- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
In the lobby of the Bucks' practice facility in St. Francis, Wis., is an amazingly lifelike statue of an elderly security guard. The uniformed figure, wearing eyeglasses, a hearing aid and a name tag reading ART, sits cross-legged staring at the glass doors. "One night we were here working late and we decided to order a pizza," Milwaukee's new coach, George Karl, says with a laugh. "Next thing you know we hear all this pounding and screaming. It's the delivery guy outside hollering at old Art to let him in!"
Karl knows the frustration of knocking on the door only to be left out in the cold. As coach of the Sonics for the past seven years, he won 55 or more games six times but reached the Finals only once, in 1996, when Seattle lost to the Bulls in six games. Now he's trying to revive a franchise that hasn't reached the postseason in seven years.
The good news for Karl is that he has a talented core in guards Ray Allen and Terrell Brandon, and forwards Tyrone Hill and Glenn (Big Dog) Robinson. Yes, that same nucleus went 36-46 a year ago, costing Chris Ford the coaching job, but injuries—not lack of ability—were the main culprit. Brandon, Hill and Robinson each missed at least 25 games.
With all his key players now in good health, Karl hopes to remake the Bucks into a trapping, rotating unit reminiscent of his Sonics teams. He's even enlisted Robinson, an explosive scorer who occasionally plays defense with all the vigor of a certain security guard, to join the team-oriented approach. Says Big Dog: "In one week with George I've already gotten more credit for my D than I have in my whole career."
Offensively Karl wants the Bucks to play faster, using ball movement and cutting as opposed to the isolation game. Look for Brandon, a clever point guard who can score from anywhere, and Allen, an emerging star at shooting guard, to carry more of the load, especially since each is in the last year of his contract. "Because of the injuries, we relied on [Glenn] too much last year," Brandon says. "We don't want to put too much pressure on any one guy."
Karl concedes that the up-tempo style could make depth a concern for the Bucks. To bolster their bench, they signed 34-year-old free-agent guard Dell Curry, a career 40.0% three-point shooter, and 32-year-old Vinny Del Negro. Milwaukee also has high hopes for 6'8", 289-pound Robert (Tractor) Traylor, a first-round draft pick out of Michigan, whom Karl already calls "the best rookie I've ever coached."
Karl needs a year or two to find guys who can play his style of ball-pressure defense, but he believes that with a little luck, the Bucks can become the Sonics of the East. "Can we win a conference championship in four years?" he says. "I don't think it's out of the question." Given his record, only a dummy would doubt him.
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