Do The Bucks Need A Trade?
The win a few lose a few Milwaukee Bucks were on the outside looking in just a couple of weeks ago with a 13-20 record, 2.5 games back of Boston and 3.5 behind the Knicks for the final playoff spot, but things can change fast during the accelerated schedule of a lockout shortened season. As players returned to the New York lineup, Linsanity hit a speed bump and the once red hot Knicks have gone 1-6 to let the Bucks back in to the race.
“We want to focus on the teams in front of us and right now that happens to be New York and try to catch them and get in,” said head coach Scott Skiles. “But there are also some teams behind us, Cleveland, Detroit. Detroit is playing much better and we are only a game, game and a half ahead of them.”
“It feels good but we are still on the brink,” said Drew Gooden. “The worst is being that ninth, tenth seed trying to get that eighth seed. You want to have some comfort from being in that five, six, seven range and that’s what we are shooting for. If that could happen, that would be great, but we are going to have to win some games for that to happen.”
At 4-4 during the Knicks slide, the Bucks haven’t exactly been tearing up the league and they face some serious problems of their own. Center Andrew Bogut is out with a broken left ankle, Stephen Jackson is out indefinitely with a hamstring issue, Shaun Livingston hurt his ankle, and Luc Mbah a Moute has a sore knee. Fortunately other players have really stepped up.
“The Ersanator,” exclaimed Gooden. “Ersan Ilyasova has been doing a great job rebounding for us and stepping up in Bogut’s place.”
“(Ilyasova) He did what he’s been doing all year,” said Skiles after the game in Toronto. “He made his jumper. He made his shots around the basket. He was on the boards in the right place and at the right time. He has had a real nice knack for that.”
Since rejoining the starting lineup in mid-February, Ersan Ilyasova as only failed to reach double digits in scoring once while collecting eight double-doubles in 12 games. His scoring rocketing up from 8.1 points per game in January to 14.9 in February and 21 in March, Ilyasova has been averaging a double-double in points and rebounds since the start of February.
Mike Dunleavy has also stepped up big in March averaging 14 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists and providing some much needed playmaking.
“I never thought we were going to be a poor offensive team this year and it’s proven to be true,” said Skiles. “We’ve been around average most of the season but we’ve been able to score the ball a little bit better lately. Like all teams, when you score over 100, your record is a little bit better. We just have to make sure we are not letting our defense slip so bad that we think we are just going to go out and outscore people every night.”
The issues for the Bucks have been consistent this season and could be associated with either the effects of the lockout or possibly a need for more talent.
“It’s tough, especially as this season is short and the guys haven’t played much together, explained Carlos Delfino. “We don’t know each other too well. With the injuries, we have some guys who have come in and we have used the talent that we have to go and play hard.”
“We have a lot of injuries but it was an opportunity for other guys to step up and we did a good job on that,” said Ilyasova. “Even the bench players picked up the pace and played really well. If you look at the past 30 games, we always lose at the end on last second shots, but we are always right there. I think we just need to find out how to win in the fourth quarter. Sometimes we just get sloppy at the end of the game. We are really close to being in the eighth spot and our goal is to just win as many games as possible to get the eighth spot. If we just win the games it will solve all our problems.”
So far the Bucks have been working through the injuries and lockout issues on their own, but the team is a mainstay of the NBA trade deadline rumor mill and is looking of opportunities to improve their roster, just don’t expect many changes over the next few days.
“This is my fourth year in Milwaukee and since I’ve been the coach we’ve had injuries almost all the time,” said Skiles. “That’s just part of pro sports.
“John (General manager John Hammond) is always working to make the team better. Everyone is aware the trade deadline is coming up and we are like everyone else seeing if there is anyone out there that makes sense. Pretty soon it will pass and if it passes and nothing happens, I am comfortable with the group we have and I think we can get in (to the playoffs).”
“The trade deadline, there is always going to be rumors for any team no matter what,” said Dunleavy. “So we’ll deal with those over the next few days, and once the deadline passes, I expect everybody to still be here and we will carry on as usual.
“We are in playoff hunt mode. We are watching the standings to see what’s going on and every game is going to be important for us from here on in now.”
Just maybe the Bucks don’t need to add talent to this roster to be a playoff team.
“(Playoffs) Definitely, no doubt at all,” said Gooden. “I have been in situations worse than this and it came down to the last game of the season for us to win. I’ve been in this situation before and we have a lot of talent.”
The Bucks roster has been hit hard by injuries again this season, but with the Ersanator stepping up as a 20 and 10 performer in March and Dunleavy playing well, the pressure to consummate a trade has eased in Milwaukee. The Bucks players are comfortable that the group they have is good enough to overcome the slumping Knicks for a playoff spot, and in this awkward lockout shortened season, they might just be right.