FOR THE first time in four head coaching stops, Scott Skiles had an entire off-season to prepare for his new job. "Not having to hit the ground running and do it all on the fly has been great," says Skiles, 44, who took the Bucks' position in April and in six weeks watched video of all of Milwaukee's games from last season—"some multiple times," he says.
That was a far cry from Skiles's first gig, in Greece in 1997. "I played on Wednesday night and was the coach on Thursday morning," he says.
In his two previous NBA stints, with the Suns and the Bulls, Skiles assumed bench duties in the middle of the season, which meant he was coaching someone else's players largely using someone else's system. This time around he has had more input into shaping the team. Not surprisingly, that led to lots of changes for the 26-win Bucks, with only four members of the rotation coming back. In all, they have eight new faces, including Richard Jefferson, who was acquired from the Nets and who with Michael Redd forms one of the most prolific wing tandems in the league.
With plenty of scorers on his roster Skiles, a taskmaster who has a reputation for wearing on his players, can focus on the other end of the court. He plans to transform Milwaukee from what he calls a "very, very poor defensive team"—it has ranked second to last in field goal defense in each of the past two seasons—into a D-first outfit that can play at a torrid pace. "I'm going to coach the way I think I need to coach to get the job done," says Skiles, "and let the chips fall where they may."
A rival scout on the BUCKS: Andrew Bogut isn't the dominant player you would hope for as a No. 1 pick, but there are only a few talented 7-footers in the league, and he should be a 15-and-10 guy. He's shown leadership qualities, and he's one of the few guys who talks on the floor, which will endear him to Scott Skiles.... I could see Michael Redd making the kind of transformation that Ray Allen made in Boston. Redd is a knockdown jump shooter who doesn't have to be the be-all, end-all—which is good because he should not be their No. 1 player.... Richard Jefferson isn't a No. 1 either. I don't think he wanted to go to Milwaukee, and the Bucks are going to have to contend with his motivation. Jefferson has been a secondary star his whole career, a good but not great player. He's not a low-post scorer, he's not a big off-the-dribble guy, and he's not a knockdown shooter. He's a slashing scorer who brings a physical presence to the defensive end—not an All-Defensive team guy, but he will give you the effort.
Michael Redd and Richard Jefferson each scored 30 points 12 times in '07--08. Only one other team has a duo that did so more than 10 times each—the Nuggets' Allen Iverson (25) and Carmelo Anthony (23).
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE with 2007--08 statistics
KEY BENCH PLAYERS: G Charlie Bell, F Joe Alexander (R), G Ramon Sessions, C Francisco Elson*, F Malik Allen*
Record: 26--56 (13th in East)
Points scored: 97.0 (20th in NBA)
Points allowed: 103.9 (23rd)
Coach: Scott Skiles (first season with Bucks)
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
MOVIN' ON UP? Jefferson didn't want to leave New Jersey, but now he's eager to help turn around the listless Bucks.
GARY DINEEN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH