Thursday, August 11, 2016

I Like(d) My Saturdays

The Bucks schedule was released today, and if nothing else it reinforced the notion that the Herb Kohl era is over.

The Herb Kohl era was reviled by online Bucks fans, but season ticket holders (including the editor of this blog) had it pretty good. The perks were the best in big time sports with huge arena concession credits and an eager customer service corps setting the franchise apart. The on court product was often less than stellar, but that had the happy side effect of keeping ticket prices down.

Lasry & company seem to have other idea. The arena concession perk was cancelled after last season (in fairness, Bucks merchandise coupons were offered in its place) and season tickets have been bumped up 20% or more despite a conspicuous lack of on-court success. (Unless "triple-double in a losing effort" is the new measure of success.)

The Herb Kohl era was notable for a few things, schedule wise, most notably an affection for Saturday home games. Thirteen were scheduled in Kohl's final year of ownership, with previous seasons always notching double digits.

#BucksForest loves Saturday home games. A Saturday morning flight to MKE, followed by an evening Bucks game and Sunday brunch with family made for a great weekend. Throw in the occasional Monday home game and it became even better. The moment that produced this blog's favorite sports photograph of all time happened during the back half of one of those Saturday/Monday doubles.

The current Bucks owners do not love Saturday home games. Only eight of them have been scheduled for the 2017 season, with five happening within the first six Saturdays of the season.

The reason is concerts. The Bucks owners had no qualms about booking Saturdays in October and November because popular touring acts already have their schedules set for those months. 2017 concert schedules (along with UFC, WWE and other tours) are less certain. So, the Bucks owners -- who are entitled to 37.5% of arena revenues for non-Bucks events -- want to keep the Bradley Center available on the most popular concert night of the week.

Surely the Bucks owners would spin this another way. They might say that they are contributing to the culture of the city by leaving Saturdays for something besides basketball. Perhaps they'd point out that Friday night/Sunday afternoon doubles allow families to attend two games without compromising school nights.

Whatever. I liked my Saturdays.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Jabari Curse

Jabari Parker is in the news again.  A highlight video of his was making the Twitter rounds and he garnered some praise from Jimmy Butler.

That makes this as good a time as any to re-state a long held #BucksForest position: we are skeptical.

Jabari Parker has explosive athletic ability and NBA size and a willingness to work.  He was the second pick in the Draft for the reason.

Here's the problem: he's a ball-stopper and he always will be.

Playing basketball, like so many things in life, is a combination of one's Being and Becoming.  Being is who you are.  Becoming is what you're learning.  You are what you are, and then you learn (and, hopefully, improve) as much as you can on top of that.

I have full faith in Jabari's Becoming.  I think he wants to be great.  I think he will work like mad at it.

The problem is Jabari's Being.  On the basketball court he is within himself.

Some of the greatest basketball players of all time were within themselves.  Heck, the greatest was: Michael Jordan.

When Jordan won the MVP in 1988, there were many skeptics (including myself) who thought that Jordan was not a team player.  We thought the same thing in '89 and '90, even as Jordan advanced to the Conference Finals.

Even on June 6, 1991, the morning after Michael Jordan did "The Move" against the Lakers in Game 2, I said the same thing: this guy does spectacular things, but he's not a team player.

And here's the thing: I'm right.  Jordan wasn't a team player.  He might have been the most successful athlete of all time in a team sport, but his game was always a selfish one.

That's why, out of Jordan's twenty-four NBA Finals wins (still an amazing number), only four came when an opponent scored 100 points or more.  Jordan won ugly.  He scored one-on-one baskets, used every trick in the book on defense and reigned through an era where heat was more important than light.

So, Jabari can be successful.  Possessing the Being of a selfish player doesn't disqualify him from that.

But you know what, I don't care.  I didn't become a Bucks fan to watch a crew of talented, selfish players slug harder than the other guy.  I'm a Bucks fan because I love Milwaukee and I love NBA basketball.  And, to me, basketball is best when it's played by unselfish players.

The afterglow of the 2016 Warriors is too bright to conduct a forensic investigation.  But when we, as the basketball-loving public, do, we are going to find a few things.  We are going to find that Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are not elite athletes.  We will find that none of them would have added as much had they not been lucky enough to play with each other.  And we will see that adding a talented, selfish player to their stew would ruin the taste.

I want the Bucks to be the 2016 Warriors.  I wanted that when I started this blog in March, 2013.  At that time, both the Bucks and Warriors were contending for a bottom Playoff spot.  (In fact, one week after this blog started the Jennings/Ellis/Sanders Bucks ran the Curry/Klay/Draymond Warriors off the floor in Oakland.)  But the Warriors valued that low Playoff position and tried to add to it.  The Bucks -- perhaps kowtowing to pro-tanking calls by online Bucks fans -- were frustrated with their low Playoff position and tried to blow things up.

Today, the Warriors are the biggest thing since Jordan's Bulls and the Bucks are the home of Jabari and Giannis.  And that's no accident.  The Warriors could never have drafted Jabari.  They don't pick up the Carmelos and Rudy Gays of this world.  They are not interested in talented players who are cursed with the selfish gene.  And Jabari Parker, for all his good qualities, carries that curse.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Facts & Truth: Giannis at the Point

Some facts about the Bucks' point guard situation:

-Michael Carter-Williams played his last game on February 27 against the Pistons, in Milwaukee.

-The Bucks lost that game to fall to 24-35 on the season.

-The Bucks finished the season 33-49, which means that they went 9-14 over their last 23 games.

-9-14 extrapolates to 32-50 over the course of an 82 game season.

-While going 9-14, the Bucks beat three Playoff teams, all at home.

-One of those Playoff teams was Memphis, who were decimated by injuries.

-The Bucks gave up less than 100 points in 6 of those 23 games (26%).

-The Bucks gave up less than 90 points in 1 of those 23 games (4%), the aforementioned win against Memphis.

-Prior to Carter-Williams's injury, the Bucks gave up less than 100 points twenty times (34%), and under 90 nine times (15%) over the course of 59 games.

And some truths:

-Past performance is no guarantee of future results, small sample sizes often do not extrapolate and the Greek Freak enjoys playing with the ball in his hand, but...

-When focused, Giannis has been the Bucks' best Wing defender.

-When focused, Giannis has shown the potential to be the Bucks' best interior defender.

-From game number two, you could tell that the Bucks were no longer a Playoff team.

-Giannis doesn't focus on defense when he plays with the ball in his hands.