Apology accepted? The Bucks coach says "sorry" after Saturday night's epic fail
A series of strange events put me in a seat at the BMO Harris Bradley Center for Saturday night's game between the Bucks and Charlotte Bobcats.
Hereafter, they'll be referred to as "extremely bad luck."
Milwaukee slept-walked to a 92-76 defeat in front of an announced crowd of just under 15,000. By the final horn, the only folks in the seats seemed to be high school concession workers stuck there because they had to wait for their parents to pick them up. Anyone else with a way out had already exercised the privilege. Morbid curiosity kept me there, wondering if Milwaukee would crack 70.
Fans understand the team needed to make massive changes after last season. The club brought in fresh faces, but no perceived stars. They had to clear the stench out of the locker room, the one created by the previous roster of toxic egos and personal agendas. A new coach, Larry Drew, said all the right things as the season neared. They even changed the name of the dance team.
They should've let the girls play Saturday night--they couldn't have done worse, at least not on defense as the Bobcats consistently went to the hoop undeterred. I got more resistance from the November wind walking to the game than Charlotte ball-handlers got from what passed as Milwaukee's "D". The Bobcats outscored the Bucks in the paint 48-28, Milwaukee was woefully out-rebounded (52-36) and, with no inside game, forced to shoot from outside. They did so poorly, hitting barely a third of them.
It'll take a long time to get that consistent "clanging" sound out of my head. The crowd's energy shifted to indifference before the half. They were too bored to give the Bucks the hearty booing they so richly deserved.
Injuries are a factor, to be sure. The Bucks weren't healthy from the get-go, even in the preseason when they badly needed to acquaint themselves with each other. The are still wearing "Hello, My Name Is" badges as November is about to become December. Fans get that, too. Roles are still being determined. Rotations are being developed on the fly. Milwaukee will watch a spirited group of relative no-names play smart, hard, determined hoop even if they don't get rewarded with a "W" at the end of the night.
What fans won't tolerate, though, is an effort like Saturday night's, even if it comes with mea culpa at the end from Coach Drew.
"I owe the fans a big, big apology for the way we played tonight. We totally, totally let the city down with our lack of energy and passion. As long as I'm head coach, this will never happen again," he said afterward. The Journal/Sentinel points out that none of the starters were around afterward to either echo or refute the bosses' comments. Makes sense. They didn't seem to care for 48 minutes. Why should they afterward?
A roster this thin has no margin for error on the floor, and a team this fragile in the community has even less among an indifferent fan base. Games like Saturday's only re-enforce the mood among some that pro hoopsters don't care, don't hustle and show up only on a part-time basis. If you're lucky, you get to see a solid effort. If you aren't, you get the November 23, 2013 product, the likes of which this witness last saw in a pasture being circled by green flies.
Adding to the miserly was center Larry Sanders, the alleged "face of the franchise" sporting a spiffy suit and a bright green cast on his injured thumb, a Day-Glo reminder of his stupidity, immaturity and selfishness. Fans who already resent NBA players as overpaid and self-indulgent point to guys like Sanders as Exhibit A, a guy who inked a huge off-season deal then played indifferently in his first few games before breaking his digit while wielding a champagne bottle at patrons at a downtown club in the wee-smalls of a Sunday morning. Oh, did we mention his wife was a day and change away from giving birth?
The Bucks took the high road in crafting their roster. They chose not to crater this season, the so-called "riggin' for Wiggins" approach to land the anticipated top pick in next year's draft. Knowledgeable fans here will accept and appreciate that. Marginal spectators could become more frequent customers if they're rewarded with hustle, effort and sharp play, if not the occasional win.
No one liked what they saw Saturday night and few will return to the BMO Harris Bradley Center if that's what's going to pass as the Bucks' excuse for NBA entertainment. And, no amount of Coach Drew "I'm sorry's" will urge fans, both passionate or passive, to leap off their wallets to buy tickets. That won't help this fragile franchise as it tries making a case for a new arena and massive municipal investment in their Milwaukee future.
Drew promises changes and I'm willing to offer a few ideas, if he's listening. First, play rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo--a lot.
The fans want to see him, and he did little to embarrass himself Saturday night. The crowd went nuts when he touched the ball and crazy when he scored (he finished with six points). Play John Henson, too, so he gets more comfortable with the ball in his hands. He seems indifferent under the hoop with the rock in his mitts. He has a great little hook shot. Get him to hoist it up, quickly and frequently.
And to the Bucks' front office: more Bango doing wacky antics. And, where the hell's Warren Wiegratz with Streetlife? Do I really need to hear more canned Daft Punk and Robin Thicke while I'm pondering the events that made me a witness to Saturday night's mess?
Some 15 thousand "announced" fans came to an NBA game Saturday night. The Bucks didn't give them one, turning the throng into horrified onlookers. How many will be return customers? Not very many if such efforts continue, if more apologies are needed.