Michael Redd’s(notes) recent knee injury gave him a good view from the sideline to watch Brandon Jennings’(notes) 55-point game and all his other stirring performances. Like just about everyone else, Redd was impressed. The Milwaukee Bucks veteran, however, has a few words of warning.
“People have been impressed with him, but I don’t want things to crash down on him or people to be negative on him,” Redd said. “He’s still a rookie. He’s still learning. There’s been a lot of hype so far. Ultimately, he has been big in helping us win with what he has done for us early this season.”
Redd has served as the face of the Bucks’ franchise for much of the past decade, a sometimes anonymous job considering Milwaukee has made just one quick first-round appearance in the playoffs the past five years. The Bucks have shuttled players in and out. Mo Williams(notes). Richard Jefferson(notes). Charlie Villanueva(notes). Ramon Sessions(notes). Redd, when healthy, has been one of the few constants.
But when Redd missed nine of the Bucks’ first 11 games because of a strained left patella tendon, Jennings captured the imagination of Milwaukee fans – and the NBA – with his electrifying performances. Suddenly, the franchise had a young cornerstone to build around. The Bucks quickly began using Jennings in TV and online marketing campaigns. National media profiled the 20-year-old rookie. Jennings’ jersey started appearing on fans’ Christmas wish lists, provided they could find one. There’s even been talk of a possible All-Star appearance.
Most important, Jennings helped the Bucks win, leading them to an 8-3 record during those first 11 games.
Now that Redd has returned, the question facing him is obvious: Can he and Jennings blend their games to make the Bucks even better?
Redd thinks so. With Jennings’ driving ability, life on the perimeter could get easier for the 3-point specialist.
“We will learn from each other,” Redd said. “We talk a lot, which is great. It’s all about winning at the end of the day. I’ve always loved to have support to help carry the load. Brandon is having a solid season so far. The more help that we can get to try to win, I’m all for it.”
Redd is still trying to shake off the rust since his return. He’s missed 15 of 19 shots in his first two games back, coming off the bench in both. The Bucks also lost both games (in San Antonio and New Orleans), but that was more a product of the team missing center Andrew Bogut(notes) than it was Redd’s struggles.
Bucks general manager John Hammond also hasn’t seen much reason to think Jennings and Redd can’t coexist.
“I truly believe that Brandon is committed to winning,” Hammond said. “Michael is committed to winning. We are a franchise that hasn’t done much in recent years. We are not talking about a lot of success.
“With a new team and a new focus, how can we not accept change? Michael would be the first to accept change, especially if it involves winning.”
Before the national spotlight found Jennings, Redd was already serving as a mentor, taking the rookie out to several dinners. Redd has also had some advice to deal with the hype: Stay humble.
“I’m happy, but he can’t allow it to hurt him,” Redd said. “He has to control it. I enjoy watching him play. I enjoy the energy he has brought to our team and what it’s done.
“I know what [the spotlight] is and what it feels like. But at this point in my career, I just want to win.”
Redd admittedly is a little surprised he’s still with Milwaukee. The franchise has worked to shed payroll, and Redd’s contract runs through the end of the season. Hammond said the Bucks have no plans to trade Redd, but some rival league executives think that could become an option depending on how the team plays.
“You never know what can happen in this league,” Redd said. “When I saw Ray [Allen] get traded from Milwaukee a few years ago, I said, ‘OK, this is a business. This is for real.’ ”
Now 30, Redd is in a select group of players who have stayed with the same team for at least 10 seasons. He said he also hopes to stay with the Bucks.
“I’m a little shocked because it’s very rare that you see guys with an organization for so long,” Redd said. “I am very fortunate in that respect. They’ve been committed to me, and I’ve been committed to them. If you would have told me as a rookie that I would be here for 10 years straight, I would have never believed that at all.”
Nelson sticking around?
Golden State Warriors coach Don Nelson is expected to miss at least a few more games while he recovers from pneumonia. Nelson didn’t accompany the Warriors on their recent trip to Texas and might not return until the team’s Dec. 3 game against Houston.
But despite some speculation that Nelson might soon move into the Warriors’ front office and leave the coaching to assistant Keith Smart, team officials continue to insist Nelson is still committed to staying on the sideline.
"Things are good,” one source said. “The team is playing 'Nellie' ball right now.
"I'm sure after the season he will evaluate his situation just like he does every summer."
Nelson is making $6 million this season and is slated to make $6 million during the 2010-11 season. When the 69-year-old was asked why he’s still coaching last season, he replied: "Cold hard cash, baby."
Nelson also has another reason: He’s nearing the NBA’s all-time coaching record.
Warriors spokesman Raymond Ridder said all of Smart's wins and losses count toward Nelson's record. Nelson is 19 wins away from passing Lenny Wilkens’ record of 1,332.
Warriors guard Raja Bell(notes) will have wrist surgery in Charlotte early next week. If the damage isn't as severe as initially thought, he could return in three to four weeks. Otherwise, he might be sidelined as long as four months.
Lewis could try to recoup suspension money
Orlando Magic forward Rashard Lewis(notes) and his representatives have taken an interest in the court cases involving Minnesota Vikings defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams. If the players successfully fight the NFL’s attempts to suspend them for violating that league’s anti-doping policy, then Lewis may seek to recover some of the $1.8 million he lost in salary resulting from his 10-game suspension.
The NBA suspended Lewis for violating its anti-drug agreement after he tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement commonly known as DHEA. The NFL attempted to suspend the two Vikings players four games after they both tested positive for a banned substance during training camp in 2008. They admitted to taking an over-the-counter weight loss supplement called StarCaps, which did not state on the label that it contained a banned diuretic. The players have so far successfully won an injunction prohibiting their suspension. A Minnesota trial to decide the issue is expected to take place after the season. Lewis said his representation agency and lawyers have been following the Williamses’ case closely and hoping the outcome can help him.
Lewis hopes to argue that DHEA, which elevates testosterone levels, is legally available for purchase, and therefore he shouldn’t have received such a harsh penalty. While most professional sports leagues prohibit DHEA, the MLB players union has successfully kept it off baseball’s list of banned substances.
“It’s a lot of money they took from me,” Lewis said. “I told [the NBA] my mistake was an honest mistake. They supported me and was behind me 100 percent. But just the fact that it was in the rule book, they had to suspend me.”
Lewis was surprised about the suspension, but said when he was playing for the Seattle SuperSonics the team told him he had high testosterone levels, but it wasn’t an issue. His test with the Magic, however, came back even higher than normal.
“I don’t want to make it a real big deal because it was my fault,” Lewis said. “I didn’t make the trainer look at it to make sure it wasn’t a banned substance. But it wasn’t nothing crazy. It wasn’t HGH. It’s just my testosterone level was high.
“That’s why we are looking forward to what the doctors say to see what is really going on, to see why my levels are always high.”
Another rookie worth watching
After every big game by Brandon Jennings, Sacramento Kings assistant coach Mario Elie makes a point to let Kings rookie guard Tyreke Evans(notes) know about it. Evans is quietly having a stellar first season, averaging 19 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists for the Kings, but has been overshadowed by Jennings.
Evans has played the biggest role in sparking the Kings since they lost guard Kevin Martin(notes) to wrist surgery. The Kings have gone 5-3 since Martin’s absence with Evans averaging 23.8 points and 5.7 assists.
“I just think it was my confidence,” Evans said. “I just stopped thinking. When I first got here, I was thinking about what I needed to do, what I was trying to do. Now I just go out there and play. Coach lets me go out there and play. If I’m open, shoot the shot. If I see somebody, pass the ball. That’s how I go out there and look at it.
“I just thought when [Martin] went out that it was time for me to step up. That’s why they brought me here.”
Life improves without A.I.
The Memphis Grizzlies don’t yet have the look of a playoff contender, but they are playing better since parting ways with Allen Iverson(notes). The Grizzlies were just 2-8 before Iverson was waived on Nov. 17 and have won three of their five games since. So what has been the key to winning without Iverson?
“Of course, A.I. had his wants and needs as a person and as a player,” Mayo said. “I think our team tried to accommodate that and it didn’t work out.”
Mayo said the Grizzlies have begun to show a greater willingness to trust each other. “Communication has been big for all of us,” he said.