On the Nets: Nets Daily / Nets Are Scorching
After their agonizing overtime loss to the Heat at home, the Bucks head to New Jersey looking to pick up the pieces against a Nets squad dealing with both on-court struggles and the continued off-court distraction of Carmelo Anthony trade rumors. However, both teams will be dealing with late scratches to their best players, with Andrew Bogut coming down with a virus and Devin Harris missing out because of a quad injury.
The worst part of the Bucks' schedule might be over, but it's hardly a cakewalk over the next couple weeks. While the Bucks have won five straight over the Nets--including two 20+ point wins on the road las year--they head back on the road Tuesday for a tough matchup in Atlanta before facing the 30-6 Spurs at home on Wednesday. Then it's back on the road for games in Houston (16-20) and Philly (15-21), the team they're currently chasing for the East's final playoff spot.
I don't like to use the term "must win" before March or April--the season is hardly over if they lose--but taking care of teams like the Nets is absolutely essential if the Bucks are going to dig out of their current 13-21 hole. That was a strength a year ago, but the Bucks are just 2-4 on the road against losing teams thus far, with only narrow wins in Indiana and Sacramento to show for their efforts.
New Jersey returns home tonight following a 20-point shellacking in Washington, where a 30-13 first quarter deficit doomed them from the start. Wisconsin native Devin Harris left that game with a thigh contusion and
his status is up in the air tonight he'll be in street clothes tonight (seems like he's always hurt against the Bucks, no?). Then there's the matter of his long-term future, which could be in Denver if the latest rumors about a Carmelo Anthony trade are true (see below).
JS: Delfino takes big step, works out on Bradley Center court
As first noted by our Argentine correspondent Palomba in the FanPosts, everyone's favorite South American took an important step in his recovery from post-concussion syndrome this week and could be back in uniform (and without a helmet or other protective head gear) within a few weeks. The JS has more:
"My goal is to try to be close to my level by the all-star (break)," Delfino said. "I'd like to be 80% or 90% of my level by then.
"I'm optimistic, maybe 10 days (he'll be back). The workouts will tell. I need to be strong enough with my legs to create the contact or avoid the contact. Right now I'm not."
Even if he takes some time to get his legs, Delfino would provide a major boost for a team ranked 23rd in 3FG%(34.1%) and 22nd in threes made per game (5.4), and we also shouldn't underestimate the importance of having one of the team's unselfish veterans back in the fold. That's all good news for the Bucks, but given the potential severity of head injuries, I'm more pleased for Carlos in a personal sense. Fingers crossed.
No O in Bogut
Since Brandon Jennings' injury, Andrew Bogut has made just 42/97 shots from the field, a pretty miserable tally for a seven-footer who (with rare exceptions) only shoots within 10 feet of the hoop. While Jennings didn't directly create a ton of easy buckets for Bogut--which is a conversation for another day--you could make a good case that the mere attention he demanded from opposing defenses lessened the pressure and focus given to Bogut.
Update: Bogut's absence creates a host of problems against Lopez given the Bucks also just released Brian Skinner earlier this week. That was to avoid having Skinner's deal become guaranteed, but now they're left in the awkward position of starting Ersan Ilyasova with just Larry Sanders and Jon Brockman as additional cover in the middle.
While a matchup with Brook Lopez seems fairly evenly matched on paper, Bogut had surprisingly little trouble against the Nets' talented but plodding big man a season ago, averaging 20.3 ppg on 58% shooting in three games (all wins). In contrast, Lopez averaged just 9.0 ppg and 5.3 rpg on 39% shooting in four losses, which also included a 5-point, 4-rebound game after Bogut had been lost for the season.
Though his scoring figures remain healthy, Lopez's efficiency has taken a major hit this year (57.0% true shooting to 52.7%) and his rebounding has cratered to a mind-bogglingly bad 10.2% rebound rate. Lopez's last double-figure rebound game came way back on December 1, and it took him playing all 53 minutes of that OT loss to OKC to grab 11. To put that in perspective, the Bucks have seven players with higher rebound rates than Lopez, including small forwards Luc Mbah a Moute (11.2%) and Corey Maggette (10.6%). Despite his soft touch, Lopez's shooting percentage has fallen in part due to teams moving him further away from the block (6.6 fga/game at the rim last year vs. just 3.7 this year) and also thanks to a drop in his finishing rate at the rim (53.6% this year vs. 61.4% a year ago).
Lopez was a shockingly poor rebounder and shot a poor percentage at Stanford, so in many ways it's not surprising that he'd end up below-average in those departments as a pro. But the odd part is that Lopez rebounded respectably as a rookie (15.8%) before declining dramatically the past two seasons, and his efficiency has been good largely because (in contrast to Bogut) he draws fouls and makes his free throws.
Return of CD-R
Tonight marks the first time that Chris Douglas-Roberts will play at the Izod Center as a visiting player, and it comes just 24 hours after his best game as a Buck so far. Though he missed a pair of crucial free throws that could have tied the game late in regulation, CD-R was undeniably big in scoring a season-high 30 points (12/19 fg) and swatting four shots in 41 minutes. Ironically, his career-high of 31 points came against the Bucks at the Izod Center on November 18, 2009. No one expect CD-R to score 20 every night, but if he could bring 10-15 ppg consistently it would do the Bucks' offense a world of good. Then again, you can say that about pretty much everyone on the roster, eh?
Woj: Agent pushing Hamilton into 'Melo deal
We've been hearing rumors about Carmelo possibly heading to New Jersey since before the season even started, so it's tough to say what kind of effect it's had on Avery Johnson's bunch of soon-to-be-Brooklynites. Clearly it can't help, especially when the guys being offered up are key building blocks like Devin Harris and Derrick Favors. Recently it appeared the deal had hit a dead end with Anthony's apparent unwillingness to sign an extension with the Nets, but Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski reports that a more complicated deal--one that could involve up to 17 players--is now being discussed to bring Carmelo back East.
As part of a package that would bring them Anthony and Billups for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and multiple first-round picks, New Jersey proposed sending the Pistons Troy Murphy and Johan Petro for Hamilton and Detroit’s 2011 first-round draft pick.
Detroit rejected the overture, and New Jersey has yet to counter with a revised offer, sources said. The availability of Hamilton has been known for months, and yet the Nets only now finally reached out about including him in the Anthony deal. This could suggest that Rose is more enthusiastic about adding Hamilton than King and Nets coach Avery Johnson.
Getting a quality player like Harris, a potential future stud in Favors and picks would seem a no-brainer for Denver, which has been treading water with Anthony and the aging Billups for a couple years now and otherwise risks losing Anthony for nothing. On the flip side, New Jersey would better almost by default in the short-term, but it's tough to see them ever contending unless the presence of Carmelo landed them a real (ahem) superstar like Chris Paul down the road. I think Anthony's better than Glenn Robinson was back in the day, but Bucks fans know from experience it's awfully tough to be a great team when your best player is a high volume, mediocre efficiency wing who doesn't make his teammates better on either end. If you have a guy like that as a second or third banana it's a different story.
Ball Don't Lie: Brandon Jennings' cool gift to Bucks fans
Pretty sweet bonus from Brandon Jennings and Under Armous for the folks already lucky enough to be sitting courtside at last night's game.