Brandon Jennings: Point of No Return?
Frank: The Bucks hit the break at 26-25 and in the eighth and last Eastern Conference playoff spot. They're one and a half games behind No.7 Boston and four games ahead of No. 9 Philly.
Artie: What annoys me is that with a little more success they could be right on Atlanta's heels instead of trailing by three games for the sixth spot.
F: And a much better chance in the first playoff round.
A: Playing, say, Indiana instead of the defending champs in Miami.
F: In 2010 the Bucks were a 6 and led Atlanta 3-2 but lost in seven.
A: Right now anything above No. 8 is looking out of reach. They keep losing to teams they should handle, like Cleveland and Detroit.
F: And even Washington at home.
A: Well, the Wizards have been playing well since they got John Wall back. But still, where was the sense of urgency for the Bucks? They finally got it in the second half against Philly.
F: So what's been going wrong?
A: Larry Sanders' back injury sure hasn't helped. But I've got one prime suspect.
F: And he is...?
A: Let's start with this: Watching Wisconsin play Michigan, I was hugely impressed by Trey Burke, the Wolverines' sophomore point guard. I was wishing David Stern would allow NBA teams to make trades with college squads.
F: In return for Burke, I assume you'd give up the Bucks' current starter at the point?
A: In a heartbeat! That's how disappointed I am by Brandon Jennings in his fourth NBA season.
F: I have no rooting interest, but it seems like Jennings and his backcourt partner, Monta Ellis, are both too inconsistent.
A: True, but I hold Jennings more to blame as the alleged court leader—and someone who ostensibly became the “face of the franchise” after the Andrew Bogut trade.
F: Jennings seems to be a real spotty shooter.
A: He went 8 for freakin' 27 against Detroit, 3 for 17 against Washington and 8 for 21 against Philly. That's 28% over the last three games at home. He shoots no better than the day he got here.
F: Let's find his stats... his season figures are .371, .390, .418 and so far .395.
A: So in four years his best shooting percentage has been under 42%. On defense, forget about it! People say he's getting two steals per game, but if he's the one taking the shot off a steal, how confident can you be?
F: Jennings is averaging about 17 shots per game, the same as Ellis, the designated “shooting guard.”
A: And Ellis is just barely shooting 40%, about five percentage points below his career average.
F: As a team, the Bucks went into the break leading the NBA in field-goal attempts per game, at 87.0. But they were 26th out of 30 teams in shooting accuracy, at .432.
A: I hold Jennings accountable. He shoots too much and he's too predictable. He really only goes one way, to his strong side as a lefty. Burke is a righty who can go either way with ease.
F: Assuming Burke goes pro this summer, the Bucks don't figure to be in position to draft him.
A: Unless a blockbuster deal moves them up.
F: And now that general manager John Hammond has a contract extension, he's got the authority to wheel and deal.
A: Why wait? The trading deadline is Thursday, and I'd be very surprised if Hammond doesn't make a move. And I wouldn't mind if he deals Jennings now.
F: After the season he'll be a restricted free agent, so to keep him the Bucks would have to match some offer from another club. Jennings had denied reports that he's unhappy here, but who knows?
A: If he's offered some ungodly amount, let him be Allen Iverson-Lite somewhere else. Better yet, get something for him now! Because of our deadline, by the time people read this it may be a done deal.
F: The Bucks could lose Jennings and Ellis, who holds an $11 million option for next season.
A: Well then, maybe deal 'em both in some multi-team thing.
F: That'd be a lot of points to lose.
A: But a lot of missed shots, too. I'd like to see Ellis stay, but working with a true point guard who wants to be a distributor first and make his teammates more effective.
F: In any case, the mojo that built up after Jim Boylan replaced Scott Skiles has faded.
A: But that sixth seed is still there for the taking. It's so frustrating!
THAT SHRINKING TYPE
A: Hey, I know a real nice point guard who'd look great in a Bucks uniform—Phoenix's Goran Dragic. He's averaging about14 points and 6 assists, a 44% shooter, he's got some size at 6’3” and he's only 26.
F: I'll bet Mr. Hammond has heard of him.
A: As you know, I love to pore over the NBA box scores, but I've got to say I'm disappointed in your former publication. I was hoping that once football season was over and the saturation Packers coverage eased up, the Journal Sentinel would go back to running the expanded box scores for ALL the NBA games, not just the Bucks'.
F: Just another sign of the incredible shrinking space in modern newspapers—the print versions, anyway. Tighter space means tighter “agate” type—box scores, standings, stat lists, whatever. Unless, in the case of the JS, it relates to the Subject of All Subjects, the Packers.
A: I love to analyze all the assists and rebounds and turnovers for EVERYONE. And I know I can get that stuff on the Inter-Web, but frankly it takes me a lot longer to find that stuff online instead of having it all there on one page right in front of you.
F: I know what you mean. If you're looking at a printed page all you have to do is shift your eyes to compare, say, Jennings' night to Steph Curry's. But on the Web you've got to click out of one game to get back to the schedule, then click on the next game you want.
A: And then maybe sit through an ad, or take another click or two to stop it from running.
F: Or if the ad isn't already waiting for you, there might be another annoyance I've noticed recently: You click to a page and you're all set to scroll down to what you want to see, but first the display 'jumps” a bit because they're sticking an ad at the top.
A: Or maybe you're sidetracked or waylaid into some slide-show pictorial of cheerleaders from the SEC or some other drivel. As Joe Friday used to say, “Just the stats, ma'am.”
THEY'RE STAYING HOME
F: One thing I've noticed in the Bucks box scores is some pretty low attendance figures. Not that the Pistons are necessarily a great draw, but that game was a Saturday night and it drew only 15,511, more than 3,000 under the capacity of 18,717. Two nights later the announced crowd was 13,842 for the Wizards, and the Philly game drew 15,114.
A: Just about any JS photo from a Bucks game shows a lot of empty seats in the upper deck.
F: For the season, in 26 home games the Bucks rank 27th out of 30 teams with an average of 14,409, or about 77% of capacity.
A: That ain't good for a franchise that's gonna be going to the public pretty soon with the usual veiled demand of, “We need a new arena or...”
F: And they'll be backed by all the corporate big shots in town—but how much of their own money will they be willing to kick in? And what do they really mean by “a new arena”?
A: More affordable seats for the average guy or gal? Hardly; it's more suites and “club seating” for the fat cats, more places to sell overpriced beer and food...
F: Including a full-blown restaurant—which, if I were running Major Goolsby's or Buck Bradley's, I'd see as nothing but cutthroat competition.
A: And Joe and Josephine Fan are welcome, as always, to fill up the rafters.
F: But of course for even higher prices.
A: Now, if they really wanted to offer something for the average fan, forget about the fancy restaurant and put a dry cleaner or an auto-repair shop in the new arena. So if I wanted I could get a brake job or some shirts pressed while I took in a game.
F: Makes too much sense.
A: I really enjoy having an NBA team here to root for. And it would be a shame to lose 'em. But the bottom line is that I can't afford to go there—not for any seat that would give me a view like the HD wide screen.
F: And a team that loses to Detroit and Washington at home doesn't provide much of an incentive to go.
THROWN OUT OF THE RING
F: What do you think of the Olympics giving wrestling the heave-ho for 2020?
A: It's definitely a shame, especially since they're keeping all that horse stuff. I don't watch the wrestling, but it sure seems like it belongs, if only because it's one of the oldest sports.
F: And one of the most universal. One reason baseball and softball got dropped a while back was that relatively few countries play 'em. But I'd guess that just about every country has wrestling.
A: The International Olympic Committee sure didn't give much of a reason for the wrestling decision. It was basically, “We want to have 25 core sports, and this is the one we don't want.” Plus it was a secret ballot by some 15-person committee, which means they don't have the guts to give the real reason.
F: Which I think is the same reason that every other decision is made in big-time sports: To somehow maximize TV ratings, and therefore TV money. I guess wrestling doesn't draw big numbers, but surely the same must be true for the goofy “modern pentathlon,” a Count of Monte Cristo mix that includes fencing, shooting and riding horses. And besides, every Olympics has hundreds of hours of coverage on several networks. They can't find a few of those hours to show a genuine sport?
A: A lot more genuine than stuff like rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming—or my favorite target, beach volleyball.
F: There I think I have a simple explanation. People like to watch pretty girls twirling around in various ways—even the weirdly glammed-up ones in the swimming routines.
A: Well then, let's glam up wrestling to boost the ratings. Allow 'em to wear masks and slug each other with folding chairs. Introduce those infamous “sleeper holds”...
F: Or the pile-driver—“It's banned in most states,” as they used to say on those old black-and-white wrestling shows.
A: There certainly are plenty of countries whose wrestlers would automatically qualify for the villain roles. I'll bet the ratings would go through the roof.
Frank Clines covered sports for The Milwaukee Journal and the Journal Sentinel. Art Kumbalek can't go to his left or right.