Milwaukee Bucks open up Fiserv Forum

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks opened up Fiserv Forum on Sunday afternoon in downtown Milwaukee. The ceremony was filled with speakers, fans, music, and superstar cameos.

Among those in attendance included current Milwaukee Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, Bucks legends Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Michael Redd and Vin Baker, coach Mike Budenholzer, general manager Jon Horst, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Owners Wed Edens, Marc Lasry, Jamie Dinan, and Mike Fascitelli were in attendance as well as former Bucks owner Senator Herb Kohl and Governor Scott Walker.

The arena took roughly two years to complete after construction began back in June of 2018.

The day started off with the franchise breaking a world record for “The World’s Largest Vinyl Welcome Mat” according to Guinness World Records. The mat was set next to the stage where the ribbon cutting ceremony took place to the left of the main stage outside Fiserv Forum. The mat was measured at 2,224.20 square feet, breaking the previous record of 2,152 square feet, according to Guinness World Records.

As for the arena itself, the Bucks immediately move from having one of the worst arenas in the NBA to one of, if not the best. Fiserv Forum is a state-of-the-art facility that is a tremendous upgrade from the BMO Harris Bradley Center which remains next door for the time being. The building will be have a capacity of 17,500 people for basketball games and up to 18,000 for concerts and other events.

While the area is still under construction, the building is mostly complete. There are still finishing touches to be wrapped up, but everything looks suitable for events as of now. Most of the unfinished things are murals and decorations in areas that will never be seen by the large majority of people that enter the building.

There’s plenty of reason for optimism as the new building officially opens up. Commissioner Silver said it will bring an NBA All-Star game in the future, although he could not commit to exactly when that would be. Both Middleton and Thon Maker were excited about the new home for the team as well.

The first event inside of Fiserv Forum is set for Sept. 4 when The Killers are in concert.

Bucks bolster training camp roster with summer league standout

For the second day in a row the Milwaukee Bucks made an addition to their roster with the start of training camp only a little over a month away.

Christian Wood and the Milwaukee Bucks have agreed to a deal, as first reported by Yahoo! Sports.

Wood spent time this summer with the Milwaukee Bucks as a member of their Las Vegas summer league roster. The 6-foot-11 center averaged 20.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per summer league contest. He was honored as part of the All-Las Vegas summer league first-team.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the deal is non-guaranteed.

Wood has played in 30 games in the NBA across two seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Charlotte Hornets. He has averaged 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game in his NBA career.

Report: Milwaukee Bucks re-sign Shabazz Muhammad

As the quiet period of the NBA’s offseason has officially arrived the Milwaukee Bucks are still making moves.

Most free agents have decided on their destinations and teams have rosters that are mostly set as training camps are set to open in roughly six weeks. However the Bucks have added Shabazz Muhammad to the roster before the start of the season, according to Yahoo!.

Muhammad spent last season splitting time between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Milwaukee Bucks. He accepted a buyout with Minnesota before joining the Bucks near the end of February. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the deal is an opportunity for him to earn a roster spot during training camp.

In his time in Milwaukee Muhammad averaged 8.5 points per game over 11 games with the Bucks. He also appeared in four of Milwaukee’s seven playoff games against the Boston Celtics, including a pair of 11-point games.

Report: Bucks agree to terms with Lopez

The Milwaukee Bucks may have a logjam at the center position for the time being.

According to ESPN the Milwaukee Bucks have agreed to terms with veteran center Brook Lopez. The deal is reportedly for one-year worth $3.4 million as Milwaukee’s bi-annual exception.

Lopez is a 10 season NBA veteran with career averages of 17.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Nets before joining the Los Angeles Lakers via trade prior to the 2017-18 season.

Last year Lopez averaged a career-low in points with 13.0 per game but shot 34-percent from 3-point range.

The Bucks now have Thon Maker, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, and Lopez under contract for next season at the center position. It could be possible that the team moves on from Zeller, as his contract is not guaranteed.

With LeBron James leaving, the east is for Giannis’ taking

The Milwaukee Bucks have not had the best player in the Eastern Conference since 1974 when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took home the league’s MVP award as a member of the Bucks. Since then the conference has been dominated by the likes of Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James.

With James’ announcement on Sunday that he is joining the Los Angeles Lakers via free agency, the Eastern Conference is now up for grabs. James had been on the team that represented the conference in the NBA Finals each June from 2011 until 2018.

The door is certainly open for the talent-laden Boston Celtics, the young and exciting Philadelphia 76ers, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo now becomes the presumptive best player in the Eastern Conference, with a chance to enter his prime with a wide-open conference.

There is still talent in the conference, for sure, but there’s no doubting that each of the – at the very least – top five players in basketball now reside out west. Antetokounmpo very well may be the highest-ranked player in the east.

There’s certainly competition, as players like Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons all play their basketball in the Eastern Conference. But of those players, there’s not a single one of them that Milwaukee would even think about swapping with Antetokounmpo, and it would be tough to argue that their respective teams would not jump at the chance.

Antetokounmpo still has plenty to work on in order to reach his ceiling. There’s no doubt his passing has room to grow, as does his ability to score from the outside as well as his basketball IQ.

Like their star, the Bucks have plenty of room to improve the roster as they attempt to win a playoff series for the first time since the spring of 2001. Milwaukee is in a cap-space bind for the time being, but the future of Antetokounmpo is bright.

Earlier in 2018 Lakers’ President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson was fined by the NBA for tampering as a result of comments me made regarding Antetokounmpo. Those comments seemed to be good natured and unworthy of a fine according to public opinion.

“He’s going to be like an MVP, a champion,” Johnson told ESPN. “This dude, he’s going to put Milwaukee on the map. And I think he’s going to bring them a championship one day.”

While Johnson isn’t directly helping to build the Bucks into a contender, he just did help Antetokounmpo become the best player in the conference. Now it’s up for Antetokounmpo to take things from there and put Milwaukee on the map.

Milwaukee Bucks select Donte DiVincenzo in first round

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks selected guard Donte DiVincenzo with the No. 17 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft.

DiVincenzo, a product of Villanova, was named the 2018 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player as he helped to lead the Wildcats to their second national championship victory in three seasons.

In his junior season DiVincenzo averaged 13.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 48.1 percent from the floor including 40.1 percent from 3-point range.

DiVincenzo is comfortable in both catch and shoot situations as well as creating his own shots off the dribble.

“The workout with Milwaukee, I just went out there and visited,” DiVincenzo said at the draft after he was selected. “It was toward the end and we sat down and talked for awhile. I talked to chaco [Budenholzer], and I saw with the front office and a couple other players were there. Malcolm Brogdon was there working out, so I got to talk to him a little bit. Everyone was just welcoming. Everybody was great. They were great people and they really took interest in me. They treated me great there. I’m just thankful to be a part of their organization.”

DiVincenzo was named the Sixth Man of the Year in the Big East for the 2017-18 season. He played in all 40 of Villanova’s games this past season, starting 10 of them. The 6-foot-5 guard was also named as a 2016-17 Big East All-Freshman Team selection.

“He’s obviously a sixth starter, but he brings whatever we need,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said about DiVincenzo earlier this year. “If we need a scoring punch, he brings it. If we need defense, he brings it. To have a sixth guy like that is invaluable.”

“Very excited to add a player like him to our roster,” Milwaukee general manager Jon Horst said after the selection. “Man of high character, highly competitive, athletic, has good size for a combo guard, can shoot the ball and is a proven winner.

“Donte was our guy, if you were up there and saw the election in our room when he got [to No. 17]. We were worried about it. We thought he was going to go a bit before us.”

DiVincenzo was rumored to be selected with the No. 16 pick by the Phoenix Suns — one spot ahead of Milwaukee — but the Philadelphia 76ers called them to trade for Zhaire Smith instead.

Milwaukee Bucks NBA leader in season-ticket sales

There is often excitement surrounding a franchise when a new stadium, arena, or field is opened. That certainly applies to the Milwaukee Bucks as the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center is set to open for the 2018-19 NBA season.

That excitement is palpable according to ESPN’s Darrel Rovell as the Milwaukee Bucks are now the NBA leader in season-ticket sales for next season.

According to the report from Rovell, the Bucks have sold 8,400 season tickets and is on pace to sell 10,000 season tickets for the first time in franchise history. The Bucks have also sold out all 67 suites in the new arena.

The naming rights for the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center have not yet been sold but a deal is reportedly imminent.

Milwaukee Bucks name assistant coaches

When the Milwaukee Bucks hired coach Mike Budenholzer in May he spoke to the media about wanting to move quickly in filling out his staff of assistant coaches. He also was hopeful that he would be able to bring in members of his staff from his five seasons in Atlanta as coach of the Hawks.

On Thursday morning it was announced that Budenholzer’s staff has been filled out with five members from his time in Atlanta.

Darvin Ham, Taylor Jenkins, Charles Lee, Ben Sullivan, and Patrick St. Andrews all spent time in Atlanta under Budenholzer and will be joining him in Milwaukee, the team announced. Sean Sweeney, who was an assistant coach for the Bucks under Jason Kidd and later Joe Prunty, has also been retained under Budenholzer.

“I’m thrilled to have my staff together again as we work to help improve our players and build sustained success here in Milwaukee,” Budenholzer said in a press release. “I am also excited to work with Sean [Sweeney], who is highly thought of in the league.”

Ham, Jenkins, Lee, and Sullivan were all part of the Eastern Conference All-Star coaching staff in 2014-15 when Budenholzer’s Hawks won 60 games and finished with the best record in the conference.

Ham and Jenkins had spent the past five seasons in Atlanta with Budenholzer while Lee and Sullivan had each been there for four years. St. Andrews was named as an assistant coach with the Hawks prior to this season, but was an assistant in basketball operations beginning in 2013 before working in the video department from 2014 until 2017.

Sweeney will be returning to the Bucks for his fifth season. He also spent one year as an assistant coach in Brooklyn with Kidd and was the Nets assistant video coordinator for two seasons prior to that.

Video of Sterling Brown arrest released

The City of Milwaukee Police Department has released the body camera footage from the January 26, 2018 arrest of Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown.

Brown was tasered and arrested over a dispute with police involving a parking spot early in the morning of January 26. The video can be seen below.

Statements from Brown, the Milwaukee Bucks, and the City of Milwaukee Police Department have all been released as well.

Brown released his statement via Twitter on Wednesday evening.

The Bucks followed with an official press release moments later.

The City of Milwaukee Police Department apologized at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon shortly  the footage of the arrest was released. Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales stated that after an internal investigation the officers who acted inappropriately have been disciplined internally.

“I am sorry this incident escalated to this level,” Morales told the media. He did not take any questions from reporters.

Brown plans to file a civil lawsuit against the Milwaukee Police Department.

Brown played in 54 games this season for the Milwaukee Bucks. He averaged four points per game in 14.4 minutes played. In the playoffs Brown saw action in three games of Milwaukee’s first round loss to the Boston Celtics.

Five thoughts from Mike Budenholzer’s introductory press conference

MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Bucks officially introduced Mike Budenholzer as the 16th coach of the team on Monday afternoon at the Wisconsin Sports and Entertainment Center. Budenholzer had spent the past five seasons as the coach of the Atlanta Hawks, with his role doubling as President of Basketball Operations in the first four of those seasons.

The hiring of Budenholzer concluded a search that officially started when the Bucks lost Game 7 of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs to the Boston Celtics back on April 29th. Milwaukee reportedly interviewed a number of candidates including Spurs’ assistants Becky Hammon, Ettore Messina, and James Borrego, former Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford, and former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt before hiring Budenholzer.

Five takeaways from Budenholzer’s introductory press conference
Defense, defense, defense

One area where the Bucks drastically underachieved was on the defensive end of the floor. The team is comprised of mostly long, athletic players, and the defensive side of the ball should have been a place where Milwaukee thrived. Instead, the Bucks finished 17th in defensive rating this past season despite the talented roster they held.

“The thing that probably stands out to me first is the potential on the defensive side of the ball. I would say that’s been always something that’s prioritized,” Budenholzer said about his time in Atlanta and San Antonio. “We want to be great on both sides of the ball. Whether it be the last five years in Atlanta as a head coach, I think San Antonio at the end of the day has always been great defensively. With the individual talents we have here in Milwaukee and how we can get them – one of the words I used in the interview process is how can we unlock this talent defensively – I just think there is so much to work with.”

Budenholzer is correct in this thinking. All-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has the potential to be one of the best defensive players in the NBA, and while his teammates aren’t exactly that caliber, there’s little doubt they should be better than they have been.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

Much was made of the accurate report from ESPN’s Zach Lowe stating that Budenholzer shared breakfast with Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton the morning prior to Milwaukee hiring him.

Budenholzer reaffirmed that when he was asked about it at his introductory press conference on Monday.

“It was a great opportunity to sit and visit with both Khris and Giannis. Just kind of talk basketball, talk a little bit about families, life,” Budenholzer said. “I think it was such a smart and important part of the process. I think how important both players are to us in the short term and the long term. As a coach, you’re only as good as your players and I think to connect with them on a lot of different levels. It was important that morning, it’s important going forward. It’s important to connect with our entire roster.”

No word on where they ate, or what they had, but it seems as if that breakfast sold Budenholzer on the job, no matter who picked up the check.

Developing Antetokounmpo

Antetokounmpo is the most important player on Milwaukee’s roster, and probably is the most important in the franchise since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar donned a uniform that read Milwaukee across the chest. That’s no secret.

It’s also not a secret that Antetokounmpo still has quite a way to go in order to become the player that many believe he can be. Antetokounmpo has yet to turn 24, but he has also yet to win a playoff series, or see his team finish higher than sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Antetokounmpo just finished the first year of a four-year contract that runs until the summer of 2021. He’s openly spoken about being loyal and wanting to play his entire career out in Milwaukee, but until he signs his next contract, that needs to be taken with a grain of salt. In today’s NBA stars move from team to team more frequently than they have ever before. In the past five seasons we’ve seen LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and many others either change teams in free agency or force their way out of their current situation via trade.

Not saying that will happen, but Budenholzer getting the most out of Antetokounmpo will ensure that it doesn’t. The relationship between those two will be key for the success of the Bucks today, tomorrow, and years from now.

San Antonio background

Almost every franchise in the NBA envies the success of the San Antonio Spurs. That’s no secret as San Antonio has been the model of consistency for the past three decades, missing the playoffs only once since 1989, including making the postseason every year since 1998.

The Bucks are trying to emulate the Spurs, and that was no secret during the interviewing process. Milwaukee reportedly interviewed three members of the (then) Spurs staff and one front office member in Monty Williams.

While they didn’t hire directly from San Antonio, Budenholzer does have almost as much experience under Spurs coach Gregg Popovich as the four direct ties combined. He was an assistant in San Antonio from 1996 until he accepted the head coaching position with the Atlanta Hawks in 2013. This hire is as close to hiring directly from the Spurs as it gets without actually doing so.

Wisconsin Sports and Entertainment Center

The press conference was held in the soon-to-be home of the Bucks, the Wisconsin Sports and Entertainment Center.

The arena is still waiting on a permanent name, it’s also waiting to be finished. In one of the stranger experiences of this writer’s career, all media and team personnel, with the exception of Budenholzer and Horst, were dressed complete with a hard hat, reflective vest, safety goggles, and work gloves while inside the arena.

Milwaukee Bucks new head coach Mike Budenholzer speaks at a news conference in the team’s new arena Monday, May 21, 2018, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

It was an oddity to say the least, and truthfully the press conference probably would have been much better served taking place in the team’s practice facility right down the street. The Bucks wanted to show off the brand-new arena, but the media having to wear protective gear for one of the bigger moments in the history of the franchise seems incredibly silly.

On the bright side, there was cake. And who doesn’t love cake.