Milwaukee Bucks: 3 ‘what ifs’ from Bucks’ early 2000s run

22 May 2001: (Mandatory Credit: Ezra Shaw/Allsport)
22 May 2001: (Mandatory Credit: Ezra Shaw/Allsport) /
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Milwaukee Bucks
MILWAUKEE, UNITED STATES: (Photo credit: SCOTT OLSON/AFP via Getty Images) /

Scott Williams’ suspension for Game 7

The flashy, dynamic trio of Ray Alllen, Sam Cassell and Glenn Robinson certainly carried the Bucks throughout the early 2000s and their run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001.

But Milwaukee’s run was also defined by the cast of hard-working, hustle and experienced players that made up their frontcourt to complement the team’s ‘Big 3’ as well as Tim Thomas and so on. It was Scott Williams who, along with Jason Caffey, gave the Bucks some championship pedigree after being a member of the Chicago Bulls during their first run of three straight titles in the early 1990s.

Having arrived to Milwaukee as part of the Tim Thomas trade from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Tyrone Hill and Jerald Honeycutt on the day of the 1999 NBA trade deadline, Williams rejuvenated his career with the Bucks by giving them a big-bodied presence who relied on grunt work to make his impact.

That was especially needed for a Bucks team that needed some heft and toughness to propel them into their late season run during the 2000-01 season as head coach George Karl said to ESPN in April of 2001:

"“When Darvin and Scottie Williams were out of the lineup early in the season, we thought, ‘Well, it’ll be easy to replace those guys,’ ” Karl said. “But it wasn’t. Their guts and their toughness. I don’t know if we’ve gotten it all back yet.”"

Williams’ productivity and doing all of the little things to help free up and elevate the play of his teammates grew in its importance as the Bucks took down both the Orlando Magic and the Charlotte Hornets before going up against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Conference Finals.

Unfortunately, Williams’ biggest mark in that series came in the decisive Game 7, one where he didn’t even step foot on the court. That was due to Williams retroactively being assessed a flagrant-2 foul and being suspended by the NBA as a result of the hard elbow he dished out to that year’s Most Valuable Player, Allen Iverson, near the beginning of Game 6.

Without Williams, Karl turned to Darvin Ham to fill Williams’ void in the starting lineup, a decision that he regrets doing as he recently told The Athletic’s Eric Nehm ($).

Forced to watch the Bucks melt down in the second half and see them fall in a 108-91 defeat from his hotel room, Williams recalled the painful experience the day after the Bucks’ season ended to ESPN in June of 2001:

"“It was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do in sports,” said Williams, an 11-year veteran who missed the Bucks’ 108-91 loss to the Sixers on Sunday. “I felt as though I couldn’t help my team in any way and that was a bad feeling to have to sit in the hotel and watch.” “I just wanted to see our guys do well and when things started to slip away, I felt bad for the guys. I wanted to be there,” said Williams, who won three rings in Chicago in the early 1990s. “Even if I was suspended, I still wanted to be on the bench and console my teammates.” “That was the most difficult part, to have to spend the end of the season at the hotel, apart from the guys that you were in the trenches with all year long,” Williams said."

Williams’ suspension certainly stands as the prime example of the infamous controversy regarding the officiating throughout the series, along with the disparity in free throws between both sides. The Bucks certainly had their bad breaks, such as Robinson’s last-second baseline jumper attempt at the end of Game 5 hitting the back iron.

If only Williams had gotten the chance to play for the Bucks again…