Two-and-a-half months before the season, it’s difficult for many teams to sit down, look at the schedule and pick out marquee games. For teams without a true star and in a rebuilding position – much like the one in which the Bucks currently find themselves – big games don’t really exist… at least not on August 18.
A game is typically labeled “marquee” for one of two reasons.
1. It features two talented, prominent teams
On rare occasions we get both – two heavyweights and intriguing storylines – which is why LeBron returning to Miami in four short months is the best Christmas present we could ask for.
Right now, the Bucks are not a team that’s going to produce a ton of intriguing matchups. There’s a reason they’re entering their second straight season without a nationally televised game (NBATV doesn’t count). While the Bucks are definitely potentially talented, they’re still far from prominent. So pretty much all of Milwaukee’s intriguing games this season are going to fall under category number two.
Below, I’ve compiled a list of the games I’m legitimately excited to watch this season. A few are serious. Others are not so serious. But either way, watching this year’s team promises to be a whole lot
less depressing more fun than it was last season.
Wednesday, October 29: @ Charlotte (6:00 p.m. – all times Central)
While the Bucks haven’t begun the season at home since Don Nelson was running the show, this opener carries plenty of storylines. Jabari Parker’s NBA debut; a new start for Larry Sanders; the return of the Hornets to their rightful city. And to top it all off, long-lost Carlos Delfino makes his return. Seriously, what more could you ask for?
Friday, October 31: vs. Philadelphia (7:30 p.m.)
Home openers are always fun, especially when they’re on Halloween night, and the Bucks will have a great chance to grab an early victory and build a little momentum, both for the team and the fan base. These were the two worst teams in the league last season, and while the Bucks improved, the Sixers somehow got worse. They’ve excelled at stockpiling some high-upside assets for the future, but the return of Nerlens Noel won’t be enough to pull them from the depths of the East.
Friday, November 14: @ Orlando (6:00 p.m.)
For whatever reason, certain players just play better against certain teams. Miroslav Raduljica absolutely owned the Magic last season. He scored his first two NBA points in Orlando on November 13 and, two months later, poured in six points to go with five rebounds, four fouls and three turnovers in only 12 minutes. Even more impressive? Raduljica was virtually unstoppable offensively, blazing his way to 80 percent shooting (4-of-5) against the Magic. Out of genuine concern for the safety and emotional well-being of Orlando’s frontcourt, Larry Drew had no choice but to slap Raduljica with DNP-CD’s in the teams’ final two meetings. Assuming Raduljica survives Milwaukee’s inevitable roster trimming, November 14 should be one to circle on the calendar.
Wednesday November 19: @ Brooklyn (6:30 p.m.)
In one of the more bizarre offseason storylines, Kidd’s alleged “power play” failed to land him more responsibility with the Nets organization after just one year at the helm. A few short days later, he found himself a new job with the Bucks. The way things transpired didn’t sit well with a lot of people around the league, but the scrutiny directed toward Kidd has subsided. Honestly, I’m not sure how he’ll be received at the Barclays Center. It won’t be positive, but Brooklyn ended up with (arguably) a better head coach in Lionel Hollins, which should ease the sting of losing Kidd in such dramatic fashion.
Wednesday, November 26: @ Minnesota (7:00 p.m.)
Assuming the Love-Wiggins swap goes through, this will be the first meeting between two players whose careers will be compared, debated and re-debated from here on out. Both showed flashes of their immense potential in summer league and will have nearly a month to adjust to the speed of the NBA before squaring off for the first time. It was evident even in Vegas that both players were aware of the anticipation surrounding the matchup, and that’s only going to grow when the real season begins.
Saturday, November 29: vs. Houston (8:00 p.m.)
Well, well well… look who’s back in town. It wasn’t just that Jeff Adrien left, it was how he left. First, he quietly signs a minimum deal with the Rockets in July. Then he has the nerve to issue a nice little Twitter-thank you to the Bucks organization? Yeah, thanks for nothing, Jeff.
In all seriousness, though, Adrien had a really nice run with the Bucks after coming over from Charlotte in the Gary Neal deal. He’s a class act and one of the better pound-for-pound rebounders in the league and will fit nicely as a reserve big man for the contending Rockets.
Tuesday Dec. 2: @ Cleveland (6:00 p.m.)
Playing against LeBron is always a spectacle, no matter what. And how this Cavs team fares will be the league’s top storyline for most of the season. If they lose to a team like the Bucks, it’ll be news. On top of that, Larry Drew is reportedly very close to joining new coach David Blatt’s staff. As you might recall, he left town rather… abruptly.
Saturday, December 13 & 20: L.A. Clippers (6:30 p.m./9:30 p.m.)
The league’s schedule-makers #blessed the Bucks with two games against the Clippers in a week’s span. These matchups aren’t so much “intriguing” as they are “the Clippers frequently dunk on the Bucks.” Over the past couple years, Blake Griffin and Co. have had their fair share of fun at Milwaukee’s expense. This happened. As did these. In their last four meetings, the Clippers have won each by an average of just under 20 points. Los Angeles remains a significantly better team, but I’m interested to see how well the Bucks are able to keep up.
While the Clippers may not be the best team in the West, they pose a unique combination of challenges – elite point guard play, uber-athletic frontcourt, strong three-point shooting – that serve as an excellent measuring stick. I’m not saying I’m expecting the Bucks to win, but seeing the Clips twice in a week could go a long way in terms of determining just how much this team has improved over last season.
Thursday, December 18: @ Sacramento (9:00 p.m.)
How ESPN didn’t get its hands on this game is beyond me. In March of season, Ersan Ilyasova landed a one-game suspension for punch-shoving Reggie Evans. That Reggie Evans – as in the guy who once caught an elbow to the mouth, pulled out his own tooth, set it on the scorer’s table and stayed in the game. If there’s one guy in the league – hell, one guy in the world – you couldn’t pay me any amount of money to punch, it’s Reggie Evans (Gerald Wallace, Charles Oakley and DMX are also on that list). But Ersan is a bad, bad man and somehow walked away with his life.
Granted, the Bucks played the Kings again less than three weeks after the incident, but the result was a 17-point Sacramento blowout victory – Milwaukee trailed by 34 entering the fourth and Miroslav Raduljica picked up three fouls in four minutes – so there could still potentially maybe probably not be some bad blood.
Thursday, January 15: vs. New York (2:00 p.m.)
This one technically counts as a home game for Milwaukee, though it will take place at London’s O2 Arena. For that reason alone, it’s an intriguing game. The Knicks have taken six of the last seven meetings over the last two seasons and lead the all-time regular season series 98-97. Plus, if the stars align and Thanasis somehow cracks the Knicks’ roster, the brothers Antetokounmpo could face off closer to home – a mere 31-hour drive from Athens!