Many share blame for the Bucks' woes
Along with lots of people, I've been thinking about the Milwaukee Bucks lately, and I find that my thoughts take a rambling journey through an array of areas.
Consequently, this column is going to ramble. Quite a bit, I'd imagine.
Determining what causes the status of the Milwaukee Bucks is a complex issue. And, as a wise man once said, "To every complex question there is always a simple answer. And it is always wrong."
What I read and hear about what the problem is regarding the Bucks takes me all over the map. Sen. Kohl. John Hammond, Scott Skiles, Brandon Jennings and Stephen Jackson. Injuries. No passion. Bad defense. Bad offense. Too many white guys. Small market. Sparse crowds. Lousy players. Lousy coaching. Bad arena. The NBA is dying. Tough division. So far, Bango and the Energee dancers have been left off the list, but that could change, too.
Here's the real deal.
There is no one thing that's the cause. There are no two things. Instead, there is a confluence of things that have a bearing on how this team performs, or doesn't perform.
Let's start with all of us.
I think it's been proven time and again that Milwaukee sports fans are pretty fickle. We love a winner. A losing team has trouble drawing and exciting fans. You don't have to look any further than the Milwaukee Brewers who were an attendance dog when the team was a dog. County Stadium was a virtual morgue. I wouldn't want to play in front of a sleeping crowd either.
Every athlete will tell you that a hyper-active crowd, roaring with momentum, plays a role in the performance of the team. There are plenty teams that have fans who are consistent with passion and attendance. In the NBA Utah, San Antonio and Oklahoma City and in football teams like Denver, Baltimore and Indianapolis, all qualify. Incredible passion in baseball surrounds the Red Sox, Cubs, Cardinals and other teams, regardless of record.
Boston is a perfect example. Last season as the Red Sox collapsed, their fans were in full-throated roar every game, trying to lift their team out of a funk. Loyalty.
So, I think fans who desert their team have a direct bearing on the performance of the team.
I also think the structure of the world of pro sports has a significant bearing. Often the most important person in the life of an NBA player is his agent, whispering in his ear about riches to come when he turns into a free agent.
Say what you will, professional athletes have wholeheartedly embraced the "This is a Business" attitude. And nobody can tell them they are wrong. Professional sports is a business, and nobody can blame an athlete for trying to get as much as he can while the getting's good. But that lust, I am convinced, has an impact on the quality and consistent effort of professional athletes. There are other demands on their focus beside the game on the floor or the field.
So, we can blame ourselves and the culture of the business of pro sports for some of the woes of our favorite basketball team.
The media comes in for some responsibility as well. I'm not talking about being a homer or anything like that. I think that pro sports teams, like theater and music, flourish with good honest coverage. Too much of the media is now concerned with ripping or blasting and is not interested in honest coverage. That hurts the whole equation.
The Bucks, themselves, do not escape unscathed from our examination.
Senator Kohl has made mistakes, one of them being an apparent lack of patience to let his coach build a belief system that players can buy into. It seems as though the Bucks have gone through coaches at a rapid rate and that one falls on the owner. I hear people talk about how cheap he is, but take a look at the Bucks' payroll and you'll know that's a lie.
John Hammond has made mistakes as well. Who can forget Joe Alexander with the eighth overall pick in 2008. And some people will shake their heads about trading for Stephen Jackson, who may not have changed his ways as a first class troublemaker.
Scott Skiles gets a big share of the blame for the lack of success. The biggest thing any coach has to do is motivate his players to play hard. The X's and O's are important, but not nearly as important as motivation. Skiles' record on this has been sporadic. Some good, some not so good. But it's his job to find the key for each player and then turn that key.
The players need to be on our list, as well. Both on the court and in the locker room and the press conferences. There is something to be said for being honest and frank, but players have to be careful that their words don't sow seeds of dissension.
And they have to play hard. All the time. Granted, the NBA is probably the most grueling of all sports for athletes. Incredible physical demands and very little time between games. But, as the saying goes, that's why you get the big bucks.
Out of all the things in sports that bug me, not trying is at the top of my list. I can accept mistakes and mental errors and exhaustion. What I can't, and shouldn't, accept, is lazy. Going through the motions. Even if it only happens on occasion. Phoning it in is unacceptable at all times.
Finally, there are those who maintain that the team ought to leave and that the NBA is a dying league. How stupid.
TV ratings and attendance are at or near all-time highs. Nothing is more exciting than a run in a pro basketball game. If you're a fan you can't even catch your breath as the magic roils before you.
Once we get rid of our knee-jerkiness, what we are left with is a problem of incredible complexity. Blame should not be the game here. Solutions ought to be the goal and we all need to recognize that we have a part to play.
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