Posted: Thursday November 3, 2005 1:57PM; Updated: Thursday November 3, 2005 7:16PM
Milwaukee's $92 million man, Michael Redd, has averaged 35.5 points in leading the Bucks to a surprising 2-0 start to the season.
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Opening Night often comes with as many questions as answers. Will Larry Brown transform the Knicks? Can Kobe and Phil co-exist? Will the Miami Heat, with their rotisserie collection of talent, have any more success that the 2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers? Will New Orleans/Oklahoma City/Baton Rouge/Charlotte break the record for fewest wins in a season?
Lots of questions, not a lot of answers. But two games into the Dress Code Era, one thing can be said for certain -- the Milwaukee Bucks are for real.
You had to wonder about the Bucks this summer. First they hired Terry Stotts, not exactly a coaching retread but still a man who puts an 18-month stint at the helm of the Atlanta Hawks on the top of his résumé. Then they re-signed Michael Redd. He's arguably the best pure shooter in the NBA and could have saved the United States a boatload of embarrassment at the '04 Olympics, but he's not a franchise player, which is what the Bucks essentially said when they signed him to a league-maximum $92 million contract in the offseason. Then general manager Larry Harris gave former Clipper Bobby Simmons $47 million to move to the Midwest. Forty-seven million dollars? For a Clipper? Despite a solid '04-05 that resulted in Simmons being named the NBA's Most Improved Player, he had never played more than 56 games in a season and had never started more than eight.
But lo and behold, Harris knew what he was talking about
After two games, Milwaukee is undefeated thanks to back-to-back road wins over Eastern Conference playoff contenders Philadelphia and New Jersey. The Bucks appear to have one of the conference's most fearsome front lines in Simmons, rookie Andrew Bogut and Jamaal Magloire. They have a premier perimeter threat in Redd. And they have a sparkplug in point guard T.J. Ford, who missed the entire '04-05 season with a spinal injury.
The Bucks are good. So why didn't anyone, SI included (aside from SI.com's Marty Burns), notice this sooner?
To be fair, most prognosticators begged off the Bucks prior to the trade for Magloire, which stabilized the front line with an All-Star center and took a lot of the pressure off Bogut to produce quickly. But the concerns about the team ran deeper than that, at least for this NBA guru.
It started with Bogut. Since 1984, when Michael Jordan was passed over in favor of Sam Bowie, drafting a solid big man over a talented swingman hasn't been the obvious decision it used to be (and Darko Milicic over Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony hasn't helped either). Bogut's size and versatility were impossible not to love, allowing one to envision the Australian center as a nice blend of Vlade Divac and Bill Walton. But I couldn't drown out the siren song that kept whispering Marvin Williams in my ear.
But Bogut has been as good as advertised, averaging 11.5 points and 13 rebounds while distancing himself from the perception that he might not be ready for the starting lineup. He's also shown an aggressive nature, battling Jason Collins for loose balls and rejecting Chris Webber close to the basket.