This right here my friends, could be a saving grace for next season’s Milwaukee Bucks.
The laughter that their name still triggers out of your typical talking head. The sixth place in the East assumption we see from a panel of 93 (yours truly included). A C+ off season grade. Each and every one of these things are the best of things. The Bucks can comfortably remain under the radar and avoid the expectations a team would typically have to deal with after a season like last.
The team that came out of nowhere the year before is always supposed to improve in the following season. Especially with so many young players so featured. From hunter to hunted is the journey. And it’s not always easy to switch those roles. We’ve seen it so many times before. Remember the Philadelphia 76ers three years ago? They put a little scare into the Pistons in the first round and were supposed to be a team to watch the following season. Well, they scuffled, fired coach Mo Cheeks and righted the ship. They were back in the same position after pulling out two games in the first round against Orlando. Heading into last season, five of 10 ESPN panelists picked them to make the playoffs, with John Hollinger expected a fifth place finish. But we know how that turned out, a 27-55 season later and they’re back at square one. They weren’t the first underdog story gone wrong.
Scott Skiles knows the underdog situation all too well. Entering 2004-05, his Chicago Bulls were coming off a 23-59 season and written off as too young to matter. A 47-35 finish later and they were talk of the town with their young talent and hard nosed coach. After consecutive first round exits, the Bulls finally broke through the first round in 2006-07 and were looking to finally break down the door to the finals the next year. But everyone was ready for them and they weren’t ready for each other. Ben Wallace didn’t work out, the rookies and second year guys got ornery and Skiles was gone after a 9-16 start. Moving from underdog to favorite didn’t go so smoothly.
But the Bucks are still apparently a ways away from that. They’re still the punch line, despite a few favorable articles here and there. And it’s much easier to play without hype. Chips can be planted on shoulders, coaches can use clippings as motivation and the team can have something to unite over. No one likes being disrespected, whether you’re a professional athlete or a grocery bagger. Proving everyone wrong is about as fun as it gets. So get ready for another year of “nobody believed in us” and “everyone was so focused on Miami, Chicago and New York that they forgot about us.” The underdog role seems to be here to stay, at least for one more year.
And like last year, the Bucks could be getting the last laugh come playoff time.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com