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The Milwaukee Bucks hope to get off to a strong start. (PHOTO: David Bernacchi)

Bucks look to start season strong

At the end of last season Milwaukee Bucks head coach Scott Skiles said that going forward, each member of the team would need to get better individually in order for the collective to take a step forward.

At the beginning of the season, Skiles isn't quite sure if that has happened. This preseason the Bucks went 3-5, which included a four game losing streak. There were moments of brilliance on both ends of the court, and mental lapses that frustrated the coaching staff.

"Unless you have an unbelievable bailout player or two; unless you have multiple All-Stars or a couple Hall of Famers on your team, things like that, to cover up for everybody else's mistakes, if you want to be a team that doesn't have those things and still has a lot of success, everybody's got to be totally committed and focused, understand what they're supposed to do, do their jobs with no excuses and those are just three or four things," Skiles said. "I could probably add another 15 more. Those are the things we're going to have to do to get to that point."

What he does know is the team is focused on getting off to a better start to the year.

"At the end of the year we're always saying, 'aw man, we're so close,'" Brandon Jennings said. "I feel like if we take the beginning of the season and approach it like 'We gotta win every game, we gotta start off great,' then I think at the end of the season, when it's time to make that run, we won't have no problems."

The air left the balloon of the 2011-12 season quickly as the team began the lockout-shortened season losers of six of its first eight and fell to as many as eight games below .500 after the first two months of the season. A run in March and April nearly pushed the Bucks into the Eastern Conference playoffs, but the team struggled down the stretch to finish four games behind the Philadelphia 76ers for the final spot.

The Bucks began the 2010-11 season going 7-13 and also finished ninth in the East – two games behind the Indiana Pacers.

Even in the team's successful 2009-10 campaign, the Bucks' last playoff appearance, they started the season 9-11.

In 2008-09, Skiles' first season at the helm, the team started 8-12 and finished last in the Central.

"We know that we'd like to have a good month to start the season," Skiles said. "Most of the time in the past few years we've been having to play catch up. We fall behind and we've been able to hang in and everything but you'd like to get off to a good start so you're not playing from behind."

The look of the Eastern Conference has changed beneath the defending champion Miami Heat, as new faces and injuries have put at least the start of the season in flux for many teams.

Dwight Howard is gone from Orlando, but Andrew Bynum is in Philadelphia. Derrick Rose is out with a blown knee in Chicago, but the Brooklyn Nets have added Joe Johnson. Indiana's Danny Granger is hurt, but Boston is motivated.

Every team has questions, and the Bucks hope an infusion of length in the front court meshes with Jennings and Monta Ellis to create mismatches at both ends of the floor, and take the first steps toward walking though the door that leads to the postseason.

"We have that expectation every year," forward Ersan Ilyasova said. "It doesn't matter where we're at. We always approach with that mentality, a winning mentality. It's not like we start the season like oh, we're probably not going to make the playoffs. It's never that way. We're always start looking forward to being in the playoffs."

Click to the next page to meet the 2012-13 Milwaukee Bucks.

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