Way back in 2008, the New Jersey Nets traded Richard Jefferson to the Bucks for the draft rights to Yi Jianlian. Not sure that trade worked out for either club, but that’s usually the case in these situations anyway. There aren’t too many “Vlade Divac for the draft rights to Kobe Bryant” deals in the history of the league. The biggest thing to come out of that trade was a mean-spirited, but hilarious, blog from Gilbert Arenas dissing Milwaukee and laughing at Richard Jefferson’s misfortune. The NBA has long since scrubbed that “Agent Zero” writing from its website, but the rapid reaction from Milwaukee writers remains. Here’s an excerpt from the exiled Agent Zero:
“Richard Jefferson going to Milwaukee …. HAHAHA! Oh man, now that is funny. When I heard that, I started laughing. Oh man, did I start laughing. You know why? Because every player hates Milwaukee. Nobody wants to live in Milwaukee. I’m sorry, Milwaukee, to come down hard on you, but no one in the NBA wants to play in Milwaukee. From him going from New Jersey, actually from New York (because he lives in New York), from New York to Milwaukee is like going … let’s just say it’s not going to sit well with you. That was a funny one when I heard that one. I know Yi is happy though.”
Now, I have to confess that I thought it was all very funny at the time. I also have to confess that I may have even written something on the Interwebs in support of Arenas’ opinion of the situation, noting that the CitySearch list of “Top Ten Things to See in Milwaukee” started with a Miller Brewing Tour and spend quickly downward to a custard stand listed above any of the city’s museums or sports teams. New Yorkers get the reputation of being arrogant and rude, in part, because we have New York City at our backs and use it like a huge bodyguard in starting fights we have no business being in in the first place. In sports arguments it becomes much easier to take on that level of arrogance when teams in small markets, like Milwaukee, are poorly managed and dismal for years on end….even when your own metropolis’ team is one of the saddest in the league. There’s still New York.
Whatever you think of that bad attitude, and however frequently you’ve behaved in that manner, there’s a twist in the story today. Not so many years later, the Bucks organization has figured something out. They’re no longer so poorly managed. They have some of the coolest uniforms and branding in the league. They have a player who could turn into a franchise talent in a heartbeat, with an exciting style of play and unlimited upside. There are still some holes and head-scratching personnel decisions, but the Bucks 2016 are not the Bucks 2008. They have work to do, but they’ve come pretty far on and off the court. Last season the Bucks were one of the surprise teams in the league. They moved from bottom of the NBA heap to the playoffs with an enormous leap. In fact, they made the kind of leap that the Knicks are hopeful of making this year.
This season, the Bucks have stumbled a bit. Their addition of Greg Monroe was seen as a victory for the small market club, perhaps even as a thumb in the eye of the big city Knickerbockers, who apparently had interest in the former Detroit big man. I don’t buy that narrative, but it’s out there. Monroe and Robin Lopez have battled several times this season as the Knicks have played 3 games against the Bucks already. Monroe has razzled and dazzled the Knicks on 2 of the 3 occasions, while Lopez has been pedestrian, at best. Lopez has been much better of late, however, and more assertive on offense, and the team is benefitting a great deal from his hooking and cooking. The Bucks have slid a bit from their .500 finish in 2014-15, winning 2 or 3 games and then losing 2 or 3. The Knicks have followed a similar pattern this season, streaking positively and negatively to a near .500 record. The Bucks are coming off a tough fought, one point victory against the Mavericks, while the Knicks just completed a very impressive run against the league’s best teams. On the whole, I would say the Knicks are playing at a different level than the Bucks at the moment, but that’s only as good a the game in front of you. The Bucks give the Knicks trouble, particularly as they fight to guard guys like Michael Carter Williams, and they’ll have to figure out how to extend their efficient play on both ends.
These Bucks are better than a custard stand. Are the Knicks better than Papaya King hot dogs? We’ll have to see….