On Media Day, no matter the weather, it is always sunny.
Everyone is tied for first place, everyone feels and looks good, and everyone is on the same page.
Last year on Media Day, Corey Maggette was a self-described "team player" who would play "hellified defense" and was "happy to be in Milwaukee." Maggette was traded after the season. Andrew Bogut was "working on" his 18-footer, which he hoped would "open up" his game. He shot 0-28 from beyond 15 feet. And Chris Douglas-Roberts "loved" being a Buck.
Saturday morning at the Cousins Center in St. Francis, the mood was again almost universally rosy -- predictably though perhaps also genuinely. Nonetheless, two of the best players and most candid interviewees seemingly contrasted each other on one subject: creating and managing expectations.
Stephen Jackson, standing in the painted area under the basket on the east side of the court, venturesomely declared that any teammate merely striving to make the playoffs (which neither his Bobcats nor the Bucks reached last season) was setting goals too low. Far too low.
"If guys come in here not focused on a championship, just making the playoffs, we need to trade them. We need to be talking about a championship and nothing else. You can't limit yourself to just playoffs. Who wants to do that? Playoffs is not really an achievement to me. Anybody can get to the playoffs."
Minutes earlier, Bogut, facing reporters outside the three point line on the same side of the court that Jackson stood, warned about the dangers of last year's high expectations and explained why the team is better positioned this year with a relatively lower and quieter profile.
"We didn't handle being a frontrunner very well. We like to be in the back of the pack and then sneak up on people. Last year we headed into the season, and I spoke to a lot of you guys (media), and I didn't like a lot of the labels we were getting from the start. I tried to keep playing it down. Because we had a young team, and for guys to hear that we are a playoff team, possibly second round or third round. I was like, we aren't there yet, you know, we still have a lot of work to do. We have only made the playoffs one time in the last four years. I think our best move is to be close to the back of the field and catch up."
For once, it seemed, everyone was not on the same page at Media Day. Two of the strongest personalities and talented players on the team did not speak in terms of a company line or with simply unadulterated optimism. They spoke with different messages, confidently, and from experience: Jackson's eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors shocked the Dallas Mavericks in 2007; Bogut's Bucks fell miserably flat last year after hopes of a division title. Ultimately though, they are not necessarily on different pages at all, because both spoke with the same underlying motives: keeping teammates engaged, motivated, and primed to win.
It is clear that both Jackson and Bogut are conscious in their efforts to rally teammates and manage their goals. That they naturally arrive at vastly different ways to do so may cause disharmony. Just as likely, it may not.
After all, one of the central themes behind the offseason personnel re-shuffling was to find a balanced mix of players, both with respect to in-game strengths as well as personalities. As Assistant GM Jeff Weltman told me this summer:
You want a balanced mix of guys, some of whom will lead, some of whom will follow, some of whom will kind of keep it light. But the overriding thing, all of whom are going to be professional, going to work hard, going to support one another, and are going to represent the organization well.
That is the starting point. And after there, you kind of break into, how do these guys all coexist? And at the end of the day, those things are really hard to predict. And ultimately it is going to depend on the character of the individual.
As the logic follows, just as you would not want 12 Andrew Boguts on your team on the court because the Australian is not a point guard or shooting guard or small forward or power forward, you also would not want 12 Stephen Jacksons on your team in the locker room because a roster cannot be filled from top to bottom with outspoken alpha types.
Whether a team is well-suited to have one Andrew Bogut and one Stephen Jackson as two of its primary on-court players and two of its foremost personalities?
That in part will determine whether GM John Hammond and Weltman found the right mix this time. It will in part determine, no matter the weather, whether it will still be sunny in Milwaukee when the playoffs tip in April, when the Finals tip in June.
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