Bucks Manage First to Worst In Year’s Time

By and

Ever since I witnessed the Utah Jazz’s opening-night contest with the Milwaukee Bucks back on Oct. 30, I was psyched about the 2001-02 season.

Nope, didn’t particularly care about the acquisition of the new SLC kid, Hot Rod Hundley’s so-called Russian “czar,” Andrei Kirilenko. Cagey journeyman Rusty LaRue nor once-coveted NBA veteran John Amaechi were not the ones to catch my eye.

I was enjoying the play of the purple- and green-clad Bucks with a Dairy State compadre, as we drew the polite ire and disgusted looks of hearty Jazz fans.

My cheers of encouragement were for the 119-112 overtime winners, my home-state Milwaukee Bucks.

But, much to my surprise, I opened the paper recently to find the Bucks as the seventh seed in the East and two games from missing the Playoffs.

Whatever happened to my run-and-gun Milwaukee Bucks? With five games remaining before the Playoffs, the Bucks have the deer- in-the-headlights look.

This after Milwaukee began the season much like the appetite of former resident and U coach Rick Majerus?hungry.

The Bucks started 9-1, easily in control of the Eastern Conference before the emergence of the Jason Kidd-led New Jersey Nets, the team that just clinched the East’s No. 1 seed heading into the NBA’s second season.

Milwaukee, the team that pushed Philadelphia to Game 7 and was one win away from a berth into the NBA Finals just a year ago, added a previous All-Star point forward in Anthony Mason. Then the team went downhill?

What in the wide, wide world of sports is a’goin’ on here? Is something not making sense to anyone else?

At least the hometown Jazz gradually deflate their win margin little by little, year to year, so Delta Center fans can eventually expect a first-round exit from the Playoffs before the team goes under and Larry H. Miller is pleading to the NBA for the move of professional sports’ greatest oxymoron, the Utah Jazz.

Instead of following the Utah example, my cheesehead compatriots vied for the quick and unexpected twist of fate.

Twenty-two games ago, the land of cheese curds and Miller Genuine Draft was home to the Eastern Conference’s second-place team.

However, the Bucks have ventured into undesired pastures.

Since then, the ol’ Milwaukees have conquered just 7 of 23 opponents. The team’s Playoff standing is in question with the emergence of the Toronto Raptors, winners of their last nine.

The Bucks dropped to seventh place, headed for a showdown with the No. 2 seed Detroit Pistons, and Milwaukee is nearly leveled off at 39-38.

After suffering three straight defeats, including back-to-back losses to Philadelphia, Milwaukee played at Cleveland last night (a good stepping stone to get out of the rut?the Cavs are 28-49), and still has to play at Indiana and Detroit before home games with Charlotte and Toronto.

The four latter teams all are in the Playoffs as of yesterday, so none are pushovers. And the way the Bucks have been playing, I fear the Kiwanis Felt Recreation League 12-and-under team could give them a scare.

Of course, there are the reasons. The cancer of Anthony Mason and his slow-down, pressure defense tempo instead of the run-and-gun.

And the injuries?take your pick: Leading scorer Ray Allen has missed 13 games with tendinitis, alien baby Sam Cassell has an injured big toe, Tim Thomas has a sprained right knee and Allen’s back-up, Michael Redd, sprained his left knee.

Perhaps the most striking differential is Milwaukee’s points scored versus points allowed numbers. The Bucks are averaging 97.6 points per game, while their opponents score 97.3 ppg.

Not seeing a connection?

Neither am I.

I’m just trying to find an excuse/explanation for the most personally reflective catastrophe since, well, last year’s Bucks elimination.

Rory welcomes feedback at: [email protected].