Without Giannis, the Milwaukee Bucks always faced a mountain to keep their series going against the Miami Heat last night. So it proved, as they simply ran out of gas, weapons, and ideas and exited stage left out of the bubble in five games. It’s the second year in a row having the league’s best record has gotten them not much more than their dick in their hands.
Which means they, and you, will spend the offseason (whatever and whenever it is) seeing headlines that include phrases like, “on the clock,” “will he or won’t he?” and “decision time.” Because Milwaukee has reached that nexus that every NBA team, or at least the ones in smaller markets, comes to when they’ve been a contender but have seen the boulder roll back down the hill a couple years in a row. Their big star is going into the last year of his contract, is eligible for the max extension equal to the GDP of most of Europe, and now they have to prove they’re worthy of him before he goes looking for a better chance to win / warmer place to play / bigger market to maximize his fame. Do they sell out to put everything around him and convince him he should stay in Wisconsin long-term (no one should stay in Wisconsin long-term unless you’ve run out of options or are stuck on a cursed pontoon boat)? Or do they concede that their star won’t stay once free agency comes and cash in whatever they can?
It’s already started with Giannis. Rumors of him heading to the pedigreed Raptors or the favored destination of most Miami, the team that just eliminated him. Giannis coming out and saying he’s not asking out for next year Buzz that Milwaukee will try to bring Chris Paul to town in the ultimate push, which has generally resulted in teams losing in even more agonizing fashion in the playoffs (sorry Chris Paul, but it’s true). That’s the whole spectrum right there, from trade rumors to the declaration of loyalty to how that loyalty will be rewarded. And all of this with the prospect of the cap staying flat next year, only heightening the degree of difficulty.
We’ve all seen this movie before. And generally we know how it ends. There are no happy endings in Milwaukee. Everyone eventually jumps ship there.
While the Bucks didn’t win the championship, what they did do will almost certainly be remembered longer than whomever lifts the trophy in an empty high school gym in Florida. They were the epicenter of the sports world’s strike to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. — a city just south of Milwaukee — and racial justice, and may yet be the impetus for real change in Wisconsin (remains to be seen). That’s something everyone there can be proud of, even if the work is far from finished. Few are the sports teams that end up in history books.
The saddest part of all this is, of course, Jimmy Butler continuing on to the conference finals for the first time, making it longer that everyone has to put up with his fraudulent act. But we’ll save that for another time.
Meanwhile in the other game, all you need is this montage:
The highlight of this is clearly the last one on Austin Rivers, which isn’t so much a block as discipline for attempting such a weak shot in LeBron’s presence. You can almost sense the disbelief emitting from LeBron as he sees what Rivers is going to try and the utter disdain not in just the block but that he is being forced to do such a thing. The whole action screams, “You’re wasting both of our time.”
In the other bubble, the Vegas Golden Knights pounded the ever-loving shit out of the Dallas Stars, which they should have done in Game 1 but for mysterious reasons just never showed up. The score says only 3-0, but it could have been far worse as the Knights had 60 percent of the attempts, scoring chances, and high-danger scoring chances. It would not be a huge shock if this is what the rest of the series looks like, as the Stars are basically outgunned all over the ice. But nothing can go abstract quite like hockey.