(Author’s note: Remember how I reverse jinxed Serge Ibaka to a dominant performance over the Phoenix Suns in last week’s column? Well, who says lighting doesn’t strike twice? I wrote all of the following Sunday evening, flipped on Twitter, and the first thing I saw was that Brook will return to the starting lineup tonight against the Jazz. Let’s see if I can go three for three next week.)
Of all the throughlines to this Milwaukee Bucks season, the one that has been there since the very beginning of the campaign is the absence of Brook Lopez. As he gradually works his way to returning from back surgery, fans will quite understandably be excited if/when he plays his second game of the 2021-2022 regular season. Without him in the lineup, Milwaukee has had to draft (relatively) undersized guys to fill center minutes, have reworked defensive principles to cover for the lack of a true zone-drop aficionado, and even traded for a veteran center at the deadline as insurance.
I’m looking forward to Lopez’s return as much as the next guy, but with merely 14 games left in the regular season and still no clue how Brook will look, I’m also trying to restrict my expectations. He will look rusty, he will need time to trust his body, and although the core teammate group is familiar with Brook’s tendencies, there are new members of the rotation who haven’t had any real in-game minutes to build chemistry (and guys like Jrue, Khris, and Giannis may defend with the idea of pre-surgery Lopez backing them up rather than whatever he is now).
The odds of Lopez coming back and being an absolute force on either end seems slim. And that’s okay! However, it then begs the question of how much of Old Brook will Milwaukee need to succeed? I’ve no clue how to quantify this; if we won’t get 100%, can we make do with 80%? 75%? And what would these arbitrary numbers even look like on the court? I’d guess a Lopez who has to begin possessions closer to the paint before an opponent action even begins and a guy who will need time to rebuild a feel for when to strike out at a ball handler. On offense, I’d be surprised if he’ll do much of the low-post work or perimeter-to-paint drives that made him a strange cover for defenses; he’ll bomb away from three without doing much more besides.
You can also worry about how much he will manage to reintroduce his decisive ability to box out opposing big men to help boost Milwaukee’s DREB% — boxing out is as much reaction as positioning.
All this is to say that while having Lopez will more than likely be a better option than no Lopez at all, I’d temper expectations. If he’s a definitive step slower on both ends, he won’t be unplayable, but he’ll be yet another plate for Mike Budenholzer to keep spinning while managing the rotation. I don’t envy anyone who has to pick out the right path forward.
Deadspin just hasn’t been the same since they gutted the entire staff. Ah well, nevertheless. I do wonder who has been banking on a Bucks repeat. Bucks fans are confident, but I haven’t seen any takes so out of control as to require serious intervention. The East will be a bloodbath, but who is to say that bloodbath won’t see us navigate the minefield once again? Just get in and do some winning.
‘We’re at an all-time high’: Milwaukee Bucks open new shop as retail business explodes & Counterfeit Milwaukee Bucks championship rings seized by feds in Kentucky (TMJ4)
Business is going so well that even the counterfeiters are trying to get in on the action! While I get that the team wants fans to move around the Forum in order to check out all of the different gear on sale, it does mean you either have to show up quite a bit before game time to check things out or miss parts of the game itself. But if you’re out of your seat buying a hat, you might also buy a hot dog, and that’s called synergy.
Former Packers star Donald Driver purchases $3 million Brewer’s Hill loft from former Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (Yahoo)
A slow news week for the Bucks? What? Around these parts? It’s amazing that Jabari had this loft kicking around here so long after his time with the Bucks had ended. Also amazing that a 6,800 square foot space can boast merely 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.
In light of the Brook Lopez news, it felt appropriate to highlight the fact that other East contenders also have their share of vets who matter for as 16-game players than 82-game players. Can Brook quickly adapt to be a 16-game player? Plus, this is a good analysis of what Kyle Lowry and PJ Tucker bring to the Heat (know your enemy!) to boot.
Ladies and gentlemen, the absolute madman called the shot and its paid off: JSOnline Castaway 2.0 get on down here and collect your justly deserved FPOTW award for your piece of scintillating work, “Why I Will Win Fanpost of the Week”. Some might say this is simply the MMMR awarding hubris. On the contrary, we’re rewarding will to win at all costs.
Know Your Enemy
Has there been a team more under the radar this year than the Jazz? I’ve heard next to nothing about them, and yet they sit in the fourth seed out West. That’s probably because their core hasn’t changed much nor gone all that deep in the playoffs, so to change the narrative they likely will need a role guy or two to pay off big time when it counts.
- Sacramento Kings - Sactown Royalty - Domantas Sabonis wants to ‘change the culture of the organization’ and Kings fans just want to see it
Words of a man who will absolutely bolt in unrestricted free agency unless the Kings give him more money than God himself has on offer. Sacramento will certainly oblige him.
As a Twin Cities resident, I’m glad the Wolves have a pulse, though I’ll miss being able to go to a random Wednesday night game for $5 on a whim. Their roster is an interesting collection of parts, but if Anthony Edwards can be the bombastic hype machine soul of the team pushing the pieces in the right direction, there should be plenty of brighter days ahead for Minnesota.
The Social Media Section
The good Nwora week came to an end shortly after this post
I’m here for this propaganda. pic.twitter.com/lIto6C1rMq— Chris Walder (@WalderSports) March 11, 2022
How are we still talking about this?
Caruso said he has “no anger” any more over Allen’s foul. The six weeks “was pretty frustrating” but nothing he can do about it. Said he never heard from Allen.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) March 11, 2022
Surely speaks well about the overall culture the Sixers have managed to cobble together over the years
Players in the 76ers locker room would openly discuss who they would trade Ben Simmons for. They did not expect to get a big asset like James Harden in return.— ProCity Hoops (@ProCityHoops) March 10, 2022
- Danny Green on Philly sports radio this morning
(via the Ryan Rusillo Show) pic.twitter.com/TP4tzoBUi6
Ja is just as good, if not better, on social media as he is on the court
i must've got hacked cuz 12 ain't tell you dat dawg https://t.co/dzx3Q6QYNF— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) March 10, 2022
retired janitor’s 2021-2022 prediction record: 42-26
Riley’s 2021-2022 prediction record: 39-29
It’s a Western road trip for the Bucks this week with all three games on the road, the first tonight in Salt Lake City against the Jazz, Wednesday back in California against the Kings, and Saturday up here in the upper Midwest against the Timberwolves.
WIth Brook Lopez back, I think we might wobble a little trying to integrate him into lineups, so I’d guess at a 1-2 week with a win against the Kings and losses against the Jazz and Wolves.