And with that, it’s over.
I’m not going to over-analyze the Bucks’ unfortunate demise here. I won’t even gripe that national talking heads too often bury the absence of Khris Middleton as a mere footnote. (Oh wait.) Rather, I’m going to follow the title and empty out my file drawer: a collection of ideas that I was going to dribble out over the next few weeks if, you know, we won. I may spin these takes into something more in the future, but for now, enjoy a motley crew of half-baked thoughts.
It May Be Worth Considering Why We Didn’t Hit Threes
Let’s get it out of the way: the Bucks were abysmal from three-point land. A lot of that can be chalked up to the Celtics’ impressive close-outs, but that can’t explain the previous years of subpar shooting.
Why? No clue. I recently wrote about how clutchness only exists because we believe it exists. Maybe it’s the same thing in reverse, and the Bucks’ inability to shoot threes in the playoffs becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whatever it is, it’d be cool if we could fix it, please and thank you.
There Are Different Ways to Win
The Bucks did not lose because they did not do X. Basketball is a complex organism of players, schemes, coaches, Suki, and more. It is an oversimplification to chalk up the loss to a single factor. Likewise, there are different ways to win. Just like you can build the longest road or amass the largest army in Catan, you can shoot a lot of threes or stuff the paint in basketball. And you can probably do a bit of both, as well as the myriad other aspects of playing winning basketball.
Crucially, there are no surefire avenues to success. Shooting a lot of threes may be a winning formula for one team, but not another team. Shooting a lot of threes may be a winning formula for one team on one night, but not another night. Shooting a lot of threes may be a winning formula for one team on one night by one player, but not another player. And so on.
As we approach the offseason, silver bullet thinking is everywhere. Don’t give in.
The Rules of Basketball Did Not Foresee Giannis
This came up in one of my first longer pieces: Giannis is a paradigm-breaker. Although you can attempt to Build-A-Bear him into existence from prior players, he still represents a stark departure from the earlier era’s stars. Hence, the rules of basketball were not designed to accommodate him. Over the last few years, we’ve seen rules and enforcement change to promote such accommodation (paging Mr. Harden). Should the NBA consider the same for Giannis, and if so, how? (Does this represent that?)
(To be clear, I think that this can go both ways. There were calls and non-calls on Giannis against the Celtics that left me scratching my head.)
Giannis Can Take a Break
After the unbelievable comeback in Game 5, Giannis asked reporters about the possibility of taking a year off. He shared that he would spend his sabbatical on an island in Greece with his family, and that he was serious.
Is he? No. He’s a bit of a joker. But my main reaction to the exchange was that Giannis honestly it. If he decides that his other-worldly game - that also happens to be other-worldly taxing - is taking its toll, who are we to say otherwise? He could take a year off, come back fresh in 2023, and blitz his way to a title on fresh legs. Hell, he could stay there, christen it “Giannis Island,” and live out his life. He would have still catapulted the Bucks to their first title in 50 years and already earned a spot among the all-time greats. Ultimately, in a world where even horses are prioritizing their health, the dude deserves a break.
The Giannis Debate is Indeed Done
One more Giannis thought. I keep returning to David Foster Wallace’s essay, “Roger Federer as Religious Experience.” It’s the closest thing to an accurate description of Giannis that I’ve read, his world-weariness at the end of Game 7 notwithstanding. Take a gander:
The metaphysical explanation is that Roger Federer is one of those rare, preternatural athletes who appear to be exempt, at least in part, from certain physical laws. Good analogues here include Michael Jordan, who could not only jump inhumanly high but actually hang there a beat or two longer than gravity allows, and Muhammad Ali, who really could “float” across the canvas and land two or three jabs in the clock-time required for one. There are probably a half-dozen other examples since 1960. And Federer is of this type — a type that one could call genius, or mutant, or avatar. He is never hurried or off-balance. The approaching ball hangs, for him, a split-second longer than it ought to. His movements are lithe rather than athletic. Like Ali, Jordan, Maradona, and Gretzky [Writer’s note: And Giannis?], he seems both less and more substantial than the men he faces. Particularly in the all-white that Wimbledon enjoys getting away with still requiring, he looks like what he may well (I think) be: a creature whose body is both flesh and, somehow, light.
The Bucks may have lost on Sunday. But we got to see this.