Columnist says major problem with Bucks lies within team chemistry
March 12, 2003
Filed under Sports
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Attention all Milwaukee Bucks fans: don’t be too upset about the Gary Payton/Desmond Mason trade for Ray Allen, or even the Big Dog for Toni Kukoc ordeal.
The Bucks’ major problem could have been solved earlier than this, but as with most sports in Milwaukee, there is always someone there to mess up a good thing.
Think back to the 2000-01 season when the Bucks went 52-30, winning the Central Division and taking a No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
They breezed through the first round, beating Orlando 3-1, then squeezed past Charlotte 4-3. They eventually fell in a close series with Philadelphia. Technically, however, they were only one point away from a finals berth. if you think back to game five when Dikembe Mutumbo was not called for goaltending on a desperation tip that Allen would have made. The Bucks dropped that game 89-88. Had they won, they could have taken the series back to Milwaukee and finished off the Sixers.
But all of that is in the past, and the team that takes the court at the Bradley Center no longer resembles this powerhouse that once destroyed teams with its array of three-point shooting. The only starting member from that team is Sam Cassell — what a surprise.
After that series was over, I watched all the replays of the playoffs and noticed one blatently obvious thing that separated the Bucks from being a powerhouse contender to a champion — a center.
It is the one thing the Bucks have been lacking for years, and they still are having the same problem today. Think about it. The reason the Bucks did so well in 2001 without a center was due to the fact that they had so many outside weapons. Allen could hit the three, Cassell could dish out assists and Robinson had one of the best mid-range jumpers in the game.
They could derail even the Lakers, which they did twice that year. The only problem was, they didn’t have a center to make those crucial blocks on defense or grab the offensive boards for second chance points. It is still killing the team today.
All the Bucks had to do two years ago was make a phenomenal trade for a center and their major problems would have been solved. Trading away Robinson and Allen would not have been necessary today. If not through a trade, the Bucks could have simply developed Joel Przybilla and made him into a quality center.
Instead, the Bucks chose a different path. They decided to pick up Anthony Mason, who was an all-star forward the year before with the Miami Heat. That messed up the team chemistry and as proven by the Bucks’ horrid finish that season. They were a team on the verge of the finals that didn’t even qualify for the playoffs.
Robinson was the next to go and that has many different areas of criticism to go with it.
The Bucks seemed to be on and off this season, until the trade deadline approached and Allen was dealt to Seattle. Now, with the season winding down, the Bucks are forced to once again reestablish their team chemistry and make a run for the playoffs.
Now, I’m mixed about the most recent trade because it has its pros and cons. Sure, Payton andD. Mason will be big factors and could help the Bucks this season and in the long run.
On the other hand, it could all backfire.
Payton is reaching the end of his career while Allen is still in his prime. Also, Payton is not signed on the Bucks’ roster for next year yet, and if the team can’t sign him, it basically tossed away one of the most gifted shooting guards in the NBA.
Only time will tell.
By making so many trades with their prime players, the Bucks have been dealing with the problem of team chemistry ever since. If they would have worked off the 2001 team and improved it, they could have lived up to the predication made by ESPN that year — Milwaukee Bucks in the 2002 NBA Finals.
Making a few changes here and there works, but shifting an entire team around in two years, creates more problems than it solves. As for now, there is nothing the Bucks can do to bring back their 2001 team and start from there. They’ll have to work with what they have in front of them, which could just be enough to squeeze them into the playoffs.
-Slater is a sophomore print journalism major and Sports editor of The Spectator.