Plot twist: Depleted Bucks are a really good story
MILWAUKEE It’s always good to see George Karl back in the Bradley Center, mostly because his presence is a reminder of the wild ride the Milwaukee Bucks took during his five seasons on the bench.
The Bucks experienced the highest of highs during Karl’s time. In 2001, they came within 48 minutes of the NBA Finals. But they also became familiar with the lowest of lows. In some ways, the franchise still has not recovered from the Anthony Mason signing and the Ray Allen trade, moves that Karl had the power to force.
Anyway, the timing of his arrival Sunday with the Denver Nuggets was in some ways pertinent.
Not to be overly provincial about this, but the Bucks are a really good story, one of the best in the league for the way they’ve been able to maintain playoff positioning with the depth of their injuries. At the same time, it wouldn’t take much to tip this thing the other way.
Karl can relate. He was here when a roster-shaking trade left him with eight players one night in Indianapolis. He was here when the Bucks took Haywoode Workman off the scrap heap, threw him out there cold as the starting point guard and won with him for a time.
“(Scott) Skiles has been doing a very good job,” Karl said. “I always thought Scotty was a good coach. With every job he gets, he gets better.”
Naturally, Karl would mention coaching first. But in this case, it’s true. In Skiles, the Bucks have their first coach since Karl able to manage the complexities of NBA games and NBA personalities. If the Bucks make the playoffs, it would not be difficult to make a case for Skiles as coach of the year.
“Their talent has shrunk, but they’ve made a commitment to not beating themselves,” Karl said. “You have to beat them. That’s the trait of a good team.”
And they’re incredibly fun to watch, not in the same sense that Karl’s Allen-Sam Cassell-Glenn Robinson teams were fun to watch, but in some ways better. These guys do it as a team with what Karl euphemistically called “very visual deficiencies.” And to see them occasionally run up 120 points, as they did again Sunday, is a delight.
“I like watching the Bucks play,” Karl said. “I tip my hat to Sen. Kohl and Scott. There are rumors they’re going to blow it up and rebuild, but I like what they’re doing.”
Rumors? Like that’s some kind of a state secret. The Bucks have been most upfront about aggressively rearranging their mess of a $71 million payroll at some point. That’s just Karl’s manner of always picking, always prodding, always being the provocateur, but in a playful, no harm, no foul kind of way.
And so it was when someone asked Karl about Ramon Sessions.
“You’ve got to tell me about that one,” he said. “It seems like they like (Luke) Ridnour better than Sessions. I don’t deny that we made inquiries on Sessions (at the trading deadline).”
And this. . . .
“Did he mention why he got 44?”
That was Karl’s way of taking a swipe at Allen Iverson, who was sort of guarding Sessions a couple of weeks ago during his career-high game. And yes, George, we get it that the Nuggets stole Chauncey Billups for Iverson in the trade that’s got Denver challenging in the West.
Again, that’s Karl.
But this is also the Bucks:
The building was almost 2001 kind of loud Sunday as the Nuggets were going down.
So don’t forget to count these among the good times.