RICK SOLEM @ricksolem
A year ago, the Milwaukee Bucks were a dead franchise.
They’re a year or two, and a player, away from becoming a powerhouse in the East – maybe the NBA.
But right now, they’re a sixth seed, looking to upset one of the favorites to go to the NBA Finals, the Chicago Bulls (Game 1: 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN).
What’s the point, right? Most teams with no hope of a Finals run, tank. Especially a team that won 15 games a year ago.
But this is a good thing for these young bucks. Milwaukee needs to be in the playoffs. They need to get a taste. This team being in the playoffs is better than getting another lottery pick. At some point, a team needs to take this step in order to take the next step. So, here's that step. Stop saying step.
So, the NBA regular season is a play-it-safe marathon - don’t run too hard, don’t get injured, just be fresh and in sync for the playoffs. And the playoffs are a boxing match.
In other words, they’re not just two different seasons, they’re basically two different sports, and the Bucks need this experience, regardless of the outcome. I mean, if they win it all, then scratch everything I said, because they skipped a few steps (Crap, I said step again).
Whether they lose in four games to the Bulls or upset their way to the Eastern Conference Finals, it's something needed to take the next ... move (ha, didn't say it) to being a winning franchise. And, nothing is out of the question in the East, though the "Eastern Conference Finals" statement is a bit far fetched, considering the road through Chicago next stops in Cleveland (no, the Cavs aren't losing).
But the Bucks need to be here. They’re two steps (dammit) ahead of potentially up-and-coming teams like Philadelphia and Orlando, which are playing the lottery year after year, reloading on young talent that have no idea what winning or the playoffs or winning in the playoffs feels like.
The lottery then. The playoffs now. Winning it all next. Why not?