Monday, October 10, 2016

Dreams of Jabari

The Bucks won their annual (maybe?) Madison pre-season game on Saturday.  They beat the Dallas Mavericks 88-74.

It's always nice to beat a Playoff team, even if it is pre-season.  Pre-season is not the time to mention that the opposing team was without their All-Star, or that the opposing team missed a metric ton of open jump shots.  No, pre-season is a time for optimism, and a decisive victory for a likely 2017 West Playoff team is something good.

Reaction from online Bucks fans focused on the play of Jabari Parker, and for good reason.  He led all scorers with twenty-one points, he shot an "efficient" (GOSH, do I hate that word) nine-for-fourteen and he even grabbed six rebounds.  (His plus/minus was plus-sixteen; tops amongst either team, for those looking for stats even more worthless than typical NBA stats.)

It was impossible not to notice Jabari while watching the game.  He was active, he was athletic and he was finishing.  It was great to see teammates reward him for his activity.  Six of Jabari's nine baskets came off assists.

Just as noticeable, at least for those of us accustomed to watching young players develop, was Jabari's coordination.  Or, more precisely, his lack of coordination.  This is not a smooth dude.  He's an incredible athlete in terms of explosiveness, but when it comes to touch and feel, he's no Chris Paul.  He may not even have the motor skills of Ron Paul.  He's just a naturally herky-jerky guy.  It happens.

Bucks fans who dreamt of Jabari turning into the next Paul Pierce or Carmelo aught to treat those ideas like a Larry Sanders practicing a hook shot: think about it occasionally, toss it up just in case it hits, pout for a while after it doesn't and get over it using your preferred stash of drugs and alcohol.

None of this is to say that Jabari is a waste.  He can undoubtedly contribute.  But for him to contribute the same thing's going to have to happen that happens with every valuable NBA player: he's going to have to be used right.

For Jabouncy (new nickname; we'll see if it sticks), being used right means being used like another athletic phenom with suspect motor skills: Blake Griffin.

When Blake debuted during the 2011 season, he took the League by storm.  He was just flying all over the place; dunking on people seemingly at will.  Clippers games turned into an event.

(In fact, I trace my own ticket-buying addiction not to the decision to sign up for Bucks season tickets in 2009, but to my decision to plunk down some cash for a late season five-pack of Clippers tickets the next season.  It morphed me from a guy who just attends sporting events to root for his team to a guy willing to buy a ticket to be a part of a hot crowd.)

Jabouncy may not quite be the athlete Blake is.  Few are.  He may be close enough.  Blake was measured to be six feet, ten inches tall, with a thirty-five and a half inch vertical leap.  Jabari is an inch shorter and his vertical leap has never been independently measured, but the way he propels off the floor certainly makes it look like he could approach Blake's number.

2017 is Jabouncy's age twenty-one season, which happens to be the same age Blake was as a rookie.  Blake's results: twenty-two points and twelve rebounds (!) per game, while shooting over fifty percent and getting to the line eight times per game.

Can Jabouncy do twenty-two and twelve?  Oh goodness.  The Bucks will be a handful this season if he does.

The key -- as Bucks Forest sees it, at least -- is for both Coach Kidd and Jabouncy to embrace who he is.  A little work on the jump shot or the post moves is fine; surely Blake Griffin worked on both of those things when he was Jabouncy's age.  The more important thing is for Jabouncy to play like an animal.  He has to be bowling people over and punishing opponents on the glass.

Jabari is an ambitious fellow -- he clearly thinks that he'll end up being one of the greats -- but ambition without discipline just makes you a dreamer.  The NBA is not a kind place to dreamers.  Hopefully Jabari and Coach Kidd do the right work and leave the dreaming to Bucks fans.

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