Samuel Dalembert gathers for the rebound (Getty Images)
Former Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles has a history of not being fondly remembered by his teams upon leaving. In both Phoenix, Chicago and Milwaukee Skiles has parted from his clubs midseason, and not on the best terms. In his latest parting, Bucks players such as Ersan Ilyasova, Monta Ellis, and Drew Gooden might be secretly applauding the separation, if not on record.
Center Samuel Dalembert, who was acquired in a steal of a deal last summer to hold down the team’s center position is going on record, even if he’s acting quite tactfully, in discussing his 32-game run with Skiles. Sam went from starter to scrub with Skiles after a shootaround conversation gone wrong last fall, and nobody seems to know why. With Skiles away from working microphones, it’s on Dalembert to explain the sudden change. From the Racine Journal-Times:
Can you be more specific about what Skiles said that upset you?
SD: No, I really don’t want to go into detail. I don’t want to go into it because it really hurt me. I had to express myself. I had to let him know where I’m coming from, the root of who I am today, what is defining me. It’s my country defining me. Anybody who knows me, you can ask any of my teammates, I am the most enthusiastic, happy person coming in the morning. I’m the player where I am always very respectful. I don’t know what happened between us. I’m not going to say that conversation was 100 percent the reason for what happened (not him being demoted) but for some reason there was nothing said to me again and everything went downhill. There was no explanation. There was no conversation. Nothing was said to me. He didn’t say, ‘Hey, this is what I want you to focus on or anything like that.’
It wasn’t just me. Other guys were going through the same thing with him, guys who have been here way before me. So you can only imagine what they were going through. For me, it was new. I never got a chance to know him or what he didn’t like about me.
Did you approach Skiles and ask why you weren’t playing?
SD: No. I never asked him. I mean if you brought me here and made all these changes I think it’s the least he could do to let me know the reason why.
The Journal-Times also reported that after Dalembert made a two minute cameo in a recent Bucks win over Chicago following Skiles’ parting, his first action in a month, he could be heard singing “Who Let the Dogs Out” by the Baha Men in the locker room. To me, that’s no way to celebrate and potentially suspension-worthy.
Dalembert went on to address rumors that he was “partying too hard” in his first few months with the Bucks, which seems kind of impossible to do given the city-wide last call hour of two in the morning. From the Journal-Times:
SD: Wow. I was partying too much? Where at? I would like to know where I was partying too much. I know where I go to restaurants. But partying too much? What off-the-court issues do I have? At the end of the day, people can say whatever they want to say. They can use whatever excuses they want. That’s why I don’t go on the internet and read all that stuff. You got haters and lovers. You can’t convince people who already hate you.
For all we know, Samuel could have been waltzing into shootaround every day wearing a lampshade and handing out cans of Schlitz to anyone in his field of vision. The real story here is the fact that Skiles never directly spoke with Dalembert about his demotion, and the bigger picture here is the league-wide knowledge that Scott didn’t enjoy coaching these Bucks. Dating back to 2011-12, it was apparent Skiles wanted little to do with this team, even putting his Wisconsin house on the market for sale over a year before his contract was set to expire.
And when Skiles let the Bucks know that he wouldn’t be re-signing with the team when his contract ended in July -- not that the team was pining for him to come back -- the Bucks basically ended the nonsense. Scott out, Jim Boylan in. Again; because this was the same routine Bulls fans got to see in 2007-08, when a dyspeptic Skiles was let go in favor of Boylan on Christmas Eve.
Of course, Boylan barely changed Chicago’s fortunes that year, and it’s not like the team tanked (even after dealing Ben Wallace) on its way toward a draft lottery that luckily handed them Derrick Rose. Same for the 2002 Phoenix Suns, who managed a miserable record after Skiles nearly led them to a .500 mark before being let go. The guy can coach.
He can also tick people off, and run stubborn rotations that don’t yield much, even if they make him feel better about acting the touch guy.
To the eye, Dalembert was a step slow in a few rotations earlier this season, but that’s been the case with the big man since he entered the NBA. What Samuel does do is block shots well and disrupt an offense’s flow with his length, while providing spacing offensively. Current starter Larry Sanders may not look to be a typical starting center, but he leads the league in shot blocking and completely take a team’s drive and kick offense out of its flow, aiding Milwaukee’s 10th-ranked defense along the way.
But to take Dalembert out of the rotation entirely? When his per-minute production is on pace with his career totals and without explanation? That’s Classic Skiles. And that’s not a disc I want to buy at a gas station at three in the morning in the midst of a road trip.
In spite of some iffy rotation choices in a loss to Los Angeles on Tuesday, Dalembert has played well since Boylan took over – contributing 13 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks in over 26 minutes of combined action over three games. Production has never been the problem. It’s communication, something Skiles has never been keen on in his three NBA stops. The 31-year old Dalembert won’t turn into the next Joakim Noah, a player Skiles kept on the bench needlessly during his last year in Chicago, but he can help a Bucks team that has enough to hang onto its eighth spot in the playoff bracket.
Still – we’d bench LeBron James if he emerged from the showers singing “Who Let the Dogs Out.”
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