A championship team is far more than a group of talented individuals. It is that indeed at its most base, but it’s deeper than that. You need a competent coaching staff, a shrewd front office, a bit of luck, and more than anything, you need culture.
So how does one develop something as intangible as “culture”? Start with good personalities, mix in a decent level of commitment to a place/ideal/goal, get yourself a leader others will naturally feel inclined to follow, and above all be purposeful in your choices along the way to continually reinforce the nascent structure as it organically grows.
I’ve got culture on my mind as of late because it’s been steadily creeping into the discourse about this year’s Milwaukee Bucks squad. It started a couple months ago with our friendly beat reporters noting how “loose” the locker room had gotten as the team hurdled to the top of the East. Now, with the league’s best record within grasp, talk about just how different the Bucks are in an NBA filled with strife and displeasure is reaching a crescendo.
It ranges anywhere from discussing how Eric Bledsoe has finally found himself a home a decade-plus into his career, Giannis’s magnetic personality, and deliberate decisions to craft a roster bereft of, ahem, “a*****es”.
It’s always tough to get a read just how honest guys are being when they say something as relatively weighty such as “I’ve found home here”, but Eric Bledsoe has been awfully consistent in singing that tune this season.
And why not?
LA seemed a land of promise that was denied by the arrival of Chris Paul, Phoenix featured a stable of guards all contending for the same limited minutes, yet Milwaukee has proven to be fertile ground. Bledsoe gives the Bucks a potent weapon on offense, and coach Mike Budenholzer has given Eric nearly free rein over his approach to each unique defensive assignment. I don’t think you can get to closer to home in professional basketball than that.
Still sleeping on the Bucks? How the power of joy and ‘Bucks DNA’ is adding up to a championship profile (The Athletic) - Subscription Required
I’m normally a bit reticent about including pieces from paywall-restricted pieces, but I’d heard so many good quotables from this one that it felt proper to include it. Those snippets include Giannis discussing how little desire he has in cultivating his off-court persona to the detriment of his play, how Jon Horst has systematically created a “no a-hole” culture (their words, not mine), and other snippets of how the Bucks are coming together as a unit in a way that only the cream of the basketball crop are able to.
‘The Greek Freak’ wants to go back to his Nigerian roots (The Undefeated) & Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Name Is Not a Joke (Slate)
A pair of wholly worthwhile pieces on Giannis (though it could be argued that’s the case for every tiny scrap of news revolving around Antetokounmpo). The first offers a dive into Giannis’s multilayered identity as the son of Nigerian immigrants to a nation that only embraced him as a native son after he had achieved a modicum of fame. Wrapped up in the nickname “Greek Freak” is a complex of emotions that isn’t obvious to the outside observer. That hasn’t stopped Giannis from working to further embrace his Nigerian roots and come to a fuller understanding of the lives his parents led before arriving in Greece.
The second piece? Well, it’s the kind of piece I wish I had written and which has my absolute vote of approval.
Is Giannis Antetokounmpo on Pace with LeBron James at 24? (Bleacher Report)
Eh, that LeBron guy is some of that old news if you asked me. Why should Giannis care about how he stands in comparison with James at age 24? It’ll only serve as a simple roadmarker as Giannis continues his inexorable drive to undiluted historical greatness.
Fine, I guess if you had to compare LeBron’s first six seasons to Giannis’s, it wouldn’t be super close. But when going head-to-head at age 24? Well, that argument gets a lot more interesting my friends.
The Social Media Section
The video that has everyone talking, and then a challenger emerges
Alright, this video is very good
Bledsoe took some interior design ideas from the Big Wave pool at the Kalahari, apparently
“Who in here thinks they’re a better player than me right now? Let’s go around the room and hear from everyone. Trust me, this worked wonders in Milwaukee.”
The Knicks' young point guards got some advice from one of the game's best when Jason Kidd visited shootaround today. https://t.co/00xxRHpC7L— USA TODAY NBA (@usatodaynba) March 7, 2019
I, uh, guess Common is a Bucks fan now? Or a fan of himself?
This one hurts
Fan near #Suns bench yells "COME TO MILWAUKEE!" at Devin Booker as players are walking back for a timeout. Booker mouths, "No."— Gina Mizell (@ginamizell) March 5, 2019
Riley’s 2018-2019 Weekly Prediction Record: 40-27
Man, that loss to the Suns was such a bummer, right? It came on the tail end of a grueling trip to the west coast, but what do we look like, the 24-0 Golden State Warriors coming to Milwaukee on a cold night in hell? At least we now know what it must’ve have felt like to have your unequivocally dominant team lose to an opponent that is decidedly less so.
This coming week should offer a slight reprieve if the Bucks play their cards right as the team stays down south for a game in New Orleans against the Pellies on Tuesday, a long layover in Miami before playing the Heat Friday, and then a national marquee throwdown with the Philadelphia 76ers at home Sunday.
The Pelicans should continue on their death-spiral into oblivion while being forced to trot Anthony Davis onto the court to stand like a mannequin for 15 minutes a night. Miami is a danger, but having two days on South Beach should be enough to sweat out any sort of, um, turbulence resulting from late nights out, and Philly is composed of “stars” who either actively dislike each other, are on the verge of setting the locker room aflame, or are Tobias Harris.
All that to say give me that 3-0 and never look back.
Miami nightlife on a Wednesday-Thursday combo does remain undefeated, though...