What a difference a week makes, huh? Less than seven days ago I was riding that “whoop up on the Utah Jazz” dragon and extolling the virtues of our Joe Ingles-centric team design. Now, I’m sitting around wondering if that 9-0 start to the season won’t ultimately transform into some odd curse. Not that the Milwaukee Bucks shouldn’t be happy to have cashed in nine wins, but until they pull out of a relatively average run of play we’ll always be able to look back and wonder if it wasn’t all merely a mirage.
Since the perfect beginning to the year the Bucks have gone 13-11 and currently sit on a three game losing streak. That .542 win percentage would have them sitting around sixth in the Eastern Conference — we’re merely 1.5 games out of that slot right now. Over the last 15 games the Bucks own the 15th best offense and 13th best defense; over the last five the defense has crashed down into a bottom-third level. Average average average.
Worst of all (from a purely entertainment perspective), they look the part. Turnovers have been a problem of recent vintage, yet the offense in general has begun to revert to the old mean of Giannis Antetokounmpo forcing the issue. He battles his way into the paint while his four teammates stand mostly rigid around the perimeter, he either bludgeons up a shot attempt or passes after a deep committal into a Wall, the teammate passed to either 1) Shot fakes and has the defense recover 2) Passes to the next guy in line or 3) Misses, and we rinse and repeat. An oversimplification, surely, but I doubt it is that far off the mark. The defense is harder to suss out true takeaways from the noise; has something really gone amiss or is Milwaukee running into a particular litany of young/athletic/shot-making rosters?
It isn’t cutting it as of late, and now other East contenders have shook off their early stasis: the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers have both won eight in a row, the Celtics just pantsed us (again), making them 5-3 in the last 8 matchups with Milwaukee, and the Cleveland Cavaliers have gone 7-3 over their last 10 as well. For a team with as wide a difference in our home v. road records, I’m less confident we can simply shrug off losing a rung or two in the seeding battle than a year ago.
The season is not won or lost in December and other teams are not destined to win at this rate perpetually. But the onus is on the Bucks to pull themselves out of the ditch all while acclimating the likes of Joe Ingles and Khris Middleton if and whenever he also returns to regular play. Every day spent spinning their wheels now is a day of cover lost.
A fascinating article, really, and one I highly recommend you read if you open any of this week’s links. I like the contrast between Giannis and Zion Williamson as an example not of how they may differ in attacking the rim, but in the sets the team runs as a whole around each player when they’re a ball handler. Milwaukee’s ball screens for Giannis aren’t particularly complicated and make reads simpler, but also rarely pull a defense apart all that much. It is about generating lanes Giannis is quick enough to hurtle down.
The one upside to having Giannis do everything on offense for Milwaukee is we get to juice those numbers. Juice ‘em! So long as Khris is away we’ll continue to watch an experiment with peak-level Giannis taking on the mantle of a more-or-less solo superstar on the offensive end.
Jrue and Lauren Holiday’s foundation does plenty of good work, and the range of businesses or individuals they back runs quite wide both geographically and by industry. Most of those grant recipients fly relatively under the radar, so it is cool to get a more in-depth story on a particular business, their product, and how the Holidays went another step further in distributing it to every NBA player.
Giannis Antetokounmpo Charges Into the Battlefield in ‘Fortnite’ (HYPEBEAST - lol)
As my insightful and often correct colleague Kyle Carr said when I told the staff Giannis was becoming a Fortnite character: “This is when the decline starts.”
If you’re bored, here’s a 20 minute video of a guy “reviewing” the Giannis cosmetics and, if you skip to the six minute mark, you can watch cartoon Giannis wield and fire a variety of firearms lol:
It isn’t even one of the two cool owners who is jumping into French football, but the “D” Jamie Dinan. Are professional sports teams rapidly becoming another vehicle of financial speculation and ego grooming? I mean, they always were that, but now we’ve got hedgies, consortiums, and literal nations snapping these things up by the handful every week it seems.
Fan Post of the Week
Pretty quiet in these parts, but it is also a holiday weekend and even the unpaid non-staff deserve the occasional break.
Know Your Enemy
- Just a bunch of dudes wearing matching red outfits like an army of Santa Clauses without much else going for them. Festive! And the writer of this piece gets a “hell yeah” from me for taking the extra step few staffers rarely chance and telling a disgruntled “star” player to shove their complaints where the Sun don’t shine.
- It doesn’t seem all that radical to try and involve Anthony Edwards as much as possible in offensive looks for Minnesota given what he’s shown and may still be capable of, but it took Karl-Anthony Towns going down to force coach Chris Finch to embrace the chaos. Hopefully we don’t get a Tatum-lite treatment as is hinted at in this article.
- A sobering look at the truth behind “Career Year” Kyle Kuzma from someone with eyes on the Wizards. I’d seen Kuzma’s name pop up here or there in theoretical trade ideas, so I'd be curious if this data would change anyone’s opinion on whether Kuz is someone worth going after.
The Social Media Section
What superstar player could you see coming to Milwaukee in the future playing with Giannis?— Brandon Jennings (@Tuff__Crowd) December 22, 2022
The “are we looking at degenerative knee health?” piece
Mike Budenholzer says Khris Middleton isn’t making injury progress at the rate the Bucks had hoped.— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) December 23, 2022
Looks like Instagram is back to blocking “previews” on embeds. Hopefully this is temporary. Most of these are just the guys posing with Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Giannis hitting the side of the backboard while getting up shots in practice like the God-Emperor Goof he is.
Riley’s 2022-2023 Weekly Prediction Record: 14-20
Milwaukee’s Actual 2022-2023 Record: 23-11
Jesus, I really was taking that hopium straight last Tuesday: “I feel good about where the team is starting to settle and so will back them to be perfect the rest of the way this week.”
The Bucks road trip that I kept thinking ended yesterday in Boston (thank you Van for the correction) comes to its true end Wednesday night in Chicago against the Bulls. Then, the team is back in Milwaukee for a three game home stand which includes a visit by the Timberwolves on Friday and by the Wizards on Sunday.
At the risk of being back here in seven days Charlie Murphy’ing myself yet again, I think we can pull off a 3-0 week to right the ship. Anything less than that would be a bit of a disappointment given all three opponents’ sterling and well-deserved reputations as mediocrities.