Playoff spot: Clinched. Questions: Everywhere.

I’m in this picture somewhere. (Courtesy of Bucks Twitter)

I sat in the best seats I’d ever had in my entire life for a Milwaukee Bucks game on Saturday night. Center court, on the court. The refs couldn’t head to their private replay screen to review a play without getting in my face. I heard Amir Johnson complain about the chicken wings he’d eaten before the game.

I heard Jim Boylan call out Bucks plays on offense and correctly predict Raptors plays on defense. He’d tell Larry Sanders to be ready for the screen and read the play. He told Gustavo Ayon that his responsibility was to rebound when he entered. He chided a bad pass by Ersan Ilyasova and complimented a strong stretch of uptempo play.

I heard Dwyane Casey’s hoarse, gravely voice stretching to its aural limits to bark out instructions to the Raptors. I watched Kyle Lowry turn from even keeled individual to furiously upset maniac right before my eyes.

At the end of the game, confetti fell from the ceiling as the Bucks clinched a playoff spot for the first time in three seasons. It was one of those nights that so many Bucks fans would do anything for. And the seats, they were worth it. This blogging thing is not without its perks.

But as that confetti fell, I merely dusted it off my shoulders and picked it out of my keyboard with a hint of annoyance, because I wouldn’t be me if I was ever satisfied with what was happening around me.

Was this moment really worth such celebration? A 37-39 record and a schedule the rest of the way difficult enough to make a .500 record look nearly out of the question at this point. Three wins in its last 10 games. A negative point differential on the season. Two coaches, neither with a winning record. A big mid-season acquisition that failed to produce a winning record following the move.

Of course, a playoff berth is a playoff berth. And there’s the aspect of setting a goal and achieving it, which the Bucks have now done this season. So that’s cool.

But I can’t help but feel like this season is no more successful than last. Sure the Bucks won more games, but does anyone really feel like the Bucks are closer to being anywhere near a consistently important team in the NBA? Many people will say the experience that comes with a playoff berth will push the team forward, but I’m not so sure.

Are there any numbers confirming that making the playoffs alone has any benefits for future seasons? I seem to remember the Bucks making the playoffs in 2009-10 and then missing in each of the last two seasons. Why didn’t that playoff experience buoy the Bucks in each of those seasons? Why didn’t it get them back into the playoffs or at least over .500? Because the team didn’t have the right mix of talent and chemistry. Maybe there are some fringe benefits to making the playoffs and perhaps the experience can drive players, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter if the talent isn’t there.

The Sixers won in the first round last season, but how useful was that for them this season? They’ll watch the playoffs from home after finishing 10+ games under .500. Why? Because they made a big move for Andrew Bynum and it didn’t work out. But they recognized that last season’s eight seed wasn’t really worth building on. The experience of playoffs itself wouldn’t make up for the lack of talent that team had. I commend the courage of the Sixers and hope things work out for them with Bynum in the future.

As for the Bucks, it’ll be an interesting few weeks. The rest of the season isn’t easy: Six games left, five on the road and four against teams better than .500. Then, most likely, Miami in the first round. The Bucks will have the opportunity to pull off one of the all-time great playoff upsets, but most likely will be dispatched easily in four or five games. They’ve been down that road before. And then what?

Three of Milwaukee’s best five players, Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick, will be eligible for free agency of one kind or another. Jennings somehow seems both most and least likely to return. He’ll be a restricted free agent, with the Bucks capable of matching any offer he gets, but he’s also been most vocal about displeasures or potentially leaving someday. Ellis rarely says a word and Redick has hardly had time to make a decision on what he’ll do.

Jennings and Ellis are still playing hard, but will either of them be playing here next season? (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Will this playoff berth sway any of these players? Will it sway management? Do any of the parties involved even want to continue this relationship? Have the Bucks reached their ceiling with this group? Beyond the roster, does management know what sort of team they even want? And how does Boylan’s interim status fit into that?

After 76 games, the Bucks have clinched a playoff spot. But the more important “accomplishment” is that Milwaukee somehow seems to have just as many questions as it had when the season began.

Categories: Sad and Unpopular

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball. He founded it in…

17 Comments

  1. I really don’t like saying this, but cutting ties with Jennings and letting him be someone else’s inconsistent headache would be for the best. I can see it now, one game where he blows up on the heat and swags all over the place, and another 3 games where he has 10 points on 20 shots and 3 assists.

  2. This offseason is going to be the most difficult one in recent memory. Who do we keep, who do we let go?

    Scary enough, Ellis has been appealing to me more lately than Jennings. Ellis has been mostly consistent during the second half of this season, while Jennings has been everywhere in his production. One week he’s putting up monster assist games and appears to be the point guard we’ve so desired, but the next week his numbers go right back down and he starts taking more shots.

    It’s not all on him, but the Bucks statistically have been better on both ends when Jennings is sitting on the bench. Things aren’t looking good for the Young Buck.

    Redick is a definite re-sign, regardless. There’s no way we give up all that (well, Tobias Harris anyways) and DON’T re-sign him. Obviously it’s all in Redick’s court right now, but I can’t imagine him being anywhere but in Milwaukee next season.

    • The second half of the season has made it clear that Ellis is a much more valuable player than Jennings. Paying for both of them to stick around would be a really stupid move and if that happens Ill take a year off from attending bucks games. Really hoping this is the end of Jennings run in MKE. Thinking he’ll land in Dallas and possibly be a decent fit there.

  3. Jeremy, you forgot one important question, the most important question:

    The bucks are in the playoffs but does the city of Milwaukee really care? I would say interest in this team will be only marginally greater than it was during the regular season. So there goes that whole theory that making the playoffs is the key to get a new stadium and prevent a potential relocation.

  4. DowntownLennieD

    Does anyone know if there is a way for the Bucks get anything for Jennings should they not keep him? Do they have the sign and trade options anymore?

  5. I think the best of Jennings and hope that he is still here next year. He has met expectations. Most, just do no like his game. He, Larry and the Turkish Thunder are why I go to a game. Too much emphasis is placed on the other guards who control their own shots. We have invested in Jennings from the 10th pick to the low amount we pay him now. Why let someone else take advantage of our investment for this 23 year old point guard. He is paid significantly less then the other guards. Match the max and trade him later if it does not work. Thats our choice. Everything else is out of our hands. Not to mention Jennings is a good charactor person. Something you have to have to play for the bucks and its conservative fan base.

  6. ” I seem to remember the Bucks making the playoffs in 2009-10 and then missing in each of the last two seasons. Why didn’t that playoff experience buoy the Bucks in each of those seasons?”

    I know… call on me….

    INJURIES!

    Was an accomplishment to just keep everyone playing this year. It’s been a year of transition since Ellis trade a year ago and the guys did a nice job of filling in the different roles. It’s going to be an interesting summer.

    Go Bucks!

    • Injuries had a part in it, but it also had a lot to do with poor roster decisions. Maggette, re-signing Salmons, Gooden (ugh), basically just throwing money in places and hoping it stuck, with poor results.

      Part of the reason we ended up making the playoffs in 2010 in the first place was because of Salmons and his consistent strong play, something the Bucks definitely missed in the following season (and Bogut obviously being a shell of his former self offensively). The defense was still fantastic, but we just couldn’t score despite adding two players in Maggette and Gooden who do nothing but score the basketball.

  7. DowntownLennieD

    read this since my last post….Now I’m really confused.
    I read this in USA Today. Does anyone know what this means?

    Jennings has even hinted he might do something unprecedented for player as high-profile as he is, and bypass restricted free agency by signing the qualifying offer this summer, essentially killing the Bucks’ leverage to keep or trade him beyond next year.

    • In short…he’s a restricted free agent this summer so if another team offers him $7M and the Bucks think that’s a good price, the Bucks can match that offer and sign Jennings to a contract. Or the other guy that made the offer can sign Jennings.

      Or Bucks make qualifying offer of $3M to play next year for Bucks and Jennings accepts that qualifying offer, then Jennings has fulfilled his contractual obligations to Bucks and at the end of the year Jennings is a free agent and can do what he wants. Because Jennings will be a free agent it is hard to get any value for him. Another team won’t give up something big when Jennings can walk or they can just sign Jennings at the end of the year and not give up anything.
      It’s better for Bucks to have him under contract, but there will be no contract if both parties can’t agree.

      I may be wrong, but I think that’s how it goes.

  8. Let’s keep Larry and John and then pretty much
    start over!

    We might want to keep either Brandon or Monta,
    but we need a true point-guard a la Kyrie Irving,
    John Wall, Damian Lillard and Rajon Rondo. Probably
    our best chance is through the draft, and we might
    want to make a trade to move up. We could also get
    a savvy veteran point-guard to help mentor the new
    guy and keep him from being overwhelmed with the
    responsibility of running a whole team.

    We also need to find the best coach out there, and
    pay whatever is necessary to get the right guy.

    If we get these two leadership positions right,
    that will make up for a lot of growing pains at
    the other positions.

    If there’s anyone on the current roster for the Bucks
    who seems to have a good combination of untapped talent
    and winning attitude, let’s make a real commitment to
    them and bring them along for the ride. Otherwise,
    let’s find the right kind of players through the draft
    and trades and free-agent signings.

    No more quick-fixes and questionable attitudes. Let’s
    go primarily with youth, seasoned with veteran
    character, and build a team we can truly get excited
    about!!!

  9. “But they recognized that last season’s eight seed wasn’t really worth building on. The experience of playoffs itself wouldn’t make up for the lack of talent that team had. I commend the courage of the Sixers and hope things work out for them with Bynum in the future.”

    Jeremy, I think you are really reaching when you go so far as to praise the Sixers in an attempt to buoy your position regarding the Bucks. The Sixers let go of two of their most dynamic offensive players (Iggy and Lou) and brought in a HUGE question mark in Bynum. That’s not 20/20 hindsight, either; Bynum was a very risky move and they blew up a team coming off a top-4 Eastern Conference finish (and third best point differential) for him. If they had held on to Iggy, Lou, Harkless and Vucevic, they’d almost certainly have improved on their 8th seed of last yeaer and Milwaukee would be in the lottery yet again.

    • Bynum was a top-20 player in the league last season. It didn’t work out, but that team with Iggy and Lou wasn’t going any further than it did last season. Second round max. Losing Vucevic was tough, he could be a real player. That’s where they probably screwed up, but if Bynum was healthy this season, they would be ahead of the Bucks with a real cornerstone piece.

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