Hollinger: Bucks' shot-disparity domination threatens to overwhelm Suns in NBA Finals

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The Athletic 16 July, 2021 - 11:57am 9 views

What did Stephen A Smith say about Milwaukee?

"Milwaukee is winning Game 6," Smith said. ... If the Milwaukee Bucks win Game 5 Saturday night, their fans in Milwaukee will be celebrating an NBA championship for the first time since the 1970s come Tuesday night ... so if you're the Suns, you have to treat Game 5 like a Game 7." Milwaukee Journal SentinelStephen A. Smith showers Milwaukee fans with praise, says Game 5 is a must-win for Phoenix

Hollinger: Bucks’ shot-disparity domination threatens to overwhelm Suns in NBA Finals

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What if the Milwaukee Bucks had been allowed to sign Jeff Teague in 2013? Would they have Khris Middleton today?

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 16 July, 2021 - 12:05pm

But the Hawks, in a bit of a surprise move, matched the offer, and the guard returned to Atlanta. Milwaukee was forced to look at other options and, two weeks later, they swung a trade with Detroit for another point guard, Brandon Knight. It was a trade that included a second-year shooting guard named Khris Middleton.

Teague, who had just turned 25 years old, wanted to reunite with his former Hawks coach, Larry Drew, who'd been hired for his first (and, as it turned out, only) season in Milwaukee. The Hawks had moved on to a new coach ... a guy you may have heard of named Mike Budenholzer.

"I'm definitely excited at the opportunity to come back to work with Larry Drew," Teague said at the time. "The Bucks have a good team, a young nucleus and guys that are ready to take the next step."

"It's a new challenge. It's just refreshing to be part of an organization that sees him as a building block for the future."

"I'm nervous," Teague said of the 72-hour window in which Atlanta had to make its decision. "I really want to be here. I thank Milwaukee for giving me this opportunity and taking a chance on me."

Atlanta's backcourt options were limited, and Ferry pulled the trigger to bring Teague back. It proved to be a shrewd move when Teague made the all-star team in 2014-15. He averaged 16 points and 6.5 assists over his next three seasons with the Hawks. 

After bouncing around to Indiana, Minnesota, Atlanta again, Boston and briefly with Orlando (under Hammond, who released Teague after acquiring him), the point guard finally signed with the Bucks this year to play for his old coach in Atlanta — just not Drew.

With the bad news coming on July 14 that the Hawks had retained Teague, Milwaukee was back to square one with an unhappy Jennings, who had averaged 17.5 points and 6.5 assists per game the previous season.

Monta Ellis had already signed with Dallas, and backup guards J.J. Redick and Mike Dunleavy had also moved on. Milwaukee was facing a rebuild, and Hammond had previously indicated he would likely match any offer for the 23-year-old Jennings and bring him back. But would he be happy?

On July 30, Milwaukee announced it had a deal in principle with the Detroit Pistons, a sign-and-trade in which Jennings would head to Detroit for point guard Brandon Knight, center Viacheslav Kravstov and Middleton. Milwaukee signed Jennings to a three-year, $24 million deal.

Milwaukee was now headed into 2013 with just five holdovers: Larry Sanders, John Henson, Ersan Ilysova, Epke Udoh and Ish Smith. The team added new veterans like O.J. Mayo, Zaza Pachulia, Carlos Delfino and Luke Ridnour. 

Knight would go on to lead the Bucks in scoring the next two seasons. But he's not the reason the trade will be remembered. 

Middleton, a second-round pick out of Texas A&M, averaged 6.1 points in 27 appearances with the Pistons as a rookie, but that was misleading. He'd torn his meniscus in his final year of college, an ailment that dropped him from a potential lottery pick to 39th overall in the 2012 second round. He did however, flash some potential with Detroit late in the season.

Middleton emerged quickly as a top option for the Bucks, making 64 of 82 starts that 2013-14 season and appearing in every game. His ascension meant fewer opportunities for Racine native and veteran Caron Butler.

"Now I'm concentrating on my whole body and not just focusing on one part," Middleton said. "I'm not thinking about it anymore. I'm over the knee phase where I just go out there and play, not worry about it.

Middleton averaged 12.1 points per game, third on the team behind Knight and Ramon Sessions.

Though the story is still being written, it only got better from there. Jennings eventually came back to Milwaukee, too, in 2018 and re-affirmed his famous brash "Bucks in 6" prediction that has become a rallying cry for Milwaukee Bucks fans. 

If Milwaukee indeed wins this NBA Finals in six (or seven, for that matter), Middleton will be a chief reason why.

The Milwaukee Bucks' watch party inside Fiserv Forum is sold out, but the Deer District outside is open for thousands of fans for Game 5

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 16 July, 2021 - 12:04pm

In fact, the watch party in the arena is already sold out, according to the Fiserv Forum Twitter account.

The team has opened Fiserv Forum to fans during the first two road games of the NBA Finals. A combined 18,000 fans came to the indoor watch party during Games 1 and 2, two Bucks losses. Games 3 and 4 were played in Milwaukee, with the Bucks winning both contests to even up the series.

Tickets are $10, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Milwaukee Bucks Foundation.

Doors open at 7 p.m. ahead of the 8 p.m. tipoff. 

If the Bucks win Game 5, they will return to Milwaukee for Game 6 with an opportunity to win the NBA title and join the 1971 team as the franchise's second champion.

The top four scorers on that team — Finals MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Bob Dandridge and Jon McGlockin — were in attendance during Game 4 Wednesday night, along with a star-studded list of celebrities.

Whether the team has been home or away, fans have packed the Deer District to watch the playoff games. It's a stark contrast to how the season began when fans weren't allowed in building and there were COVID-19 restrictions inside and outside.

NBA Commissioner praises Deer District as 'quite spectacular'

WISN Milwaukee 15 July, 2021 - 05:32pm

Adam Silver attended Game 4 in Milwaukee

Adam Silver attended Game 4 in Milwaukee

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Adam Silver attended Game 4 in Milwaukee

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver attended Game 4 of the NBA Finals Wednesday night and praised the Bucks' arena and the Deer District.

"It's quite spectacular, this whole plaza around it," Silver said ahead of the game on NBA Countdown.

Silver said the area is being used as a model league-wide.

"They are replicating this in a lot of cities around the league," he said. "They're doing it now in San Francisco, these big huge developments. It's not just an arena, but it's a town hall."

The Bucks said Silver has been incredibly supportive as development continues throughout the Deer District.

"This is all about building the brand and the excitement of the NBA for them, as well," said Dustin Godsey, chief marketing officer for the Bucks. "Certainly, we're talking to other teams, and other teams are calling, and even our counterparts in Phoenix -- we share notes."

Silver noted the wide-array of use the area has already attracted.

"This is where graduation, political conventions, concerns you name it," Silver said. "It's a gathering place, and that's what we’re looking forward to post-pandemic."

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