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The Extra Pass: Bucks are bad, and that’s good; plus Wednesday’s recaps

Dec 12, 2013, 8:00 AM EST

John Henson AP

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By D.J. Foster

All over the league, we’ve seen young teams fighting against the tank.

If the playoffs started today, the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns would be in the playoffs. This was unfathomable a few months ago. It wasn’t just about their rosters being bad – they were supposed to be bad.

The Milwaukee Bucks, meanwhile, are never supposed to be bad. Here’s what Bucks owner Herb Kohl told Howard Beck before the season:

“In our organization, there is this competitive need to be as good as we can every year,” Bucks owner Herb Kohl told Bleacher Report. “It’s an instinct. Even though one might argue that mathematically you’re better off going the other way.”

“I’m not speaking for what other teams do,” Kohl said. “We just every year do the very best we can, to put together the best team we can. That’s our M.O. That’s what we do.”

What Milwaukee does, in reality, is openly embrace mediocrity. It’s been 13 years since the Bucks have advanced past the first round of the playoffs. They’ve had one top-5 pick in that timeframe. They’ve never had more than 46 wins in any of those seasons. If it weren’t for such a rich tradition, the Bucks would be completely and totally irrelevant.

On Wednesday night, the Bucks hosted a San Antonio Spurs team that actually embodies the principle Kohl mistakenly thinks his franchise does.

The Spurs compete. They are the best they can be every year. But guess what?

Even the inscrutable Spurs tanked once in 1997, and they haven’t had to since.

On Wednesday night, that Spurs team that tanked 16 years ago to get Tim Duncan held a 38-point lead in the third quarter. Duncan had 21 points and 16 rebounds in 24 minutes.

O.J. Mayo, Milwaukee’s $24 million dollar life preserver, was one made three-pointer away from putting up a “22 trillion” – 22 minutes with zero meaningful stats across the board.

The Bucks, obviously, ended up losing the game. Plenty of words sprang to mind to describe the performance. Embarrassing. Depressing. Ugly.

But you know what else it was? Productive.

The 2014 draft class is projected to be one of the best we’ve seen in years. Sure, there are no guarantees in the lottery, but Milwaukee has to give themselves a chance to be great. Pretending the system doesn’t work the way it does is more than stubborn. It’s stupid.

There are pieces here. John Henson is a future star. Giannis Antetokounmpo has the kind of natural ability you dream on. Nate Wolters looks like a nice player. Make no mistakes, though: the Bucks are begging for direction.

32 point losses at home aren’t fun. Neither is the trip to the cellar of the Eastern Conference. But realistically, is it any worse than the last 13 years of Milwaukee Bucks basketball?

The Bucks have attempted to sell their fanbase on a somewhat competitive team for long enough. It’s time to sell them some hope for once.

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Orlando 92, Charlotte 83: The Magic got a balanced attack that saw seven different players finish in double figures scoring, and out-rebounded the Bobcats by 11 to help in securing this victory. Charlotte shot just 36.9 percent from the field as a team, and Gerald Henderson led the Bobcats in scoring with 12 points, but did do shooting a miserable 3-of-14 from the field in just over 30 minutes of action. — BP

Clippers 96, Celtics 88: Doc Rivers had an emotional first return to Boston as head coach of the Clippers, and by his own admission emotions got the better of him throughout the game’s first half. That may explain L.A.’s slow start in this one, but the Clips scored 57 second half points to be able to get the win. Chris Paul finished with a near triple-double line of 22 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. –BP

Thunder 116, Grizzlies 100: No Marc Gasol and no Tony Allen for Memphis in this one, so the easy double-digit victory for OKC in this one was somewhat expected. Russell Westbrook did the damage with a monster of a game, and finished with 27 points on 12 shots, to go along with six rebounds and nine assists. — BP

Spurs 109, Bucks 77: Take one of the best, most efficient teams in the league in the Spurs and face them against one of the league’s worst teams in Milwaukee, and this is the end result. This game was over by halftime, when the Spurs led by 23 points and Tim Duncan had already registered 16 points and 11 rebounds in just over 16 minutes. Someone named Miroslav Raduljica tallied 10 points and seven rebounds in less than 23 minutes for the Bucks, proving just how out of hand this game truly was. — BP

Timberwolves 106, Sixers 99: Philadelphia started off strong by getting out to a 19-point first quarter lead, but Minnesota slowly crawled back into it and outscored the Sixers by 20 in the second half to come away with the victory. The Timberwolves won despite shooting a far lower percentage than their opponent — just 38.5 percent to Philly’s 52.7 percent — but that was due to Minnesota gaining 22 more field goal attempts thanks to 12 more offensive rebounds and the Sixers turning the ball over 26 times. — BP

Pelicans 111, Pistons 106 (OT): Detroit came back from nine down in the fourth to force the extra session, after neither team could score in the final 1:19 of regulation. Ryan Anderson scored eight points in overtime to help his team win, while huge efforts from Greg Monroe (28 points, 10 rebounds) and Brandon Jennings (25 points, five rebounds, four assists, six steals) were wasted in the losing effort. — BP

Knicks 83, Bulls 78: The Knicks need wins, they’ll take them no matter how ugly they are. And this one was ugly. Carmelo Anthony did his part with 30 points and 10 rebounds, and Amar’e Stoudemire stepped up with 10 points during a key 19-0 Knicks run in the second quarter. New York led by 23 but the scrappy Bulls battled back to tie it at 74-74. You can thank Mike Dunleavy Jr. who had 20 points and 8 dimes. But Stoudemire hit a key jumper and Anthony had 9 points in the fourth. It’s a win, Mike Woodson will take it right now. — KH

Jazz 122, Kings 101: Sacramento didn’t dress Rudy Gay or anyone else from the trade (they couldn’t play because Greivis Vasquez has yet to pass his physical in Canada) but that wouldn’t have helped them here. Utah was just clicking on offense — they shot 53.9 percent overall, hit 13-of-23 from three and had an offensive rating of 133.2 points per 100 possessions. Individually Richard Jefferson was 7-of-9 shooting, Derrick Favors 6-of-9, Alec Burke 7-of-11 and that will get it done. After the way this season has gone for them, the Jazz could use an easy win. — KH

Warriors 95, Mavericks 93: Dallas had a, 18-point lead in the first half, a 10 point lead with 8 minutes to go, but against the Warriors in Oracle Arena that is like a 2 point lead anywhere else. Stephen Curry had 16 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter — including the game winner, which was part of a 9-1 Golden State run to close out the game and get the win. Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki each had 21 for Dallas. — KH

  1. bucrightoff - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    The Spurs tanking in 97 was a unique situation. It wasn’t really a planned tank, David Robinson and Sean Elliot just happened to get hurt. And they didn’t tank per se, they did finished 3rd worst and simply leaped to #1. Now the Celticss, they tanked that year and got jumped. Karma doesn’t like tanking, better to play rookies and younger guys really hard and be bad than to intentionally be bad.

    • jcmeyer10 - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:29 AM

      Look no further than the Bobcats.

      • whoisrdymlz - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:50 AM

        Yep. And even the Cavs, who have had three number one overall picks in 11 years (and many more lottery picks), haven’t turned that recipe into success.

    • zerole00 - Dec 12, 2013 at 12:00 PM

      The Spurs also draft insanely well. Remember, they’ve made it deep into the playoffs since 98 and they still picked up players like Parker, Ginobili, and Leonard. Ginobili was chosen 57th overall! That was one of the biggest draft steals of the DECADE.

      There’s a reason so many franchises are trying to mimic the Spurs.

  2. bougin89 - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Bucks fan here and loving every loss. This is the only chance we have at getting a true star player.

    • 12is3times4 - Dec 12, 2013 at 12:02 PM

      And then watch said star player leave for greener pastures, warmer climates and/or a chance to be on a team with a bunch of his superstar pals a few years later.

      Tanking works for teams in markets like San Antonio because those markets are sexy enough to keep their star players around long enough to build a real championship contender. But as far as star players are concerned, the Bucks are never going to be anything more than a revolving-door franchise, for the simple reason that they play in a small, run-down, frozen wasteland of a market that no elite player would willingly remain in long-term, when they have any number of more desirable options to choose from.

      • bougin89 - Dec 16, 2013 at 11:22 AM

        Yes, Milwaukee isn’t a favored destination but if you have any knowledge of how rookie contracts and restricted free agency you would know the Bucks, if they can get a “superstar” in this draft will have him for 7 years. We have to play the hand we’re dealt.

  3. vikingapologist - Dec 12, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    Spurs are the patriots of basketball! They are a well oiled franchise every team should try an emulate! Much like the Cavs, how many top picks have the T-Wolves had since KG left! To many, and this “great white hope” team stinks like usual! Of course, they pick the one year where having a top 5-6 pick, you really can’t screw up, to finish in the middle of the pack , once again missing out on premier talent!
    Look at the wolves top picks- Derrick Williams- gone
    Stephen Curry-traded draft day
    Wesley Johnson- gone
    Randy Foye-gone
    Ray Allen-traded draft day
    Brandon Roy-traded draft day
    Mario chalmers-traded draft day
    Ty Lawson -traded draft day
    Johnny Flynn right after Rubio(cause we needed to draft yet another point guard) Gone
    Nick Calaithes-traded Draft
    Lazar Haywood & Wayne Ellington Both GONE-
    This franchise is pathetic & it’s a shame, because given their draft positions, a casual fan could hAve done a better job! 2013- shabazz mohammd???! Seriously
    So, while writing an article on the Bucks, I still feel the Wolves are bottom dwellers of the NBA

  4. greej1938l - Dec 12, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    Nice article on the bucks.

  5. huskerguy - Dec 12, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    Been a Bucks fan for 40 years… I love my Bucks. It is very hard to watch them this year. I miss the Big 3, Ricky Pierce, Terry Cummings, Sidney Moncreif, Vinny Baker… heck, I miss Brickowski. Sigh…

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