Key to Ford's fast ignition? He's better than new

Every new season has its opening week surprises, and this year's brow-raiser can be found in Milwaukee. A week into the season, the Bucks are one of two undefeated teams in the Central Division, rubbing shoulders with the powerful Pistons atop basketball's toughest division.

Almost universally slated for last, or fourth in the minds of a generous few, Milwaukee instead has rolled out to a 3-0 start that includes attention-getting wins over Eastern heavyweights Miami and New Jersey. And although the Miami win comes with an asterisk, given the absence of Shaquille O'Neal, the same cannot be said of the sound 110-96 beating the Bucks administered to New Jersey in the Swamp.

Granted, this team has fooled us before. For instance, Milwaukee opened the year 10-3 in 1992-93 ... and finished 28-54. But that club's start was an obvious fluke -- the go-to guys were Blue Edwards and Frank Brickowski, for crying out loud.

This year's edition looks much more solid, so there's no reason to think the strong start is a mirage. Milwaukee won only 30 games a year ago but has made wholesale improvements since.

The Bucks solved a long-standing weakness in the middle by drafting Australian big man Andrew Bogut and trading for former All-Star Jamaal Magloire, giving the Bucks a post presence and a fighting chance at the defensive end.

The addition of perimeter stopper Bobby Simmons was another important addition, especially since he hasn't cooled off offensively from last year's surprise performance with the Clippers.

Throw in a scorching hot start from Michael Redd and big numbers off the bench from Mo Williams, and perhaps it's not a big shock that Milwaukee is unbeaten.

But the biggest difference-maker of all has been the team's smallest player, point guard T.J. Ford. The 165-pound speed demon missed all of last season with a bruised spine but returned this year as the Bucks' starting point guard.