Taking plenty of games off to rest up from an injury is very in in 2021. That isn’t to say that knocks picked up by other stars are nothingburgers, but there isn’t much heat to be picked up by any one player if they skip a week or two of play to make sure they’re fully right.
Why shouldn’t Giannis Antetokounmpo take advantage of this new system and take a few more games off? Knee trouble is nothing to gloss over, even if they’re only moderate aches and pains, and for a guy as springy and explosive as Giannis, a slight issue could reduce his effectiveness in a big way (see: the uncontested OREB he let Jayson Tatum grab in the second Boston game last week). Team staff are surely on top of him and will know when to guide him back to the lineup, so I doubt he’ll go if he isn’t ready to go.
However, a few more nights away from the court would have the doubling effect of pushing the likes of Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday to take a marked step forward in their roles. Giannis does everything, as he should, but this team is going to need his co-stars to hit in big ways in the playoffs if they want to do more than grind through series after series. What do we want Khris to do? Shoot, preferably a lot. What do we want Jrue to do? Try getting behind the wheel and really bending the offense to your will rather than work himself in as the new-guy third-option. Why not kill two birds with one stone?
Whatever the team does as they head out West for a long road trip, I doubt it’ll ultimately make much of a difference in the playoffs. But hey, the opportunity to do something a little different is here, and those opportunities normally only come along against the Knicks. Let’s get different with it.
Q&A with Sidney Moncrief, the NBA’s first Defensive Player of the Year (NBA.com)
There’s really never an inappropriate moment to bask in a little Moncrief content. In this article, he has a quick back and forth with NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner about having won the DPOY in its first two iterations, and we can gratefully note that Giannis has jumped on the list of DPOY candidates (in Aschburner’s mind) for the first time this season.
MVP Ladder: Giannis Antetokounmpo gains ground in chase (NBA.com) & Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo makes charge towards third straight NBA MVP award (USA Today)
There is a small part of me that wonders whether Giannis could make a real run for this thing. Assuming he returns to form in the near future after some knee trouble, two of the other contenders (LeBron and Embiid) are sidelined, and neither the Nuggets (Jokic) or Trail Blazers (Lillard) have pulled to the front of the West. Almost every fiber of “the narrative” and “things as they are now” would suggest that Giannis could average 100 points a game this season and still not win it, but hey, we’re a bunch of dreams at this site.
The Trade Deadline Closed the Gap on the NBA’s Ruling Class (The Ringer)
I think if you’re looking for a relatively complete wrap up of the shuffling that occurred at last week’s trade deadlines, you’d be hard-pressed to find something better than this one. I’m not sure if we can ultimately say that there have been fundamental shifts in any of the contending teams — though the likes of the Nuggets or Heat could find another wind with their acquisitions — and as usual it’ll probably be more of a bloodbath out West than it is in the East.
Remember, though: Spots 7-10 in each conference’s standings will be thrown into a play-in tournament. If things go sideways in a hurry (and one game is all you need for things to go sideways), a seven or eight seed could see their season over in a 48 minute span. Trying to guess the bracket ahead of time? Good luck with that.
Fan Post of the Week
Duhawk Steve’s “Who to Stagger with Giannis: Khris or Jrue?” because it is never too early to start thinking about rotation details. The eternal question is what orderings of Giannis/Khris/Jrue will work best in the (hopefully) limited minutes where one or two of them are taking a breather.
It is an interesting conversation that I’m not at all equipped to contribute to, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!
(Honorary FPOTW mention to JSOnline Castaway 2.0, who was the first to make public note of my little Thanasis MMMR Easter Egg)
Know Your Enemy
- Los Angeles Clippers - Clips Nation - Goodbye, Lou Will
Lou Williams was oftentimes a fright to play against, and the fact that he found enough gas in the tank for a pair of 6MOY awards in 2017-2019 is impressive. Do that kind of stuff for a team trying to rebuild itself and you’re bound to leave a big imprint on that team’s DNA. Unfortunately for Williams, all team tenures eventually come to an end.
- Los Angeles Lakers - Silver Screen & Roll - Frank Vogel is the Lakers’ defensive x-factor
Turns out all you need to be a good defensive team is (checks notes) Frank Vogel at the helm and Dennis Schröder and Wes Matthews anchoring your lineup, or something.
- Portland Trail Blazers - Blazer’s Edge - Norman Powell’s Efficiency Is An Upgrade For Portland
I say this for every Bucks fan: Thank the Almighty Norman Powell is no longer in the East. Now, at least if he’s going to go supernova against us and sink our season, it’ll be in the Finals.
- Sacramento Kings - Sactown Royalty - Jabari Parker, Mfiondu Kabengele will reportedly be released by Kings
...we might have one more slot open for a storybook return on this roster.
The Social Media Section
Just a GOAT and his younger brother Giannis
Khris boosting Jrue
This literally was tweeted and then the Austin Rivers news dropped 35 minutes later
Ex-Bucks guard Brandon Knight worked out with the Bucks on Saturday, source told @TheUndefeated. The eight-year veteran guard has overcome knee issues and regained explosiveness. The Bucks saw Knight workout in Miami earlier this year and are considering a guard for open spot.— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) March 28, 2021
The All-Star MVP mic’d up
@Giannis_An34 mic’d up at #NBAAllStar 2021!— NBA (@NBA) March 26, 2021
The @Bucks seek their 9th straight win tonight vs. BOS at 7:30pm/et on ESPN. pic.twitter.com/B0p754kQVE
Riley’s 2020-2021 Prediction Record: 28-17
retired janitor’s 2020-2021 Prediction Record: 29-16
Ah the West Coast. Scene of sun, sand, and tip-off times that are dangerously close to my normal bedtime. Is this what it is like to be a fan of the team outside of the US? I have to imagine so, and as an honorary international fan I will likely not watch a single one of these games live.
Anyways, the Bucks begin tonight in LA against the Clippers, continues Wednesday against the Lakers, will fly up to Portland for a Friday game against the Trail Blazers, and then return to California to play Sacramento on Saturday. Love that Oregon one-off.
Having been punished for my optimism last week, I’ll hedge the bet and say the Bucks lose their games against the two healthy/competitive teams in the Clips and Blazers while winning games against a hobble Lakers squad and whatever the Kings are these days. Scintillating stuff out there in the marquee Western Conference.