While Bucks new Head Coach Jason Kidd preached patience for the Bucks young players as they develop on the floor, new Bucks owners Marc Lasry & Wes Edens spoke about finalizing an arena site by the end of the calendar year.
The Bucks new era didn’t waste any time getting to work this week. From the Cultural Task Force Meeting on Monday morning at the Milwaukee Public Museum to discuss possible funding mechanisms to the Cousins Center where players took pictures and spoke with members of the media, the City of Milwaukee was abuzz with the task at hand. Build a championship team. Build a new world class arena to revitalize downtown Milwaukee and keep the Milwaukee Bucks tradition alive in the City of Milwaukee and State of Wisconsin. Seems easy enough right?
It will be no easy task, but the Bucks are loaded with resources to compete and succeed in both battles this season. Starting with the talent on the floor the Bucks have added arguably the best college player from one of the best programs in the country in Duke star Jabari Parker. We’ve always argued you need Top 5 pick talent to succeed and we are adding him to budding star Giannis Antetokounmpo who spent his summer competing for Greece and currently stands 6’11, a full two inches taller than when he was drafted.
Bucks fans haven’t seen a duo this talented since the days of Ray Allen & Glenn Robinson, but we have to remember it took 4-5 years before that duo saw any real success. So while we will hopefully see many flashes, this season is a developmental year focused on our young players honing their craft.
This team is loaded with storylines though and as bad as last year went, the Bucks do have some players who could break out and lead to a higher win total than some imagine. Brandon Knight & John Henson look to establish themselves as they position for future contracts. Also don’t forget about hungry young guys like Khris Middleton, Nate Wolters & Kendall Marshall fighting for time as well.
We watched all of the storylines unfold last season; Kohl sells Bucks to Lasry & Edens, both groups offer support for the arena, Bucks land #2 pick in the NBA Draft Lottery and eventually draft Jabari Parker.
Media Day brought all of it into reality, pictures are taken, interviews given and training camp begins the following day. Players were taken around from picture stations, to multiple interviews including Bucks crew Jim Paschke & Sophia Minnaert before they were presented to the rest of the local media.
For young players like Damien Inglis & Kendall Marshall it’s a day of great joy. Inglis is just arriving into the NBA world and this is first real exposure. Kendall Marshall didn’t know if he’d be in the NBA let alone a point guard playing for one of the best point guards of all time in new Bucks coach Jason Kidd. Kendall displayed humility, appreciation and character in his interview. He’s definitely going to be a fun interview all year long.
For guys that have been here awhile like Ersan & Zaza this is probably their least favorite day. Ersan had multiple smirks and off comments that he feels he says the same things year in and year out. Zaza played with a Giannis bobblehead and talked about doing two a days in Georgia en route to slimming down and dropping 20lbs over the summer.
Brandon Knight is one of the players I was most interested to talk to. He’s a player that is constantly debated as fans make attempts to assess his value and determine his position. Many of the things Brandon Jennings lacked Knight possesses and almost vice versa. Jennings perhaps has a more natural feel for the point guard position, but could not defend nor attack the rim or shoot with efficiency. Knight is easily the team’s hardest worker in the offseason, but he’s still working on mastering the point guard position. In an offseason that saw the Bucks sign Jerryd Bayless, win a waiver claim on Kendall Marshall and had Kidd talking up playing Giannis at point guard, it has to weigh on your mind as the “starting point guard for the Milwaukee Bucks”. When I asked him how Kidd talking up Giannis affected Knight personally, he became mildly defensive & likely frustrated for having to continue convincing the world that he’s a point guard.
“It has nothing to do with me, my man. If that’s what the plan is, that’s what the plan is. At the end of the day I know I’m going to play and I know I’m going to be effective when I’m on the court.”
While Charles Gardner recently wrote a new article discussing a possible extension for Knight, his value his hard to determine. Putting up big stats on a bad team often leads to teams overpaying talent that doesn’t fit when the team concept is enforced more rigidly. It would behoove the Bucks to let this season play out to see what the future holds for Knight and how he fits into our future. He will still be a restricted free agent next summer. Waiting to sign a player until they are restricted often leads to better value contracts.
The players that the media wanted to talk to the most were saved for the end.
Giannis was up before Jabari was introduced to Milwaukee media for the first time. Giannis came in and was noticeable taller, stronger and exuded significantly more confidence than at last years media day; he appears to be in a good place mentally & physically to start the season. Last year he was alone, his family stuck in Greece and he was still getting used to America let alone the NBA world.
He talked about playing point guard. “That is not the position I feel most comfortable at, but I will do what coach asks of me”. It’s unlikely we see Giannis at point guard for more than spot minutes or situations, but having a forward with his skill set get a chance to develop those skills in summer league will pay dividends during the season and his future development. Having a 6’11 playmaker wherever he is on the floor gives the Bucks some serious mismatches.
Jabari was up next. Noticeably nervous and bringing a sheepish confidence to the podium Jabari carries a quiet demeanor, but not one lacking confidence. Intelligent. Well spoken. Thoughtful. Working to establish and maintain his composure while showing appreciation for the franchise & the city that made him the #2 pick in the NBA Draft.
Not only is Jabari Parker an incredible basketball talent, but he’s a humble young man with big aspirations. He’s already expressed in earnest that he hopes to play his entire career here, but in his first media day he’s already thinking about helping out the community and looking to make it a better place for others around him. I asked him about Oscar Robertson :
Q: “You said Oscar Robertson is your favorite player. How surreal was it to come here today, see his picture on the wall, put on a Bucks jersey and know this is all actually real?
Jabari: “It’s been very surreal. The Big O has done big things here. Being able to look at some of his pictures, some of his stats, you want to idol yourself after him. Put yourself in his shoes. Be in a position to hopefully accomplish the same things he did. But nobody knows. Everybody knows that’s not going to happen. Triple doubles. Unbelievable.”
Q: “What did you like so much or why did you follow the Big O?” (follow up by C. Gardner)
Jabari: “Not only was he a good player, he did so much on the floor. But, he was also active in rights with the players union and what he stood for. I just want to do something similar to that. As far as, in the neighborhood, as far as, philanthropy and different environments, just helping out. Just try to get that going because Milwaukee is not a very high market. Some neighborhoods are rural sorta like Chicago. Being able to have that spokesmen, that authority, being in the media, it’s very important. So, I look up to him like that.”
While Jabari is a phenomenal fit for Milwaukee…..it seems Milwaukee is also a phenomenal fit for Jabari.
The Bucks also begin a new ownership era, likely the first ownership change for many fans in their lifetime. Herb Kohl purchased the team in 1985 and subsequently owned the team for 29 seasons. It’s a strange twist of fate that found Herb Kohl and Bud Selig both calling it quits in the same year.
New owners Marc Lasry & Wes Edens are tasked with finding an arena site by the end of 2014, determined funding in early 2015 and hopefully breaking ground by mid 2015. It seems an almost insurmountable task in a city that historically drags its feet while attempting to advance civically.
But Lasry & Edens exude confidence at the prospect of getting a new arena built. There is no other path for their ownership in the NBA to go. They build an arena in Milwaukee or the NBA has the right to move our Bucks to a different city under different ownership.
The New Era has officially kicked off and will provide no shortage of story lines on and off the court. Thankfully, the line that I’ve heard and read more than any other among Bucks fans is:
“I can’t believe how excited I am for Bucks basketball to be back.”