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Bucks Make Quiet Acquisition

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The Milwaukee Bucks took a small step late last week toward filling out their roster for next season.  Former Hawk Salim Stoudamire will come aboard for the 2009-10 campaign.

The Journal Sentinel's Charles F. Gardner reported April 3 that the Bucks and Stoudamire agreed to a deal through the remainder of this season and next.  But while Stoudamire will not appear in the team's final games this season, the goal according to Bucks coach Scott Skiles is to have the three-year vet take part in the team's summer activities to get accustomed to the system and some of his young teammates.

Sounds like a fine idea and a low-risk one at that.

While terms of the deal were not disclosed in Gardner's report, it's hard to imagine Stoudamire commanded much money.  He's a 6-foot-1 off-guard who hasn't played a minute all season thanks to a groin injury that derailed his attempt to catch on with the San Antonio Spurs in training camp last fall.  This is a guy who only appeared in 157 games in three seasons in Atlanta and averaged just 17 minutes per game over that span.

While we're on the subect of turn-offs about Stoudamire, he didn't always get along with coach Lute Olson when he starred at the University of Arizona.  Stoudamire's moodiness and alacrity toward going into combat with his coach led to his picking up the problem label (and a couple of suspensions) during his collegiate career, and word is that he knocked heads with Mike Woodson during his time in Atlanta as well.  Add that he's undersized and doesn't play a lot of defense, and there is plenty of room for uncertainty about him.

But Stoudamire comes to town with one definite skill: The man can shoot the rock, and he can do so from distance.  Here's what I wrote last September when Stoudamire attended training camp with the Spurs:

In his NCAA days, he lived beyond the arc.  Throughout his four seasons at Arizona, Stoudamire shot 45.3, 44.4, 41.5 and 50.4 percent from behind the thee-point line, averaging 15.2 points per game for his tenure and 18.4 in his senior season.   As a 6-foot-1 off-guard, Stoudamire needed to develop his range in order to be able to get his shot off against bigger players, and he became a long-range bomber from well beyond the college line.

Size (or lack thereof) and conditioning issues have prevented Stoudamire from reaching that level of success thus far at the NBA level.  He has shot a respectable but not spectacular 36.6 percent from beyond the arc for his career, and he hasn't shown that he can play the point, thus mitigating some of his value at just 6-foot-1.  But he can provide offense in bursts, and he has averaged 17 points per 36 minutes for his three-year career, which is admittedly some reflection of the fact that he has a bit of Eddie House in him: The guy just loves to get in the game and get the ball up.  When he is hot, that can be a great sight.

Again, these weren't mere collegiate-distance threes.  Stoudamire made a habit of pulling up from steps behind the line and bombing.  Watching him shoot the ball during his Arizona days was a pleasure, and it didn't hurt that he was left-handed.  We southpaws catch a lot of flak for having awkward-looking releases, so it was nice to observe a fellow lefty with a stroke as pure as Stoudamire's. 

It helped that I didn't become all that aware of his away-from-the-floor issues until after I'd become enraptured with his shot.  Perhaps because of the order of events, rather than writing him off as an undersized two-guard who doesn't add enough beyond scoring, I've spent the past few seasons rooting for Stoudamire to find the right environment that helps him turn his conduct issues around and play productive basketball.

Milwaukee could be the environment that fosters exactly that.  While the Bucks have made progress this season, they aren't going anywhere too quickly in the big picture and thus have the time to be patient with him as he develops.  They also have a coach in Scott Skiles who is renowned for his ability to work with young players and particularly to get them to buy in at the defensive end.  Skiles is cut straight out of the old-school mold, a no-nonsense leader who puts up with no extracurricular garbage from his players.  If the 26-year-old Stoudamire can't behave, Skiles will keep his rear end planted firmly on the bench and do his best to ensure that the guard doesn't return after next season.  But if he does buy in at first, Skiles is the type of strong-willed personality who will force him to work and teach the game well enough to make him better.

There is unfortunately a good chance that the Bucks have acquired a player who doesn't have the physique or the mental make-up to succeed in this league.  If that's the case, he'll be off the books (at minimal cost in the first place) by the all-important summer of 2010. If it isn't the case, they may find themselves some instant offense at a bargain basement price.  Seems hard to go wrong with this one.


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