How much is a good sports physio worth? We’re probably going to find out as this season progresses and franchise puppet master Suki Hobson & company are asked to manage the health of an increasingly aging/banged up roster. The Bucks have been used to managing the workload of its players for a number of years now, a fact which successfully led them to win it all and bow out (prematurely) in two Conference Semifinals and one Conference Finals since Mike Budenholzer arrived. I’d never point to giving guys rest as a leading reason why the team had failed to advance further in three of their four recent postseason appearances, but a couple years ago it felt almost like a throwaway strategy; just another tool in the box to construct the ideal unit after the long regular season.
Nowadays, though, managing the physical strain imposed on players is increasingly moving into overriding team management concern territory. Brook Lopez had back surgery after picking up a problem aged 32-33. Khris Middleton tore his hamstring awhile back, damaged a ligament in his knee, and recently had wrist surgery that may see him miss some opening regular season games at age 30 (to be 31 in about two weeks). Jrue Holiday has been a rock his entire career, but now sits at the edge where “early 30s” becomes “mid 30s” in short order. Three guys who will likely have substantial roles in our playoff rotation — Wes Matthews, George Hill, and Joe Ingles — all hail from the late 1980s.
As I pat myself on the back for boldly declaring that this team is old as hell for a pro sports organization, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we all generally understand why the Bucks are getting older: They’re about the only kinds of guys we can reliably sign for cheap. I’m sure GM Jon Horst would tell me to direct his way any mid-20s guys with talent who would sign for veteran minimum deals to play in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When life gives you lemons, make Joe Ingles your primary backup chance creator and all that.
Still, I spend a lot of time wondering about second- and third-order effects from primary choices. We are old, therefore we will need to sideline rotation players on a somewhat regular basis over the course of 82 games. We need to sideline players, which reduces the number of in-game minutes where lineups can be explored. We have fewer in-game minutes of guys playing next to a coterie of teammates, so we probably have less creative flexibility due to a lack of familiarity. We have less creative flexibility, which starts to seriously handicap the levers we can pull and buttons we can press when an opponent has us up against a wall with elimination looming. That sort of stuff.
In an ideal world, we’ll have a repeat of 2020-2021’s relatively clean bill of health. That’d be one hell of an outcome, though, of rolling dice that are increasingly loaded against us day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year. I’m not asking Suki to be able to stop time — not even I’m willing to ask the impossible — but I wouldn’t mind her having a true go at it these next 12 months.
Semi Ojeleye è un nuovo giocatore di Virtus Segafredo Bologna (Virtus Bologna)
Its always special being a player’s last stop before they quietly go out into that night known as having to play full-time overseas — Semi finished his time in the NBA as a Clipper, but spiritually it ended as a Buck. I’ll always remember Semi Ojeleye, and wish him the best of luck in Italy. He will likely end the Serie A season as league MVP.
Bucks and Fiserv Forum make it official: Miller beer out, Anheuser-Busch in (WISN)
I know we have to make up some cash because luxury tax and pandemic and LED probably put too much money into dodgy crypto exchanges all that, and nobody can really tell the difference between Miller Lite and Bud Light when you’re ripping into your eighth $9 glass of the stuff at the Forum, but on some deep level this strikes me as sacrilegious. The Harley-Davidson logo looked horrendous on our uniforms because they insisted on keeping it to the traditional orange/black/white (understandable), but at least it was a locally iconic company partnering with another locally iconic company. Nobody even likes St. Louis! Not even people from St. Louis!
It’s a Long Leap From Sports Team Owner to U.S. Senator (New York Times)
You’ve gotta give it to Alex Lasry: He had to have known becoming one of Wisconsin’s senators was a Sisyphean task, and he went after it anyhow. Now it’s back to hanging out with us plebs, drinking room temperature Anheuser-Busch-branded brews.
In all seriousness, I’m sure his heart was and remains in the right place. It takes some guts to try and run for a position of elected civic service when the odds are stacked against you.
Does NBA Summer League Help Develop Future Coaches? (FiveThirtyEight) & How The NBA Is Using Summer League — And Virtual Reality — To Train Refs (FiveThirtyEight)
Some interesting pieces here as Summer League vanishes quickly underneath the tides of the past. For a guy like Vin Baker, long-time assistant coach in Milwaukee’s organization over the tenure of multiple head coaches, the chance to head the team’s Summer League squad has to be the mark of ultimate respect — a handing down of responsibility for part of the team’s long-term future development. It makes intuitive sense, too, that getting to hold the reins over every aspect of a team will help round out your approach when you return to an assistant role.
For the ref stuff, we can file all of that beneath the “we’re just going to replace these people with robots one days” heading. Maybe there is something to training a referee like they’re an astronaut or pilot, but those people work in roles where errors can quite quickly lead to actual death. The danger of serious physical harm does exist in basketball... but do we need tomorrow’s Joey Crawfords to be able to analyze the game like they’re DeepBlue with legs?
Fan Post of the Week
Folks... it is one thing to haphazardly smash together words in pursuit of The Moment’s Perfect Take. It is another thing entirely to actually do the research. Which is why I heartily applaud lightning-rod-man for going way further than I ever contemplated by pulling up Joe Ingles’s actual defensive metrics!!!!! “Joe Ingles on Defense” is required reading for those who looked at my 5ish questions piece with a member of the SLC Dunk staff and came away under the impression that Ingles was a Kyle Korver-level traffic cone on defense even before he ripped his ACL into pieces. Wrong.
The Social Media Section
Very Kings to sign Delly like a decade after we did
Welcome to Sactown, @matthewdelly! pic.twitter.com/JnZ6g4Z0Dl— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) July 29, 2022
Pluto the best dog in the league? Also, why Pluto? Pluto here doesn’t look much like Pluto of Disney fame.
This guy had no obligation to go all-in on West Virginia and then did anyhow. Massive respect.
The second image here would suggest he missed the shot taken in the first lol
I genuinely enjoy the hell out of random people — they could be me, you, whoever — replying to Serge goddamn Ibaka’s Instagram post from Lisbon, Portugal suggesting a wine bar he should try because the food is good. He has #IdoArt in the post! He’ll never eat at the places you or I eat at!
Inb4 Sandro’s Georgian national team eliminates Giannis’s Greek national team at EuroBasket in a month
Literally living a dream with your face on the side of an actual plane
I know I started this week’s piece going on and on and on about how aged our roster is, but the flip side to that is we may end up looking like the NBA version of the Expendables if everything goes right. Sure, they may not be able to jump as high or run as fast as they used to, but “old man strength” is a real thing — just look at Serge Ibaka’s Insta if you wonder whether he can still throw out a decimating elbow on a guy getting past him. If the only way is through, at least we’ll have a bunch of dudes in their 30s pushing the team forward while struggling to do a TikTok dance with Sandro in their off time.