Out in Utah, the Milwaukee Bucks and the host Jazz will tip off 8 p.m. tonight. You can catch the game on Fox Sports Wisconsin or listen to one of the best radio voices in the business in Ted Davis on WTMJ-620 AM.
On Saturday, the Bucks are back on the road to take on the Phoenix Suns before returning to the BMO Harris Bradley Center next Tuesday to take on Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Tip is at 7 p.m. Tickets are available.
See, as we start 2014 – a very important 12 months in the nearly five-decade life of the franchise – it’s important that you, the Bucks fan, takes notice of one of worst-performing teams in that history.
Twenty years ago, the Bucks won 20 games. The reward was the No. 1 pick and Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson. Two years and just 59 wins later, Ray Allen came along. Four years later the Bucks were on the verge of the NBA Finals.
I don’t know what the crowds were like back then, when the team lost way more than it won, and then when it continued to lose even after drafting a "franchise" player in Robinson.
But that doesn’t matter now, even though the Bucks are in a similar situation as they were two decades ago.
Owner Herb Kohl has let it be known he’s willing to sell pieces, if not all, of the team.
The 2014 NBA Draft class is expected to be one of the best of the past decade. A high pick (maybe the top pick?) would be a tremendous compliment to the recent draft successes of John Henson and, more than likely, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
I believe that Larry Sanders, once he’s fully recovered from surgery on his dominant (right) hand, will be the player the Bucks gave an extension to.
I’m not sure if Brandon Knight can cut down on his dribbling and turnovers, but I’d like to see him have an entire healthy offseason, training camp and year with head coach Larry Drew to learn how.
It’s a long way to say there are things to watch on this current squad that is free-falling to the top of the NBA lottery, and many around Milwaukee seem to be happy about it. My pals over on WSSP 1250 have a "Tank Rank" and on the postgame shows I hear about how exciting this is for all Bucks fans.
But I want to know is (and I’ll tell host Steve "Sparky" Fifer this, too) is this – are those fans actually going to the games?
Are you there, though?
I said "worst performing" squad earlier because I don’t think, on balance, this is a bad team – if Drew got a healthy group from the very beginning I think this team is easily a playoff squad. Maybe even as high as the third seed (you laugh, but at this point it’s Atlanta at around .500).
But, that’s not the case. There is little health and thus no continuity. The Bucks are what they are at this point, and without a doubt they will be a better team in 2014 with a high draft pick.
There are plenty of underground and above-ground efforts and initiatives that say this, and support this.
When the current owner wants to sell the team, though, he sees empty seats and noiseless cash registers in the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Prospective owners tour around and see … what, exactly?
The team is losing, but a savvy businessman (or a group of them) can see past that. The Bucks have plenty of potential to sell as far as the on-court product is concerned. It’s easy to say that the stadium will be full if the team wins – I’m sure highlight videos and numbers from the playoff run a few years ago (not last year) will be shown.
And I appreciate the fact that there is a part of the fan base and community at large that doesn’t want the team to leave. I am one of them. If you want to be considered a "big" American city, like or not, you need to have professional sports franchises. Milwaukee will take a huge hit if the Bucks leave.
Kohl knows this. I think smart business people know this, too. And in the end, politicians will agree.
To help all that, though, people need to show up.
Support what’s there. If you say you want this team to lose, you want them to "tank" or whatever – then go support them as it happens. Show the owner (and prospective owners) that you’ll be there through thick and thin. If there is one thing Bucks fans should know about Kohl by now is he likes to see people in the stadium. So, he does what he think is best to put a product on the court that will draw them in.
So, if this is the on-court product (or, results) you want – then hold up your end of it.
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.