Someday soon Terrell Brandon will see a vulnerable spot on
Milwaukee's perimeter. He'll see the outstretched hands before
anyone else does, and without a word or second thought he'll
chip in with an assist. But not yet. Before the charity-minded
point guard can look for crumbling holes in the Milwaukee
community, he needs to help patch up the Bucks' offense.
Brandon, a two-time All-Star with the Cavaliers before coming to
Milwaukee along with power forward Tyrone Hill in the three-team
megatrade that sent power forward Vin Baker to Seattle and point
guard Sherman Douglas to Cleveland, joins a team in desperate
need of repairs at both ends of the floor. Tiresomely low-post
bound on offense and hapless on defense, the Bucks ranked 27th
in the league in assists and opponents' field goal percentage
last year while winning 33 games and missing the playoffs for
the sixth season in a row.
"Last year we were going nowhere fast," says second-year
shooting guard Ray Allen. "Everyone was just waiting for the
season to end. Something had to change."
In Brandon the Bucks got not only their first bona fide point
guard in years but also the man who is arguably the best in the
league at that position. While directing Mike Fratello's
plodding offense last year, Brandon contributed 19.5 points and
6.3 assists per game and made 90.2% of his free throws. A
generous spirit who sponsors free basketball camps in the
summer, doles out toys to underprivileged kids for Christmas and
believes that "one should give without trying to get something
in return," Brandon is looking forward to sharing the ball more
in the Bucks' new perimeter-based, ball-movement offense.
"Hopefully my assists will improve," says last year's winner of
the NBA Sportsmanship Award. "If we win more games and my points
go down, I think I'll have accomplished as much as scoring 19 or
20 points a game." Says second-year coach Chris Ford, "Terrell
is going to make a lot of guys very happy."
One player who should be particularly pleased with Brandon's
presence is Allen, who struggled last year. An athletic,
long-range shooter, Allen scored just 13.4 points a game in the
Bucks' dump-it-in-the-post offense. "Last year I was stuck in a
rut," says Allen, who shares with Brandon the nickname Candyman.
"It was frustrating because I know I can score. I'm looking
forward to playing with Terrell because he knows how to get the
ball to you."
Another Buck who can score but hasn't done enough of anything
else to suit his critics is Glenn Robinson, the NBA's No. 1
draft pick in 1994. In three years Big Dog has done little to
justify the $69 million contract he signed out of college: He
may have averaged 21.1 points, but he has been a pushover on
defense. Robinson is hoping the departure of Baker, around whom
the Bucks' offense revolved, will make him a more productive
player all around. "I'll miss Vin, but I think it's a good
opportunity for me," says Robinson. "Now is the chance for me to
get the ball more and become a better player."
The Bucks' defense should be as thoroughly transformed as their
offense, if only because the team has acquired people willing
and able to play it. Hill, a gritty rebounder with a particular
taste for the defensive glass, will be joined on the front line
by former Nugget Ervin Johnson, a 6'11" shot swatter who will be
the Bucks' first true center since Jack Sikma departed in 1991.
Former Piston Michael Curry, a tenacious defender, is now Big
Ford likes the look of his refurbished Bucks, and he thinks
their prospects of making the playoffs are good. "As a coach,
this is the kind of team I've always hoped to put together,"
says Ford. "I'm optimistic about our chances