2 Milwaukee Bucks This up-and-coming bunch came within a game of the conference title last season. Can it take the final step?

October 29, 2001

Bucks forward Glenn Robinson wore his home white uniform and
held a shiny new basketball. Coach George Karl sported a spiffy
green-and-black sweat suit. Everything was in order for a
scheduled portrait at the team's media day on Oct. 1. The camera
was set. The lights were lit. There was only one thing missing.

"Oh, Superstar," Karl called out across the gym to his shooting
guard, Ray Allen, who was busy doing a radio interview. "We're
waiting...."

Moments later Allen sauntered over with a sheepish grin on his
face that turned into a megawatt smile as he put his arms around
his compatriots. They might be striking a similar pose in June:
With four silky-smooth shooters in Allen, Robinson, point guard
Sam Cassell and sixth man Tim Thomas, the Bucks have a shot at
reaching their first Finals since 1974. Despite having no
reliable low-post scoring threat to draw double teams last
season, they still averaged 100.7 points, second to the Kings,
and protected the ball in the open court (13.7 turnovers per
game, third best in the league). Memo to Milwaukee foes: Forget
about zones.

Under Karl, who took over in 1998-99, the Bucks have been
building momentum. Had Robinson not missed an open 10-footer at
the end of Game 5, it might well have been Milwaukee--and not the
Sixers--that went on to face the Lakers. "We felt we were the
better team," says Allen, 26. "Glenn had a shot, and he missed
it. We also got on the refs too much. That's part of gaining
experience. Now we know what to do."

The Bucks still don't scare anyone defensively, but with 6'11"
center Ervin Johnson to clean up mistakes, and with Karl now free
to play his 3-2 zone legally, they might be better than a year
ago. Still, Karl and G.M. Ernie Grunfeld were concerned enough
about the lack of interior defense and post play that they were
making a serious pitch to rugged free-agent power forward Anthony
Mason.

Whether they land Mase or not, the Bucks hope Allen's emergence
as--yes--a superstar can push them over the top. After racking up
career highs in rebounds, assists and steals during the regular
season, he averaged 25.1 points in the playoffs, shooting 47.9%
from beyond the arc. Against the Sixers he scored 27.1 points per
game, including a 41-point Game 6 explosion in which he reeled
off 19 straight points. Equally important, Allen gave the
finesse-oriented Bucks some grit, whether playing sticky defense
on Iverson or defiantly stroking jumpers. "Whenever things were
in disarray," power forward Scott Williams says, "Ray was a
calming force."

Allen, who hasn't missed a game in his five-year NBA career,
admits he could drive more to get to the foul line this season.
(He averaged 4.8 trips in 2000-01.) He also would like to
achieve Karl's goal for him of 20 double doubles. "Ray is
capable of being an MVP candidate," Karl says. "If he got a
mentality to be the best, to go get an MVP, it would force him
to develop all aspects of his game." While he craves such
honors, Allen is careful not to separate himself too much from
Robinson and Cassell. He clearly does not want to disrupt his
team's chemistry, especially after a season in which the Big Dog
played through bone spurs in both ankles and Cassell donned a
flak jacket to protect bruised ribs. "Leadership will come from
Sam and Glenn, too," Allen says. "We've always done a good job
sharing."

The Bucks are still too reliant on the jump shot to expect to win
a title. Also, it remains to be seen how motivated Cassell will
be given his unhappiness over a contract that will pay him a
relatively meager $8.5 million over the next two years. But with
a little luck and some more heroics from Allen, Milwaukee's
season could yet turn out near picture perfect.

--Marty Burns

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER REVERSAL Allen is a major reason that the Bucks ended an eight-year playoff drought in '99 and took the Sixers to Game 7 last spring.

enemy lines
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Bucks

"I would give the edge to the 76ers and the Magic over
Milwaukee. The Bucks have to do a better job of defending,
rebounding and getting to the line, and I don't see their
players being able to improve in those areas. They are what they
are: a perimeter-shooting team.... Glenn Robinson was sick of
losing, and he did something about it last year. He was able to
improve a little bit--just a little bit--in his all-around
play.... Ray Allen is one of the elite players in the East. He
rises very quickly, and even if you're right there with him, he
can still beat you. If he were with a coach who really drilled
him in man-to-man, he could be a great defensive player as
well.... It will be interesting to see how Sam Cassell's
unhappiness with his contract plays out. He loves the game. You
can see it in his face. At times he might appear to be out of
control emotionally, but he's not--he's a leader who knows how
to win.... Last year the Bucks tried to play solid man-to-man,
but with the new rules they'll sometimes try a soft trap in the
backcourt and then fall into some kind of zone.... They have no
bona fide starters at the four and the five. You can't win the
conference with Scott Williams, Jason Caffey, Darvin Ham and
Mark Pope at power forward, and Ervin Johnson or Joel Przybilla
at center.... I don't know if Anthony Mason would solve their
problems. P.J. Brown proved that Mason can be shut down in the
playoffs by someone with size. But G.M. Ernie Grunfeld knows
Mason as well as anybody from their five years with the Knicks."

projected lineup
2000-01 record: 52-30 (first in Central)
Coach: George Karl (fourth season with Bucks)

STARTERS
PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

SF Glenn Robinson 22.0 ppg 6.9 rpg 3.3 apg 1.13 spg 46.8 FG%
37
PF Scott Williams 6.1 ppg 5.5 rpg 0.73 spg 0.48 bpg 47.4 FG%
201
C Ervin Johnson 3.2 ppg 7.5 rpg 1.18 bpg 0.54 spg 54.5 FG%
235
SG Ray Allen 22.0 ppg 4.6 apg 5.2 rpg 1.51 spg 43.3 3FG%
24
PG Sam Cassell 18.2 ppg 7.6 apg 3.8 rpg 1.16 spg 47.4 FG%
31

BENCH
PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

F-G Tim Thomas 12.6 ppg 4.1 rpg 1.8 apg 1.03 spg 43.0 FG%
69
F Jason Caffey 7.1 ppg 5.0 rpg 0.54 spg 0.36 bpg 48.8 FG%
239
G Rafer Alston 2.1 ppg 1.8 apg 0.8 rpg 0.35 spg 35.7 FG%
292
G Michael Redd 2.2 ppg 0.7 rpg 0.2 apg 26.3 FG% 50.0 FT%
303
C Joel Przybilla 0.8 ppg 2.2 rpg 0.91 bpg 34.3 FG% 27.3 FT%
320

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 117)

"Robinson was sick of losing, and he decided to do something
about it."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)