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A Couple Good Things

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No, we didn't forget to do notes today. Check out Tuesday Bucks Notes here, courtesy of Frank.

With the first few weeks already behind us, it's a good time to reflect on early-season happenings.  

It's tempting to get caught up in the things that aren't going as planned. We know what the potential roadblocks to the playoffs are: injuries more serious than Michael Ruffin’s, the non-comeback of Bobby Simmons, defensive lapses and offensive stagnation, playing worse on the road than the Brewers, rotation issues, and so on.

But we worry about all of those things all the time. If we take a step back for just a minute, we’ll see that there are indeed a couple good, encouraging things to take away from the beginning of the season. After waiting months and building up high hopes in the offseason, it's fair to be a little bit satisfied about these couple things.  And this holiday cheer should be particularly handy because we're paying LeBron a visit tonight, who is liable to bring us all down pretty quickly.

  • 1. The success and progression of Yi.

    Most everything has been dramatic when it has come to Yi. From the pre-draft workouts to the post-draft holdout to the preseason fouls to the regular season successes, the spotlight has centered on him constantly. It is usually shocking for a Buck to hit the national media’s radar. Now international press is scattering the Bradley Center.

    Not only has Yi has done his part to live up to his daily headlines, he’s done it by virtue of his performance on the court. After all the Steve Francis franchise-killer comparisons, it turns out Yi might be the biggest reason the Bucks have a long and safe future in Milwaukee.

    It’s easy to get excited by Yi's accomplishments. Earning a starting spot and outscoring Tyrus Thomas 16-2 in the third game of his NBA career proved he’s a quick study.  

    But there are going to be some rough stretches. He might not sew up All-Rookie First Team honors before the All-Star after all. And as the last couple games against the Grizzlies and Hawks have shown, he might not be too far ahead of Charlie Villanueva. Speaking of Villanueva, Bucks fans should remember he scored 48 points against a certain team not that long ago. We must be careful not to anoint and decry so hastily.  

    It does appear Yi is a gem though. Still he's a rookie on this level. And a few bad weeks for him would likely coincide with a few bad weeks for the Bucks. Then things could get ugly.  

    There is some nice depth in Milwaukee, but Yi has already established himself as an integral part of the team. He’ll need to continue to progress throughout the season for the Bucks to have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. That’s not necessarily fair for a rookie, but these aren't the Pistons, who can let their youngsters slowly develop, or absorb injuries to them, and still win.

    This is the Bucks, and whether or not it’s ideal, they are going to rely on Yi to continue to play very unlike a rookie. Luckily, Yi seems to thrive with pressure and high expectations anyway.

  • 2. The (more) all-around Michael Redd.

    This has been spoken of often here, both before the season and during. Still it's worth reiterating, as it is key to the team's success already and going forward.

    Redd has endeared himself quite well to Bucks Nation  blossoming from a second-round draft pick in 2000 to first scoring option every year since 2003. It’s hard not to be pleased when you nab a consistent 20+ per game guy while the three teams that picked ahead of you got Hanno Mottolo, Chris Carrawell, and Olumide Oyediji. And all the fun tongue-twisting potential of those names can’t match the sheer joy that the Bucks basically managed to find a dead-on replacement for Ray Allen.  

    But 2007 is Year 5 of the Redd era in that he’s been the unquestioned star of the team for the past four years. And while Allen never led the Bucks to title glory, he did help make some memorable playoff moments in 2001. The best the Redd-led Bucks have managed was the break-even 2003-04 campaign in which they won a single playoff game.  

    Year 5 means fans are ready for more. There’s nothing wrong with dropping the occasional 40. And dropping 57 on Jerry Sloan and Andrei Kirilenko in the Bradley Center can make even Milwaukee sizzle in November. But it’s about wins, and it’s about all-around play from your superstar.

    So after Redd went to Vegas this summer to help bully the basketball world he came back with high standards and vows to improve his all-around game. Some skepticism was natural though. Because for all of Redd’s offensive dynamism he has never averaged more than five rebounds or three assists in a season.

    Until this year. He’s averaging a career-best 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists, and his 1.6 offensive rebounds are double last year’s. His defense has gotten better also. And this stepping up in different areas is particularly important because he’s been a little slow to locate his outside shot, although that has pretty much worked itself out over the last week.

    And despite lower scoring and field goal numbers this year, his PER of 22.36 is actually slightly higher than last year's 22.30, which was rather outstanding itself.

    Of course, in the end he’s still the go-to guy, leading the Bucks in scoring in six of their first eight games. If Redd can continue to strike that balance between excellent team player and big-time star player, he might be playing in another meaningful tournament well before the 2008 Olympics.