Giannis Antetokounmpo was voted into the All-Star Game as a starter today. But just like the Bucks, we can’t have the good without taking the bad, which is why we’re here today. At 23-21, the Milwaukee Bucks are smack dab in the middle of the Eastern Conference, as well as the crosshairs of unhappy Wisconsin sports fans. What else is new?
There are a lot of basketball-related topics that are worth discussion, and many of those discussions are being had, so we’re turning our attention to something else for a moment. After enjoying our private booth in the Bucks Twitterverse for a while, the ongoing roller coaster ride has gone on long enough to grab the attention of other national outlets, most notably Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe on yesterday’s episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast. Some choice quotes come from the very first segment of the pod:
Zach Lowe: Milwaukee Bucks fans continue to lead the league in anger [...] I don’t know what happened in Milwaukee. Like 18 months ago they crossed a line, from “We’re just so happy to have Giannis on our team, this is amazing!” to “We hate everyone, we hate everything, we hate you, we hate our coach, we hate our team, we hate everyone!” It’s just a lot of anger.
Bill Simmons: I had no idea Bucks Twitter is such a dark place. It really is dark, and they’re just so mad at Jason Kidd, they’re angry at everyone.
The main target of fans’ disdain is still head coach Jason Kidd, who continues to do his popularity ratings no favors during his conversations with members of the media:
Kidd calls the team “kids” and says:— Brew Hoop (@brewhoop) January 18, 2018
“There is no coaching, there’s nothing that you can do but go through it and learn. And we can keep telling them what’s coming as a coach, and we can tell them what to do, but the final is up to them to make that decision.” pic.twitter.com/ZnXbL77TmA
This was less than a month after this delightful answer to ESPN Milwaukee’s Eric Nehm, who asked how the team can overcome the challenges of youth and inexperience:
Welp pic.twitter.com/vvwgeOcGpE— Brew Hoop (@brewhoop) December 27, 2017
However, “energy and effort” isn’t the only solution to the problems the Bucks are having. As our good friend Dean Maniatt shows us on Twitter, there are several obvious schematic flaws that have persisted with the Bucks, and these flaws are what make the difference between the middle of the league’s rankings and the top.
But fans’ issues with the team go deeper than just the product on the court, even if winning would be the best cure. The obvious target for chagrin is, and will continue to be the head coach, who puts the onus on the players to be better while claiming that expectations on the team are “a little bit too high.” This is not a recipe for popularity, and Bucks fans have been more than willing to make their unhappiness to the airwaves and social media; you can’t step into Bucks Twitter without seeing at least a pair of #FireKidd avatars in the mentions. But it’s not like Kidd is the only decision-maker who deserves responsibility...
If we want to talk about fans’ frustrations with the team, limiting criticism to Jason Kidd isn’t taking a full view of the state of the franchise. General manager Jon Horst, the youngest GM in the NBA, appears to have equal standing with Jason Kidd in the Bucks’ organizational hierarchy, given his answers in an interview with 105.7 FM this week.
Given the Bucks’ much-maligned organizational structure, it isn’t necessarily clear how much (or little) Horst ties into the team’s Kidd-related difficulties. However, given their apparent partnership, it would stand to reason that Horst is, at best, an unwilling (or unwitting) accessory to some of Milwaukee’s most significant difficulties, and at worst, an enthusiastic promoter. Kidd is not the only one to change his tune regarding expectations; Horst did the same thing this week.
When asked about whether or not the team is meeting expectations:
Absolutely…Yeah, I think we are at where we expected to be, and hoping to finish the season in a strong way here in the back half of the season.
When asked about what he and the front office can do to make the team better:
To talk about our roster and what we’re trying to do, we constantly are trying to figure out how to improve this team to take the next step, but we’re not going to do it at the expense of skipping any steps or being too “short-term” thinking.
When asked about his role as general manager and how coaching changes would be made:
First of all, owners own a team, and they’re ultimate decision makers, and this is their team, their franchise. They put people in place that they trust, to have strong reccomendations and educated recommendations and opinions, to kind of drive those decisions. And so, myself, Jason, Peter Feigin on the business side, we all work in partnership with each other and work with our owners to drive toward group decisions.
When asked about fans’ displeasure and outright demands that Kidd be removed:
Jason has ‘Hall of Fame’ credentials, knows the game as well as anyone, inside and out. Jason does a great job to put players in a position to succeed. [...] At the end of the day, Jason and his staff are doing the best that they can. [...] Our structure is very very collaborative…we all have a voice, we all have an opinion, we spend time together discussing and trying to get to the best result, no matter what that decision is.
If everything we’ve heard is in fact the case, then let’s come right out and say it: this season, for all intents and purposes, is lost. There will still be games worth watching, smaller trends to analyze, and minor issues to dig into, but in the macro-view, the Bucks are on track to decisively fail to meet expectations. Milwaukee may surge in February or March (the schedule is somewhat friendly to them for stretches), but they are unlikely to capture a top-4 seed, or win 50 games, and therefore won’t be favored in the playoffs.
That’s a failure.
We will not move the goalposts on that.
Going forward, it’s hard to predict that next year can be any different without any significant changes. The Bucks made it clear that they believed in continuity last summer, and there’s no reason to indicate that, as long as both Jason Kidd and Jon Horst are at the helm, they will deviate from that path. So I guess, here we are again:
To all the #FireKidd bucks fans, here's the sad version of the @lockedonbucks theme song ft. Jason Kidd. Enjoy! https://t.co/663d9chFNu— Danny Schmitz (@Danny_Shred) January 18, 2018
This is all assuming that no changes are made. Will the owners step in and make adjustments this summer, or even sooner? We will be watching, and waiting.