People that hate the NBA usually say that NBA teams don’t play defense (except the best ones and the Milwaukee Bucks), the league is very “thug heavy (between dog fighting and gun discharges, the NFL is much, much worse), and the NBA Lottery system allows teams to fail on purpose (see the 2006-07 Boston Celtics for contrary evidence).
By Jake McCormick
You might be wondering where I’m going with this half-baked rant about sports fans being afraid to embrace the fact that it’s ok to simply not like something because there’s no connection. Well the Milwaukee Bucks are sitting at 22-36 and four games out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
This presents a moral dilemma for fans that were expecting to see the Bucks challenge the Chicago Bulls for the Central Division title and a top four seed in the playoffs: should Bucks fans want to see the team make the playoffs as a bottom seed, or does it make more sense hoping to see GM John Hammond at the NBA Lottery selection show?
The question of whether fans prefer a bottom seed post-season berth or lottery pick is especially interesting in the case of the suddenly top heavy Eastern Conference this season. With the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, and Orlando Magic likely to make up the top four seeds, it’s harder than ever to envision the fifth through eight seeds winning more than one or two first round games.
In the case of the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers or Philadelphia 76ers, all rising teams in the conference, that playoff experience is much more valuable than picking 10-15 in a seemingly weak draft. But for an aging team like the Milwaukee Bucks, ending the season sooner rather than later sounds like a much more attractive proposition, at least from a fan perspective.
Regardless of the sport in question, no self-respecting fan prefers cheering for draft position over playoff aspirations. But there’s always a point in the season where those reluctant feelings confront the reality of the situation, and we’re nearing it with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Any postseason award column that includes a category for “Most Disappointing Team” would have to place the Bucks at the top of that preliminary list. In the span of a year, Milwaukee has gone from a promising resurgence and NBA underdog darling to a financially handcuffed team with enough injuries to be pitchmen for Lifelock commercials.
It would be great to see the Bucks make a late season surge to the playoffs, especially if they discover even a sliver of offensive consistency to go with their elite defense. That would certainly add some intrigue to their first round matchup. However, the reality is that offensive spark hasn’t shown up for more than a game or two at a time over half the regular season, and it probably won’t be around when it’s needed most.
That doesn’t mean Milwaukee is going to stop working hard and playing hard. Despite what Brandon Jennings says, and most likely what most of the team feels, the Bucks won’t be pulling a Detroit Pistons on coach Scott Skiles anytime soon.
It already feels like a lost season for the Milwaukee Bucks, which is just another reason to prefer getting a potential top 10 pick over a first round sweep.
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