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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

The Milwaukee Bucks won't be playing on the original MECCA floor, but the new one will be inspired by it. (PHOTO: David Bernacchi )

Bucks facelift a step in right direction


Slowly, but surely, the Milwaukee Bucks are undergoing a bit of a makeover.

Little things are being done, even away from the public eye – new paint at the practice facility, for instance. Then there are small, off court things, like creating more of a presence at the State Fair.

The "branding" of the team has been changing, beginning with the end of last season's unfulfilling playoff appearance.

The easiest part to see is on the court, naturally.

Last year, 18 players suited up for the Bucks. Of that group only Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson and Ekpe Udoh remain. Brandon Jennings, the erstwhile franchise point guard, is gone in favor of Brandon Knight. The public faces of the team are now Sanders, Henson and Ilyasova.

Fan favorites like Luke Ridnour and Carlos Delfino were brought back. A proven winner in Gary Neal was brought in. Caron Butler, a hero in Southeast Wisconsin, was acquired. A vocal, personable head coach in Larry Drew was hired to make it all work. Another "local kid made good," Kenosha's Nick Van Exel, is part of his coaching staff. So is a fan favorite off the last great Bucks teams of the George Karl era, Scott Williams.

The television broadcast is changing, slightly, with Bucks legend Sidney Moncrief switching off with long-time voice Jon McGlocklin.

And, a new floor is going to be put down at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

That will be unveiled next week at the Milwaukee Art Museum, a layout inspired by the classic Robert Indiana-designed MECCA floor, a piece of art that makes all in Wisconsin think back to the days of Kareem and Oscar.

All of this, of course, has an end game.

The ideal is the creation of a 50-win team that is likeable (and sellable) who is a legitimate contender for a championship, but the true end game for all of this is a new arena.

NBA Deputy Commissioner (and soon-to-be head man) Mike Silver was in town for a Bucks Partner Summit at Discovery World, and was in town this week to talk to Bucks corporate sponsors.

The Business Journal reporter Rich Kirchen was in attendance, and reported that the future commissioner told the assembled crowd:

"At the end of the day compared to other modern arenas in the league, this arena is a few hundred thousand square feet too small. It doesn't have the sort of back-of-house space you need, doesn't have the kinds of amenities we need. It doesn't have the right sort of upper bowl/lower bowl (seating) configuration for the teams frankly that Milwaukee wants to compete against."

These are all steps in the right direction toward the stadium goal, at least. I don't believe owner Senator Herb Kohl is a disingenuous plotter, hoping to woo votes by making these changes. Yes, he made a living on campaigning and getting the majority to vote him into office – he is a smart man – but he's not doing this to just get a stadium.

In my limited interactions with him over the last two seasons, it's clear to me the Senator wants, desperately, to win a championship. Sometimes, that works to his detriment. But championship teams aren't just a collection of players and coaches. It may seem that way – they're the ones that hold the trophies – but all the other stuff matters.

It's why you hear front office types around the sports world talk about "changing cultures" and attitudes. Growing up in Chicago during the Michael Jordan era, and then covering the 2005 Chicago White Sox World Series team, I saw how all this other "stuff" matters in the grand scheme.

No, it doesn't matter as much as the coaches and players, but it matters. And right now, the Bucks are going about those things in the right way.


Talkbacks

brewguru | Sept. 24, 2013 at 11:26 a.m. (report)

Jim, That ugly MECCA floor won't remind anyone of Kareem and Oscar. Oscar retired in 1974, Kareem was traded in 1975 and the floor didn't start being used until 1977.

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LegallyBlonde | Sept. 20, 2013 at 1:29 p.m. (report)

I have been impressed with the Instagram presence. Great shots, both on and off the court. The bucks are as active, if not more, than the PACK. Kudos to Mike G and Nick Monroe.

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