SAYING THAT theBucks have struggled defensively in recent years is like saying that Gigli wasa bad movie or that Paris Hilton enjoys the occasional cocktail. Milwaukeeranked in the bottom 10 in points allowed in each of the last two seasons andwas second to last in field goal defense both years. Enter new coach ScottSkiles, the drill sergeant who intends to reshape the club. "People whowatched the Bucks the last couple of years," says Skiles, "know thatwhen the team got behind, [the players] caved in and took a loss."
Skiles has alreadyshown that he will not stand for defensive lapses. Early in the second quarterof a 91--87 loss last Saturday at Toronto, Andrew Bogut blew an assignment andwas forced to foul Jermaine O'Neal. Skiles immediately banished his center tothe bench for the last 10 minutes of the first half.
Bogut was just thefirst to feel the tug of Skiles's leash, which will extend even to his All-Starguard, Michael Redd. A deadly shooter (22.7 points per game last season) and amember of the gold-medal-winning U.S. team at the Beijing Olympics, Redd hastaken a halfhearted approach at the other end of the floor. "He's O.K. offthe ball," says an Eastern Conference scout, assessing Redd's D during hisfirst eight years, "but you can go at him one-on-one." Now Skiles isasking the 6' 6" Redd to defend the opposition's top perimeter threat,which means that he will have to make the most significant change to his gamethis season of any star in the league.
With the help oftrainer David Pritchard, Redd has cut his weight from 230 pounds (with 20% bodyfat) in January 2006 to 216 pounds (and less than 7% body fat) this season."Michael was someone who relied on basketball to stay in shape and keep hislegs strong," says Pritchard. "Since we started working together, wehave really focused on his strength, flexibility and footwork, which you needto be a strong defender."
While in China,Redd was further inspired by an unlikely source. Matched against Kobe Bryant inpractices, Redd marveled at how much intensity the 2008 MVP brought to thedefensive end. "In our practices everybody wanted to stop everybody,"says Redd, 29. "But Kobe, man, he never took a possession off."
Skiles calls Redd"a work in progress"—he and his teammates still have bad habits tobreak, such as chasing the rebounder rather than getting back on defense—butthe early returns are encouraging. Redd shut out Kevin Durant in the first halfof a 98--87 win at Oklahoma City on Oct. 29, and in a 94--86 victory at NewYork on Sunday he held Jamal Crawford to one point on 0-for-6 shooting beforeleaving the game with a right-ankle sprain in the third quarter. In previousyears Redd would have regularly been staring at the back of Crawford's jersey,but showing newfound quickness, he forced Crawford to take tough perimetershots.
Instead of makinganother All-Star team, Redd lists earning All-Defensive honors as his highestpriority. Says Redd, "At this stage in my career I want to be a completeplayer. And to do that you have to play great defense."
ONLY AT SI.COM
Chris Mannix on Stephon Marbury and the Knicks.
Here are three prominent players who may also struggleto adapt under their new coaches:
EDDY CURRY, C, Knicks
Mike D'Antoni likes his players versatile and fit. Curry (right) isone-dimensional and arrived in training camp the size of a Hummer, despiteknowing his new coach's preferences. He was a DNP-CD in New York's first twogames.
RAYMOND FELTON, G, Bobcats
Charlotte drafted another point, D.J. Augustin of Texas, in June—presumablywith the blessing of Larry Brown. Felton's shooting continues to be abysmal,and because he's in the last year of his contract, he will have to wow thedemanding Brown to hold off Augustin.
GRANT HILL, F, Suns
After starting 68 games last season, Hill lost his spot to Matt Barnes (who iseight years younger and tougher defensively) and at week's end had seen hisminutes cut by 11.2 per game under Terry Porter.
GARY DINEEN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (REDD)
HE'S A NEW MAN Redd has redefined his physique to prepare for his redefined role.
TOM MIHALEK/AP (CURRY)