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Young Bucks visit Lambeau Field, NBA Rank begins, and Eric's debut as a Bucks judge

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We are only two weeks (!) away from the start of training camp, which means that we've just about made it out of the dog days of the NBA's off-season. Take some time after reading this post to congratulate yourself on doing so.

More importantly, this marks the time when the players begin their migration back to Milwaukee to start getting ready for the long grind of an NBA season. As a matter of fact, there were already 10 players in Milwaukee last week already going through some informal workouts.

And more were on their way back.

Is it too early to start getting a little excited? Because I'm getting a little excited.

Bucks.com | Bucks visit Lambeau Field

A handful of Bucks players and front office staff took a trip up to Green Bay this past weekend to watch the Packers take on the New York Jets. A lot of them had never been to a game before, and it was fun to see them enjoy the experience.

Well, unless you're Jabari Parker and you had to wear the famous cheesehead of your favorite team's biggest rival.

I don't know, Jabari looks pretty good with that on, doesn't he? Rich Kirchen from the Milwaukee Business Journal had a bit more background on the day, which also included tailgating at minority owner Craig Karmazin's "luxury tailgate" across from Lambeau.

"The thing that was amazing to me was they really had a feel of a college team — guys together and having fun," Karmazin said. "A lot of camaraderie."

After Edens visited with sponsors and Bucks fans at the tailgate, he entered the stadium to visit the sidelines before the game with Knight and Parker. They stopped to chat with fans along the way.

The rest of the players walked through a few tailgate parties and visited with fans, posing for photos and signing autographs on their way into the game.

Edens was invited to watch the game in the suite of Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy after Edens and Murphy met during the first half of the Packers-Jets game.

ESPN.com: #NBARank: 401-500
The ESPN Forecast Panel is starting their annual ranking of every player in the league, and three of the Bucks fell in the bottom 100. Johnny O'Bryant III was deemed fourth worst at #497, Chris Wright was #452, and Damien Inglis was #450. OK.

ESPN: Bucks snubbed in future power rankings
We recently noted that the Bucks had climbed only a few spots in ESPN Insider's projected future power rankings. Insider Bradford Doolittle wrote a rebuttal to the Bucks ranking, arguing that they should be higher. Much higher, actually.

"However, the Bucks may have finally hit the jackpot in 2013 when they landed Giannis Antetokounmpo at No. 15. Antetokounmpo wasn't expected to see much court time as a supremely talented and supremely raw rookie, but he got 1,897 minutes and mostly held his own, while flashing brilliant teases of the player he may become. This summer, he's looked like a good candidate to become this season's most improved player. By his third year, if the progress continues, Antetokounmpo could emerge as the foundation player the Bucks have lacked since Allen was in his prime.

[...]

You can argue the Bucks haven't had two young players this good to build around since the days of Sidney Moncrief and Marques Johnson. Assuming Kidd adopts an up-tempo, high-pressure-defense style of play, Milwaukee should become one of the more fun teams to watch as soon as this season. They won't be good, but that's fine since Antetokounmpo, Parker, Sanders, Henson and Brandon Knight will be joined by another high lottery pick next year. A point guard with size and combo guard skills would be a great choice to pair with Knight and fill out the lineup and, lo and behold, there is just such a player available in Emmanuel Mudiay.

[...]

That fan base has ebbed for the Bucks after decades of boring teams, but just as they have for the Brewers, a good Bucks team will have a distinct home-court advantage when the time comes. The aforementioned 2000-01 team ranked 13th in attendance, right at the NBA average. And even if none of these things were true, recent history in the NBA has shown us that a team's market is but a small factor in determining its on-court success.

Is there a lot of uncertainty in these scenarios? Sure. But there is such a wide range of possibility and ceiling for the Bucks that you can't help but be excited for what's to come.

As a result, I think the Bucks' No. 24 slot in the Future Power Ranks -- which, remember, is a three-year look -- is far too low. Inserting them in at No. 12, after Toronto and in front of Phoenix, would be a better rank in my book. This is a franchise entering a very good place."

Finally, I was asked by the Bucks to serve as a "celebrity judge" (I'm serious, they used those exact words...probably sarcastically, but still) for the team's "HoopTroop" auditions last week Wednesday. No, I don't why I was asked, either. But it was actually a really good time.

Normally I wouldn't write something about this because a) it's difficult to make you interested about something ranodm that I was a part of, and b) this isn't exactly the most critical bit of news you'll read on the site. Nevertheless, there were a few things that stood out that I just wanted to share.

First, I was expecting about 20-30 people to show up for these auditions. I couldn't really picture that many people jumping at the chance to audition. But upon walking in, I quickly realized I was so very wrong when over 100 people packed themselves in to a section in the lower level. It's hard to imagine that so many people would be this passionate about a team that just came off their worst season in team history, but here these people were, eager at the chance to represent the Bucks in this unique way.

While we were getting ready to start the night, these folks that took time out of their busy schedules for a shot at this gig were already leading cheers that were surprisingly creative and noticeably loud. The energy was crazy from the start. They didn't stop either.

There was one particular portion of the night that continues to stick out as I type this almost a week later. The task was simple: the participants were broken up into groups of five and were told how to run out the B-U-C-K-S flags like the crew does before every home game. Those that weren't actively engaged in the exercise were encouraged to make as much noise as they could for their peers.

Not only did they succeed in being very loud, but they actually managed to get myself and others involved with this seemingly routine task excited. All we were doing was watching people run heavy flags in circles, and we were into it. It was a really strange feeling, to be honest. It was awesome.

It's easy to get swept away in an event designed to get you pumped up, but when you combine that with the thought of 17,000 people doing the same thing for a team that has the potential to deliver on that buzz surrounding them, it's hard not to find yourself being sucked in.

Are those two weeks up yet? Let's get this season started already.