The Bucks are back! Monroe in Creamy Green, Giannis above the rim and Jabari... sitting this one out as he recovers from a devastating knee injury.
Bucks vs. Bulls tips off in Chicago at 8 p.m. tonight and you probably can't see it on TV because it's not on Fox Sports Wisconsin. "What's that?", you say. "Why would a Bucks game not air on Fox Sports Wisconsin when there is no local sporting event of note happening at the same time?" Well, my Bucks-loving friend, you clearly forgot about "UFC Ultimate Insider", "Badger Sports Report" and a replay (yes, REPLAY) of Oklahoma's blowout of West Virginia from last weekend's college football. Wisconsinites would surely be FORLORN were they to miss such valuable programming. (I'm being hypocritical here. I don't attend preseason games in any sport. I dislike the fact that the Bucks force me to buy tickets to preseason games, and so I don't attend on principle.) If you get Comcast Sportsnet Chicago or NBA League Pass, then you might be able to watch.
I doubt that I'll be able to watch tonight, but if I do watch the only thing I'm looking for is defense. At this time last year the Bucks had a slew of good-to-great veterans who came together and eventually played top-notch defense. Big Ers, Jared Dudley, Zaza and, of course, Brandon Knight were all a huge part of that (as were present Bucks OJ Mayo [who is back!; ignore my previous caterwauling over him missing media day and a couple of practices], Jerryd, Henson, Middleton [at times] and, of course, the Greek Freak). Michael-Carter Williams and Greg Monroe aim to help the Bucks get back to their stifling defensive ways, so hopefully they'll show signs of that tonight.
Veteran NBA Reporter (choose for yourself whether that's a compliment or criticism) David Aldridge had a lengthy piece on the Bucks in his latest NBA.com column and it focused on their defense. (Scroll through the hagiographical Kobe stuff to the "Nobody Asked Me, But..." section of the article in order to read the Bucks stuff.) Included in that column was the fact that the Bucks are LONG, and thus should be able to clog passing lanes and defend the rim and help bartenders reach the top shelf liquor. Not included in that column was the fact that Greg Monroe doesn't defend (or, at least, hasn't defended to this point in his career, despite playing for a whole slew of coaches who purport to emphasize defense) or that the Bucks' best rim protector (John Henson) has a game that appears to conflict with Monroe's (meaning that if Monroe is healthy, then Henson should probably only be playing 12-20 minutes per game). So, I am less optimistic than "DA" that the Bucks will be playing great D this season.
Of course, it's always hard to tell how players will fit until they play together. I was as negative as could be when the Bucks acquired Brandon Knight because I felt that he was a point guard who had below-grade court vision and wasn't a great shooter. I ended up being right on the former and wrong on the latter, but it didn't matter. Good Brandon's on-ball defense was so great at disrupting point guard-heavy offenses that B.Knight became the lynchpin of one of the NBA's top defensive teams. Maybe the fact that, thus far in his career, Monroe has been slow-footed, inattentive and overly concerned with rebounding stats won't matter in Milwaukee. Maybe he'll be our Marc Gasol (or Zaza Pachulia, even) and the Bucks' defense will get back to the level it was at in the last 10 games or so before the 2015 trade deadline.
Whatever happens tonight, it's good to have Bucks games happening again.