This past summer, there was a lot of talk about the Milwaukee Bucks. They shocked a lot of people in the second half of last season, added a few familiar names and looked ready to be taken serious for an entire season. For many teams, that’s just another season. For the Bucks? That’s a once in a decade proposition.
But mediocrity has caught up with the Bucks again. Like an old friend visiting from out of state, it’s suckered the Bucks into having drinks. Now they’re talking about days past and mediocrity won’t let go. It’s getting late and the bar is closing soon. The Bucks will likely leave their old friend behind before it’s too late, but no one wanted to see them get together again in the first place. Not this year.
It doesn’t feel too long ago that I was reading about how the Bucks may be able to compete in a playoff series with the Heat. Or how the division crown shouldn’t be handed to the Bulls so quickly with the Bucks looming in the shadows after a productive, if not as loud summer. Yet here we are awaiting Milwaukee’s schedule to soften so they may finally start winning games regularly again.
That wasn’t the deal.
“We want to have a chance most every night, to say, “Hey, if we play well, we’ve got a chance to win.'” That was what John Hammond said this summer. He built a team that was supposed to be deep and ready to play for something meaningful in the difficult upper tier of the Eastern Conference. With all of the talent added and talent kept, there was every reason to expect this team would often play well and would often have a chance to win.
That hasn’t been the case though. Coming into last week, there was little hope Milwaukee would win even one game of the four against Orlando, Miami and San Antonio. Those are teams that are reliable, 60-win squads that have more than a chance every night. They have a plan every night, they execute, they win and they move on. That was supposed to be Milwaukee this season. Perhaps they wouldn’t be elite like those teams, but we were supposed to be watching a 50-win team. Not one that could be ruled out before a game even started just because the schedule was tough.
Instead the Bucks are the same Bucks as always. Now 9-17 against teams with records better than .500 on the day they played, Milwaukee’s done little to suggest they will be a threat come playoff time this season. Hell, they’ve only gone 5-4 against sub-.500 teams. They haven’t even proven that they’ll be able to take advantage of their favorable schedule the rest of the way.
I’m not saying Milwaukee can’t make another strong run starting with Philadelphia on Friday, just the way they did last season. They’ve played better or late and dropped some bad games early in the season when Andrew Bogut was either out or unhealthy. Still, a strong run to close out this season won’t be enough. That isn’t the season I was promised. Before the season it was exciting that the Bucks again had a team that didn’t have to wait for the right circumstances to be good again.
The Bucks of the early 80s weren’t concerned if they were playing at home, on the road, against the best teams or the worst teams. They just won games. That’s what it seemed like Milwaukee was getting into after last season’s run. But, my god, the regression. John Salmons isn’t close to the player he was in the second half last season. Bogut’s has been as inconsistent as ever, still fighting to get touches and then fighting himself to finish more often than not. The best newcomer has been Earl Boykins; not the scenario Milwaukee envisioned when they signed him for the veterans minimum to be the third point guard.
The team seemed to crumble when Carlos Delfino went out, though it wasn’t like they were setting the world on fire while he was healthy. Regardless, we’re talking about Carlos Delfino. I like him as much as the next guy, but if a team can’t survive an injury to Carlos Delfino, how good were they in the first place? Corey Maggette and Chris Douglas-Roberts have only recently strung together a few of the games they were supposed to be having all season long, Had they performed as expected, Delfino’s loss would have been absorbed without much chatter. Instead, he’s become the symbol of Milwaukee’s weakness.
“When Delfino gets back the Bucks will be a factor.”
“When the schedule gets easier, Milwaukee will make a move in the East.”
When, when when. It’s great that things are supposed to turn around soon, but this season has already been world’s more disappointing than it was ever supposed to be. We were promised a competitive team ready to stand on the edge of the elite in the East. Instead, we got the same old Bucks. Waiting for circumstances to align as we wait for the team we were promised, knowing full well we’ll at least be waiting until next October.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).