I’ve typed and retyped this opening section a couple of times as I’ve tried to process my feelings after the Milwaukee Bucks reached the end of their 2018-2019 road on Saturday.
Anger had given way to sadness which had given way to disappointment by the time I fired up the first draft. That it all came crashing down so catastrophically is what was really baffling: The Bucks demolished teams left and right for nearly a calendar year and, up until a week ago, looked on the cusp of punching their ticket to the Finals. Then, over the course of four agonizing games, it all dissolved into nothing more than painful tears of bewilderment.
One day, once the wounds heal, we’ll be able to look on this debacle with an objective lens and acknowledge the myriad factors that worked for and against the Bucks. For now, we mourn. For now, we remain a little shocked that the dream has been put back on hold for at least another year. For now, we circle the wagons and support one another and the team in the same way we did all season long.
And without further ado, it’s postmortem time.
Bucks’ elimination puts focus on Giannis’ future in Milwaukee (ESPN) & Giannis Antetokounmpo still has much to learn on the path to greatness (LA Times)
Included this pair because the Bucks continue to rise and fall with their superstar — whether it be his pending free agency decisions or the work he puts in over the offseason to improve his game even further.
The first article is the infamous piece posted literal minutes after Milwaukee’s season came to an end, prompting Giannis to leave the post-game press conference. Much of what’s included is similar to what we’ve heard over the past few years regarding what Giannis would need to “see” to be convinced to stay with the Bucks. If anything, it stands as a useful reminder that the vultures are bound to be circling in flocks as the months tick by.
The second shifts the POV over to a wider look at the path Giannis continues down. I wouldn’t necessarily declare him as “exposed” following the Toronto series, but there seems to yet be room for growth; a scary thought both for the league that has to deal with him and a team wedded to his every move. It’s a good problem to have, but that doesn’t make the growing pains hurt any less.
Next moves for the Bucks: Big changes or retain this core? (ESPN+ - Subscription required)
You will need to have a ESPN+ subscription to get access to Bobby Marks’s deep dive on the various cap shenanigans and challenges facing GM Jon Horst, but suffice it to say that the path forward in retaining this team involves a lot of chance, gambling, and money.
Much of how next season plays out falls on the simple question of who stays and who goes (the option of going out and finding tangible help would be a messy morass with no guarantees of success). Khris Middleton is the headliner, but Brook Lopez will be a hot commodity on the market, and George Hill has a guarantee date on $18 million in July.
Jon Horst earned tons of credibility with his roster construction in 2018-2019, but his true masterpiece will need to come in the weeks and months ahead as the Bucks try to thread the contending needle.
Giannis Antetokunmpo, Bucks hope East finals collapse serves as learning experience (USA Today) & Bucks, Giannis eager to learn from disappointing finish to breakthrough season (NBA.com)
The endless debate on whether playoff experience has realizable value will be put to the test as the Bucks look to rebuild their shattered pride in preparation of the 2019-2020 season. There were countless learning moments in the ECF for each player and, importantly, coach Mike Budenholzer. Let’s hope a summer of breaking down what went wrong will mix potently with all that experience Milwaukee gained this post-season.
The Milwaukee Bucks have an Eric Bledsoe problem (Yahoo Sports) & Time is now for Bledsoe, Middleton to find their games (NBA.com)
These pieces went up in the context of a failing series, but the Eric Bledsoe (& Middleton, to a lesser extent) reckoning will have to come sooner rather than later.
It’s fair to say that Bledsoe flat-out failed on offense in two consecutive series. He did so in a way that made an already difficult load that much more unmanageable for the likes of Giannis Antetkounmpo and the teammates around him. While Bledsoe retained a modicum of his defensive impact the punch he brings on the other end of the court is almost of greater importance.
Were these poor showings flukes? Tough to say, though two years of bad basketball seems to point to a larger underlying problem. He can be the key cog in a 60-win team, but it’s going to be an open question if you get more than active detriment in crucial moments. It may be a trade-off Milwaukee can live with or it may prove to be the team’s downfall.
The Social Media Section
The inimitable Teutonia World provides us with a proper eulogy
Final messages from the players also make their way into the MMMR
View this post on Instagram
Building a legacy takes hard work, perseverance, learning from defeats. This team has achieved a lot this year and has planted the seeds for years of success. Proud of being part of this journey with this group and our amazing fans. This is just the beginning #FearTheDeer Un legado tarda en construirse: requiere mucho esfuerzo, perseverancia, aprender de las derrotas. Este equipo está plantando las semillas para llegar a lo más alto. Es un orgullo formar parte de este grupo. Esto es solo el principio #FearTheDeer
This would’ve been a good bit if, uh, the season didn’t end in game six
R E L A X.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) May 25, 2019
Dr. @Paschketball calms @Katie_George05's nerves about Game 6:#FeartheDeer | #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/oB2zb6lqzd
Let’s see what local hero Marques Johnson was up to Saturday morni...
Got too close to a tree... pic.twitter.com/Sfl4AmeyOP— Marques Johnson (@olskool888) May 25, 2019
I unfortunately laughed
May 24, 2019
There’s more to Bud than meets the eye, it seems
May 22, 2019
You know I had to finish the year with one more DJ Wilson shoutout
L A N K Y— In Six (@BucksInSix) May 22, 2019
S M V E pic.twitter.com/tW7ey6MkXB
And here’s me, including myself, as a way to sum up my feelings as the year closes
Usual disclaimers: Season ending sucked, loved rooting for the team and the players part of it, everyone at @brewhoop has my unequivocal respect and thanks for their company, all of you crazies who make up our fanbase are uniquely wonderful, and pay the teachers.— Riley Feldmann (@RileyFeldmann) May 27, 2019
I’m thankful to all of you for having been so welcoming throughout the year, whether it be on my MMMR pieces, other articles I’ve typed up, or in the comments sections in so many discussions. While this isn’t the way we all envisioned the year ending, there’s no other team I’d want to root for or fanbase I’d want to be part of.
So, what do you say? How about one more round to close the year?