Yes, the Bucks can win close games.
JS: Hammond willing to gamble for the right player
It's been largely assumed that the Bucks won't be players at the trade deadline; that's been my default assumption for a while, and Mike Hunt was of a similar mind in his latest column. I might just be lazy and unimaginative, but the Bucks have talked so much about payroll flexibility and cleaning up their balance sheet for 2011 that it would seem a bit out of character at this point if they dealt some of those expiring deals (Ridnour, Warrick, Alexander, Elson, Thomas) for expensive talent. Or would it???
"If the right opportunity comes up for us, the right player with a contract that we may not deem to be favorable, that doesn't mean we will necessarily say no to that," Hammond said. "If it's the right player and a player we think we can move forward with and it might have an effect on our flexibility, we may still do a deal for that."
I wouldn't read a ton into this--even if the Bucks are focused on fiscal discipline, they know that the best deals are often the least expected. They have the currency to help tax-constrained teams and a couple of their vets (namely Ridnour) could draw the attention of a contending team looking for reinforcements. None of that suggests a blockbuster is imminent, but stranger things have happened.
Shocker: Bogut not among all-star reserves
The Bucks getting shut out of the all-star game for the sixth straight season? Hardly surprising. At the very least we'll get to see Brandon Jennings in the rookie/sophomore games and possibly the skills challenge as well (h/t Jim Paschke). J.D. Mo argued for Bogut's all-star candidacy earlier this week, and I think the former #1 pick's peformance makes a valid case against Al Horford (who made it), David Lee, and Joakim Noah (who didn't).
JS: Bucks looking for go-to guy
If I was going to pinpoint the single most frustrating thing about the 2009/2010 edition of the Bucks, I'd probably go with their inability to win close games above anything else. You know the story at this point: no experienced shot-creators, no one able to draw fouls, and a go-to-guy-by-committee approach to closing games out. Add in a fair bit of bad luck and you've got a great recipe for finishing 9th or 10th rather than 7th or 8th.
"As time has gone on, he's really gotten a better grasp for his teammates and the offense, which is understandable," Skiles said. "That stuff takes some time.
"When you think about his lack of professional experience, he should be a high turnover player, and he's not. It's an understatement to say that really bodes well for him going forward."
On the positive side, Jennings' game-clincher on Wednesday wasn't the first time the rookie has come up big in crunch time, a promising development for the rest of this season and beyond. And while he's also come up short on a number of occasions (Dallas at home, at Houston, at Cleveland), Jennings has elevated his game in the clutch: 51.6% eFG% in clutch situations, compared to 44.0% overall.
RaptorsHQ: Stackhouse interview
The gang at RaptorsHQ caught up with Jerry Stackhouse last week while the Bucks were in Toronto:
I'm not putting any kind of limitations on myself, or...the other way either - if this is it, this is it! But I feel great, I feel like I could do this, I don't know if this is going to be the formula, coming in mid-season for the rest of, however long I'm playing (laughs), but after missing so much of last year, I didn't want to go out playing on that type of note. I think I've done a lot for the game and the game's been really good to me. So to just leave like that, especially after having the time off and being able to get my body back right a little bit, I was looking forward to an opportunity. Obviously my agent was working the phones a little bit, trying to figure out situations but it was tough.
D-League: Alexander's first week
What are the odds Alexander ever puts on a Bucks jersey again? Not high it seems, and a mediocre first week in Fort Wayne won't put too much pressure on the Bucks to change their minds. To be fair, Alexander is just getting his rhythm back after months rehabbing his torn hamstring, and there's bound to be some process of acclimating to a new league and teammates. But still. Jon at Ridiculous upside chimes in on Alexander's home debut last night (27 min, 11 pts, 5/13 fg, 1 reb, 2 ast, 2 blk):
I'm not crazy about T.J. Cummings, but he had 20 points and 12 rebounds and pretty much manhandled NBA assignee Joe Alexander down low. That probably says more about Alexander, but good for Cummings for stepping up to the challenge.
Alexander got the start, by the way, after coming off the bench in his first two D-League games. This was his first home game. Coincidence? Might the team that made a point of getting as many Notre Dame players as possible start the NBA player as a way to appeal to their fans? Who knows. What is known, however, is that Alexander needs a lot of work and should've been assigned to the D-League a lot sooner. That's when ya lost.