I’m not here this morning to suggest that the Milwaukee Bucks had a purposeful strategy behind the timing of their Covid outbreak. They just happened to be in the front rank of the wave of cases that swept the league over the past few weeks. However, being the first ones majorly in the NBA’s health & safety protocols comes with the lagged benefit of being among the first teams getting their players back and ready to play.
We saw the first results of that on Christmas Day with an down-and-down-and-then-way-up performance from the Bucks over a Covid-hobbled Boston Celtics squad. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bobby Portis, and Donte DiVincenzo all looked the parts of guys who had to take 10 days (or more) off from conditioning in the protocols, and yet they mostly rounded into form when it mattered most as Milwaukee scored 70 second-half points and went on a 21-4 run to claw back a gritty win. Even if the process was messy, the final result was worth admiring.
Now, if our luck can bounce a few notches further in our favor, we might finally get that fabled opportunity to see this squad at (near) full-health for a solid stretch of run. The team that beat the Nets on opening night has already been somewhat overhauled since then, and the new-look Bucks have a shot at getting a good idea at how well they fit together while the rest of the league plays a guessing game evaluating exact needs.
The best part? Milwaukee sits at 22-13 right as everything comes together. Not bad, Bucks. Not bad at all.
Bucks’ Giannis on Missing Time with COVID-19: ‘Selfishly, I Think I Needed the Break’ (Bleacher Report)
A side angle to the Covid 10-day restrictions placed on players is the opportunity for some in-season rest outside of the All-Star Break. Teams are already well-attuned to getting their mainstays time off at a regular interval, but for someone like Giannis who had an ever-larger workload thrown on his shoulders after a short offseason, a week and a half off will probably do him some good in the long-run.
Plus, he got to catch up on his watchlist:
Giannis Antetokounmpo says he tested positive for COVID-19 and then he watched movies in the basement by himself to get through his time in the health and safety protocols.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) December 25, 2021
Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo deliver extra Christmas presents for fans (ESPN)
It’ll never not be completely inexplicable to me that the state of Wisconsin has not one, not two, but three major league teams in different sports. Not that I’d ever belittle my home state, but the odds just seem so... unlikely, considering. And that all three teams are hitting a similar stride of high-level success at roughly the same stretch of time? Makes being a Wisconsin sports fan a joy.
Milwaukee Bucks Legend Sidney Moncrief Talks Stephen Curry, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Social Media (Sportscasting)
Sidney Moncrief is the quintessentially admirable sports legend: A guy who spent the vast majority of his career in one place, ground his way to a hall of fame career while gaining the esteem of his peers, regrets not a bit of his time spent in Milwaukee, and is also gracious enough to recognize that guys who dominate today would have found a way to impact prior iterations of basketball/that stars of the past would’ve adjusted their approach to succeed today. If that isn’t true good, I’m not sure what is.
NBA 75: Oscar Robertson and the end of Big O in Milwaukee (TSN Archives)
The league and the media ecosystem around it have done a few things to celebrate the NBA’s 75th anniversary, and one of the cooler aspects has been archived stories like this one. Fresh off Oscar Robertson’s retirement from basketball, the Bucks, without an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, struggled to a 1-13 record to begin the 1974-1975 season. Milwaukee would finish 38-44 and Kareem found his lifeboat off the sinking ship to greener pastures. How quickly fortunes can change.
Zach Kram has been doing some excellent work over at The Ringer this season in particular, and this week we’ve got a piece by him breaking down the impact of Covid/injuries on teams across the league. He analyzes through the lenses of missed salary, number of starting lineup permutations, starters minutes played, etc., all to reach the conclusion that... missing a lot of players is throwing the standings into whack. Who’s real, who’s not? We’ll need to wait to find out.
I wanted to give this one a bit of a signal boost; plus, it means we’ve got a back-to-back winner for the first time in probably like a month! LondonBuck85 is crossing the pond to our neck of the middle continental woods, and needs some advice in “I love the Bucks, Cheese and Beer. Coming to Milwaukee…All tips appreciated!!!” For those who are local to Milwaukee, I encourage you to hop in the comments on that piece and give some advice if your’e willing. My two cents? Stop in for a picture with The Lord of Milwaukee himself, the Bronze Fonz.
Know Your Enemy
Still love this feature from our brethren over at OPP, and this time around its making me thankful we signed DeMarcus Cousins when we did. Who’d have guessed Robin Lopez was going to make himself the heart and soul of the Magic instead of working his way to Buyoutville?
- New Orleans Pelicans - The Bird Writes - Graham’s 3-point barrage offsets Holiday’s career night in Pelicans 116-112 win over Bucks
It seemed like Jrue Holiday just couldn’t miss the last time these two teams played, and even if the Bucks weren’t able to close it out in OT, it made for unexpectedly entertaining viewing. New Orleans has taken a few more Covid hits since then, so we’ll see if the rematch can have even a sliver of the same immediate drama.
The Social Media Section
You’re welcome for sharing this with you this morning
Send him to Cleveland
I don’t think any slander has aged worse than Giannis slander— ~ (@__laxned) December 25, 2021
Bring Beasley Back
Btw https://t.co/MDczx3JMQS thugnastynastithug if you wanna lose— Michael Beasley (@Michael8easley) December 26, 2021
The best part of fantasy football playoffs: knowing that half of the people talking about their fake teams this week will lose and thus no longer have a need to tell you about it next week— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) December 27, 2021
Thanasis was working his ass off willing the team back into that one
It was, indeed, the prototypical Donte Game
Love the tree
One of the few men who could make this look work
retired janitor’s 2021-2022 prediction record: 22-13
Riley’s 2021-2022 prediction record: 17-18
Looks like rj is starting to get back into form here as the Bucks continue to put perfect weeks together when you least expect it. Ah well.
This week will see me right in the trenches alongside rj as we reach towards perfection against two somewhat lackluster opponents. Things start on Tuesday night in Orlando, followed by another game in Orlando on Thursday as part of a away-away two-game series, and then the Bucks will start 2022 back at home Saturday hosting the New Orleans Pelicans.
Between low ambitions and Covid/injuries ravaging their rosters, the Bucks should have no issue making quick work in all three games. Onwards to the top of the pyramid!