Welcome back to Last 10, Next 10, a feature we plan(ned) on posting over the course of the Milwaukee Bucks’ regular season and lengthy playoff run. Now, that plan is up in the air, just like the global pandemic that has knocked everybody’s lives off-track. Before you read any further, be a responsible citizen of wherever you call home and ensure that you’re following the guidelines issued by the World Health Organization, to protect yourself, your neighbors, and your loved ones.
The Milwaukee Bucks may not be a perfect team, but they are currently the best one. When you look at the standings (which remain unchanged since March 12, a whopping ten days ago), their 53-12 record still keeps them at the top of the league. They’ll stay on that perch for the foreseeable future, but that’s the only thing certain about the future.
Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and a host of perfectly-cast role players flanking them, coach Mike Budenholzer was primed to build on last season’s disappointment. But now, with COVID-19 having shut down not just the NBA, but huge sectors of our society, everything is put on hold. Giannis has switched from bodying his defenders to bodying Brew Hoop alums on Twitter:
But in all seriousness, the operative word is no longer when... but if. We can’t ask when the season is going to restart, we can only ask if.
As the NBA considers what would need to happen to re-start the season, part of the question is "what would we be restarting?" @Matt_Barnes22 & @PaulPierce34 think players would need at least a month of regular season games to be playoff form, but where is that month coming from? pic.twitter.com/te61tfDOy3— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) March 20, 2020
And truth be told, there are so many more questions that deserve answers before the NBA decides on a path forward. How many more people will contract the illness? What is my community doing to try and protect itself? What will happen with my job? What will happen to my family? What can I do, besides isolate myself from the rest of the world? Compared to those, it seems frivolous to worry about a pro sports league that will undoubtedly be fine in the long run. So if you need to close this article and put your focus on something that needs it, nobody could blame you. Be safe out there, everyone.
If you stopped reading at the line break, you made a fine choice. If you’re still here now, then you’re like me: you’ve exhausted yourself on worrying about things that you can’t control, and you need a break from the gravity of the situation impacting all of humanity right now.
Well, I’m sorry in advance, because this is not an upper of an article. No, I’m in that “hope for the best but prepare for the worst” type of mode, that mindset where there are some harsh realities that need to be faced, and Bucks fans might need to face the harshest basketball reality of anyone right now.
It is entirely within the realm of possibility that the NBA, making the best decision in an environment where there are no victories to be had, could simply cancel the entirety of the 2019-20 NBA season and post-season. This would, through no fault of anyone involved with the sport, essentially rob the Milwaukee Bucks of their best chance to win a title in decades. It would make the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals look like a silly mistake by comparison, and it could forever (and unfairly) tarnish the legacy of Giannis Antetokounmpo (who, to his credit, is at least focused on more important things than basketball right now.)
Basketball becomes secondary... Take care of yourselves and your family. Wash your hands often.— Giannis Antetokounmpo (@Giannis_An34) March 12, 2020
It isn’t necessarily the most likely option. Cancelling the season would be expensive, and both the league and the owners want to find creative solutions to at least hold the postseason. There might be shortened series, or games played without fans. Nobody wants to miss out on the playoffs, but they will be sacrificed if public health demands it. There just is no timeline right now, not without knowing when COVID-19 is going to peak (some experts say that the pandemic may peak in May).
Beyond even the current rash of infections, there’s then the question of a coronavirus vaccine, which would at least provide large portions of the population inoculation against the disease. Maybe scientists can crack the code and turn COVID into the seasonal flu (which is still dangerous but, with herd immunity, at least sees far less transmission)...but the time it takes to clinically prove that a vaccine is measured in months. Like, 12 to 18 months. Will the NBA be able to conduct normal operations at this time next year, if another strain makes it way through our communities? That’s not just another year lost, it’s a year of the Bucks’ prime that would just...vanish.
Time is the only resource we have that is spent no matter what. What we have right now is an inability to spend that time how we want to. Maybe it’s not fair, maybe it’s not right, but it simply is. That’s a tough truth to admit, just like it’s tough to admit that the best team in the NBA, your Milwaukee Bucks, may not be able to prove their mettle the way that the league has for years and years.
I would like to be wrong, and see a champion crowned no matter what form the playoffs take. It doesn’t matter to me what size asterisk is applied to the champion this summer (or autumn), so long as we have one. But the truth of the matter is that we may not even have that, and that is quite honestly not a priority right now. But when we get through this – and we will get through this – we’ll be left to try and reconstruct our sense of normalcy from what’s left of what we had before. No matter what, we can’t get back the time that was lost, and that sucks. It just does.
Be safe out there, everyone.