By Doug Russell Special to Published Feb 08, 2012 at 11:00 AM

For 11 years, he was just about the best thing the Bucks had. Unfortunately, they were some of the worst years in franchise history.

Tuesday night, Michael Redd returned to the Bradley Center for the first time since his departure from the Bucks when his six-year, $91 million contract expired at the end of last season. After the first two games of this season saw Phoenix struggle offensively, Redd signed a one-year, $1.3 million contract with the Suns, who beat the Bucks 107-105 Tuesday night.

"I remember when Ray (Allen) got traded and when he came back the first time he was telling me, this is so weird," Redd recalled after the game. "I said 'really?' And then years later, yeah, this is weird. But once I go on the court I felt familiar with the rim and the court, the fans and the scenery."

Redd, who scored 14 points on 7-14 shooting from the field, was honored with a video tribute to the 11 years he spent as a Buck during the game's first time out. And while he did not stare at the video board the entire time so as to not appear to be ignoring coach Alvin Gentry, he did see most of it, and appreciated the warm round of applause.

"It was phenomenal," Redd said. "I didn't know they were going to do that, so I told Steiny (Bucks VP John Steinmiller) and the whole crew that I really appreciated them doing that. It was emotional and the fans are terrific."

At one point, Redd looked like his old self, knocking down six shots in the span of about five minutes to open up the second quarter.

"He's just a blessing to coach," Gentry told reporters after the game. "The guy works extremely, extremely hard and the guy is getting himself back in All-Star form. You saw some glimpses of it tonight; I think you will see more and more of it as time goes on."

After his flurry of baskets, the No. 4 scorer in Bucks history went cold, only making one of his final eight shots. But his coach isn't worried about the cold streaks.

"He'll continue to get better, his legs will continue to be stronger and then he'll shoot the ball better, but you could see in that stretch in the second quarter that he can get it going," Gentry said. "And when he does, you guys have seen it, he can get going, and when he does, he's a pretty tough collar."

While over the years a hot-shooting Michael Redd may have been a tough collar, the one thing that could slow him down was his own body.

Last season, the Bucks 2000 second round draft selection played in just 10 games while rehabbing his injured left knee. In fact, since first tearing his ACL and MCL in the Bucks 33rd game of the 2008-09 season, Redd only played in 28 more games in a Milwaukee uniform, starting just 12 of them.

In the pantheon of Wisconsin athletes that have failed to live up to their contracts, either through injury or ineffectiveness, Michael Redd's name is frequently mentioned in the same breath as Jeff Suppan, Tony Mandarich, Teddy Higuera and Franklin Stubbs.

After all, in the six years since signing his maximum-dollar, six-year contract, Redd was only healthy enough to play in 266 of the possible 492 regular season games while drawing a franchise crippling $91 million. In other words, for every single game Michael Redd wound up actually playing in, he drew a check for $342,105.

And you wonder why a beer cost $7?

All in all, Michael Redd is a perfectly decent man. He lives his faith, rarely speaks ill of others, donates time and money to causes he believes in, and is a role model for what kind of athlete you would want your children to emulate.

But he never should have been given the contract the Bucks gave him to be the leader of this team back in the summer of 2004.

Whether it is his fault or not, the Michael Redd era was one of the worst stretches of basketball this franchise has ever known. His rookie season (in where he only played in six games totaling just 35 minutes) was the last time Milwaukee saw beyond the first round of the playoffs. In 2001, led by the "big three" of Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson, and Sam Cassell, the Bucks came within one game (and a conspiracy theory) of making it to the NBA Finals before losing to Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Just two seasons later, in a stunning and disastrous turn of events designed to save a few dollars and keep then-coach George Karl happy, Allen was shipped off to Seattle for what amounted to some magic beads and McDonald's Happy Meal. After all, the Bucks could well afford to lose Allen with budding superstar Redd wasting away on the bench.

Or so they thought.

For a very short amount of time early on, the plan seemed to not be the catastrophe it turned out to be when Redd got hot and became a 20-plus point per game scorer. Sure, his defense was suspect, but like Allen, Redd was in the game for his shooting stroke, not his D. And while Allen never skipped a beat, being named to a total 10 all-star games en route to a Hall of Fame career, Redd was able to join him at the mid-season classic in 2004, during his first season as a full-time starter.

The plan was working.

But the problem with the Bucks in 2004 was that there was a perfect storm brewing. Their best players, aside from Redd, were an aging Keith Van Horn, Desmond Mason (acquired in the Allen-to-Seattle trade), and Joe Smith. And while that lineup might have worked several years earlier, the Bucks could not win with that group.

Compounding matters, Redd's contract was expiring. And Sen. Kohl, a man who desperately wants to win but has not demonstrated a consistent ability to do so during his time as the Bucks owner, felt like he was backed into a corner. Not wanting to lose his only all-star, he subsequently backed up the Brinks truck to Redd's Columbus, OH home and opened the floodgates.

Bucks fans have always been torn on Michael Redd. On one hand, he is the kind of athlete you so desperately want to root for. Well spoken, a long-shot second-round draft choice, he always spoke very highly of the fans and the city, which is all too-rare in today's NBA. On the other hand, he was an oft-injured one-dimensional player that was being paid to be a leader when he simply did not posses the ability or willingness to be that.

Simply put: Michael Redd, even if he were healthy for the last six years, was never worthy of a maximum-player deal.

Whether the players themselves like it or not, in professional athletics, you are judged by the fans based on what you make. The argument that money is not a fair way to assess performance vs. expectation went out the window decades ago. When Jeff Suppan was the least-popular player on the Brewers with strikingly similar numbers as Braden Looper, because Suppan made more than twice as much money, he was frequently the object of the paying customer's ire.

And while that may not be fair, neither is paying $6 for a soft pretzel at the game. But it is the reality of the matter, now isn't it?

As for the possibility of Redd's number someday being retired, whereas the Bucks once went on number-shelving spree, don't hold you breath for No. 22 to be hanging from the Bradley Center rafters anytime soon. Because while Michael Redd may have been a nice man and the club's No. 4 all-time leading scorer, he might also be the single greatest reminder of what went wrong with the Bucks for the last decade.

Doug Russell Special to

Doug Russell has been covering Milwaukee and Wisconsin sports for over 20 years on radio, television, magazines, and now at

Over the course of his career, the Edward R. Murrow Award winner and Emmy nominee has covered the Packers in Super Bowls XXXI, XXXII and XLV, traveled to Pasadena with the Badgers for Rose Bowls, been to the Final Four with Marquette, and saw first-hand the entire Brewers playoff runs in 2008 and 2011. Doug has also covered The Masters, several PGA Championships, MLB All-Star Games, and Kentucky Derbys; the Davis Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Sugar Bowl, along with NCAA football and basketball conference championships, and for that matter just about anything else that involves a field (or court, or rink) of play.

Doug was a sports reporter and host at WTMJ-AM radio from 1996-2000, before taking his radio skills to national syndication at Sporting News Radio from 2000-2007. From 2007-2011, he hosted his own morning radio sports show back here in Milwaukee, before returning to the national scene at Yahoo! Sports Radio last July. Doug's written work has also been featured in The Sporting News, Milwaukee Magazine, Inside Wisconsin Sports, and Brewers GameDay.

Doug and his wife, Erika, split their time between their residences in Pewaukee and Houston, TX.