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News » NBA Bucks' focus fixed on making playoffs

NBA Bucks' focus fixed on making playoffs

NBA  Bucks' focus fixed on making playoffs
St. Francis - Richard Jefferson didn't hesitate Monday when asked if he had any New Year's resolutions.

"Get back to the playoffs; that's the only one," the Milwaukee Bucks forward said. "I don't think there's a guy (on the Bucks) right now who is coming from a situation where they were in the playoffs last season.

"I think everybody's New Year's resolution, as a team, is to get back to the playoffs and make this organization respectable again."

Jefferson missed the playoffs for the first time in his career last season, when the New Jersey Nets failed to qualify. In his first six seasons as a pro, the 6-foot-7 Jefferson played in 78 playoff games with the Nets, and he reached the NBA Finals in each of his first two seasons.

So sitting at home in April and May is not an appealing prospect to him. Bucks players Malik Allen and Tyronn Lue both saw limited time in the postseason with Dallas last season, and Damon Jones was with Cleveland in the playoffs.

Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva has talked about never getting to the postseason in his first three years in the league. Point guard Luke Ridnour reached the playoffs just once in his first five seasons in the league, all with Seattle.

And veteran Bucks players such as Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut, Charlie Bell and Dan Gadzuric haven't been in the playoffs since 2006, when they lost to Detroit in the opening round.

The Bucks at least have put themselves in position to consider the playoffs as a possibility again, after finishing 26-56 last season.

They are 14-17 and in the No. 8 position in the Eastern Conference monday, entering challenging road games tonight and Wednesday against San Antonio and Houston to end the year.

But plenty of teams will contend for the last few spots in the East, and the eighth-seeded team likely will get defending NBA champion Boston (or even Cleveland) in the first round.

"The eighth spot is not good enough for us," Jefferson said. "We feel like we're better than that.

"If we had such a tough schedule, and we've had quite a few injuries, and we're still in the playoffs at the eighth spot, we believe if we can stay healthy and get into a rhythm, we can move up. We're not just happy being there.

"You can't just be happy to go to the dance. You've got to be happy to go with a pretty girl, too."

Jefferson's comments reflect the attitude on the team despite an 87-76 home setback to the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night. Before that game, the Bucks had won five of six overall and had a five-game winning streak at the Bradley Center.

They couldn't find a much tougher task than playing San Antonio tonight and moving on to Houston to play Yao Ming, Ron Artest and Tracy McGrady on New Year's Eve.

The Bucks fought off the Spurs for an 82-78 victory in November at the Bradley Center, but San Antonio was without the injured Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Both are back in the lineup and have helped the Spurs to an 11-3 record in December.

Bogut will face Tim Duncan, who has moved from power forward to center this season, and Yao on consecutive nights.

"You can't really guard him with one guy, anyway," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said, referring to Duncan. "He can face up from 16 or 17 feet. He can take you down on the box; he's got multiple moves. Over the years, he's become a very good passer out of there.

"We did a good job on him here, but there's a lot more spacing out there now, because they're healthy. You've got to get down there and help and try to make Tim a passer more than a scorer, and live with the results after that."

Bogut pointed out that Houston was the only team he hasn't beaten in his four years with the Bucks. The 7-foot Bogut has faced the 7-6 Yao in international play as well as in league games.

"You try to keep the ball out of the post as much as you can," Bogut said. "But if he starts hitting shots from outside the paint, if his jumper is going, you're in trouble."

Bogut said he couldn't try to shoot over Yao unless he wants to risk certain rejection.

"You've got to go through his body and hopefully draw a couple fouls," Bogut said. "He might block three or four but if he fouls three or four (times), we'll take that."

Jefferson said the Bucks would gain confidence from defeating San Antonio or Houston, but he cautioned about putting too much emphasis on one or two games.

"We've still got 50-some games left," he said. "There are places you've got to go. Even if you come here and win these next two games, it doesn't mean all of a sudden people are going to start saying you're one of the favorites in the East.

"We've got a lot of work to do. This is just another step in that direction. Let's respond to the way we played against Detroit and go out and play well."

Copyright 2008, 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: December 30, 2008


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