less turnover than most teams following the lockout, but that doesn't mean their rotation is well defined. Scott Skiles, what say thee?

"We're trying to figure out exactly where everybody is and what guys can do to help us. Our 2s and 3s are pretty much interchangeable within our offense; our 4s and 5s are interchangeable. It doesn't really matter. It's just who plays well together and those kind of things."

Perhaps the most noteworthy part of that quote is the mention of the Bucks' power forwards and centers being "interchangeable." It's not necessarily surprising given that Skiles played power forwards Drew Gooden, Larry Sanders, Jon Brockman and Ersan Ilyasova as Bogut's backup last year, but it does shed some light on Skiles' approach to the big man positions entering the season. Sure, there may still be a chance of finally adding a true center to spell Bogut in the middle, but Skiles doesn't seem to be sitting around waiting for Joel Przybilla to walk through the door.

Otherwise, everything else seems fairly up for grabs. Jackson will play 30+ mpg when he's healthy enough to play, but after that it's not clear how much Skiles will mix Beno Udrih and Shaun Livingston into the off guard rotation. My guess is a fair bit, if only because the Bucks don't really have many other options beyond Dunleavy, who's more of a natural SF and could also challenge Delfino for the starting 3 spot. The slimmed-down Drew Gooden is the presumed starter next to Bogut, but Skiles has won with Luc Mbah a Moute manning that position in the past and will hopefully be willing to bring Gooden off the bench if he struggles early in the season.

Remembering Kim Jong-Il. Nothing about Kim Jong-Il's death would seem relevant to the Milwaukee Bucks--until you see J.E. Skeets' amazing fantasy basketball team name and avatar. Fear the Deer Leader!

Putting the O back in Bogut. Speaking of Bogut, Jeremy put together an excellent piece on his scoring ambitions for the new season.

Learning on the job. Over at Bucks.com, Jim Paschke has an interesting interview with Scott Skiles, who notes that the compact season will require players (and coaches) to make more adjustments on the fly without the benefit of regular 90-minute practices. Though much of the talk surrounding the compact schedule has understandably focused on the physical toll it may take on veterans and others playing major minutes, young players' development could also be impacted by the more limited time available for practices and skill work with coaches.

That's especially important for the Bucks given the number of young players currently on the roster. Rookie Tobias Harris is still only 19 and missed critical practice time last week after being hospitalized for dehydration. Second round pick Jon Leuer had a terrific game in Minnesota but faces an uphill battle for minutes at the crowded power forward position. Darington Hobson underwent surgery on both hips last season and played his first competitive basketball since spring 2010 in Minnesota. And then there's 2010 first round pick Larry Sanders, who has a year of NBA basketball under his belt but might generously be described as a work in progress.

With the exception of Sanders' two games last year and Joe Alexander's exile in Fort Wayne before being traded in 2010, the Bucks have been notoriously disinterested in utilizing the D-League, instead preferring to keep young players practicing and traveling with the big club in Milwaukee. There's certainly a good case for it given the Bucks' emphasis on team defensive principles and the fact that they don't have their own dedicated coaching staff in Fort Wayne. But while it wasn't really an issue with immediate contributors like Jennings or Mbah a Moute, the remainder of the Bucks' draft picks since 2008 (Alexander, Jodie Meeks, Sanders) had long periods where they struggled for regular playing time. Another rash of injuries could bump some of the current youngsters into the fray early on, but odds are at least a couple of them will spend much of the season struggling to make the active roster. If that's the case and practice time is indeed very limited, the Bucks could be well served letting some of their young players get regular minutes in the D-League.


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