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News » Bogut sees Bucks in contention Team will be playing important games late in the season, he predicts

Bogut sees Bucks in contention Team will be playing important games late in the season, he predicts

Bogut sees Bucks in contention  Team will be playing important games late in the season, he predicts By CHARLES F. GARDNER

St. Francis - Andrew Bogut hasn't tasted the playoffs since his rookie year, and the 7-foot center isn't making any bold predictions about the coming season.

But he wants the Milwaukee Bucks to be playing important games late in the season rather than playing out the string in front of disinterested and disappointed fans.

"I can pretty much guarantee we'll overachieve on being last in the East," Bogut said of some projections from national writers. "Whether that's playoffs or not, I think we can definitely have a season where every game is meaningful this year.

"We don't want to have it be like last year where there are 15 games left and they don't mean anything. That's probably the worst Basketball you can play. The fans don't like it; we don't like it; the coaches don't like it.

"We want to be right in that hunt until the last game. If in that last game of the season, we win and somebody else wins to stay above us, so be it, but we want to be in that chase."

The Bucks thought they had a chance to grab an Eastern Conference playoff berth last season in their first year under coach Scott Skiles. They held the eighth and final playoff berth for an extended period before losing their grip after season-ending injuries to Michael Redd and Bogut, and the Chicago Bulls wound up in the No. 8 position.

Bogut had only a brief experience in the 2006 postseason, when the Bucks made it as the eighth-seeded team but lost to the Detroit Pistons, 4-1, in a first-round series.

Milwaukee followed with seasons of 28 and 26 victories before going 34-48 a year ago.

After the departures of Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions, few prognosticators are expecting much at all from the Bucks .

"We have eight new guys; we're starting fresh," Bogut said. "We definitely need to get in the high 30s to get a playoff spot. We think that goal is realistic. If we get anything above that, it would be great."

The Bucks have added depth during the off-season as general manager John Hammond has begun to rebuild the roster and position the team for the future.

Several newcomers have been promising in the preseason, including 10th overall draft pick Brandon Jennings at point guard, Hakim Warrick and Ersan Ilyasova at power forward and Carlos Delfino at small forward.

Veteran Kurt Thomas, acquired from San Antonio in the Jefferson trade, also has provided a physical presence to open games at power forward and has proved to be a valuable backup center to Bogut.

"We want to show that we're better," Skiles said. "We want to be a good defensive team, near the top of the league, a good rebounding team and play unselfishly on the offensive end.

"That's it in a nutshell. If we do those things, we'll have the wins to show for it."

The Bucks will end their preseason schedule Friday night at the Bradley Center with the annual MACC Fund Game. After playing Detroit and ex-teammate Villanueva in the exhibition finale, the Bucks will have a full week to get ready for the regular-season opener at Philadelphia on Oct. 30.

Bogut and Redd have made significant progress this month in practices and games as they continue their respective comebacks from serious injuries. Redd underwent surgery after tearing ligaments in his left knee, and Bogut was forced to sit idle for four months to allow a stress fracture in his back to heal.

"We don't have a minute limit on them right now," Skiles said. "I certainly don't want to overplay them in the last game, either, maybe upper 20s or something and leave it at that."

Bogut said his development in the preseason has exceeded his expectations, and he termed himself "99%" ready.

"At this stage the goal was to be at 90%, but I think I'm above that," he said. "The goal was to build up the minutes to about 30 by the last preseason game, and we've done that."

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

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Added: October 24, 2009


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