In less than three weeks the Milwaukee Bucks open up their 2010-'11 NBA season at the New Orleans Hornets. With this, comes great expectations. As a matter of fact, expectations not seen around here since 2001-'02 on the heels of their Eastern Conference Championship series appearance. Milwaukee's big ticket free agent acquisition that off season to solidify the 'Big 3' and get an interior presence was Anthony Mason. Needless to say, it didn't work out and the Bucks failed miserably to live up to the hype.
Milwaukee finished 41-41 that season, an 11- game drop off from the previous season and failed to qualify for the post season. Who could forget the last night of that season? They went into Detroit knowing they needed to claw out a 'W' to get the 8th seed and go back to battle with the Pistons in the 1st Round of the playoffs and were hammered, 123-89.
Fear not Bucks fans, history will not repeat itself.
The Bucks were one of the most active teams in the NBA this off season, getting quality and depth throughout the roster. The Bucks have been very efficient in building around a franchise point guard(Jennings), and a franchise center(Bogut). They re-signed John Salmons to play the '2', they traded for Corey Maggette, Chris-Douglas Roberts and Jon Brockman, drafted Larry Sanders and signed free agents Drew Gooden, Keyon Dooling and Earl Boykins to go along with holdovers Carlos Delfino, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Ersan Ilyasova. It can be argued that the Bucks have the deepest team in the NBA. They are long, athletic, talented. They have shooters, guys who can get to the line, defend. They have unselfish players and guys willing to take a charge and they are led by a terrific leader in coach Scott Skiles. This Bucks team is legit.
The Bucks will live up to the hype and teams throughout the league will indeed have to 'Fear the Deer', however, it is imperative that the Bucks get off to a great start the first two months of the regular season and hit the ground running so to speak.
The Bucks early season schedule is forgiving. The prey is there for the taking. They are the hunters now and they must provide. It's crucial for a few reasons; 1) Jump out to an early division lead on Chicago sans Boozer(broken hand, out 8 weeks); 2) Get the confidence and momentum snowballing in the locker room, which in effect will help team morale/chemistry and lastly; 3) Send a statement to the league.
Chicago is Milwaukee's lone threat to win the Central Division Championship. Let's not even be politically correct here and even consider for a nanosecond that Cleveland has a legitimate chance to compete with the big dogs in the Central this year. A team with Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao and Mo Freakin' Williams as it's nucleus? I'll pass and so will you.
Chicago is going to be good. Real good. Even without Boozer. Boozer makes the Bulls potentially special. Which is why the Bucks must get out to a great start and get a comfortable lead in the standings before Boozer comes back from his broken hand and the Bulls jell. As I said, the Bucks early season schedule can be taken advantage of, and it must. Winning the Central Division Championship is important for the Bucks' playoff prospects. Home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs is very beneficial for Milwaukee with the rowdy Bradley Center crowd led by 'Squad 6', which makes for the best home court advantage in the NBA bar none.
A good way to breakdown an NBA schedule is into thirds. The first third consists of 28 games. The next two thirds, 27 games. Milwaukee has to shoot high and go 20-8 in the first 28 games. This would get confidence sky high in the locker room, team morale would be solidified for the season, chemistry would be established and the Bucks would have successfully sent a statement to the NBA and set the ground work for their next two thirds. A pair of 16-11's would equate to a 52-30 campaign and a good shot at winning the Central Division championship and attaining that pivotal home court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Bucks have the pieces, talent and depth in place. If they stay healthy and come out of the gates strong, there is no reason the Bucks shouldn't live up the hype and expectations this season while putting the days of the 'Big 3' and the bitter disappointment that came with 'em, to bed for good.
Have faith and confidence in your Bucks Milwaukee! Get out to the Bradley Center this season to support this team and take a cue from 'Squad 6' and bring your 'A' game! Time to send a statement to the NBA that the Bucks are to be reckoned with, make opponents not want anything to do with the Bradley Center and at all times, the league must just 'Fear the Deer!'