Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 1/9/12
Eight games into this wacky 2011-2012 National Basketball Season, the Milwaukee Bucks are 2-6 and if you've followed the team for any extended period of time, you've more than likely adopted the "here we go again" mantra. But take a deep breath, Bucks fans. There are still reasons for optimism, even if they're hard to see. First and foremost, it's way, way too early to panic. Even with the condensed and shortened schedule, there is plenty of time for the Bucks to climb into playoff contention. The most difficult portion of their schedule is complete they're done with the lengthy western swings. Second, head coach Scott Skiles as was the case a year ago has yet to field a team at full strength. And though history might suggest otherwise, there is little reason to believe (right now) that injuries will plague this team as they did last season. Though he missed the last four games with a personal matter, Andrew Bogut is healthy. Drew Gooden is healthy. Stephen Jackson is healthy. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is battling a sore knee, but he should be at full strength soon. Same with Mike Dunleavy Jr. and his sore groin. Yes, nagging injuries will be a problem, especially with the schedule, but the Bucks won't be the only team to deal with that issue. And even with some of the injuries so far, there has been an underlying benefit. With so many players in and out of the lineup on a regular basis so far, a lot of younger players are seeing extended minutes. Guys like Jon Leuer have been impressive early on and even first-round draft pick Tobias Harris, though off to a late start, has looked good when given the chance. All those minutes should help young players in their development and make them all the more valuable when it comes to crunch time later in the season. The Bucks do still have some fundamental flaws. The offense, first and foremost, is a major concern just as it was a year ago. But on paper, at least, it looks like there is enough firepower to prevent a repeat of last season. The second half let-downs are alarming. The Bucks could realistically be in much better shape right now, but giving up big leads late in the game has cost the team greatly. At some point, too, general manager John Hammond will have to address the situation at backup center. Though Leuer has played well thus far, the Bucks are again in need of a legitimate big man to play behind Bogut. Neither Leuer or Gooden have the size necessary to play extended minutes at the five, and somehow, Hammond needs to find some insurance at the position. Even a healthy Bogut will need rest at times and, with the way the schedule is set up, a little preventive medicine may be the best cure in the long run. More than anything, though, the Bucks just need time. Time to figure out who they are. Time to figure out what they want to and can be. Time to get into a routine and a rhythm. Fortunately, they have plenty of it. Meanwhile, fans should be patient. What looks like reality right now could change when you least expect it. You never know what the future may hold and for all these Bucks lack, there is plenty of season left to play.
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