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Pre-Game Reconnaissance: Knicks vs. Bucks- 1/20/12

That's just a boy deer, you know.

What's up with the Bucks?

Frank Madden of the excellent Brew Hoop has that more than covered:

Fact one: the Bucks' MO for the better part of the past two summers has been surrounding Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings with enough veteran talent to make noise in the playoffs. Fact two: for the second straight season, the Bucks are staring at the increasing likelihood that they won't even make the playoffs.

While the Bucks' 4-9 start to the season has them 10th in the East and a mere 1.5 games out of the final playoff spot, the reality is that they have surprisingly little margin for error if they hope to snag a postseason berth. Among the East's current top eight teams, only Cleveland is an obvious choice to falter, and few would expect the Bucks to beat out the Celtics (9th) for one of the conference's top eight spots. Beyond that, Orlando still has Dwight Howard, Atlanta hasn't slowed down since losing Al Horford, the Knicks still seem too talented, and the Sixers look far more likely to clinch home court than falter and miss the playoffs altogether.

But before worrying about everyone else, the Bucks need to worry about themselves. At 4-9, the Bucks have been good at home (4-1) and hopeless on the road (0-8), with their struggles largely owing to a rather surprising deficiency: their defense. Don't get me wrong, the Bucks' offense is still clearly below-average (24th in efficiency terms) and actually lower ranked than their defense (21st). But it's all relative, which is why the Bucks' tumble from elite defensive team the past two seasons to below average through 13 games is such an issue. The Bucks have struggled to keep opponents off the offensive boards while also ranking in the league's bottom third in eFG% and free throw rate; my eyes would also suggest that the Bucks' perimeter defense has been overly porous, allowing opposing ball-handlers to get into the paint all too easily. The Bucks have always relied more on team defensive principles than individual defending, but for various reasons the end product hasn't been there to date.

Part of the problem has been due to Andrew Bogut's absence from five of the club's 13 games, while knee tendinitis has also prevented ace wing defender Luc Mbah a Moute from playing in all but one of their games this season. Both will likely be back in the lineup on Friday, so the hope is that the Bucks can right the ship defensively sooner rather than later. Offensively, Bogut having two functional arms again has translated into improved shooting from the line and a (relative) rediscovery of the midrange game mostly absent since his college days, but his effectiveness in the post has inexplicably vanished for most of the season. That's put more offensive pressure on the streaky Oak Hill combination of Brandon Jennings and Stephen Jackson, which is necessarily a risky proposition. Aside from big games against the Spurs and Pistons, Jackson has mostly struggled with turnovers and shot selection, though Jennings has put together his most efficient offensive stretch since his shocking first month in the NBA. Maintaining his current shooting splits (.450/.354/.780) would represent a major breakthrough for the notoriously inefficient Jennings, especially given the Bucks' playmaking-by-committee approach. The same can't be said of the 33-year-old Jackson, who has also struggled with nagging back and hamstring injuries.

Aside from Jennings' improved shot, the other encouraging signs have come from 2011 draft picks Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer. Wisconsin alum Leuer has impressed from the start of the preseason, winning the starting power forward position thanks to his versatile offensive game and surprisingly solid defensive efforts thus far. Meanwhile, the 19-year-old Harris missed virtually all of camp due to an extended (and bizarre) bout with dehydration but has wasted little time forcing his way into the small forward rotation over the past two weeks. Though he lacks top shelf athleticism, Harris has already shown a mature post game and the ability to exploit mismatches with his strength and body control. It's worth noting that he's mentioned Carmelo as the guy he tries to pattern his game after (not sure that's a good thing for a number of reasons), so he could be in for some schooling by his idol on Friday.

Meet the new Bucks!

Mike Dunleavy- Mike's pre-game meal is a peeled carrot soaked in carrot juice garnished with baby carrots.

Tobias Harris- In training camp, Tobias introduced "Tobias's Game", a complex system by which he awards points to each of his teammates for even the most minute and routine of actions. The point values, the Bucks have found, are wildly variable and almost completely arbitrary. Example: Four points are awarded for every wild pig a player convinces to wear spectacles, while simply saying the word "wrist" earns you nineteen points and the opportunity to steal points from another player by de-lacing their shoes. Brandon Jennings is currently winning the game because he blinks the most and purchased an odd number of potatoes last week.

Stephen Jackson- Stephen figured he ought to celebrate his signing in Milwaukee with a new tattoo, but found he'd run out of space, so he has new ink of a stag kicking a flaming basketball on the inner surface of his pancreas.

Jon Leuer- Jon and teammate Jon Brockman have taken to riding around the suburbs of Milwaukee on their longboards, throwing water balloons at kids named "John".

Shaun Livingston- As karmic compensation for his devastating knee injuries, Shaun has been granted the power to hear smells.

Beno Udrih- Beno is suing the makers of "Beats by Dre" for prejudice because they don't make a line of headphones that fits his bichon frise.

Adventures in Impersonating Beno Udrih on Omegle

You're now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!

Stranger: hiii

You: hello it is me beno

Stranger: im tal ):

Stranger: (:

You: i am glad that you are happy and not sad, tal

You: i, too, am happy

You: BENO!!!

Stranger: im happy tou happy (:

Stranger: you*

You: oh very great!

You: will you say "Beno" with me?

You: very loudly?

Stranger: yaaa

You: let's do it

You: ready? go!

You: BENO!!!!!

Stranger: yaaaaaaa

You: can you say it also?

Stranger: i do it

You: but like type it, too

You: so i can be sure

Stranger: benooo

You: YEAH!!! BENO!!!!!

You: that gets me so pumped

Stranger: taaaaaaaaaaaal

You: not bad

You: not quite the same effect

Stranger: :D

Stranger: tal is gooooood\

You: definitely

You: definitely!

You: but beno is BENOOO!!!!

You: BENO!

Stranger: benooo

You: YEAHHHH!!!!!

Stranger: cooool

You: i'm playing a bass right now and shouting BENO!!!!

You: what instruments are you playing?

Your conversational partner has disconnected.

Steve Novak Has a Beautiful Mind


Carlos Delfino is from Argentina. This year, he will make $3.5 million dollars, which equals 15,123,500 Argentine pesos. Those digits add up to 17 and "Argentine pesos" is an anagram of "sneering as poet", an obvious reference to the "and wrinkled lip, and and sneer of cold command" line in Percy Shelley's "Ozymandias", which is a sonnet, and therefore has 14 lines. 17 minus 14 is three, which is both Brandon Jennings's jersey number and the ordinal number of the planet (Earth) on which Brandon Jennings lives with respect to its distance from the sun.

Something tells me those two were brought together for a reason.