The Bucks are 9–9. For much of the past 25 years, the Bucks were almost always something like 9–9 because they were not bad but also not great. You never felt wonderful about the Bucks being 9–9, because that meant they were caught in the middle. But they usually were, and you could not reasonably expect something different, based on who they had on the team. The Bucks being 9–9 this season is not like before, because stakes are higher. Expectations are rightfully up because they have their best player of the past 25 years.
And that player cares. From the look of Saturday night but also from the look of almost every day of the past four-plus years, he cares a thousand times more than I — inconvenienced fan — do. This is reassuring.
If after all these years the Bucks finally got a superstar and that superstar did not get worked up about things like the Bucks losing for the 16th straight time in Utah — this time to a team that lost its franchise player in the offseason (Gordon Hayward) and which then lost its best-remaining player to injury (Rudy Gobert) prior to the Bucks visiting — then maybe 9–9 would be their ever-looping destiny. As it is, the Bucks have a superstar with fire.
In rare moments, that fire may manifest in him trying to do too much, like when he went one-on-three and turned the ball over after not getting a call on the previous possession. At his worst, he has a moment like that. At what looks like a low point, the Bucks at this moment are 9–9.
Back in 2000, the Bucks started 9–11 and then played to within a game of the Finals. In 2012, they started 9–9 and then went 38–44 and drafted Giannis. In 2017, the Bucks are 9–9.
When Giannis checked into the game early in the second quarter in Utah, the first thing he did was dive headfirst in the backcourt to nearly get a steal. He didn’t get there, Joe Ingles calmly picked up the ball and went the other way for a five-on-four, and the Jazz hit one of their million threes of the game.
Here the ball was just out of his reach. This hurts and hurts most when everything is within reach.