Squad not deep-sixed
The words came in a flurry.
Social mediums, as well as inboxes, blew up.
The Milwaukee Bucks made a trade.
It was Bogut.
Monta Ellis is on the way.
Zak Grim had to pull over on his way home from Chicago.
Katie Witte couldn't quite get confirmation as she sifted through Facebook posts. Steve Muller's phone couldn't handle the texts.
Then came the questions.
What happens to the Squad?
Are we going to the game Wednesday?
Is it over?
Andrew Bogut helped the Milwaukee Bucks form Squad 6 three years ago as a way to boost fan support in the Bradley Center by purchasing season tickets in section 212, then holding auditions for fans to become members.
The Squad debuted in Bogut's breakout season with the Bucks in 2009-2010 when he averaged 17.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game in leading the Bucks to a 46-36 record and a playoff berth, earning the group local and national notoriety.
It became such a sensation other NBA teams implemented similar programs.
But on Tuesday, Bogut's injury-riddled career in Milwaukee came to an end when he was traded to the Golden State Warriors for Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown.
"Everybody had been talking about the potential of Bogut being traded, so it wasn't really a shock, but at the same time it was a little saddening," said Squad 6 member Gary Huff. "I've certainly enjoyed him as a player and I'll definitely miss him. Not just for Squad 6, but for the Bucks. It's just unfortunate he wasn't able to stay healthy."
Grim, the Bucks' Director of Squad 6 and a member of the organization's game operations team, had to spend a few minutes by himself in his car after hearing the news.
"When it hit, it's hard not to feel, because not only do I know him as a fan because I'm a Bucks fan, but he started here the year I started working here so we built that relationship," Grim said. "He's given so much to this community, he's given so much to this organization you have to take a minute, give yourself five minutes to reflect on that. I was sad. It was hard not to be."
While Bogut's impact and importance were debated on talk radio for days leading up to the move, his departure meant something different to the people of Squad 6. Here was a player who bought fans tickets – and only asked for their support in return.
"It was really sad because he's such a nice guy," said Witte, a 3-year member of the Squad. "He gave us these free season tickets and an awesome opportunity, an opportunity I absolutely love. We got to meet him after the first season and he's a real nice, down-to-earth guy."
The group was at Thursday night's 115-105 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers, still as Squad 6. Only according to Grim, the number now only represents the Bucks' sixth man, rather than its big one.
Since season tickets are purchased at the beginning of the year, the squad will continue to lead the cheers, but its future is in doubt. No one knows if another player will fill Bogut's shoes, or the team, or if the squad itself will have to pool together to buy tickets.
"This season is taken care of," Grim said. "Moving forward, I can't speak to how that's going to work because I'm not included in that decision."
Witte said Squad 6 has been the most fun group she's ever been involved with and looked wistfully back at the section when talk turned to the Squad disbanding.
"It's amazing," she said. "I hope that they keep it around. The fans like it, too. They like some of the stuff we do, so I really hope they keep it."
Two-year Squad member "Tall Steve" Muller was sporting a carton-fresh Ellis jersey Thursday night, and the group was dotted with Brandon Jennings and Elan Ilyasova jerseys as well. Should the squad continue on, it's likely the tie to Bogut will fade.
"I feel dirty," Muller said with a smile, tugging on his jersey. "But I love this trade. I think it's a great trade. It was time, unfortunately. I love (Bogut) to death and I hope wherever he goes he does phenomenally."
But on Thursday, much of the group wore No. 6 in tribute, some of them backwards, for a player oft-maligned but very loved.
"Very much so," said Huff, a 2-year member of the Squad. "How many other players do you hear caring about his organization's fan base to actually offer tickets to support the team?"
As the Bucks huddled at mid-court following their victory Wednesday, Squad 6 remained on its feet, throwing confetti and exchanging high fives. Bogut may be gone, but at least for a few more weeks, the Squad lives on.
Let's see how many games they go to next year when they pay their own way....way too much for this team.
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