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Stephen Jackson Putting Extension Talks Aside, Hope Springs Eternal For Bucks Offense

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Woelfel: Jackson puts contract demands, injuries on back burner
Stephen Jackson has good news and bad news. The good news is that he seems to be grasping reality when it comes to an extension to his existing two year, $19 million contract (for the moment I'll ignore the annoying fact that this ever was news).

"I'm going to go ahead and let it die down," Jackson said. "Right now, I know it's not the time to talk about contracts or anything like that. It's about focusing on getting to the playoffs."

OK, so hopefully we won't have to talk about that for at least the next six months (small victories, eh?). However, the 33-year-old Jackson is still battling old age. Alas, time's remorseless arrow!

Jackson told reporters that one of the discs in his back is "completely gone," the casualty of career wear and tear. For better or worse, surgery isn't an option, so Jackson plans to play through it. What, you expected the Bucks to be completely healthy going into a season?

JS: Bucks offense gets a makeover
Everyone knows the Bucks offense was fairly unwatchable last year, which is why everyone wants to talk about how it might be better this year. So how might they do it?

"Actually our five-on-five sets are mostly the same," Delfino said.

"What has changed is our early offense; we try to play quicker. At the same time we're trying to know our new personnel."

Most people with an eye for X's and O's will tell you that the Bucks' offensive sets aren't dramatically different from the boiler plate around the league; it's not like Skiles is trying (and failing) to reinvent the wheel. But realistically you don't see an offense that's once-in-a-decade-bad without a confluence of contributing factors. A fundamental lack of offensive talent? Just look at the career true shooting percentages of everyone on their roster, which unfortunately hasn't dramatically improved. Injuries? Sure, there were plenty of those, with Andrew Bogut's ineffectual right arm perhaps the most damaging even when it wasn't keeping him out of the lineup. Getting him back to somewhere close to full strength would obviously be huge.

Another obvious part of the story is Skiles, who has never coached a top-20 offensive team in his career. Part of that is simply the byproduct of stressing defensive effort and responsibility; there's no leaking out and saving wind for the offensive end in Milwaukee. But clearly Skiles can't be absolved of blame either, though I'd argue it's probably not for the reasons many casual observers might expect. Skiles is often painted as an unrelenting disciplinarian, but that ignores the long leash he's given his most inefficient scorers. He's always been surprisingly tolerant of Jennings' shot selection, encouraged Drew Gooden to shoot more threes a year ago and has always spoken of wanting Andrew Bogut to shoot more jumpers as well, despite all evidence against it. In truth it seemed less about strategy and more about instilling confidence and taking pressure off his players. It just didn't work, and on some level you wonder if Skiles may have ended up not being offensively disciplined enough with players like Jennings, Salmons and Gooden.

Realistically we should expect the Bucks to improve offensively, if for no other reason than a group of professional basketball players can't seem to get much worse--if you're into math or evolutionary biology (and who isn't!), it's somewhat akin to the drunkard's walk problem. Health, confidence and hopefully some internal improvement will hopefully do a bit more, but don't expect vast improvements. The one area that could help the most is one Alex has written about extensively and which Delfino also referenced: the Bucks' intent to up their pace. Let's hope it finally happens.

HP 2011-12 Season Preview: Milwaukee Bucks, Someone PLEASE Make a Shot
Matt Moore, Clint Peterson and Andrew Lynch wax philosophical on the 11/12 Bucks. Especially loved Matt's take on Mbah a Moute.

JS: Bucks could use a backup for Bogut
Michael Hunt isn't happy with the Bucks' lack of size behind Andrew Bogut. Something tells me he's not alone, but until further notice we'll just have to deal with the imperfect solution of Gooden, Jon Brockman, Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova.

Hickory High: NBA Wish Lists
Speaking of Bogut, Steve's hoping Santa has good news for the oft-injured big man.

The Bratwurst: Thoughts from Section 211
Jeramey Jannene checks in with his take on the 11/12 edition of the Bucks.

Order Of The Court: Passing Interest
Ben Steele takes a look back at the curious legacy of Scott Skiles' single-game assist record. 2011-12 Preseason All-Division Teams
Both Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings were voted to the All-Central team by our panel of SBN writers. Full disclosure: I actually had Jennings on the second team. The league-wide award predictions are right here.