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Bucks leave for China: First game set for Wednesday

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McClatchy-Tribune
October 13, 2008
— Milwaukee Bucks players Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd know what to expect this week as the team takes part in the NBA China Games.

Less than two months ago, both players were competing in the Olympic Games in Beijing, and Redd returned home with a gold medal as the "Redeem Team" atoned for a poor U.S. showing four years earlier in Athens.


Bogut's primary souvenir from his trip was a sprained ankle, suffered when the Australian center got tangled up with Team USA star Kobe Bryant in the quarterfinals.


This time, the Bucks and Golden State Warriors will play a pair of exhibition games and showcase their stars for basketball fans in Guangzhou and Beijing.


The teams meet first in Guangzhou, where former Bucks forward Yi Jianlian once played professionally, at 7 a.m. Wednesday Milwaukee time. The second game is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. Friday (11:30 a.m. Saturday in China) at the Olympic venue in Beijing.


Both games will be televised on ESPN2.


"The Chinese are the most dedicated and craziest fans I've seen about basketball," Bogut said. "It compares a lot to college (fans). They really appreciate great plays and great players.


"It's great to be in that environment, even if you're a 7, 8, 9, 10 guy on the bench. They respect you and they love you."


The Bucks' delegation, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, departed Sunday morning and was scheduled to arrive in the southern city of Guangzhou this evening (around 6 a.m. today Milwaukee time). The trip marks the first visit outside the North American continent for the franchise, which did take part in exhibition games in Puerto Rico and Hawaii in the early 1970s.


"We've got 15 hours each way to talk and get together, and we can develop chemistry over there, too," Redd said. "It will be good for our team."


Both teams will be involved in National Basketball Association-sponsored events, including a Special Olympics clinic Friday at the Wukesong Arena in Beijing. The Bucks are also scheduled to make a visit to the Great Wall of China on Thursday.


But work still needs to be done for a team trying to build an identity under coach Scott Skiles.


"This is not a vacation," forward Richard Jefferson said. 'Everybody has a lot of respect for Coach, and knows we're not going over here as a goodwill mission.


"I don't care what our legs are feeling like, or how many different events we have, we're coming over to work. You have to travel all this distance, and when you come back, you have the time adjustments and all those different things.


"Coaches don't look at these situations as a positive. So you have to understand that and be ready to go when you put those uniforms on."


Golden State, under former Bucks coach Don Nelson, has its own issues to sort out. With point guard Monta Ellis sidelined after his infamous "moped" injury and suspended for the first 26 regular-season games, the Warriors are trying to identify a starting point guard.


Veteran Stephen Jackson might get a shot at the point position, and forwards Al Harrington and Corey Maggette are getting accustomed to working with each other.


"They play a little bit different style," Skiles said. "They're really wide open, and they have a lot of success playing that way.


"Golden State will test our transition defense, which still needs work. But going forward, we want to get all the basics down, and then we'll worry about adjusting to the opponent."


Charlie Bell is the only player not making the trip, Skiles said. The veteran guard will stay behind to continue rehabilitation on his injured left ankle.


Skiles was able to use his regulars extensively in a 111-99 loss to Detroit on Saturday night at the Bradley Center. He will continue to balance rest and work for the starters, while monitoring the right knee tendinitis that has slowed point guard Luke Ridnour in training camp.


"We've got to do what's best for our organization," Skiles said. "They have great fans over there that love the NBA, and one of the reasons we're going over there is they want to see the NBA players.


"At the same time, we've got to make decisions based on what's best for our players and our franchise."


When the Bucks return from China on Saturday, they will have nine days to prepare for their regular-season opener Oct. 28 in Chicago. They will have two more games during the final week of the exhibition season, at Minnesota and at Chicago.


"Right now it seems to have this right in the middle of exhibition season is a little bit cumbersome," Skiles said. "But I don't think you want to prejudge it.


"It may be something that we look back on and say, 'Hey, we had a great time over there.' Our whole plan has been to get something going so we can manage the trip and also come back and play well the last couple of exhibition games before we get to the regular season."



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