Not like this. Anything but this.
When Giannis earned his first MVP award last season it was like a much-needed salve to the wounds of the ECF collapse. We could come together and rally around the guy who personified Milwaukee’s best chance at greatness since the franchise’s founding. It helped that his acceptance speech was quintessential Giannis: Emotional, heartfelt, and humble all with a sense that it was merely a prelude to greater things to come.
Which all makes the circumstances of his second MVP award all the more dispiriting. Obviously we’re ecstatic for Giannis and he completely deserves it. He carved out one of the most dominant seasons in league history regardless of how you cut it. The stats are mind-bending and the on-court action was simply a joy to watch.
However, his victory can’t help but feel somewhat hollow. The regular season was cut short by a pandemic, the Bucks looked off from the moment Bubble play started, and the team were pummeled by Miami while Antetokounmpo was forced to watch on with an ankle injury. Another year, another serious disappointment, and another MVP award as a coda.
On top of it all, as play continues in The Bubble, Milwaukee’s early departure has only added fuel to the psychotic fire that are the naysayers. Naysayers like LeBron James, for example:
LeBron said he's "fine" about not winning, but also later said.— Playoff Faigen (@hmfaigen) September 19, 2020
"I don't know how much we are really watching the game of basketball, or we're just in the narration mode. The narrative."
But hey, the guy has won titles while Giannis is sitting at home contemplating how good he’ll look in an Orlando Magic jersey or something. There’s no room for anything other than the most maximalist position in basketball, and that is now true of the MVP award: It isn’t about how valuable you were to your team during the 82 game grind, it is about the 16 games on the back end of the year. Anything beyond those bounds isn’t worth contemplating.
Welcome to the NBA.
Ah what the heck, let’s continue to wallow in the mud a little while longer.
If you sit back and take in the number of championships won by MVPs it really is staggering. The list of guys who have won the penultimate individual award without every earning the coveted crowning team achievement is eight people long (including Antetokounmpo). We shouldn’t take that as a sign that Giannis is doomed to go ringless in his career — he’s got infinite time to make it happen aged only 25 — but rather as one that he’ll get no more favors from here on out. Everything he does on the court, every Bucks win, every triple-double, every detail of his accomplishments will count for extremely little in the wider discourse until he gets that ring.
It’s perilous and arguably a little unfair, but this is the rode all star players tread eventually. Unless you’re there at the very end, were you there at all?
10 Numbers About MVP #2 For Giannis (Bucks.com)
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t try to balance out my soul-sucking dreariness with a positive take or two about Giannis’ second MVP. For that, I cede the floor to Bucks.com’s Alex Boeder who is able to dive a little deeper on the layers beneath Antetokounmpo’s award.
Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo: Agents will position me to succeed ‘with the team or another team’ (Yahoo)
Round and round the gossip mill goes, where will it land? Nobody knows! Not even Giannis, apparently.
I appreciate that Giannis generally says the right stuff. He did a heck of a job avoiding allusions in Greek media to moving to other pastures which was a main goal of mine going into the season. Now we’re back to, “all I want is for everyone in the organization to be pushing for a championship”, which is good boilerplate material but also seems vague enough to lack any measurable definition.
Unless he’s making an overt challenge to ownership about paying into the luxury tax, I’m not sure what else people can do on a daily basis to prove their desire to win. I guess we have to hope Thanasis continues to show up with a winning attitude to cover for everyone else.
I somehow missed this piece from a few weeks back so you have my apologies there. It’s an interesting stream-of-consciouness style from Lasry here, though part of that may be Jackie MacMullan’s writing style shining through rather than Marc whipsawing from observations about the game to recollections of being on a phone call with Michael Jordan.
The point that really needs to be driven home is just how forward Lasry has been in his public-facing role since taking over the team governorship last summer (I wrote about it a bit here). Since the season came to a crashing halt much has been made of Lasry meeting with Giannis, Lasry committing to paying the luxury tax, and now Lasry flying down to Orlando to offer the team support from behind double-paned glass. It’s completely his prerogative to be very visible in the media, but it feels like a marked shift from Wes Edens emerging from the shadows to drop “Trust the Results” on us. Keep an eye on this space, methinks.
The Milwaukee Bucks are throwing away their potential (The Johns Hopkins News-Letter)
Every week we try to dig deep into the crevices of the hell that is the internet to bring you the finest Bucks-adjacent content available. This week that comes to us courtesy of (checks notes) Johns Hopkins University’s student newspaper the News-Letter?
I’ll admit, the insights that the author brings aren’t crazy and may be even off-base a little bit, but the general sentiment feels about right. That part where he brought up the age of the guys who were getting playoff minutes? OOF. Like he tapped into my soul or something for that paragraph.
The Social Media Section
This is kind of a cool shot, though
Wonder what he means with these
This shot feels like the poster for a heartwarming buddy-cop movie
Let the product placement fall begin
This is an illustrious group
Weirdest mash-up I’ve seen in awhile
I had started to feature the work that you guys, the readers/commenters, regularly put in over on our Fanposts before falling out of practice when, you know, the season detonated. It’s time to fix that.
We’ll take our first step with a topic that had been kicking around in my head recently with R983’s stab at laying out the state of play in the East next season. Prior to this season the argument was so clearly Milwaukee v. everyone else in the conference, but two playoff exits will strike doubt in the most ardent believers. That doesn’t even account for whatever KD-Kyrie will end up being in Brooklyn, whether the Pacers can find a coach to take them a step forward, if Philly can re-tool around a single star, whatever dark arts Boston works to swindle another team, etc. The climb won’t be as easy for Milwaukee, but that may be for the best; I’d rather we have to regularly compete for wins instead of waiting until “it matters” to find out we have no Plan B.