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6 Milwaukee Bucks With Glenn Robinson gone, Tim Thomas has a chance to prove that he's worth his big contract--and that he can fetch more wins than Big Dog

Oct. 28, 2002
Oct. 28, 2002

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Oct. 28, 2002

NBA Preview 2002-03

6 Milwaukee Bucks With Glenn Robinson gone, Tim Thomas has a chance to prove that he's worth his big contract--and that he can fetch more wins than Big Dog

Tim Thomas was picking up his nephew at a Philadelphia hotel in
August when he ran into 76ers star Allen Iverson. "I hear you
guys are about to make a trade," Iverson said, referring to
rumors of a deal involving Glenn (Big Dog) Robinson. Moments
later Thomas's cellphone rang. It was Bucks general manager
Ernie Grunfeld, saying that he had indeed shipped Robinson to
the Hawks for forward Toni Kukoc, forward Leon Smith and a 2003
first-round pick. The 6'10" Thomas was now Milwaukee's starting
small forward. "I wanted the season to start the very next day,"
he says.

This is an article from the Oct. 28, 2002 issue

If Thomas, 25, can successfully replace the Big Dog, the bite
could be back in the Bucks. Last year they were supposed to
contend for the title, but nagging injuries to the backcourt of
Ray Allen and Sam Cassell, along with poor team chemistry, cost
them down the stretch. Milwaukee suffered an epic swoon, losing
14 of its final 19 games to become the first team in NBA history
to fail to make the playoffs despite leading its division after
the ides of March.

In need of a shakeup, the Bucks subtracted one of their Big
Three. Though they will miss Robinson's consistent scoring, they
feel Thomas's ball handling and willingness to share the rock
will make them better. "Tim can do a lot more things," Allen
says. "If he doesn't score 20 but gets us two or three steals a
game, that's just as big." Thomas's quickness and immense
wingspan alone should improve a defense that ranked 22nd last
season. The trick for Thomas will be to maintain focus at both
ends. Last season, his second after signing a six-year, $67
million deal, he averaged a respectable 11.7 points and 4.1
rebounds but shot only 42.0% and put up far more three-pointers
(291) than free throw attempts (179). He also had too many
lapses on D. "When Glenn was in the game, Tim had a tendency to
kind of disappear or fade into the shadows," Allen says. "As big
as he is, and as talented as he is, we can't have that."

Over the summer, Thomas says, he rose nearly every morning at
six to lift weights in his basement, then went to the track at
Villanova, where he ran 100-yard wind sprints with a football
tucked under his arm. He also spent a week in Atlanta working
one-on-one with four-time All-Star Bernard King, a former
teammate of Grunfeld's who helped Thomas add some low-post moves
to his already solid face-the-basket arsenal. "He taught me some
tricks but mostly just helped me with footwork and positioning,"
Thomas says.

While the Bucks could sorely use more inside punch, they say
that they don't need Thomas to match Robinson's 20.7 points per
game. Coach George Karl says he'll take 16 points and eight
rebounds as long as Thomas provides passing and consistent
defense. "With Glenn, you'd get spectacular," Karl says, "but
you'd also get disappointment sometimes." The Bucks are counting
on Thomas to be solidly in between.
--Marty Burns

COLOR PHOTO: DONALD MIRALLE/GETTY IMAGES TIM'S TIME A 6'10" jumping jack with a world of talent, the 25-year-old Thomas has to be more consistent at both ends.

FAST FACT
Three Bucks--Ray Allen, Michael Redd and Tim Thomas--share the NBA
record for most three-pointers made in one half (eight).

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Bucks

"Glenn Robinson was a proven 20-point scorer, and you don't find
a lot of them. He wasn't as bad a defender as he's been made out
to be, and he was a tough player who was willing to take the
shot in the big moments. Now they're replacing him with Tim
Thomas in the hope that Thomas will help change their identity
and make them more of a defensive team. That's asking a lot of a
guy who has had an undistinguished career. Thomas has all the
tools, but he has yet to show the production at either
end....They had three guys who could score 25 points. What is
their strength now? One year ago this looked like a team on the
rise, but that is no longer the case....As much as I love Ray
Allen, he's a guy who lets the game come to him. Now that
Robinson is gone, can Allen become the leader who carries that
team? They're going to be in danger if Allen and Thomas don't
take on these new roles....It's good they matched the Mavericks'
offer and kept Michael Redd, because it wouldn't be wise to
depend much on Toni Kukoc coming off the bench. It's been years
since he's produced....Very few people in the league want to win
more than Sam Cassell. He's a smart defender in that he knows
how to shade guys and how to play screens, but at least one time
a game he'll get caught up in yelling at an official or somebody
else and allow his man to sneak by for an uncontested
shot....Ervin Johnson used to be a good defensive player, but he
seemed to slow down last year....Anthony Mason's game is in
decline, and his arrival hurt them last season. He took over the
ball, walked it up the floor and changed the pace of their game.
Grind-it-out basketball is not the Bucks' style. He's still
their only big low-post threat, though Cassell might be their
most effective player down there."

DEFENSIVE RATINGS

Tough D

Fair D
MASON
JOHNSON
ALLEN
CASSELL

No D
THOMAS

PROJECTED LINEUP
2001-02 record: 41-41 (fifth in Central)
Points scored: 97.5 (8th) Points allowed: 97.7 (22nd)
Coach: George Karl (fifth season with Bucks)

STARTERS PVR* 2001-02 KEY STATS

SF Tim Thomas 54 11.7 ppg 4.1 rpg 1.4 apg 42.0 FG% 32.6 3FG%
PF Anthony Mason 74 9.6 ppg 7.9 rpg 4.2 apg 0.70 spg 50.5 FG%
C Ervin Johnson 296 2.6 ppg 5.8 rpg 1.01 bpg 46.1 FG% 45.5 FT%
SG Ray Allen 15 21.8 ppg 4.5 rpg 3.9 apg 46.2 FG% 43.4 3FG%
PG Sam Cassell 44 19.7 ppg 4.2 rpg 6.7 apg 1.22 spg 46.3 FG%

BENCH PVR* 2001-02 KEY STATS

G Michael Redd 131 11.4 ppg 3.3 rpg 1.4 apg 48.3 FG% 44.4 3FG%
F Toni Kukoc[1] 185 9.9 ppg 3.7 rpg 3.6 apg 41.9 FG% 31.0 3FG%
F Jason Caffey 228 4.3 ppg 2.2 rpg 0.5 apg 0.22 bpg 50.0 FG%
F Marcus
Haislip(R)[1] 271 16.7 ppg 6.7 rpg 1.0 apg 1.76 bpg 51.8 FG%
C Dan
Gadzuric(R)[1] 281 11.7 ppg 7.7 rpg 0.7 apg 1.27 bpg 55.4 FG%

[1] New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 92)

ONE YEAR AGO THIS LOOKED LIKE A TEAM ON THE RISE, BUT THAT IS NO
LONGER THE CASE.