Bucks take step back by missing playoffs
MILWAUKEE Drew Gooden is going back to Kansas to get three hours closer to a college degree in communications. Andrew Bogut believes he’ll see the Australian summer for the first time in nearly a decade. Keyon Dooling will fill his time with labor issues.
None of the Bucks wants to dwell on this season.
A year after reaching the postseason for the first time since 2006, Milwaukee slumped back into its losing habits with a 35-47 year marked by injuries, chemistry issues and far too few victories.
The Bucks were the lowest-scoring team (91.9 points per game) in the NBA in three years and the worst shooting team (43.0 percent) since the franchise’s expansion year in 1968-69.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow for sure,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said Thursday. “My personal belief is there’s no reason to try and put a positive spin on it other than we have a lot of work to do and we’ve got to start that work almost immediately and try to get better.”
The uncertain labor future hangs over everyone in the NBA.
Dooling is vice president of the player’s union executive committee and has been keeping his teammates informed on everything from the latest on negotiations to advising rookie Larry Sanders how to put money away for what may be a long work stoppage.
“Obviously the NFL is going through their deal, so we’ll see a clearer picture because they’ll have to run the race first,” Dooling said. “I just really want to see a fair deal for both sides. … It’s just a matter of splitting that dollar up and being fair with each other.”
Splitting up things was a big problem for the Bucks on a team level, too, with those chemistry issues that affected them on offense and in the locker room.
“I think a little bit too many changes were made, I think the guys bought in, but eight new guys off a 46-win team was a little tough,” Bogut said. “We thought we made great moves to get us over the line, to get us to the second round and it didn’t work out like that.
“Chemistry is underrated in the NBA and team camaraderie off the floor is underrated. We need to get a good group out there.”
Bogut had season-ending right arm surgery again after failing to regain full strength after an ugly fall just over a year ago shattered his elbow. He needed six different incisions to clean out spurs and scar tissue on Tuesday.
“I’ve got a jar full of loose bones taken out of my arm,” said Bogut, who finished with a career-best 11.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. “I should definitely be a little bit more pain free than I was this season.”
Second-year point guard Brandon Jennings dealt with a broken foot midway through the year and only managed to crack a smile Thursday talking about Kurt Thomas, who was on the roster last season when the team took Atlanta to a Game 7 in the first round.
“There’s always going to be chemistry issues when you have new players. The hardest thing is trying to get guys together,” Jennings said.
General manager John Hammond has said changes are on the horizon.
Michael Redd is likely headed to free agency as well after completing his $91 million max contract deal following two major knee surgeries that cost him all but 28 games the last two years.
Chris Douglas-Roberts said after the final game of the season in Oklahoma City that his time with Milwaukee was over and Corey Maggette wasn’t seen during the players’ brief stop Thursday to clean out lockers and sign a few items for charity.
Milwaukee made two big moves last year, signing Gooden and John Salmons to five-year contracts.
Salmons was the spark that helped Milwaukee go 22-8 down the stretch last year and reach the playoffs by averaging 19.9 points per game. This year, he averaged 14 points and was barely a factor in fourth quarters.
Gooden missed 43 games dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. He needs 18 more credit hours to graduate from Kansas, but has decided not to enroll past the summer session in case the labor unrest ends early.
Bogut said he’ll be healed and ready for training camp, but wouldn’t mind a few extra months off even though he knows he won’t be paid for it.
“The way I look at it is I’ll see my first Australian summer in eight, nine years, it’s just going to be an expensive one,” he joked.
And Jennings believes they still have a strong core to compete with the Eastern Conference elite next season even though Skiles said no one on the roster is untouchable.
“If anything, I can say we’re right there with the Bulls, we were just like one or two plays away, if you think about it,” Jennings said.
And 27 more wins.