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Brandon Jennings and the Milwaukee Bucks to win the NBA finals

Posted on 18 November 2009 by James Hedman

Brandon Jennings and the Milwaukee Bucks to win the NBA Finals
James Hedman
Well, sort of. With the impressive start they are on, Milwaukee could very well be contenders for a playoff spot this year. And with 20 year-old Euro-leaguer Brandon Jennings on the court, the possibilities are more than endless. That’s right, Jennings found a loophole: he was the first high-school kid to ditch college and go for the pros since the NBA instituted the age restriction rule. The pros so far as the Italian team, Lottomatica Roma, which although it may not be an NBA franchise these guys still know how to ball. In the first seven games Jennings has averaged 34 minutes in which he scored 25.6 points per game. After just dropped a two point nail-biter to the Dallas Mavericks in OT, the Bucks are 5-3 and are right behind Cleveland  for control of the Central division.  That’s right King James and the Cleveland Cavs are the only better team in a tough division right now. I have not not even mentioned the 55 he just dropped against Golden State. Heck, he did not even score in the first quarter so that is 55 in just three quarters!
Let’s do some comparing around the league to show just how impressive Jennings has been: Dirk Nowitzski averages 25.7 ppg, 37.5 mins for Dallas, Manu Ginobili averages 15.6 ppg, 25.5 mins for the Spurs, and Paul Pierce has 18.4 ppg with 34.5 minutes for the Celtics. Aside from being superstars in the NBA, these players have led all their teams to the NBA finals over the past four years. When the Mavericks went in 2006, Jennings was just 16 years of age.
If he keeps this up, he can expect a hefty pay raise once his contract with Milwaukee nears an end. Let us check those previous stars’ bank accounts: Nowitzski’s payroll: $19.8 million, Ginobili’s payroll: $10.7 million, Pierce’s payroll: $19.8 million. Brandon Jennings? $2.2 mil. Congratulations Milwaukee, your eye for bargain young superstars won out this time. This diamond in the rough has been a rare gold mine for Milwaukee – seriously, we get more bang for the Buck.
All dull puns aside, the Bucks have a lot of work to do, with upcoming matches against Charlotte, San Antonio, and Orlando through the end of November. We will have to see what this Italian Stallion lefty, who’s  probably younger than most people reading this article, has in store for his new town.  After dropping 55 on Golden State, who knows what kind of limit is in the sky for this diaper dandy. Finals, perhaps? Playoffs, at least? I think so.
Move over, Michael Redd: this young’n straight outta Compton is finding himself among the high-rises and stars of Milwaukee – and will probably be there for a while.

Well, sort of. With the impressive start they are on, Milwaukee could very well be contenders for a playoff spot this year. And with 20 year-old Euro-leaguer Brandon Jennings on the court, the possibilities are more than endless. That’s right, Jennings found a loophole: he was the first high-school kid to ditch college and go for the pros since the NBA instituted the age restriction rule. The pros so far as the Italian team, Lottomatica Roma, which although it may not be an NBA franchise these guys still know how to ball. In the first seven games Jennings has averaged 34 minutes in which he scored 25.6 points per game. After just dropped a two point nail-biter to the Dallas Mavericks in OT, the Bucks are 5-3 and are right behind Cleveland  for control of the Central division.  That’s right King James and the Cleveland Cavs are the only better team in a tough division right now. I have not not even mentioned the 55 he just dropped against Golden State. Heck, he did not even score in the first quarter so that is 55 in just three quarters!

Let’s do some comparing around the league to show just how impressive Jennings has been: Dirk Nowitzski averages 25.7 ppg, 37.5 mins for Dallas, Manu Ginobili averages 15.6 ppg, 25.5 mins for the Spurs, and Paul Pierce has 18.4 ppg with 34.5 minutes for the Celtics. Aside from being superstars in the NBA, these players have led all their teams to the NBA finals over the past four years. When the Mavericks went in 2006, Jennings was just 16 years of age.

If he keeps this up, he can expect a hefty pay raise once his contract with Milwaukee nears an end. Let us check those previous stars’ bank accounts: Nowitzski’s payroll: $19.8 million, Ginobili’s payroll: $10.7 million, Pierce’s payroll: $19.8 million. Brandon Jennings? $2.2 mil. Congratulations Milwaukee, your eye for bargain young superstars won out this time. This diamond in the rough has been a rare gold mine for Milwaukee – seriously, we get more bang for the Buck.

All dull puns aside, the Bucks have a lot of work to do, with upcoming matches against Charlotte, San Antonio, and Orlando through the end of November. We will have to see what this Italian Stallion lefty, who’s  probably younger than most people reading this article, has in store for his new town.  After dropping 55 on Golden State, who knows what kind of limit is in the sky for this diaper dandy. Finals, perhaps? Playoffs, at least? I think so.

Move over, Michael Redd: this young’n straight outta Compton is finding himself among the high-rises and stars of Milwaukee – and will probably be there for a while.

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Milwauakee Bucks short on players, but not on effort

Posted on 12 February 2009 by Tim Bucher

The Milwaukee Bucks, after undergoing a severe makeover this past off-season, now find themselves forced to do the same just a week prior to the All-Star break.
In a matter of two weeks, the team lost its starting shooting guard, center, and now point guard, all due to injury.

Wounded, but not dead, recent play has shown that the Bucks have chosen to brush aside excuses and fight on.

Last Saturday night against the Detroit Pistons the team forced a thriller of a game, ultimately falling in overtime, but carried nonetheless by second year point guard Ramon Sessions and his career high 44 points.

The plague of injuries began with former All-Star Michael Redd, who was declared out for the season after tearing both his anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in the January 24 game against the Sacramento Kings.

The hardships proved incessant when center Andrew Bogut was ruled out indefinitely with an incomplete stress fracture in his lower back. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bogut, who had struggled with the injury throughout the season, will be reevaluated at the end of March when the team has only seven games remaining. So it is almost safe to say that his latest injury will keep him out for the remainder of the season.

Looking to add some depth at the shooting guard position, Milwaukee proceeded to trade for shooting guard Keith Bogans, sending backup point guard Tyronn Lue to the Orlando Magic.

Then, almost simultaneously, starting point guard Luke Ridnour suffered a broken thumb during practice, keeping him out for up to four weeks. In a matter of seconds, the Bucks went from having three point guards in their rotation to one: Ramon Sessions.

But the Bucks and head coach Scott Skiles have no choice but to go with the flow. “The script is the same, it’s just that the actors have changed,” said Skiles before Saturday’s game against Detroit.
In the team’s first game without all three starters, Skiles replaced Ridnour with Sessions, rookie Luc Richard Mbah a Moute filled in for Redd, and veteran Francisco Elson slid in for the injured Aussie.

While the team ultimately fell to the Pistons, in order to continue a run towards the playoffs the Bucks will need consistent effort from players who stood in the shadows only weeks ago.

As Sessions showed, every player will be forced to elevate their game in order to necessitate a competitive basketball team.

Skiles, in his first year with the team, has already made long strides with players and fans. Milwaukee, coming off a very disappointing 26-56 season, is only three victories away from surpassing last year’s win total and have been flirting with the last two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

As of Sunday, the Bucks sit half a game back of New Jersey for the eigth spot and three games back of Philadelphia for the seventh in a likely battle for a daunting best-of-seven series against Boston, Cleveland or Orlando.

Although making the playoffs would be extraordinary, at this point, the Bucks should be simply hoping to build off their efforts of late and limp into the All-Star break without losing their entire roster to injury.

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NBA prospects for next year’s seniors

Posted on 02 April 2008 by Alex Kaftan

The Marquette Men’s basketball team could not stop the Lopez twins, particularly in the second half and in overtime, and are thus reduced to spectators for the rest of the tournament, which will conclude April 7th in San Antonio. While this season is over, there is a lot of optimism for 2008-09, when Marquette could have the most explosive three-man backcourt since the 2005-06 Villanova Wildcats. Those Wildcats featured two current NBA players, then-sophomore Kyle Lowry and senior Randy Foye, a third guard in Michael Nardi, gimpy and lanky 6-foot-10-inch center Jason Fraser and a talented but oft-injured 6-foot-7-inch forward in Curtis Sumpter. Marquette may be even more reliant on Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews than that Nova team due to their post-players lack of size and experience. After next season, however, where do these three guards project as NBA prospects?

After having his terrific Big East Freshman of the Year campaign in 2005-06, Dominic James has been somewhat of a disappointment these past two seasons, not showing much progress as a floor-general, despite having the most natural ability of the three. While his drop in assists per game may be due to the emergence of David Cubillan and McNeal as viable initiators, his assist-to-turnover ratio has been within .2 each season. Furthermore, he tends to overdribble far too frequently, which results in an oft-stagnant offense, leading to poor shots as the shot clock winds down and partially contributes to his low fieldgoal percentages. He often is prone to attacking the rim on reckless drives that result in either turnovers or difficult passes.

Dominic JamesJames’ driving ability, which even at the pro-level should be excellent due to his tremendous quickness, hesitation moves, yo-yo handle, strength and leaping ability, does not get maximized because of his aforementioned poor decision-making. This gets compounded by an extremely streaky outside shot, due to an inconsistent release point and fade, that gets used far too often and extremely poor free throw shooting for a point guard, preventing him from punishing teams for fouling him. It may sound painfully obvious, but a drive’s best friend is a good perimeter jumper. Players at the collegiate level can sag off James, reducing the effectiveness of his agility. NBA players, which are far bigger, stronger and more athletic, would pose an even greater challenge.

Despite this criticism, his natural physical ability, despite his lack of size, puts him easily in the top 1% of all college basketball players, and is greater than just about any other point guard prospect in this year’s draft not named Derrick Rose or Jarryd Bayless. He also is very tough and willing to play through pain. With a good season, in which he shows an improved jumper and decision making, especially in the halfcourt, he could still salvage his draft hopes and become an early second round pick for next season. My prediction is that, regardless of him being drafted, he will play in the NBA as a second or third string point, where, best case scenario, he has the ability to be a lockdown, full-court defender due to his physical prowess for twenty minutes a night.

This past season, and arguably last year as well, the best player of these three has been Jerel McNeal. Of the three, he also is the likeliest to get drafted, probably in the early to mid second round of the 2009 Draft. McNeal, while not as physically gifted as James, is quite the athlete himself and has shown improvement in just about every facet—including a staggering rise in his ast/to ratio—which bodes extremely well for his continued development. He already is an elite defender at the collegiate level and he has the tools to lock up most NBA points as well. His quickness, wingspan, strength, hops and intelligently-used aggression are all at good to elite NBA levels, but what stands out the most is his anticipation of passing lanes and effort, which is excellent. He also plays terrific man-to-man defense, getting his butt down, getting in his stance, shuffling his feet and showing superior fundamentals and effort. His problem, like James, is his lack of certain key offensive abilities. This forces him into the dreaded branding of “tweener”, a player that lacks a true position—although recently, tweener guards such as Monta Ellis, Ben Gordon and Leo Barbosa have had some success. Since the NBA, like all-professional sports, copies trends, this could favor McNeal’s chances of success, at least in getting drafted. Despite this, McNeal should still improve as a point guard, since he lacks the height at 6 feet 3 inches to defend most twos. While he never will be a full-time lead guard, he has the passing ability, both on the perimeter and in drive-and-kick situations, to occasionally initiate the offense. However, his greatest inhibitor to becoming a fulltime point is his loose handle, dribbling far too often away from his body, which results in turnovers while he uses his aggressiveness and athleticism in driving. An improved ball handling ability would also make him an even more lethal penetrator, since he has the quickness, athleticism and strength to be deadly at that even in the NBA. He also could improve greatly on his jumper, which has an inconsistent form, especially from long-range and his free throw shooting.

Jerel McNealThe least heralded of the three soon-to-be seniors, and the least likely to get drafted, is Wesley Matthews Jr. Unlike James and McNeal, he does not possess elite athleticism. At the NBA level, his athleticism would be a little below average for NBA shooting guards. His height, while not inhibiting by any means, would make him slightly smaller than the typical 6 feet 6 inches and above pure shooting guards that are recently coming into the NBA. Despite this lack of stature, he has an NBA-ready body, with good strength, giving him the ability to finish after contact. His shooting form could improve greatly, as he has a herky-jerky release that includes a bent lower back and little elevation that surprisingly lets him net 30 percent of his threes. This means that he has a good natural shooting touch—which is also seen by his high free-throw percentage—which gives him a very high ceiling when it comes to shooting, if he changes his form. He could do this, and improve on his overall game to get it to NBA-level, such as his ball-handling, if he goes to Europe, plays for a midlevel team his first year, and then jumps to the Euroleague for two or three more seasons. The Euroleague and the highly competitive Spanish, Italian, Greek, Russian and Turkish domestic leagues are excellent for players like Matthews. Current NBA role-players, such as Bruce Bowen, Anthony Parker of Toronto and Charlie Bell, played college basketball and lacked an essential element to their games that would allow them to play in the NBA. They went to Europe and improved on whatever was needed. For this reason, I believe that Matthews has the best chance to become an NBA player, due to his ability to eventually become a decent-size and decently athletic shooting specialist. If this occurs, then he would, of the three, have the best combination of size, athleticism, decision making and perimeter jumper, plus he would actually fit a position, which McNeal and James do not. Essentially, he would be your prototypical two guard and zone breaker off the bench.

Next year, assuming James, Matthews and McNeal are healthy, should be one of tremendous success for Marquette. Beyond that, we could see all three get at least a cup of coffee in the NBA, and at least one develop into an NBA role-player, where it is easier to survive if one has a single great skill—usually either 3-point shot or defense—and compliment that with adequate skills in other areas. My guess is that in five years, Matthews will be the best of the bunch, but McNeal certainly could improve in the structured game of Europe as well, and develop into at least a competent shooter and part-time point, making him a lock-down reserve. McNeal is also the likeliest to play NBA ball immediately after college. Despite having the most natural ability, I do not foresee James as having a long or productive NBA career, and his game wouldn’t transition well to European basketball. He certainly can prove me wrong, though. If he buys into the structure that Europe offers and improves his playmaking abilities and shooting, then he has the highest ceiling of the three.

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The NBA’s bounce back to the top

Posted on 13 March 2008 by Tim Bucher

With steroids fully encompassing the MLB’s attention, player misconduct and a certain dog-fighting scandal doing the same for the NFL, the NBA has continued a steady move back to where it had found itself throughout the ’80s and ’90s.

When Michael Jordan retired in ’98 and then came back and retired in ’00, the demeanor of the NBA took a huge blow. The Nielsen Ratings of the 1999 NBA Finals dropped 7.4 points, from 18.7 to 11.3. In losing Michael Jordan the NBA lost not only huge endorsements, but fans and the greatest basketball player I’ve ever been privileged to see in my lifetime as well. It may have taken some time, but the NBA is back and is just as strong as it was 10 years ago, gaining a stronger international fan base while inoculating itself with young and diverse talent.

After losing Jordan, the NBA looked at their predicament and tried to remedy it to the best of their abilities. ESPN and the national media helped their cause by continually hyping up 16 and 17 year old players by showcasing high school games on national television and thrusting these teens into the limelight. The NBA hoped to have found potential saviors in the likes of Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. But boy, did they hit the jackpot.

The NBA age restriction rule took effect directly after the 2004 Draft in which Dwight Howard was selected first overall by the Orlando Magic. Fast forward to today and each of those players’ stat lines read like a straight-A report card.

Howard is averaging a double double with 21.7 points per game and 14.5 rebounds this season, a two-time All-Star and not to mention coming off a huge win in the Slam Dunk Contest. Who really cares if he didn’t actually dunk the ball when he donned a Superman cape? The man was so high up he was able to throw the ball in the basket.

Continuing on, Anthony is also a two-time All-Star averaging 26.3 ppg and 7.3 rebounds this year while leading a Nuggets team that, if they can stay ahead of Golden State, claim a spot in the playoffs in a now even more stacked Western Conference (I’ll touch on that later).

Then you turn to King James. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that he is the one carrying the torch for the future. The 23 year-old is averaging 30.2 ppg as well as 8.1 rpg and 7.5 assists, almost identical to Michael Jordan’s stat line in his fifth year in the NBA (32.5 ppg, 8 rpg and 8 apg). Not to mention that this man-beast has won the All-Star MVP award almost 67 % of the time he’s played in the game (2/3 for those not counting) as well as scoring the 29 of the team’s last 30 points in the Eastern Conference Finals leading his team to the NBA Finals while scoring 48 points and showcasing one of the most spectacular individual performances ever seen.

Yes, one may argue that with all this talent the NBA has still been posting continuous all-time low Nielson ratings but there are two factors that must be considered. First, the NBA has seen the resurgence of fan-attended games with attendance steadily increasing over the past several years. Instead of watching games on television or simply not watching at all, fans, especially younger fans, are making their way out to the games. The league has set attendance records in both the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons and looks to be on pace to surpass that mark once again.

Secondly, the whirlwind of blockbuster trades within the past week or two has already and will continue to broaden the NBA’s fan-base. In the month of February alone Shaq, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Ben Wallace and Mike Bibby have all changed jerseys. Mark my words, the Western Conference Playoffs and even possibly the Eastern Conference, now with the exciting prospect of a newly formed Cavaliers team taking on the “Boston Three-Party” in the Conference Finals, this year will be the most exciting basketball seen since the days of the short shorts, knee-socks and Bill Laimbeer. So while you’re flipping through the channels watching Roger Clemens in Washington or happen to see Adam “Pac-Man” Jones flying off the top turnbuckle, stop and watch the NBA, you won’t be disappointed.

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Our very own sportsman

Posted on 11 December 2006 by Justin Phillips

I realize that this is relatively old news, but our very own Dwyane Wade was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year. Having just read the article I would have to recommend it to not only fans of Wade, but to anyone who loves to read about people overcoming great odds and the redemptive power of love. Seriously, just when you thought you knew the Wade story you read this and realize blessing doesn’t even begin to describe him. If you want to understand what I mean by that you are just going to have to read the article for yourself.

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Former Warrior to start in the NBA All-Star Game

Posted on 03 February 2006 by admin

Dwyane Wade was named to his second NBA All-Star game on Thursday. The nomination will mark Wade’s first All-Star start in his three seasons in the NBA. Wade who is averaging 27 points per game and seven assists was quoted after his game against fellow starter LeBron James as having said, ???I am thankful. When you are voted in by the fans, it means so much. They have been watching me grow for three years. I am truly honored. I am going to do my best to represent the East and represent my fans as well.??? Wade is joined on the team by Heat teammate Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal, and Allen Iverson. Representing the West will be Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Tracy McGrady, Tim Duncan, and Yao Ming. The remainder of the teams will be announced next week.

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