In every way, this week will be the strangest for the Milwaukee Bucks all season long.
The natural rhythm of the NBA season has been disrupted like at no other point, even the all-star break, as the Bucks play one game in eight days and had to travel nearly eight hours to do so.
The Bucks tip off against the New York Knicks at the O2 Arena in London, England, Thursday afternoon here in the United States, and in prime time there, in a showcase event for one of the world’s most global sports.
"Yeah, I think this is a great chance when you talk about going abroad that the brand – the Milwaukee Bucks – get to be seen by other people not just here in the United States but in different countries," head coach Jason Kidd said.
This trip is nothing new for the Bucks’ coach, as he played in this game as a member of the Knicks in 2013, and coached in it when his Brooklyn Nets took on the Atlanta Hawks last year.
In fact, his current point guard, Brandon Knight, played against Kidd in that game two years ago as a member of the Detroit Pistons.
"Definitely a little different," Knight said of the breakup of the normal NBA routine. "It was a fun experience. You want to have fun, but the objective is to continue to win, so we want to win a game."
Interestingly, Knight couldn’t recall much about the vibe surrounding the appearance of two American teams in England because he said he didn’t get out much prior to the game, so he hoped to do so a bit more this year.
But that said, for this Bucks squad that is in second place in the Central Division and one game ahead of Cleveland for the Eastern Conference’s fifth seed, the trip is about beating one of the worst teams in the league.
"You just gotta set aside a time for that, and when it’s time to prepare for the game, you have your routine, you gotta do it you know?," Knight said. "You gotta get away from London and get back to reality and try to win a game. Before that, enjoy yourself, but you also have your time to prepare and be serious as well."
Kidd, who has been a part of two victories in London, said the team will maintain the same routine he learned while with the Knicks and implemented as a coach last year in the hopes of securing that victory.
"(The) good thing is we’re going to have time (to ourselves) but the most important thing is we have serious business to take care of," Bucks center Zaza Pachulia said.
Forward Ersan Ilyasova has been to London several times with the Turkish National Team as has Pachulia, but many on the team haven't been, including second-year forward and Greece native Giannis Antetokounmpo.
"It’s a great feeling, to know I’m going to go back to Europe," Antetokounmpo said. "I’ve never been to London. It will be fun to explore in London and play in London. It’s just nice. It’s nice to go outside of America and play in the European country so other fans can see us too, to play. I’m going to see some of my friends, too. So, it will be nice."
Antetokounmpo and Pachulia will have friends and family making short flights from Greece and the Democratic Republic of Georgia to see them, and Ilyasova was hoping some friends and family could make the trip as well.
"I feel like I’m going to play at home," Pachulia said. "That’s great. I’m European, too, so I feel like I’m playing at home."
Added Kidd: "We do have a lot international players so this is a great treat for them, for their family and friends that they may be able to come see them and play."
And what is on the "bucket list" for most of the players?
Parliament, and seeing "Big Ben."
"Beautiful Europe. The culture. The traditions and obviously buildings, and history," Pachulia said about what he will recommend to teammates who have never been to London.
"It’s amazing. Every country you go to. That’s the beauty of travel. I love traveling, going to different countries with different things. They’ve been through different wars. You just have to have an empty camera and you have to take a lot of pictures. Starting from Big Ben to the bridges. There are so many things to see and visit and take a picture and keep as a memory."
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.