Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut returns to trumpets and fanfare

Bulls Bucks Basketball

By Jake McCormick

For the second time this season, the Chicago Bulls-Milwaukee Bucks matchup came down to a last second shot. Thankfully for the home court Bucks, that shot was taken by Brad Miller of the Bulls, who’s attempt off a Derrick Rose drive clanked off the right-front of the rim to give Milwaukee a 99-97 win.

Rose’s game mirrored that of Brandon Jennings’ during his early season hot streak, as the Chicago point guard scored the majority of his points in the second half to bring Chicago back from the dead. However, his unselfish pass to Miller was the first question on reporter’s minds, which is often the price to pay for a star player’s faith in his teammates at the end of a tight game.

“It’s part of being point guard, (Miller) was open; that’s why I did it,” Rose said. (Concerning his late scoring) “I usually get a feel for the game then step it up. I just have to step it up in the beginning.”

Of course, any victory after a rough four-game losing streak is going to be embraced with a sigh of relief and a clean slate. The biggest story of the night before the start of the game was the rematch of two of the Eastern Conference’s best young point guards in Brandon Jennings and Rose. After it was all said and done, the return of Andrew Bogut became the clearly favored talking point.

Bogut was announced as a starter so late that Dan Gadzuric received the opening introductions over the Bradley Center loudspeaker. His absence and return can be likened to the Crystal Pepsi fad of the early 1990s; people didn’t realize the little things they loved about Pepsi (like its color) until they were taken away. Now clear cola is celebrated as if it were a walk of shame, and Bogut’s presence on both sides of the ball should help the team understand just how long of a walk that can be.

Bulls Bucks Basketball“It really makes things easier for everybody as far as playing inside-out and not having to create shots for each other,” Charlie Bell said. “With him you throw inside, spot up, and being great passer he finds open guys and gets open looks.”

The Aussie’s 22 points, 15 rebounds, three steals and four blocks all led the Bucks, with 14 of his points coming in the second quarter. Two of his four blocks were made late in the fourth quarter, and all came on drives through the lane.

“Both times I was there early,” Bogut said. “I knew (Luol Deng) was going to try and dunk it with two hands and the Rose block was a big one too.”

But his true impact on the game can be summed up by his defensive awareness around the basket in the third quarter. Bogut met Bull forward John Salmons on the left side of the lane and forced a pass to Rose cutting toward the basket. Bogut shifted his feet fast enough to cut the point guard off and prevent an easy bucket. The fact that he fought for the rebound after a short tip drill was just icing on the cake.

“I was confident going into the game,” Bogut said. “The coaches emphasized (confidence) going into season. They want me to shoot the ball much more.”

Bulls Bucks BasketballWith virtually unknown Turkish forward Ersan Ilyasova coming on strong as of late (He contributed early and fouled out with 13 points and eight rebounds), Bogut’s return allows much more flexibility in the Bucks’ offense, which is just the way Brandon Jennings likes it.

“I actually like it when him and Ersan are in game,” Jennings said. “Both rebound and Ersan is a shooter, so if you trap Boges, you’re leaving Ersan open. We have so many weapons out there at one time it just makes everything easier.”

The Bucks will take their 9-7 record to Washington D.C. Wednesday before returning home for another key divisional matchup against the Central-leading Cleveland Cavaliers.

Charlie Bell on Michigan State’s National Prominence


By Paul M. Banks

During his college days at Michigan State University, Milwaukee Bucks guard Charlie Bell was privileged enough to play in a Final Four in three (1999, 2000, 2001) out of his four years at East Lansing. It was the same time that MSU Head Coach Tom Izzo was establishing his program within the nation’s top tier. With another Elite Eight appearance in 2003, a Final Four in ’05, and of course last year’s national title game appearance, Izzo and MSU have not only gotten to the top, but stayed there.

Bell is one of the many players who contributed to, and benefited from, the success of the program. And just like the Michigan St. program itself, he’s raised his game in recent years. After playing 5 nondescript games in the NBA in 2001, Bell took his game overseas. Bell became a superstar in the Italian and Spanish Leagues. In March 2002, he signed with Benetton Treviso and won an Italian League title. In ‘04, he moved on to Leche Rio Breogan Lugo of the Spanish League where he was the top scorer and local hero. He then signed with Milwaukee in ‘05–‘06 and where he’s been a key contributor/occasional starter.SPARTANSPAINT

When Milwaukee traveled down I-94 to play the Bulls, I caught up to him for an exclusive chat about Spartan hardwood.

“I think the guys got a taste this past season, being runner-up. I think that’s just going to make them more hungry, and that’s how we were the first time we made it to the Final Four and we lost to Duke. We kind of came out in awe in the 1st half, of playing against the almighty Duke, and in the second half, we were like hey, we can play with these guys.

And that made us hungry in the summer time and made us want to come back and win it all, and we did. And I think that’s the mindset the current Spartans need to have. They got a taste of it, now it’s time to win it all,” Bell said about Michigan State making a run to the title game last year.

There are a few obvious similarities between the 1999 and 2009 Michigan State Spartans. Perhaps the 2010 group will have something special in common with the 2000 team? Bell was one of “The Flintstones,” the main contributors on the 2000 National Championship team who hailed from Flint, Michigan. Mateen Cleaves was the star, leader and face of the team, but Bell and Morris Peterson (now with the New Orleans Hornets) went on to represent the Flintstones in the NBA. Of course, the member of the title team who really became a star in “the league” is Southfield native and Phoenix Suns swingman Jason Richardson (three seasons of 20+ ppg, only back-to-back slam dunk champion in history other than Michael Jordan).

“I’m very happy for the program, and for coach Izzo building it up into one of the elite programs, so definitely look for them in Indiana this year,” Bell said about this year’s Spartans.


I then mentioned how Tom Izzo was the unquestioned rock star of Big Ten Media Day, as he attracted more journalists than any other conference figure. “He’s definitely one of the best coaches in the country right now. He’s got Michigan State up at the top; year in, year out. We finally got a Big Ten championship, something we haven’t done since I left and it’s big…Even with so many guys leaving for the NBA, he’s done a good job getting guys to stick around and improve. That’s one of the things about Coach Izzo, he pushes you to get better, year after year. As players, we see his work ethic as a coach, and you have to do the same- you have to bring it on the court,” Bell responded before mentioning that Izzo called him the same day I did this interview.

Charlie then told me about being a Spartan for life. “We all stay in touch, it’s difficult during the season, but we try to keep up as much as possible through email, texts, leaving messages, and in the summertime we all hang out together because we’re all back home,” he said.breslin-center-msu-spartans

Bell’s coach, Scott Skiles is also a former Spartan, and on the night I talked with both of them the icon of the program, the man whose bronze likeness graces the entrance to the Breslin Center, Magic Johnson coincidentally was in attendance. “I heard the crowd go a little crazy, and I looked up and saw it was Magic, and that made me want to go out there and play a little harder,” Bell said.

And because of that feeling of community within the Michigan State network, Bell will always cherish his 2000 national title as the best memory of his basketball career. “And everything that came with it- the parade, getting back there on campus and setting the city on fire,” he said about cutting the nets down in Indianapolis. Ten years later, the Final Four is back in Indy. Will the Spartans be back there as well?