There were a lot of things to celebrate in Damian Lillard’s first start as a Buck. The most important being the quick on-court connection he has with Giannis Antetokounmpo. His craft with the ball in his hands is at such a level as to seem effortless which is a sure mark of the peerless at this level of competition.
Yet it was his pre- and post-game interviews on the ESPN broadcast that kept my attention. Not for any sort of outrageous quote or anything, but simply because of his countenance. He’s really like that all the time, it seems. Calm, collected, self-serious, and not coy about the challenges of enduring his first trade and the work it will take to fit in with his new teammates. It is an honest perspective from a guy at the heart of the storm.
So why is that notable enough to be the topic of today’s MMMR intro? Because I have a feeling Lillard shall bring a personality to the locker room that will prove beneficial to everyone around him in time, but most of all to Giannis Antetokounmpo.
My mind goes to Giannis because he is now having his first experience with a teammate of comparable reputational stature to himself. Giannis has always had a lovable goofy streak, a fact which makes him uniquely him and such an endearing figure. He also allows his more introspective side to surface from time to time, although it usually emerges when the stakes are highest. In the course of a long season, I think Giannis will have his perspective sharpened through cohabitation with a superstar who is still hunting for his first ring.
Lillard may not be the rah-rah type, but he has been a singular franchise leader for over a decade. In some sense, he knows exactly the kind of burden Antetokounmpo has had to carry: the hopes and dreams of an entire city. They both wanted to do right by the places they call home and so they share a trait unique in today’s NBA. To have a kindred spirit sitting at the locker next to you night after night—someone who knows the stress of being a genuine hero to people all around him, and who dedicates all mental and physical efforts to delivering on that trust placed in him—must be validating.
Together they can raise each other up. It should be a beautiful thing to watch.
Nice spot from Horst and head coach Adrian Griffin who stopped by the ESPN studios last week just because. Do I believe Horst when he says he hadn’t considered the possibility of Jrue Holiday being re-routed to an in-conference rival? Yes, yes I do.
Damian Lillard has long enjoyed superstar status without stakes, but that’s going to change in Milwaukee (CBS Sports)
Interestingly antagonistic piece here, one of the first to deliver some criticism to Lillard since he arrived in Milwaukee (excepting all the think pieces insisting that the Bucks somehow torpedoed their season through the trade). Some of the names Lillard is compared to seem unfair to me—people don’t like Kyrie or Harden because they’re headcases in their unique ways. I have no worries that Lillard will embrace the challenges of a new team and new expectations, even if his flaws may get magnified under higher scrutiny.
The Bucks show up a lot in this survey, unsurprisingly. Thought it was notable that Lillard was placed fourth in the league in terms of “leadership.” It is unclear what GMs envisioned when casting votes on that category, but I like the idea of Lillard providing a strong voice to rally the troops when things get tough. Not many players come in with that level of instant cachet.
Steve Aschburner is a master of the metaphor and proves it yet again in this piece. He also brings up the fact that MarJon Beauchamp will be extension-eligible next offseason; if we’re talking MarJon extensions positively next June, the Bucks are in supremely good shape.
Five Teams That Will Define the 2023-24 NBA Season & Five Questions That Will Define the 2023-24 NBA Season (The Ringer)
Yep, the Bucks are here too. As I think we’re going to delightfully discover as the season gets underway, opponents are going to be exceedingly hard-up trying to find ways to shut down not just Dame and Giannis, but also the likes of Khris Middleton or Brook Lopez if things go right. Adrian Griffin should prioritize the development of any and all possible offensive options throughout the season to better seize on the potential tatent in the roster prior to the playoffs. Use the time available now to set up for future success.
Know Your Enemy
OKC Thunder - Welcome to Loud City - The next step in the evolution of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s defense
- Easy to forget about Chet Holmgren after he unfortunately had to miss his rookie season. The Thunder were still able to register the 13th-best defense in the league without him thanks in large part to heavy ball pressure and a roster young enough to maintain that physical strain the entire season. Now, with a true big backing the guards up, there’s every possibility of their DRtg improving and cracking the top 10.
Memphis Grizzlies - Bluff City Media (formerly Grizzly Bear Blues) - How the Grizzlies Compare to the Last 10 NBA Champions
- I had no clue the Grizzlies’ true shooting percentage as a team was so bad. TS% is not a catch-all statistic, but any time you’re ranking 25th in almost any category sans turnovers given up, you’re in a bad way. That they still posted an 11th-rated offense in spite of the % is astounding.
The Social Media Section
Very happy that Robin is already finding post-retirement hobbies in preseason
Charleston, SC: Milwaukee South
Cool that the team got to practice in what I assume is some old ass gym on UCLA’s campus
I have to say, the training gear the Bucks have is always some of the nicest team-related clothing the players are ever featured wearing
Exceedingly common Thanasis practice W
One more week of preseason to go for the Bucks with two more games on the docket. They’ll be on the road one more time Tuesday night to face the Thunder and then return to Milwaukee to close preseason hosting Memphis on Friday. After that, it is on to the regular season and what should be a fun showdown with the Philadelphia 76ers to get things started.