By: Ross Geiger
The free agent signing of Earl Boykins joining the Milwaukee Bucks will undoubtedly go unnoticed. Furthermore, Boykins will go unnoticed the majority of the time being the third string point guard on the Bucks. But there’s something left to be said about Bucks General Manager John Hammond’s decision to bring in the 12-year veteran.
If you haven’t noticed by now, Hammond never makes a move without a significant purpose. Not once will you find him stumped in why he decided to make a roster decision. This is no different, even if it’s the littlest move involving the league’s smallest player.
Boykins offers the Bucks qualities haven’t had during Hammond’s tenure and will ultimately have more effect on the actual outcome of each game then many will even realize. Most of what Boykins will offer the Bucks this upcoming year won’t be observed on the court, but behind the scenes.
While he stands at the bare minimum height of 5’5, Boykins has about seen it all throughout his NBA career. He’s had some glamour years, he’s had some disappointing seasons as a player, but now he’s being given an opportunity unlike any other.
Boykins himself said it best yesterday in his Bucks press conference, “My role is to be ready when I’m needed.”
Well Mr. Boykins, you’re need from start to finish on and off the floor, in more ways than just one. It starts on the practice floor come time for training camp. Boykins will be a guided presence in the development of Bucks star point guard Brandon Jennings. With Boykins on board with the Bucks for the upcoming 2010-2011 season, there will be no days off for Jennings.
Each day they step on the court, a challenge awaits, a challenge that will initially be mind-boggling to the young guard: “How in the world is this guy so good and effective, even at the age of 34?”
Other than his height, there are three big things in particular that separate Boykins from his competition: his ball handling ability, his defense, and his ability to use quickness under control on the offensive side of the court. Each of these three big things are areas in which Jennings must improve in order to reach the all-star status he desires to reach as early as this year.
Boykins will be a prime leader by example on the practice floor and by doing so he will continue to earn the respect he’s earned every year he’s graced the NBA hardwood. He’s a hound dog on every defensive possession picking his man up full court from start to finish. Each and every single time, Jennings can expect to be hit with on the ball pressure, thus forcing him to improve his ball handling skills. That defensive intensity bought by Boykins is the reason why he’s known for having an exceptional steal per turnover ratio. That type of effort brought every practice will rub off on Jennings. Not only will he become more comfortable handling the ball with lots of ball pressure, but he’ll also see the rewards that result from playing such hard defense every possession.
On the offensive side of things Boykins is blessed with the similar speed, quickness, and agility that helps Jennings be the lethal offensive threat that he is. But like most young, quick NBA point guards, one thing Jennings hasn’t quite mastered is using that speed under control. Professor Boykins will make this a hands-on learn-by-example lesson. Take a few minutes and watch some old highlight reels of Boykins, rest assured you’ll see a glimpses of the moves reflected in Jennings’ offensive repertoire.
Both guards are skinny and considered lightweights at the point guard position, but expect to see the two playing next to one another every now and then. The tandem might even be called upon when the games on the line. Much like Jennings, Boykins is known for rising to the occasion, coming up big when it counts the most. Having the ability to put two ball handlers out on the court that do just that is so valuable during the heat of the moment.
In two of the four Milwaukee Bucks vs. Washington Wizards meetings last season, Boykins got the best of Jennings. In the first of these two specific meeting Boykins drove right past Jennings absorbing the contact in the lane, finishing the bucket, and the capitalized from the foul line. In the other, Boykins sold Jennings on a strong shot fake when seconds remaining and once again made the Bucks pay at the foul stripe. Both plays were crucial in the game’s final outcome as the Wizards went onto win those games.
“At this point, winning is the only thing that’s important,” Boykins also noted at his press conference.
And it’s clear to both Boykins and the Bucks that’s the primary focus come time to tip off next season. Boykins will look to make his fourth NBA playoff appearance in which he’s always excelled. He holds a 12.9 points per game, 3.9 assists per game, 1.6 rebounds per game career average in the playoffs.
With winning being the only thing that’s important to Boykins, he know he plays a huge role in helping the Bucks young leader in Jennings lead his ball club into a playoff position. Boykins will immediately become a Squad 6 fan favorite and excited to help execute the task at hand. He knows what it’ll take and he’ll make sure he fulfills his role on this Bucks team next season.
So watch NBA world, sometimes the smallest pieces can play the biggest role. Boykins will continue to be a true testament to that!
Follow Ross Geiger on Twitter: @RossGeiger