It's been a long time coming, but the Milwaukee Bucks have finally reached the NBA-relevance mountaintop, signified by their selection to lead off the slate of Christmas Day games.
The match-up with the sad sack Knicks isn't the most compelling, but the world must be re-introduced to the Bucks against someone, so smashing New York should make for a good showcase. Win in nice fashion on Tuesday and soon enough you'll be moving on up towards the main event.
Before we get to Tuesday's matinee we've got some articles to get to. It is fitting, now that the “real” start of the NBA season is upon us that there's another wave of praise for Giannis and the Bucks at large. This week we'll talk about free agency, the blessing and curse that is Brook Lopez, and the University of Bucks Twitter.
Is Giannis Built to Break the Mold? (Bleacher Report)
Don't let the title fool you: This isn't your now run of the mill breakdown of how Giannis has zigged while others have zagged on the court. Instead, Bleacher Report's Howard Beck took a deep dive onto the ever-evolving situation that is the fate of Giannis Antetokounmpo's future in Milwaukee.
I assure you that it is worth a read, and you'll come out more optimistic than you went it. That's a testament to the type of individual Giannis is and the unique state of play in Milwaukee.
Coming from a member of the Boston Globe, I'd have to say choosing Giannis as his consensus top pick in a hypothetical superstar draft is high praise indeed.
I wouldn't say Mr. Shaughnessy sees Giannis and his Bucks as a threat to the hometown Celtics, but you do get the sense that there's a more serious appreciation for Milwaukee's potential. Perhaps next time the Globe makes an appearance it won't be in praise of Giannis, but in lamentation of a season cut short by that team from Milwaukee.
Strange how a single man, deemed unnecessary in Los Angeles, could be held responsible for much of Milwaukee's stunning start. But that's just how it seems to have gone with Brook Lopez.
We've seen concerns about Lopez’s effectiveness against certain offensive schemes brought up from time to time, but his sheer usefulness as the core around which the team scores means coach Mike Budenholzer hasn't much choice but to go with him.
Once the playoffs begin it is an open question whether or not the Bucks can survive a seven-game onslaught of opponents going right at this weak-point in the defense. Perhaps Giannis Antetokounmpo can do enough work to cover for Lopez's shortcomings, perhaps a different center can step up in critical moments, or perhaps this Achilles heel will spell post-season doom.
Why not a little caponomics to chase all that on-court talk we just went through?
With the shipping off of John Henson and Matthew Dellavedova Milwaukee's once uncertain cap space fate has now opened up into countless possibilities. The future revolves around four names in particular: Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, and Brook Lopez. Whether they choose to re-sign with Milwaukee, and for how much, may make or break the team's championship hopes.
NBC's Dan Feldman parses out the situation admirably, but I thought this quote from Giannis was the most notable part of the article:
“All of them want to re-sign next summer... Personally, I’m not going to put our conversations out there. … I always talk to them every day and want them to be back. We can make a dynasty in the East. As long as we play together and as long as we grow together as players, I think the sky is the limit for this team.”
The Social Media Section
Leaving this here to stir the pot:
Heard from several folks that the best players at the G-League Showcase were big men Christian Wood (MIL) and Alan Williams (BKN). One scout said about Wood "Bucks need to stop wasting minutes on (Thon) Maker and just give them to Wood. He's much, much better."— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) December 24, 2018
A little Eric Bledsoe one-on-one for your Christmas Eve consumption:
EXCLUSIVE: Our NBA insider @ShamsCharania sat down with @Bucks G Eric Bledsoe (@EBled2) for an in-depth, one-on-one interview.— Stadium (@WatchStadium) December 21, 2018
Catch the full interview here: https://t.co/ZttxMar1Sc pic.twitter.com/tR3waFZHm4
A final salute to Mirza Teletovic:
I'm sorry, I laughed at the absurdity of this:
“Both laugh” is shorthand for #ADtoMKE:
Giannis Antetokounmpo exiting Fiserv Forum, sees Anthony Davis in the hall. “Come to the Bucks, man,” Giannis says, smiling. “Come to the Bucks.” Both laugh. #recruiting— Steve Aschburner (@AschNBA) December 20, 2018
Your newest Twitter background:
This list can be disregarded if only because of its distinct lack of me:
Riley’s 2018-2019 Weekly Prediction Record: 17-15
I told you guys South Beach remains undefeated. Sure, the Bucks didn't get a chance to live it up in Miami after arriving at roughly 4 AM on Saturday, but my theory held strong last week with Milwaukee dropping their SEGABABA against the Heat.
Still, three wins over potential playoff teams is nothing to sneeze at, and a three-game slate against the New York teams should make the slide into 2019 an enjoyable one.
Things start on Christmas Day with an 11:00 AM tipoff in New York against the Knicks. Then both teams will fly to Milwaukee to play again on Thursday evening. The week will close with another visitor from out east in the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.
Normally you'd be right to feel nervous that the Bucks would lay a relative egg on national TV, but that just doesn't seem to be in the offing. I anticipate the Bucks going 3-0 on the week leaving us all in a state of euphoria and inexplicably sitting at 25-10.
What a way to close 2018 and open the door to 2019, eh?