Jake's Take: 11/03//10 - Taking it national
Jake LeRoy [@JakesTake34]
Taking It National
Being a relatively small-city franchise that prides itself on a team concept instead of relying on a singular superstar does not generally lend itself to a lot of national publicity. That’s especially the case if that small-city team isn’t winning. It’s an unfortunate reality that most fans of Wisconsin sports have come to accept.
A combination of surprising team success and the on-court exploits of Brandon Jennings shot the Bucks into the national spotlight last year. It’s not historically a position that the Bucks are accustomed to, but it’s one that needs to be embraced by the team and the city of Milwaukee.
Not counting playoff games, the Bucks have played in just seven nationally-televised games in the last four years, including two change-of-plan additions to last year’s TV schedule. Less than two nationally-televised regular-season games per year over the last four years is not a whole lot of opportunity for the Bucks to make a splash in the national limelight. When they do have these rare opportunities they need to seize them. They need to make sure that the rest of the country knows that it should absolutely Fear the Deer.
Milwaukee hasn’t been able to capitalize on these occasions in recent memory, though. The Bucks have gone just 1-6 in their last seven nationally-televised contests, with the lone win coming in a 108-98 victory over Cleveland in March of the 2007-08 season. They played extremely close contests at home against Dallas and on the road against Cleveland last year, but ultimately lost those games by a combined five points.
This year marks a whole new season, though. The Bucks have eight nationally-televised games starting tonight with Boston. Each of these eight contests mark golden opportunities for the Bucks to make their mark on the NBA, and have the rest of the league know all about it.
There’s a certain amount of team pride, individual confidence and league-wide respect that comes with impressive performances in front of a nationwide audience. A win over a quality opponent on this stage has to provide a team with a sense of belonging among the league’s elite. It has to give individual players the self-assurance that they can perform when it matters most. Finally, it has to put every other team on notice that it is a team that can’t be taken lightly.
I love watching the Bucks on national television. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll most definitely go through some wicked Paschke/McGlocklin withdrawals. But there’s something about watching the team you passionately root for on a national platform. I have no doubt the Bucks will match my in-living-room passion with their on-court passion.
I just hope no one resorts to name calling.
- Rajon Rondo has no doubt earned the recognition that has been given him recently, but I can’t help but wonder where he’d be as a player if things had gone differently. What if Phoenix hadn’t given away Rondo shortly after drafting him, and he was stuck behind Steve Nash all of these years? What if Danny Ainge had never traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, relieving Rondo of all pressure and giving him three lethal weapons to play with? No part of me thinks he’d be the player he is today if those things hadn’t happened. I feel like, in some cases, a player’s career develops the way it does based on good or bad fortune. Rondo has had good fortune.
- I wish Kendrick Perkins wasn’t injured for tonight’s contest, because Andrew Bogut seems to have his number. Bogut averaged 25 points and 15.5 boards against the Celtics last year, and Perkins looked powerless to stop him. Jermaine O’Neal hasn’t looked nearly as powerless. He forced Bogut into some difficult looks in the first quarter, blocking two of Bogut’s shots and making him work hard for the others. O’Neal may not be the offensive player he once was, but he’s still a formidable protector of the paint.
- The Prince’s defensive versatility never ceases to amaze me. He guards Brandon Roy on the perimeter and LaMarcus Aldridge on the block last night, and then returns tonight and chases the indefatigable Ray Allen around screens for a quarter. There’s nothing he can’t do on the defensive end.
- Ersan Ilyasova should not brush his hair more often. His extreme bed head is his slump buster. Wade Boggs ate fried chicken before a game. Ilyasova should take a nap before a game, making sure to position his head at awkward angles. He had a great first stanza, scoring 10 points, pulling down three boards and getting back to what made him so effective last season.
- There were a couple of offensive possessions early in the third quarter in which Brandon Jennings did a lot of dribbling. Obviously having your point guard dribble around in circles for half the shot clock isn’t ideal, but Jennings wasn’t getting a lot of help. The other players just stood around watching it happen. There was no moving, no cutting, no anything. It’s moments like those when someone needs to dive down the lane and make themselves presentable. Help your point guard.
- Big Baby is a natural comedian. He’s unintentionally hilarious all the time. I discussed his range in facial expressions last year, and those expressions are out in full force tonight. He’s busted out mostly his old stuff, but he’s brought some new stuff to the table as well. My nephew/godson went as Pooh Bear this Halloween and killed it. I can’t help but think Big Baby would make a pretty good Pooh as well. He’s just so round and jolly. I can almost guarantee he loves honey.
Closing It Down
Nobody dislikes the phrase “moral victory” more than this guy, but if there was ever a game that could fall under that umbrella, it would be this one. After a less-than-stellar start to the season, the Bucks came out tonight and played a solid game throughout. They didn’t go through one of their offensive lulls that have plagued them thus far. Milwaukee didn’t necessarily shoot well, but its ball control and ball movement was vastly improved. Overall, I think they did themselves and their fans proud with their effort in front of a nationwide audience.
Bogut recovered nicely after a slow start, finishing with 21 points and 13 rebounds and doing his part to help foul out both O’Neal and Big Baby. Of course, Ilyasova relocated his form and again became a weapon, even outscoring the instigating, name-calling Celtics big man whose name shall not be written. Delfino didn’t have the long-range shooting night that he’s had previously, but he played an all-court game that included 15 points, seven assists and four boards.
The Bucks played this game with the heart and effort that made them successful last year. In many, many ways, they deserved to win this game. And if a few more breaks and calls had gone their way, they would have. I give the Bucks credit, though, they could’ve mailed it in after certain events occurred, but they stuck it out, manned up and took the game into overtime and down to the final second. Tonight marked the return of Milwaukee Bucks basketball.
Note: These are the views of the 6th Fan Blogger. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this articles are not necessarily the views of the Milwaukee Bucks.