Bucks ready to light it up
Still, getting a top-10 scorer in a five-player trade with Golden State will be a significant addition for a team that already was trying to play a quick transition offense with center Andrew Bogut out injured. Now Bogut is gone for good, sent to the Warriors along with Stephen Jackson.
“My first thing I said was, ‘Well, it looks like we’ll be running a lot more,’” point guard Brandon Jennings said. “A lot of just up and down buckets, a lot of fast breaks. That’s when I got more excited.”
Added Jennings on Ellis, “He’s probably one of the fastest guys with the ball in the league.”
The Bucks sent Bogut and Jackson to the Warriors in a trade Tuesday night, getting Ellis, forward Ekpe Udoh and the expiring contract of Kwame Brown in return. Ellis and Udoh didn’t play in the victory against Cleveland on Wednesday night, but could be in uniform for Friday night’s game—which, coincidentally, is at Golden State.
Bucks general manager John Hammond said Bogut and Jackson must complete their Warriors physical examinations before the trade is complete and Ellis and Udoh can play for Milwaukee. Hammond was hopeful that would happen before Friday’s game.
“We have our fingers crossed,” Hammond said.
Once that happens, the Bucks will look to push the tempo even more with Ellis on board—and hope to make a push for the playoffs.
Ellis and Udoh were introduced at a news conference Wednesday evening, and Ellis said he’s committed to playing whatever style coach Scott Skiles wants.
“We’re going to do some great things here,” Ellis said.
After a rough February, the Bucks have chased down the struggling New York Knicks in the race for the No. 8 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.
More than anything, Jennings is excited that he won’t be the main focus for opposing defenses any more. Ellis is scoring 21.9 points per game, ninth-best in the league.
“He’ll take a lot of pressure off me, just in general,” Jennings said. “I won’t feel like I have to go out there and score so many points for the team. Now I can go out there and run the point guard a little bit more, get more assists. That’s something I love to do.”
Skiles has tried to play a more uptempo style this year, especially since Bogut broke his left ankle in late January.
“We’re pretty wide open right now anyway,” Skiles said. “We’re pushing the ball up the floor, and we’ve got multiple ball handlers out there. We’re taking early shots if they present themselves. Hopefully, we might even get a little bit quicker. Certainly Monta’s quick—very quick. And hopefully we’ll continue to kind of play in that style and move the ball around and cause people problems.”
The biggest question facing the made-over Milwaukee roster is defense, something the Bucks have struggled with this season.
“We’re having some really nice, like five- to seven-minute stretches where we’re really locking things down defensively,” Skiles said. “And that’s the reason we’ve been able to win some games. We just haven’t done it for real long periods of time, which ultimately we’re going to have to do.”
Asked to assess Ellis’ defensive ability, Skiles was somewhat cautious.
“He’s been good in certain situations, especially when he’s been given a challenge to guard more of a main guy,” Skiles said. “And like a lot of the NBA players, if it’s somebody that doesn’t appear to be a main guy, there can be some slippage. But he certainly has that ability.”
Hammond said Udoh can help on the defensive end; in a conversation after the trade, Ellis told Hammond that Udoh might be a “steal” in the deal.
“You can’t run without the ball,” Hammond said. “And I think Ekpe’s going to help us in that regard. We needed to increase and help our interior defense, and this guy is going to be a very good goaltender for us.”
Skiles said he’ll miss Bogut, and hoped the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft would get a fresh start after an injury-plagued stay in Milwaukee.
Then there’s the departure of Jackson, who appeared to fall out of favor with Skiles and hasn’t been playing lately because of what the team described as a hamstring injury. Asked if he was relieved that Jackson’s situation is resolved, Skiles downplayed any sense of tension.
“It’s just one of those things,” Skiles said. “I wouldn’t go that far. It’s just part of the trade.”
Jennings was also careful when asked why Jackson’s short stay with the Bucks didn’t turn out better.
“I really can’t put my hand on that,” Jennings said. “That’s a touchy situation between Jackson and Coach. But at the end of the day, he was still positive with everybody around the team, still a great guy in the locker room, a great guy to have around.”
And while Jennings said it was tough watching teammates leave in a trade, he’s excited about the possibilities of teaming with Ellis.
“I’m thinking we can get 100-some points a night,” Jennings said. “It’ll be great—and more TV time.”