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Marty Burns
October 30, 2000
With abundant talent, they have eyes on the promised land, and a sixth man shall lead them
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October 30, 2000

2 Milwaukee Bucks

With abundant talent, they have eyes on the promised land, and a sixth man shall lead them

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Projected Lineup



1999-2000 KEY STATS


Glenn Robinson


20.9 ppg

6.0 rpg

2.4 apg

0.96 spg

47.2 FG%


Jason Caffey


12.0 ppg

6.8 rpg

1.7 apg

47.9 FG%

59.7 FT%


Ervin Johnson


4.8 ppg

8.1 rpg

1.59 bpg

1.01 spg

51.6 FG%


Ray Allen


22.1 ppg

4.4 rpg

3.8 apg

1.34 spg

45.5 FG%


Sam Cassell


18.6 ppg

9.0 apg

3.7 rpg

1.26 spg

46.6 FG%



1999-2000 KEY STATS


Tim Thomas


11.8 ppg

4.2 rpg

1.4 apg

46.1 FG%

34.6 3FG%


Lindsey Hunter


12.7 ppg

4.0 apg

1.57 spg

42.5 FG%

43.2 3FG%


Scott Williams


7.6 ppg

6.6 rpg

0.97 bpg

50.0 FG%

72.9 FT%


Darvin Ham


5.1 ppg

4.9 rpg

1.2 apg

0.83 bpg

55.5 FG%


Joel Przybilla (R)


14.2 ppg

8.4 rpg

2.4 apg

3.86 bpg

61.3 FG%

New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)

Shortly after free-agent swingman Tim Thomas agreed to re-sign with the Bucks for $67 million over six years—spurning a reportedly more lucrative offer from the Bulls—he attended a basketball camp at Whitefish Bay ( Wis.) High. There he was greeted by applause from dozens of kids wearing T-shirts reading MILWAUKEE LOVES YOU! "All these people were coming up, saying, 'Thanks for coming back,' " Thomas recalls. "It was wild."

Thomas will have to get used to such adulation. With all the key players returning from a team that won 11 of its last 15 games and came within a basket of upsetting the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs, the Bucks are suddenly the front-runners for the Central Division title. Milwaukee has one of the league's best shooting guards in Ray Allen; a 20-points-a-game scorer at small forward in Glenn (Big Dog) Robinson; and an elite point guard in Sam Cassell. The frontcourt, which lacked depth a year ago, has been significantly beefed up with the additions of power forward Jason Caffey, acquired from the Warriors in a three-team trade, and first-round pick Joel Przybilla, a 7'1" center from Minnesota.

The player who has Bucks fans really excited, however, is the 6'10" Thomas, a fourth-year man. His willingness to come off the bench and to sacrifice his willowy, 230-pound body at power forward endeared him to coach George Karl, who in turn gave Thomas a measure of freedom on the court. In five playoff games Thomas was nearly unstoppable, blowing past the Pacers as if they were traffic cones when he attacked the hoop. Hoping to persuade Thomas to return, Karl and general manager Ernie Grunfeld flew in July to Miami, where Thomas was attending a boxing match between Felix Trinidad and Mamadou Thiam. At their hotel they waited for a nervous hour in an adjoining room while Thomas showered and dressed after a nap. Then he came in and delivered the good news. "It meant a lot to me that they came," says Thomas, 23, "but it didn't change my decision. I already knew my heart was in Milwaukee."

As was the case last year, Thomas won't start, but he'll almost always finish (and he'll continue to mess up Karl's hair on the court after every Milwaukee win). Karl expects to give Thomas 30 minutes per game—about four more than he did last season—while using him everywhere from the point to power forward. "Tim doesn't have that scorer's mentality like Ray and Glenn and Sam do," Karl says. "He's more of a basketball player. He makes all our other guys better."

Thomas could make his biggest impact on defense; the Bucks ranked 23rd in points allowed in 1999-2000 (101.0 per game) and last in defending against the three-point shot (39.1%). Matching his intensity on D will be bangers like Caffey, Ervin Johnson, Darvin Ham and Scott Williams. Karl admits he erred last year by starting with the since departed J.R. Reid and Danny Manning at power forward. "They were too soft," says Karl. "When we went to Darvin and Scott, there was an attitude change for the whole team on the defensive end."

Should Big Dog continue to nap on defense, the Bucks have enough offensive weapons to part with him before the Feb. 15 trading deadline, with the 6'8" Caffey providing the low-post threat that Milwaukee lacked last season. Thomas is already showing he's willing to represent the Bucks' more hard-nosed approach. Over the summer he added two tattoos on his left arm. One has a handprint with a 5, his jersey number, below it; the other is a Chinese symbol for success. The symbolism applies: If five play defense as one, the Bucks will have success in the palms of their hands.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]