The Bucks begin this week in very good position: They've had a 8-2 record over their past ten, currently hold the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, and will benefit from the upcoming All-Star Break to allow guys to heal nagging injuries before embarking on the final thirty-ish game stint of the season.
And yet... Milwaukee hasn't been able to snag a signature win over a playoff-bound opponent since the firing of Jason Kidd a few weeks ago. Given the chance to prove that their turnaround is more than the usual post-coach-firing bump, the Bucks fell short against both the Minnesota Timberwolves and Miami Heat; a win against either team would have gone a long way to sustaining the narrative of an emergent Bucks squad in an up-for-grabs Eastern Conference.
Milwaukee's post-All-Star schedule features a run of legitimate opponents: Toronto, New Orleans, Washington, Detroit, Indiana and Houston, to name a few. Win a few of those games and the recent trend becomes more than a narrative. Fail to be competitive on a nightly basis and watch the fanbase oil their pitchforks and get the matches out for their torches.
It is time for the Bucks to prove themselves.
Bucks, local officials make a full-court press to bring the NBA All-Star Game to new arena (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Normally I'd be skeptical of All-Star Weekend coming to Milwaukee, but the NBA does have an incentive of awarding franchises/cities that cobble together publicly-funded arenas with a marquee showcase like the NBA's mid-season get-together.
It sounds like the main hurdle would be the quantity and quality of hotel spaces for visitors, though one could imagine Milwaukee could find a way around that issue if they're determined to do so. For now, there is no deadline for when a decision will be made about the 2022-2023 All-Star Games, so keep an eye out for any future updates.
With extra rest, Bucks’ Greek Freak is even freakier (FOX)
It should come as no surprise to you that a rested Giannis Antetokounmpo is an even deadlier player than his normal self. Logically it makes sense that a guy who utilizes his insane athleticism as a primary tool would benefit from a few nights off between games, but it is interesting to see the impact in statistical form.
Maybe the Bucks will make Giannis a secret weapon for 41 games a season, pulling him out from the shadows only after he's had two+ days off. One can only imagine the type of numbers he'd put up if only called upon half the time during the year.
Milwaukee Bucks out to deliver on vast potential in all phases of game (NBA.com)
This one is coming to you a few weeks late, but is worth reading simply because it implies the Bucks may be a little, “high on their own supply.”
The Bucks having unrealistic expectations as to where their current roster could get them would be an unsurprising development, and it leads one to question what GM Jon Horst sees as the next moves needed to put the roster over the top. If the team believes those already in Milwaukee will be enough to compete year-in and year-out, don't be surprised when they match a big offer sheet for Jabari Parker this summer and prepare contracts for Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe.
Or maybe Horst is more perceptive than given credit for (so far). The constant shuffling on the periphery of the roster and willingness to sit out the trade deadline signal a new approach in Milwaukee, and now it is a waiting game to see how it takes form this off-season.
Khris Middleton’s Mid-Range Inferno (VICE Sports)
Some may look at the title and get a warm fuzzy feeling thinking about Khris's propensity for hopping aboard the Tough Shot Express on a nightly basis. Others may get a warm fuzzy feeling more akin to acid reflux. But no matter which way you chop it, Middleton seems most comfortable offensively just a few feet within the three-point line.
Being efficient from mid-range can be helpful in some regards for an offense looking for any sort of spacing it can get its hands on, but something tells me Khris would be even more helpful if he took just a few steps back when attempting off-balance jumpers. Whatever works for him, though.
Once un-Herd of, there’s a fun new pro hoops team in Oshkosh (Milwaukee Record)
The Wisconsin Herd have gotten plenty of coverage from a number of Bucks-centric media outlets, but I figured it instructive to see how a non-sports site perceived the fan experience up in Oshkosh. And so we have the Milwaukee Record’s Nick Olig recounting his time watching the Herd face the visiting Memphis Hustle.
Early season winning certainly helped the Herd get an immediate pop in Oshkosh, but they've been helped by a pretty satisfactory fan experience surrounding the game itself. It isn't every day you get to see potential or current NBA players in a 3,000 seat arena, so that's a draw all its own. But the Herd aren't resting on the competitive laurels alone, a recipe that should bode well for them over the years.
Giannis MVP Watch (Bucks.com)
With the numbers James Harden is consistently putting up this season (all while benefiting my fantasy team. Thanks, James!), Giannis will be hard-pressed to push his way into serious MVP consideration, but that doesn't mean we can't marvel at the statistical season he's having!
Whether you look at it with raw per-game stats or dive deeper into the advanced numbers, it appears Giannis has fully cemented himself among the company of greats like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and James Harden. Once the wins start coming, his fringe MVP-campaign will quickly move towards making him an annual odds-on favorite.
From the Social Media Realm
It has been real, Rashad. Not only did we memorialize your time in Milwaukee with a site retrospective, but the tribute videos are also pouring in:
Goodbye, Shad. pic.twitter.com/ob7Uyy91mO— Elijah Price (@DavidDunn21) February 6, 2018
I can't wait to see what he does now in New Orlea... oops.
On AmicoHoops: Former first-round pick Rashad Vaughn, Mike James waived by #Pelicans. #NBA https://t.co/xTb5sDtTvK— Sam Amico (@AmicoHoops) February 11, 2018
Did you, like me, see a wave of “Delly Dollaz” mentions throughout social media without context? I've finally found the context:
Heal up Delly Dollaz https://t.co/LmI9lD3YTO— Jason Terry (@jasonterry31) February 9, 2018
Narrator: “He was not selected for the All-Star Game.”
@NBA you have to get my guy @Khris22m in the all star game cmon!— Giannis Antetokounmpo (@Giannis_An34) February 8, 2018
There was a lot of Khris Middleton content this week, so I'm guessing he made the rounds to multiple media studios while in New York City for a few days:
Interview for @SInow with @Khris22m on his Player of the Week groove, @JabariParker's return, @Giannis_An34's impact, the specific transition from J-Kidd to Joe Prunty, etc. -- https://t.co/lp40lS3ygc— Jared Zwerling (@JaredZwerling) February 7, 2018
A Sports Illustrated sit-down AND a podcast with Howard Beck? What a week for K-Midds!
New Full 48 is up! @Bucks guard @Khris22m on being an All-Star snub, the stress of the trade deadline, the Bucks' post-Kidd surge and, um, his hatred of raw veggies.https://t.co/co4mO6cTFp— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) February 6, 2018
This was inevitable:
wow can't believe they already changed the nba logo pic.twitter.com/oFXoZPs4p0— SB Nation (@SBNation) February 7, 2018
I hesitated putting up a Thon Maker-related piece of news, but then he had a solid 13 point and 3 rebound night in Orlando on Saturday. And so, I present to you Maker's interview with the folks at DraftExpress:
Milwaukee gets a light load this week before reaching All-Star Weekend, so my fingers are crossed they'll ride into the break sitting with a 33-24 record and all the media buzz we can get. The Bucks will be at home for both contests, taking on a slumping Atlanta Hawks team on Tuesday and the dangerous Denver Nuggets on Thursday. I'm not particularly worried about Atlanta, especially if they become fully-committed to a post-trade deadline tank, but Denver has plenty of unique tools to dismember the Bucks if they so desire.
I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best, and by the best, I mean a 2-0 record this week.
Since Valentine's Day is this week, it feels appropriate to once more express just how much we love you all in every way you interact with us. Consider this post my digital bouquet of roses to you, our dear readers.