He’s got a point guard, probably his team’s second-best player, shooting less than 37%… for the entire season. His new best player, an Aussie big man, is best known as an NBA player for being chosen ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams in the draft. His old best player, a sharp-shooting lefty, has missed almost the entire season with injuries, and will miss the remainder of the campaign with a torn ACL. The rest of the team is a collection of has-been’s, never-were’s, and never-will-be’s. Somehow, the Milwaukee Bucks are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and the hottest team in the NBA.
Scott Skiles, take a bow. Then another one. Keep going, you deserve all the applause we can give you.
Rarely do I praise a coach like I am currently doing. Coaches are for ridiculing when things go wrong, not applauding when things go well, right? But Skiles has his players, as misfit and untalented as some of them may be, playing like a whole pack of Junkyard Dogs. Las Vegas predicted the Bucks would win 28 games all season, then Michael Redd was unable to contribute anything at all, and now Milwaukee has won 34 of its first 63 contests. Come to think of it, I take it back, Scotty Boy. That can’t just be good coaching. It’s more like a miracle.
Ersan Ilyasova (God bless you) is playing big minutes, Jerry Stackhouse (older than my grandparents) is relied on heavily off the bench, Kurt Thomas (older than Stackhouse’s grandparents) is in the rotation, Luke Ridnour (couldn’t guard Kurt Thomas’ grandparents) is the backup point guard, and Luc Mbah a Moute (100 fewer offensive moves than Dwight Howard) starts. Can you tell me again why this team is in the playoff hunt?
Because they’ve taken on Scott Skiles’ personality. Fiery, competitive, tough, and focused intently on detail. That’s why they stood two inches from the Celtics all night long last night, never backed down, and lived to tell the tale. They dug in their toes, braced for battle, and came out victorious. Kind of how they’ve been playing ever since the All-Star break.
Every night, when I check the scores or flip through NBA League Pass, I’m surprised when Milwaukee wins. “How?” I think. “The Kansas Jawhawks are better than they are.”
But I’ve got to stop being surprised. The Bucks are good. Not quite damn good, but good. They’ll certainly be a tough out in the playoffs.
And their short and bald firecracker of a coach, a man with cojones for days, is the biggest reason why.