The Milwaukee Bucks have been reeling of late, recently dropping 4 of 5 on a West Coast swing. The longtime face of their franchise, Michael Redd, is out for the year with his annual ACL tear. Rookie sensation Brandon Jennings has begun to hit the wall as well, jacking up 70 shots in those five games and converting just 21 (30%). I mean, you know things are bad when Carlos Delfino comes in smoking off the bench for a 28-point outburst at Utah...and you still lose by 17. So what does a franchise in despair such as this one do? Why, sign Jerry Stackhouse, of course!!
That's right, the Bucks announced over the weekend that they'd be adding the 35-year-old shooting guard with 75-year-old knees to their roster, hoping to find that there's still just a little bit of gas left in that worn-down tank. Stack only played in 10 games last year for Dallas, and registered a career low scoring average, pumping in just 4 PPG. Thankfully for Jerry, the GM for the Bucks is none other than John Hammond, the longtime right hand man to Joe D in the Pistons front office. Hammond obviously has fond memories of watching Stack do his thing at the Palace in the early 2000's, when in essence, he brought the franchise out from the doldrums and made them a factor again in the Eastern Conference.
It was the Stackhouse-led 2002 team that finally broke through and won a playoff series for the first time in 11 seasons of Pistons basketball, creating hope and momentum that would eventually lead to an NBA championship two years later. So maybe Hammond is just throwing ol' Stack a bone and signing him as a show of appreciation for years gone by. Regardless, it's always nice to see #42 hooping it up somewhere, even if that somewhere happens to be "NBA Siberia"-esque Milwaukee.
(Sidenote: Stackhouse has played in the league for 14 years. During that time, he has appeared in 854 games and played over 28,000 minutes. And for every single second he has been on the court, it's been with the number 42 draped on the back of his jersey. Currently, Mr. Charlie Bell suits up in that very number for the Bucks, a number that he has also worn for every minute of court time since his return to the NBA five years ago. You'd think Stack would have priority here, but maybe he would feel uncomfortable joining a new club and rocking the boat right from jump street with a specific request for an already occupied set of digits. If I were you, I'd keep a close eye on the numerical roster in Milwaukee over the next few days...especially if you have no life whatsoever.)
STICK AND PUCK
The Red Wings snipers put on what was undoubtedly the worst shootout performance in NHL history on Saturday afternoon in Dallas. They made Stars' goalie Alex Auld look like Ken Dryden, putting up a giant goose egg in their six tries at glory. Todd Bertuzzi actually came in on one attempt with such a low rate of speed at such a bizarre angle that I would have been very interested to see what homeboy's blood alcohol level was immediately following his missed "shot."
Sometimes coaches, especially those in college, can get too attached to their "system" and lose track of what really matters: talent. (See also: Rich Rodriguez-Ryan Mallet failed marriage) During John Beilein's first season as the Michigan head coach, he was dealing with a mismatched roster that was severely lacking in experience. The only real big guy on the roster was 6-foot-10 jumping jack Ekpe Udoh, a dominant defensive player with occasional hints of offensive ability. If tailored right, Udoh looked like a guy that had a chance to wreak havoc on the Big Ten in his two remaining seasons. But Coach Beilein didn't seem to share those sentiments. He yo-yoed Udoh's minutes, gave him limited opportunities on the offensive end, and in general, made him feel like a guy that might be better fit taking his skills somewhere else. Well, that's exactly what he did. After sitting out last season under NCAA transfer rules, Udoh is now hooping it up at Baylor and looking like one of the top big men in the entire country.
He is averaging a double-double (14.1 PPG, 11.4 RPG). He is 4th in the nation in blocked shots, averaging over four per game. In an impressive road win at South Carolina a couple weeks back, Udoh hauled in twenty rebounds, including nine on the offensive glass. In the very next game, big fella collected his first career triple-double with a mind-boggling 18 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 blocked shots in a win over Morgan State. And this isn't just one of those old 'Zach Randolph with the Clippers' type seasons, where Z-Bo would put up huge numbers for an awful team simply because somebody had to. This Baylor squad is legit. They are 14-2, ranked in the Top 25, and look to be a lock for the Big Dance if they don't throw up all over themselves during the conference schedule. And the worst part of it all?? This Michigan team has one huge hole on their roster...and it's in the paint.
They have zero presence on the interior. DeShawn Sims tries his best, but the man is 6'7" and flanked by two hearty family-sized portions of rice pilaf in 'The Zacks,' Novak and Gibson. Beilein tries to confuse teams with funky zone defenses and small lineups, but too often, the distinct size disadvantage Big Blue is faced with becomes too much to overcome. It's scary to think what this team could be like right now if they were able to throw a frontline of Udoh, Sims, and Harris out every night, accompanied by their streaky assortment of shooters. While I respect Beilein as a coach and believe that he will eventually get this program to where it needs to be, I continue to have reservations about his stubbornness when it comes to recruiting and handling certain players that might not fit in to his perfect little mold of what a "Beilein player" should look like.
Ekpe Udoh may not have been the prototypical center for a deliberate Princeton-style offense like Michigan runs, but you'd like to think they could have found a spot for a guy that blocks shots into the 8th row and attacks the glass like a rebounding love child of Dennis Rodman and Stromile Swift. Oh well, I guess you live and learn. Or, in the case of 'My way is the only way' guys like Beilein and Rich Rod; live, and probably do the exact same thing in the very near future.
A nice round of applause for our good friend Chucky Atkins, who lately has been quite the little spark plug off the pine. During this 3-game winning streak, the Chuckster has averaged 10 points a night, while knocking down 8 of 13 tries from beyond the arc. These are things you get excited about when your team is 14 and 25.
Are Cheez-Its the poor man's Goldfish, or is it the other way around?? I mean, I know that Wheat Thins have always been a poor man's Ritz, but the cheese cracker war has always been a bit of a mystery. For my money, I'd say screw both of 'em and give me a delightful handful of Yogurt Pretzels.
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