Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bucks Lottery Memories

It's NBA Draft Lottery Day!!

Oh, do Bucks fans long for the day when Lottery Day no longer matters.  

But that's not today!  Today is the highlight of the Spring for Bucks fans.  It's the day that We Might Win The Chance To Draft A Guy Who Really Doesn't Fit.

Yes, yes.  Bucks Forest should not be a pessimistic place on Lottery Day.  It should be a place where we rejoice in the fact that the Bucks already have a better version of Ben Simmons, in the Greek Freak.  Or that the Bucks don't need Brandon Ingram because Jabari Parker is the team's active, athletic Big.  

It is weird, though.  The Bucks already had the misfortune of a DOUBLE tiebreaker loss, getting assigned the 10th best Lottery odds (and, therefore, the 10th pick if no long-shots move up) after tying the Kings and Nuggets for the 8th worst record in the NBA.  And even if the Bucks DO win, the far-and-away top two prospects are just about EXACT carbon copies of the Bucks' two young studs.  (And, yes, I am far from being a believer that Jabari Parker is ACTUALLY a stud, but that doesn't matter right now.  The Bucks believe it, and they're going to give Parker a chance to be a stud.)

Still, Lottery Day is a fun day and so Bucks Forest wants to share a few Bucks Lottery memories.  

And if you have some fun Bucks Lottery memories, leave them in the comments below.

1994

Bucks Forest wouldn't be Bucks Forest if it wasn't stuck in the 90's.  

The Bucks ended the 1994 season tied with Detroit and Minnesota for the second-worst record in the NBA.  They won the Lottery, and it was EXCITING.  Sports Illustrated was touting Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson as the best college basketball player since Larry Bird, and the Bucks won the right to draft him.

The reality of the situation ended up getting a shade complicated because Jason Kidd declared for the Draft after his sophomore season (it was a different time, kids) and Grant Hill had an excellent senior season, nearly leading overmatched Duke to an upset of a stacked Arkansas team (again, different time) in the 1994 National Championship game at the olde Charlotte Coliseum (which sat 23,000 people IN REGULAR SEATS, no luxury boxes, for basketball!  PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON SAT IN A REGULAR SEAT to watch that title game).  The Bucks stuck to their guns and drafted Big Dog, but there was a lot consternation about the choice.  

Interesting 'after the fact' note about the 1994 offseason: When former Bucks coach Mike Dunleavy, Sr. started a Twitter account years ago, I asked him whether it was true that he decided to draft Big Dog over Hill or Kidd after Kidd and Hill couldn't beat him (THE COACH OF THE TEAM) one-on-one, but Big Dog could.  He said drafting Kidd was a real consideration, but that the Bucks were stuck under the contract of Sherman Douglas and didn't want a second, highly paid point guard.  

Sherman Douglas was actually not with the Bucks during the 1994 offseason, but I'm guessing that Dunleavy, Sr. simply wrote that name "Sherman Douglas" when he meant to write Eric Murdock, who was ANOTHER highly paid/ineffective point guard for the Bucks in the mid-90s.  

Now, here's the interesting part: Mike Dunleavy, Sr. traded FOR Murdock in one of his first big moves after being hired in 1992, even though he KNEW that Murdock was under a long term, multi-million dollar contract (which was considered a relatively high-priced contract at the time; again, different time).  

So, essentially Dunleavy, Sr.'s stance appears to be, "if I drafted the better player (Kidd), I'd make myself look bad because I was the one who chose the guy that Kidd would be be replacing".  (In Dunleavy's defense, Eric Murdock was a solid player.  It was a shame to see that he may have attempted to blackmail Rutgers before releasing that ugly Mike Rice video back in 2013.)

2007

Oh, if there's one thing Bucks Forest loves more than re-living the 90's, it's re-living 2007.  

The 2007 Bucks finished 28-54.  Ugly, sure, but not that ugly.  Lots of teams win fewer than 28 games in any given year an-- OOHHH, wait a minute.  2007 was an odd year in the NBA because NOBODY tanked and there were TWO 'generational' stars expected to be taken at the top of the 2007 Draft.  With only 28 wins, the Bucks still ended up having the THIRD worst record in the League.  Third!!!  To put that in context, the year before that 28 wins would've been good for 6th worst and the year after it would've been good for 8th worst.  

Somehow, the Bucks got incredibly lucky to be bad-but-not-awful, but still end up with the third-best Lottery odds in a year where Greg Oden and Kevin Durant were expected to be dead-bolt lock awesome players at the top of the Draft.  (And Al Horford was supposed to be a darned good Big man at number three, too.)

Like everything else promising about the year 2007, the Bucks' Draft Lottery experience ended in a combination of bad luck and self-inflicted disaster.  The bad luck was falling THREE spots (which RARELY happens in the NBA Draft Lottery) and the self-inflicted disaster was drafting Yi Jianlian (which I LOVED at the time).

It was all so bad.  The Blazers got the first pick, and you knew they'd screw it up because they're the Blazers.  (They did.  They listened to conventional wisdom and drafted Greg Oden.)  The Sonics leaped to number two despite having a lackluster fanbase and local politicians intent on driving the franchise out of town.  And the only big-city franchise with a more lackluster fanbase than Seattle's -- the Atlanta Hawks -- jumped ahead to claim the third spot.  

Aack.  Nasty.  2007 was a memorable Bucks Lottery, but for all the wrong reasons.

1992

Get ready, Bucks Forest.  This one's going to be painful.  Unless you're in your late-thirties, or older, you may not remember just how bad the 1992 NBA Draft Lottery was.

Let's set the table:

FADE IN

INT. BEN'S LIVING ROOM IN WEST ALLIS - DAY

BEN (15) lies on his parents' white sectional, hoping to not be asked to do chores.  He wears a Los Angeles Rams jersey with 'MILLER' and the number '83' on the back.

INT. DINING ROOM - CONTINUOUS

Ben walks in from the adjacent living room and sits at the dining room table.  He leafs through the Milwaukee Journal, finding a sports section that has already been rummaged through by BEN'S DAD.

Ben peers out the front window to see Ben's Dad mowing the lawn.  Ben hurries to find the Sports section before the inevitable call to chores.

BEN (V.O.)
Man, I can't believe the Bucks are in the Lottery today.

Ben folds the paper over, having found what he's looking for.

BEN (V.O.) (CONT'D)
Twelve straight years of Playoffs.  Every season since 1980.
(beat)
Only the Lakers had a longer streak.

Ben rises, takes the paper with him.

INT. LIVING ROOM - CONTINUOUS

Ben plops down on the couch.

BEN (V.O.)
I wonder if the Bucks won the coin flip with Charlotte.

Ben sits up, examining the newspaper.

BEN (V.O.) (CONT'D)
What a weird thing.  The Bucks finished with the same record as Charlotte, but if we won the coin flip we get five lottery balls instead of four.  And there's only 66 balls!

Ben looks up, calculating in his head.

BEN (V.O.) (CONT'D)
That's a big difference.  7.6% chance if we won; only a 6.1% chance if we lost.

Ben fingers through the newspaper.

BEN
Yeah!

Ben, startled at his audible exclamation, snaps his head towards the front window.

Dad stares back.  

BEN
Dang.  Time for chores.

Ben wriggles his sock'd feet into knockoff Teva sandals.

He stands and walks towards the front door.

BEN (V.O.)
Ah, I guess it's not so bad.  I'll finish the lawn and then watch the 1992 NBA Draft Lottery, where the Charlotte Hornets have the four ping pong balls that the Milwaukee Bucks would have had, if Milwaukee had lost that coin flip.

FADE OUT

And if you don't remember how the 1992 NBA Draft shook itself out, take a gander.  Had the Bucks held the Hornets' ping pong balls, they would've won the second Lottery slot.  Alonzo Mourning was the prize at number two that year.  

So... 

Scenario One was the Bucks winning the coin flip with Charlotte, losing the Lottery, Mike Dunleavy, Sr. using his first draft pick on Todd Day and the team floundering for most of the next two-and-a-half decades.

Scenario Two was the Bucks losing the coin flip, grabbing Alonzo Mourning in recent Coach of the Year Mike Dunleavy Sr.'s first season, extending the twelve-year Playoff streak (Mourning was immediately one of the best Big men in the League and the Hornets made the Playoffs in his rookie year) and thenprobablyleavingforMiamijustlikehedidfromcharlotteBUTSTILL.

The Bucks got Scenario Two, and the end result is that most modern NBA fans have no idea what a great franchise the Bucks once were.

Hopefully, that is all changing.  And that's really what the Lottery is all about, right: Hope in a circumstance that you have no control over.  Ain't it great?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Last Chance for Arena Suggestions, and I Have Two

The City of Milwaukee Neighborhoods and Development Committee is meeting tomorrow (May 17, 2016) at City Hall, Room 301-B to discuss the design and architecture of the new Bucks arena.  It is a public hearing that anyone can attend.

In most ways, the arena discussions on the meeting agenda appear to be all show and no dough.  I expect that the Committee and the Bucks will let the public have their say and then ignore any comments that contradict what the Bucks already have planned.

The Bucks are paying for most of the arena's construction cost and are planning to pay for maintenance and upkeep.  (At least, for now.  When the Pacers' arena was build the team promised to pay for maintenance, but when the economy crashed the team threatened to leave if Indianapolis didn't take over those costs.  Indy now pays the Pacers $9 million/year to "operate" the Pacers' arena.)  It stands to reason that the Bucks should be allowed to decide what they want to do with their money.

Most publicly known aspects of the Bucks' arena design plans hit that sweet spot where 'team-friendly' overlaps with 'fan-friendly'.  The exterior looks cool, the concourses will have more space and the seating bowl will put more fans below the luxury suites.

There are just two things I wish the Bucks would reconsider: the grade of the building and the steepness of the seating bowl.

Present plans call for the entire building to be above grade, which means that fans would enter from the street at the same level where the basketball court sits.  Building an arena above grade saves excavation costs and, in a place like downtown Milwaukee where the land sits below the water table, saves the Bucks from having to an install an expensive system to prevent water intrusions.

The Bradley Center sits above grade, so if you've been to a Bucks game (and, since this is Bucks blog, I'm guessing you have) the new arena will have a similar entrance.  You'll walk in from the street, have your ticket scanned and then proceed up stairs or an escalator to the Concourse level.

Milwaukee's new arena will hardly be the first to be built above grade, but it is likely to share the inconveniences of that design.  In addition to forcing fans to use stairs or an escalator to get to or from the Concourse level, above-grade arenas rob fans of that feeling of walking through the turnstyles (or, in modern stadiums, through the metal detectors and past the barcode scanners) and being there.  When I walk into Staples Center, I see the tunnels to the seats.  When I walk into the Bradley Center, I'm in a lobby.  There's a big psychological difference there.

Les Alexander, the Houston Rockets owner, decided late in the planning process to build the Toyota Center below grade.  He spent $12 million of the team's money on excavation so that fans would enter at the Concourse level.  I hope that the Bucks owners reconsider their current plans, and re-design the arena so that fans enter at the Concourse level.

My other request is more controversial: I want the seating bowl to be less steep.

Steep seating bowls are adored in some circles.  A steep bowl can make fans feel like they're "on top of the action".  Short people may be better able to see over tall people.  And a steep bowl means that the back office space underneath the bowl might have more vertical space.

My counter argument is a simple one: shallow bowls are better for viewing basketball games.

Basketball is my favorite sport in large part because of the athleticism involved.  The players' size, speed, explosiveness and every other athletic quality is simply incredible.  I believe that the players' athleticism has more impact when fans are lower and closer to the floor.

A shallow bowl slope means that each row's seats are lower.  I notice the difference any time I attend a basketball game at Staples Center, where the lower bowl has the shallowest grade of any arena in the League.  Row 16 at Staples Center (where my Clippers season tickets used to be) is at approximately the same height as row 12 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn (I could be off by one row).  The shallow lower bowl slope of Staples Center allows the arena to have a whopping thirty-two rows below the luxury suites without making the suites feel too far away.

Admittedly, I don't feel "on top of the action" when watching a basketball game at Staples Center.  And maybe for sports like football or hockey I would care.  Those are sports where, in my opinion, the live experience is about viewing formations and alignments as much as feeling the power of the athletes.  Steep seating bowls help with that.

Basketball is different.  I want to feel the power of these amazing athletes.  I worry that the Bucks' arena design will allow fewer fans to feel that power because the bowl will be too steep.

Steep seating bowls also create the problem of pushing the upper bowl too high.  The Bucks' arena designers made the excellent decision to have only one row of luxury suites ringing the court.  Great job; well done.  I hope that the Bucks also decide to push the slope of the lower bowl downward so that it's a little less steep and so that upper level fans can be less removed from the action.

The suggestions I have for the new Bucks arena are minor quibbles.  Whether the arena is built above grade or not, I'll enjoy being in a more modern building.  Whether the slope of the seating bowl is steep or shallow, the energy of a live NBA game will be there.

But there's still time and there's a public meeting coming up, so here's hoping that the Bucks consider building the main concourse at street level and lessening the steepness of the seating bowl.