Even on the best of road trips, exhaustion finds a way of tracking you down. When that trip resembles an Ice Cube movie, the comfort of your living room couch can’t come soon enough.
That’s the easiest way to describe what the Milwaukee Bucks looked like in their five game road trip 109-91 blowout finale against the Phoenix Suns. The starters looked uninspired collapsing on Steve Nash drives (17 assists), and unmotivated to contest open shots off his circus passing efforts (10-22 3fg, 45.5%). Overall, the Bucks looked like they were ready to get out of the Phoenix heat and into the Milwaukee cold.
The baby Bucks took over halfway through a predictably ugly third quarter, and with Shaun Livingston guided the way, they loosely wrapped a tourniquet on the open wound that was Milwaukee’s sixth road loss of the season, finishing the game with a 27-18 fourth quarter “win.”
Tobias Harris, Larry Sanders, Darington Hobson, and Jon Leuer combined for 38 pts, 14-29 fg, 10-14 ft, 18 rbs, 8 asts, and a net +29. Relative to expectations, and taking into account the fact that Ronnie Price and Josh Childress were on the court most of the time, they all showed flashes of usefulness as role players.
Tobias Harris (15 pts, 4-8 fg, 7-10 ft, 4 rbs, 2 asts, +11)
With 15 points on a very efficient eight shots, Harris led the Bucks’ in scoring playing in just his second game as a professional. Harris doesn’t possess the Derrick Williams’ athleticism or Paul George’s shooting stroke, but he finds ways to score even if it requires some dirty work.
Harris isn’t afraid to draw contact, and look pretty smart off the ball, taking advantage of a soft interior Suns defense on a few cuts to the basket that turned into one dunk and two free throws. The Bradley Center always has a “Help Wanted: Scorers Needed” sign hanging in the window, and if Harris produces regardless of his workload, Milwaukee may have an NBA-ready 19-year-old still growing into his body.
Jon Leuer (11 pts, 4-9 fg, 3-4 ft, 6 rbs, +4)
Everyone knows about Jon Leuer and his magical mid-range jumper. Of all four players listed here, Leuer is the most likely to continue receiving regular playing time partially from the team’s overall lack of size and because he’s shown a knack for picking his shots wisely and relying on solid defensive instincts.
Larry Sanders (8 pts, 4-7 fg, 7 rbs, 3 asts, +6)
Larry Sanders still has some timing/traveling issues, and often finds himself in foul trouble quickly (four fouls in 25 minutes against the Suns). With the ball in his hands on offense, Sanders possesses all the grace of a fawn still learning how to walk. However, he continues to take small steps towards possessing a legitimate NBA game, and a few plays in particular highlighted Sanders’ two best offensive assets.
Sanders’ athleticism took over on one transition play, where he single handedly drove the lane and skied for a dunk. Later on, Shaun Livingston cut to the right and passed back to a waiting Larry Sanders, who released a 22-footer that dropped beautifully through the cup.
Sanders has some timing problems with his release, either letting the ball go as he’s dropping or getting the yips and tossing it up too early. When his timing is right, Sanders’ jumper looks encouragingly good, but shots like the one in the previous paragraph are rarer than sightings of Jesus on a pancake at this point in Sanders’ career.
Darington Hobson (4 pts, 2-5 fg, 3 asts, +8)
For the first time in his career, Darington Hobson got 17 minutes to show why the Bucks committed to a sophomore second round pick they had never seen practice until this year’s training camp. His box score contributions were minimal, but the versatility John Hammond raved about after last year’s draft showed itself on a few occasions.
Two years ago at the University of New Mexico, Hobson was one of just two Div. 1 college basketball players to average 15 points, nine rebounds, and four assists per game (the other was Evan Turner). Hobson moved the ball well, and scored two of his four points on an athletic up-and-under driving from the baseline.
The Milwaukee Bucks have a veteran logjam of wingmen blocking Hobson from playing any meaningful minutes when a game is in doubt. Realistically, he’s a good candidate for the monthly send-down/call-up game that is the D-League.
Still, all four players have yet to hit their developmental ceiling. If you wanted to take anything positive away from the Bucks’ brutal loss to the Suns, it should be that watching these younger players get their feet wet in a blowout is much more interesting than watching Royal Ivey, Primoz Brezec, and Chris Douglas-Roberts in that unwinnable position.