Erik Thorne

OnBucksBasketball - Week 14

In the NBA, the will of a player oftentimes will take a player of significant talent to the next level. When you get to the league, everyone is extremely athletic and can do most anything on the court. But each player must take it upon themselves to strengthen their resolve to be the best on the court every time their toes hit the hardwood. One player who expertly succeeded in this was forward Charles Oakley from the late 80s and 90s. Oakley had an okay shot, below average speed and decent agility but one area which he excelled in over all others was his will. Every night, he found a way to do anything he could to hustle his way to a rebound or loose ball. After his teammates saw Oakley do these painful and relentless activities, it rubbed off on every member of his team so that they thought, “Hey, if Charles is out there putting his body on the line for his team, than I must as well”. This season for the Bucks, they don’t have a guy they can look to in such admiration. For Milwaukee to be able to learn to win as a team, it’s mandatory that this same type of effort is put it night in and night out. If they acquire the trait of all out hustle, the Bucks will win many more of the close games they have not won to date in the future.

The week began with a difficult matchup against the Clippers at the Bradley Center. Recently, a bout of the flu has infected a handful of players. Being that Los Angeles boasts a lineup of strong, physical men in the post, it was the worst-case scenario for the Bucks not to have center Larry Centers available. The game was very competitive in the first quarter, but the Clippers came out on fire in the second quarter with an array of three point baskets and dunks. The shots that Milwaukee was hitting in the first quarter either didn’t go in or were not available because of an increased effort to defend by coach Doc Rivers. The Bucks were simply outmatched by the length of center DeAndre Jordan and strength of forward Blake Griffin, which resulted in an easy victory for the visiting Clippers.

The Bucks again welcomed a warm weather team to 4th and State with the lone visit by the surging Suns. Coming into the match, Phoenix had been the biggest surprise in the NBA this season after rebounding off a terrible season last year. In their commitment to keeping the team young, the Suns have succeeded with the rousing enthusiasm of their team, unselfish play, and good coaching from rookie coach Jeff Hornacek. In the end, the Bucks could not keep up with great perimeter shooting from Channing Frye and Gerald Green and were not able to keep the Morris twins out of the paint, leading to 29 points for the pair.

Milwaukee would get a break from the cold as they traveled to Orlando for a meeting between the two worst records in the NBA. Since trading away forward Tobias Harris to the Magic, he has been given the opportunity to show just how talented he can be as a starter. For much of the night, the Bucks again showed that they were not ready to be physical around the rim and it was exposed by second year pro Mo Harkless with an array of athletic dunks and put-backs. Caron Butler seems to have taken the lead of this team in the locker room as he told the team at halftime that, “(the Bucks) have to fall in love with the process of learning how to win”. Ultimately the Bucks would lose 113-102, mostly due to another slow start after being down after the first quarter 35-20.

Week fourteen ended with a road matchup in Memphis in what would be a fairly competitive game. The Bucks would lead the game through the first three quarters of the game, finally showing a true passion and intensity on both ends of the floor. Without their skilled point guard Mike Conley, the Grizzlies found it difficult to get open and make the extra pass for an easier shot. However, in the fourth quarter the Bucks just weren’t able to get a hand in reserve guard Nick Calathes face and he made the visitors pay with a career high 22 points in the contest. It was a sight for sore eyes to see Milwaukee get their hands dirty against a usually gritty team in Memphis. If only they were able to play them a third time!

Though times may be tough for Bucks fans, it is encouraging to see the team finally start to mesh. An increased role for rookie point guard Nate Wolters seems to have put a jolt in the Bucks aggressiveness and by and large its because Wolters has nothing to lose. Any playing time is good playing time for a rookie in the NBA and the “jack rabbit” has made use of every opportunity he has been given. “We competed. And that’s what we have to do from here on out”, said the determined Wolters. Maybe this is just the tonic Milwaukee has needed for their team to succeed. Sometimes, all it takes is for a player on a struggling team to show that they are going to give everything they have for their team to light a spark. Whether that spark leads to a blazing fire this season is doubtful, but next year Wolters will be ready to burn. Will the rest of the Bucks be ready?

BUCK OF THE WEEK! Larry Sanders – 34 points, 26 rebounds, 6 blocks

8 wins/39 losses