Now that it matters, will the Milwaukee Bucks prove capable of standing up to the heightened stakes yet again?
If the Bucks are to win another title, it will, by necessity, be more of a team effort than the first go-around. Khris Middleton may not have ripped his knee in half, yet his injury right before the post-season means an already so-so secondary star will probably return as cautiously as he can manage. That predicted decline in production demands someone step in as ballast — whether it be Giannis Antetokounmpo pushing himself ever further (and perhaps hamstringing the team along the way), Jrue Holiday being a consistent plus on the offensive end throughout an entire series and not two or three times, or one of the Other Guys rising to the moment rather than deflating as we’re used to seeing.
They’ll probably ably be the best defense in the entire playoffs with a bullet. They’ll probably ably roll around in the muck on offense searching for an answer possession to possession. The more things change, the more they stay the same. So long as they win 16 it doesn’t matter if it is pretty. But it’d sure be nice if it wasn’t ugly as sin, too.
A lot of good quotables from Giannis in this one. First, on the 2022-2023 MVP campaign:
But it doesn’t even matter. I’ve tried to avoid this conversation at all costs. I don’t ever want to drive a narrative and have my kids seeing their father whining about an award because, at the end of the day, it’s all a part of history. I don’t want to win that way.
And on playing through what ails him as a bare minimum personal expectation:
When we left our families for the bubble in an environment that nobody enjoyed, I sprained my ankle three times in a row before I was about to sign the largest contract in NBA history. And I’m begging my GM and my coach to let me play the game. That’s all I remember. I never quit. When I went back home, I was able to hug my kid and look my family in the eyes. I was able to walk in the street with my head high because I knew even for those last 10 minutes before I sprained my ankle, I gave everything I had.
Thanks go out to Chris Haynes for sharing a lot of what Giannis said without much editing.
The NBA’s MVP Race Has No Wrong Answer. Here’s Mine. & Picking Every Award (Except MVP) on the NBA’s 2022-23 Ballot (The Ringer)
Weird pair of articles here from Michael Pina. The former because that’s just headline slaughter (probably not his fault and more the editor’s, assuming they have those at The Ringer), the latter because it named Draymond Green for Defensive Player of the Year? I mean, does Green have any buzz at all? I haven’t heard jack about the Warriors in 2023 and even less about Draymond, so maybe he’s a deserving candidate.
Pina’s argument is all about Golden State’s defensive incompetence when Green is off the floor v. the more focused unit they are with him out there. Fair enough. We’re also incompetent when Brook isn’t on the floor, and Lopez is having a mini scoring resurgence, too. Make it make sense.
Credit goes to EDIT: Chad Butterbacon in the comments of last week’s Weekly Wednesday Roundup (and Van for sending to me directly) for finding this because I actually found it really instructive as an angle through which to view the MVP discussion. Given that the three main candidates are all big men who approach the game differently, some of the differences in stat output we inherently know about become that much more stark when placed in direct comparison. Encourage you to give it a read!
Lauding Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brook Lopez’s offense (BasketballNews.com)
It had seemed like Brook Lopez took his paint scoring to a new level this year, and the numbers appear to back that up. While his usage rate remains relatively constant compared to previous seasons as a Buck, his conversion is up and his touches inside the paint have noticeably jumped over the past season-plus (including his 13 games in 2021-2022). There will certainly be matchups where Brook is not a good fit defensively, but if he can keep his consistent scoring touch going that’s a wonderful break-glass option for Milwaukee.
How the Milwaukee Bucks built a thriving global brand (Fast Company)
Step 1: Have John Hammond running your clown show
Step 2: Have John Hammond bumble into the greatest athletic talent the city of Milwaukee has seen in over five decades
Step 3: Get these kinds of articles written about your genius
Fan Post of the Week
Much like the team, the FanPost staff are resting up in anticipation of playoff basketball around the corner.
Know Your Enemy (Until SBNation Ceases to Exist) — Four Play-In Teams Edition
- “It is the 41st Millennium...To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruelest and most bloody regime imaginable. These are the tales of those times. Forget the power of vitamins and getting better day by day, for so much has been forgotten, never to be relearned. Forget the promise of energy and effort, for in the grim dark future there are only players and refs beefing to see who can make a bigger public show of things.” from Michaelius Budenholzerus, Ecclesiarch of the Adeptus AfteraTimeouticus
- Looks like our friends just due south have taken the domain, site name, and site branding from Vox and moved it over to a Substack. Wishing them luck as they strike out on their own!
Miami Heat - Hot Hot Hoops - Jimmy Butler said he’s not playing the four. But now, he is.
- Another site that broke out of the Vox cage and moved over to Substack. If it keeps their unique communities engaged, good luck to ‘em.
Atlanta Hawks - Peachtree Hoops - How Quin Snyder is trying to rescue the Atlanta Hawks from mediocrity
- Quin Snyder has an interesting challenge ahead of him, moving from one team with a star deft in some areas and weak in others (Rudy Gobert) to another squad with a so-so star player on the exact opposite end of the position table (Trae Young). Atlanta has youth and time on its side, but building around Young and Dejounte Murray looks like it may take some more inspired GM’ing than the Hawks have had as of late.
The Social Media Section
You better respect the HELL out of Gabe’s ability to hold a steady shot while miracles occur all around him
PANDEMONIUM AT FISERV FORUM— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) April 8, 2023
WE JUST HAD ANOTHER JACKPOT SHOT BUZZER BEATER
PURE INSANITY pic.twitter.com/dI0hJDsB0Q
Ray being back in the city’s orbit would be a nice change
Can’t believe we’re about to get this dude a ring to cap off his redemption arc
Caron’s Milwaukee return was a bit of a dud, but at least he got to be one of the first witnesses to Giannis The Savior
I don’t even know what is happening on Mamu’s page
More random sponsorships for God Emperor Goof
Riley’s 2022-2023 Weekly Prediction Record: 47-35
Milwaukee’s Actual 2022-2023 Record: 58-24
If my prediction record were an NBA team, I’d be a five seed in the East or as high as a four seed in the West. Not bad! Thanks for playing along at home, everyone.
Milwaukee will have almost the entire week off with the play-in tournament kicking off tomorrow night. Since the “loser” game determining the eight seed won’t be played until Friday, the Bucks will not take the court to start their first playoff series until Sunday.
I will confidently predict that we’ll take game one no matter the opponent and get the title chase off on the right foot.
Happy playoffs and happy Monday!