I'm in a good mood this morning. You know why? Because the Bucks, at least for a moment, have avoided the purgatory that is the eight seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs for one more day.
Getting here wasn't pretty: It took some uglier-than-average performances against the sinking Chicago Bulls and a shaky San Antonio Spurs squad to hold and edge over the Miami Heat, but the results are all that matters (for the next 12 hours, at least).
However, not everything is rosy in Buckslandia: Giannis Antetokounmpo's ankle isn't 100%, they've relied on Shabazz Muhammad providing meaningful minutes for more than one break-in-case-of-emergency situation, and it looks increasingly likely that that first-round pick is going to convey to the Suns.
I've got a number of articles that help fit that Jekyll and Hyde mood in the air. We've got Giannis on “60 Minutes”, a review of Jabari Parker's recovery diet, and an evaluation of *gulp* DJ Wilson's rookie season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks’ ‘Greek Freak’ (60 Minutes/CBS)
Just watch it, for God's sake:
It would be easy to argue that the above was the case the moment his name was announced at the NBA Draft, but it's always helpful to remind ourselves of just how special Giannis is.
With that precious nature comes worries about the cloudy nature of the Bucks’ potential during the duration of his current contract. He'll assuredly be annually one of the league's undeniable talents, but is the Bucks organization prepared to maximize the possibilities that skill opens up?
Only time will tell, but he'll always be able to spark at least some modicum of hope that, somehow, someway, everything will come together in Milwaukee under his watch.
And, hey! Here's an article observing one way in which the Bucks are failing to use Giannis's ability on offense!
There are countless ways to hash out just how difficult it can be for Antetokounmpo to properly impact games on nightly basis, but I think most can agree that, even with the post-Kidd firing bump, “For as much as Antetokounmpo gives the Bucks, he gets shockingly little in return. The coaching staff, specifically, has let Antetokounmpo down.”
An offseason under a new coaching staff, whether that includes Joe Prunty or someone else, should hopefully ease that burden, but that makes watching the current struggles that much more vexing.
I can't tell if the truncated answers on Jabari's part is just Jabari being Jabari, or if they're a result of a longer conversation condensed into magazine-friendly form.
Either way, Parker offers us a slight glimpse into his approach to wellness, whether physical, mental, nutritional, etc. NBA players might have some of the best health resources available on the planet, but it does come down to their willingness to utilize what is offered to make a difference.
Coming off of two torn ACLs, it sounds like Jabari is doing everything he can to improve his health as he tries to move beyond the injury-ridden opening phase of his career.
The Toughest Call of My Life (The Players’ Tribune)
Jalen Moore's time with the Milwaukee Bucks’ organization was short, but you may recall that he was one of the franchise's first two-way contract signees. He was set to join the Bucks to kick off the season after participating in the team's Summer League squad, but had to choose to step away from the sport for personal reasons.
Now, with the season coming to a close, Moore has opened up in his own words of the mental health struggles that made him step away from basketball. With mental health concerns gaining publicity in the NBA, it is important to keep in mind that it isn't just stars like DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love who suffer; fringe guys like Moore are just as under the proverbial gun.
Here's hoping the best for Jalen with whatever his next step is.
Checking in on the progress of D.J. Wilson (Hoops Habit)
If you, like me, were shocked to find out that there was apparently enough of a sample size to evaluate DJ Wilson's NBA impact this season, rest assured: This piece is more of a retrospective on the season that was through the prism of a shaky draft pick from the moment it was made.
The most damning evidence against Wilson heading forward? Concerns before the season began, like being a one-hit wonder at Michigan, having a load of players already at both forward spots, and the blowing up of a number of players picked after him in Summer League, have all held true.
Maybe a full off-season and a new coaching staff can turn things around, but all-in-all a ho-hum first campaign for DJ.
From the Social Media Realm
I have a feeling I know who the Bucks will be picking in the late second-round in the upcoming NBA Draft (if only they had a pick...):
Dayton freshman Kostas Antetokounmpo (Giannis' brother) will declare for the 2018 NBA Draft, according to a source close to the situation. Antetokounmpo will be testing the waters in order to gauge his standing with NBA teams before deciding on his next move. Newser coming— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) March 22, 2018
Shabazz Muhammad and Brandon Jennings - Milwaukee's most unlikely saviors:
Jennings was key to the Bucks avoiding an embarrassing loss in Memphis and along with Muhammad does it again tonight without Giannis against the Bulls. Nice payback for a pair of late season pick-ups. https://t.co/C8DUTMjqxO— Frank (@fmaddenNBA) March 24, 2018
If Kostas doesn't become a Buck, at least there's a chance for the organization to pick up a four-legged power forward:
Here’s Eric Bledsoe, who has the weirdest on-court personality ever, congratulating Jason Terry on 1,400 NBA appearances:
Hey, Brandon! How you feeling to start the week?
For the first time in a long time - and the final time this season - the Bucks will be spending the entire upcoming week on the road on the West Coast. They begin Tuesday evening in Los Angeles to play the Clippers. Then, Thursday they play the ever-dangerous Golden State Warriors before returning to LA to face the Lakers Friday evening. Finally, the trip comes to a close Sunday evening in Colorado against the Denver Nuggets.
That's not quite a murderer's row of games, but it surely isn't a cakewalk for a Bucks team who needs every win for playoff positioning. I'll be optimistic and hope for wins over the Clippers and Lakers, but one has to be realistic and anticipate the barrage of threes that Denver and Golden State will almost assuredly try to sink Milwaukee with. If you expect demoralizing defeats, they hurt a lot less.
With the Bucks season winding down, it is becoming ever more imperative to find daily joy elsewhere. Luckily for those of us stuck in the Midwest, there's going to be a veritable heatwave at mid-week with temperatures predicted to reach something like 50 degrees!
A sad existence is the one that finds happiness only when the thermometer just barely edges above freezing for the first time in what feels like 2,000 years.