Korver: (Middleton) is a great basketball player

Khris Middleton was going through his normal routine.

He calmly walked down from the three-point line to the foul-line, mentally preparing to shoot two second-half free throws against the Boston Celtics.

“Two-Time-All-Star (Clap. Clap. Clap, clap, clap). Two-Time-All-Star (Clap. Clap. Clap, clap, clap).”

A new chant rained down from the Milwaukee Bucks’ cheering section.

Officially, he has only been named to the NBA’s All-Star roster one time during his career. Milwaukee fans are feverishly voting for his second.

A spirited debate takes place any time his name is brought up surrounding this conversation, and whether or not Middleton will make the all-star roster in consecutive seasons.

On the pro-side of his case, Middleton is averaging nearly 20 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists per game for the team with the NBA’s best record. On the negative, he missed seven games with a thigh contusion and, albeit unfair, it’s very easy to credit all of Milwaukee’s success to the MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“Giannis’ greatness can overshadow a lot of things sometimes,” Kyle Korver said following the Bucks eventual win over the second-place Celtics. “And that’s fine, we’re all totally fine with that. But, Khris is a great basketball player. He doesn’t have a weakness to his game.

“I’ve been surprised, being on his team now, seeing how good of a passer he is and seeing how well he reads the game. He can do a lot with the ball in his hands.”

Don’t get it twisted, although he doesn’t publicly lobby about the honor for himself, Middleton wants the recognition of being named to the all-star team. It’s natural for a professional athlete, and competitor, to strive for elite status.

He also, more than anything, wants to win a championship, and knows the role he needs to play for the Bucks to achieve that ultimate goal.

“We just work off of each other,” Middleton responded to a question about Antetokounmpo’s ability to takeover a game. “He does it every night. My job is to back him up. I think all of us, no matter good or bad, he does cover up a lot of mistakes. He tries to make the game as simple as possible for us.”

Antetokounmpo is not shy when campaigning for Middleton to get the all-star nod. On camera, or on his personal social media accounts, he is trying to ensure the dynamic duo has a chance to reenact this performance from last year’s festivities.

Against Boston, Middleton finished the game with 23 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Right on pace with his season averages.

Budenholzer: (WNBA) players are incredibly important, incredibly talented

Today the WNBA and the WNBA’s Player’s Association announced that they’ve come to terms on a collective bargaining agreement effective through the next eight seasons.

Terms of the ground breaking agreement include increased pay for players, improved child care and maternity leave benefits, increased mental health resources, among other aspects such as revenue sharing and in-season bonuses.

Although Milwaukee doesn’t have a team (yet) head coach of the Bucks, Mike Budenholzer, has coached in Atlanta, an NBA city that was also home to a WNBA franchise, the Dream.

Before his team took the floor against the New York Knicks, Budenholzer was asked about the profound impact the WNBA has had on the popularity and accessibility of basketball.

“Any time the WNBA can take a step forward, their players are incredibly important, incredibly talented. They’re exciting to watch,” he said. “I think if they’re being rewarded and taking steps forward, I think that’s a huge positive.

“I think what (the late) David Stern has done with the WNBA and growing the sport, it’s for men and women. It’s for all the boys and girls that are growing up in grade schools and parks and wanting to play and watch our game and participate in it. I think it’s a great thing. I hope the league does well and anything they can do to advance it is a good thing.”

See the announcement from a live segment on Good Morning America.

The Milwaukee Bucks are title contenders if (fill-in-the-blank)

The Milwaukee Bucks are exactly halfway through the 2019-20 regular season.

At 35-6, they’re off to the best start in franchise history, one win better than the 1970-71 team that went on to win the NBA Championship.

Will this version of the Bucks claim the same hardware at season’s end? Or at least make it to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974?

On the surface level, they’re top-three in the league in offensive rating, No. 1 in defense and their net rating is 11.7, a whole 3.6 points higher than the second ranked Los Angeles Lakers. Their lead in the Eastern Conference is a whopping seven games.

After falling short last season, the team doesn’t appear to care about a 70-win pace or league-leading statistics whatsoever. Each time you have a basketball related conversation with one of the players, it isn’t about their current winning-streak, or all-star voting, the mindset quickly changes to how their latest game, or practice, is preparing them for April, May and June.

“I don’t want to say we think about it too much,” Khris Middleton told reporters in Portland on Saturday night. “We know you can’t win a championship in the regular season. Just to keep playing, man. It’s a long season, we got a long way to go.”

If the Bucks are going to make it to the Finals, they have to continue to grow in all facets of the game. However, here are three things to specifically keep an eye on during the final half of the regular season.

That Mob Mentality

Rotations shrink in the post-season. Coaches who have the assets to rotate in more than 10 players during the regular season, tend to minimize that number to just eight or nine during the playoffs. Without back-to-back games, and travel days being accounted for, the need for rest and management lessens.

However, the Bucks have legitimate depth on their bench. And, if they continue to produce the way they have been, they may have the luxury of playing nine guys solid playoff minutes. It would be huge to minimize the wear and tear on their starters until later rounds.

Currently they have six bench players who average more than 15 minutes per game. That unit is led by veteran guard George Hill, shooting an unprecedented 54 percent from the floor, 51 percent from three and 81 percent from the free throw line.

Second-year man Donte DiVincenzo has caught the league’s attention as well. Despite streaky shooting this season, his defensive prowess, and ability to jump passing lanes has been beneficial for the Bucks. His minutes average (22.7) is a little skewed because he entered the starting lineup when Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe were out with injury, but the experiences he gained were invaluable and his production warranted the opportunity.

Robin Lopez will protect the rim at any given moment, and provide his twin brother Brook with a needed breather. Kyle Korver can shoot his patented high percentage three. Meanwhile, Pat Connaughton, Ersan Ilyasova and Sterling Brown are also all dependable substitutes.

Milwaukee has developed so much faith in their bench this season that every time the “bench mob” scores more than 30 combined points in a game, a $500 donation is made to a local non-profit organization.

As long as the these role players are hitting their shots, they’ll prove to be a great compliment to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe. Especially when Antetokounmpo is double or triple teamed in the paint.

Speaking of “containing” Giannis

San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich is the gold standard for NBA coaches. When his team visited Milwaukee, they took the approach of fouling Antetokounmpo “unintentionally” every time he drove the ball towards the basket.

In total, he shot 18 free throws in 29 minutes.

This season he is shooting 61 percent from the line. When the Spurs tested his abilities, Giannis converted 15 of the 18 attempts. Had he shot closer to his average, the game would have been separated by possession at the end. He won that chess match.

Antetokounmpo has improved his free throw percentage every month this season. Although he is not at his career-best, the relentless work he puts in is showing dividends. In October he shot just 55 percent from the line, in January he’s up to 67 percent for the month. Steady improvement, trending towards effective numbers in the spring.

During a recent episode of The Hoop Collective Podcast with ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, it was pointed out how “Hack-a-Shaq” is in the NBA vernacular because of the way it is implemented against a dominant interior force. If a player of Antetokounmpo’s impact doesn’t show the ability to hit free throws consistently, a team will undoubtedly play the odds and put him at the foul line instead of giving up a dunk.

The hosts also pointed out that during last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, the Bucks lost three games by exactly six points. In those losses, Giannis never shot higher than 60 percent from the foul line. In the team’s two wins, he was at 75.

Antetokounmpo will have to continue to prove consistency from the charity stripe.

Khris ‘needs to keep playing like an all-star’ Middleton

Name a more “controversial” player in the league who consistently puts up nearly 20 points and six rebounds per game, plus has eternal trust from the league MVP.

Maybe it’s just #BucksTwitter who can’t decide whether or not they love or hate Middleton? Maybe if his financial compensation wasn’t disclosed to the public he wouldn’t get so much backlash?

In reality, Middleton won’t ever be judged by the numbers he puts up. He’ll forever be compared to the other “sidekicks” in NBA dynamic duos.

The question is whether or not his output can match the output of the rest.

When you think of legitimate NBA title contenders. The Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets instantly come to mind. LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden run those teams, respectively. Their No.2’s are Anthony Davis, Paul George and Russell Westbrook.

Where would you rank Middleton among those secondary stars?

However, in his last ten games Middleton is averaging nearly 23 points per game. More importantly, it’s on an efficient 48 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the free throw line.

Only Davis is shooting a higher percentage from the floor in that span.

More than likely, Middleton will never be considered to be in the same tier as those other three. Antetokounmpo probably won’t shoot 90 percent from the free throw line for an entire season. And, the Bucks bench will have very untimely bad shooting nights.

But, if these aforementioned trends continue, the combination of an MVP, all-star numbers from Middleton, and solid shooting contributions from the bench, it gives them a great shot at making it one series further than they achieved last season.

NFL rivalry in the Bucks locker room

Sports gambling, in any way shape or form, is prohibited in all locker rooms.

Friendly wagers between teammates, when their alma maters or favorite teams in other sports are squaring off, are great for team camaraderie, and entertaining for the rest of us.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks may have to make things interesting with forward D.J. Wilson this week.

Wilson, a native of Mount Shasta, CA., tweeted that the Green Bay Packers will be “eazy work” for his San Francisco 49ers next Sunday. The support of his home team came in response to Antetokounmpo’s “#GoPackGo” tweet after Green Bay beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night.

This isn’t the first rivalry in the Bucks locker room this season either.

Earlier this year, the Marquette Golden Eagles hosted Villanova at Fiserv Forum. Bucks guard Donte DiVincenzo won two National Championships while playing for the Wildcats. Meanwhile Wesley Matthews had an illustrious career for the Golden Eagles.

Although the two said there was wager on the game, both confirmed that their text messages chains contained a little more trash talk than usual.

Marquette upset the No.10 ranked Wildcats 71-60.

It’s on record that the Packers have been big supporters of the Bucks. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers does hold a minority ownership stake in the team and multiple players have shown up to watch games this season. Green Bay’s entire defense sat in a suite for a “team-bonding” night out, financed by the rookie class.

Za’Darius Smith actually showed his support for Milwaukee, and fellow Kentucky Wildcat Eric Bledsoe, before their playoff win over Seattle.

https://twitter.com/EBled2/status/1216516765104119809

And, no one can forget the infamous chugging competitions that started with Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari sitting courtside.

Last week the Bucks and Packers announced a t-shirt collaboration, cheering on the Packers while raising money to fight hunger in the state of Wisconsin.

Other NBA players are fans of the green and gold as well. Chicago native Anthony Davis flew to Green Bay for Sunday night’s game, reportedly bringing teammates Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with him.

Is Steph Curry openly recruiting Giannis?

“Let’s do it. C’mon, man!”

Professional Twitter lip readers have deciphered that that’s the phrase a smiley two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry said to Giannis Antetokounmpo after the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night.

Curry, currently sidelined with a broken hand, is well aware that Antetokounmpo’s contract is up after the conclusion of the season. And, despite the Bucks publicly saying they’ll be offering Antetokounmpo a super-max contract, 5-years worth $250 million this summer, there’s no doubt that Curry and the rest of the NBA will try to recruit him away from Milwaukee.

https://twitter.com/TheNBACentral/status/1215155353119313921

NBC Sports Bay Area further reported that Giannis was gifted a personalized Curry jersey after the game as well, with the three and zero on the back fully inscribed.

Antetokounmpo has acknowledged that he doesn’t exactly befriend opponents, or train with them in the summer. He sees anyone not wearing a Milwaukee Bucks jersey as the competition.

In the summer of 2016, Curry was instrumental in recruiting Kevin Durant to signing with the Warriors.

This is just the beginning. We’ve seen this with superstars before. Every single move they make, social media post they like, or off-the-record conversation they have will spark story lines about which team they’re leaning towards signing with next season.

In reality, no one except maybe Giannis, knows what jersey he’ll be wearing next year. He has made it openly clear that the only thing he is focused on at this minute is winning a championship this season.

Prepare yourself, Milwaukee. There is a long road of speculation ahead.

https://twitter.com/957thegame/status/1215161021007945728

Milwaukee Bucks: Rim protectors

There is an impressive stat that took “NBA Twitter” by storm this week.

A list of the top rim-defenders in the league, with a minimum of 100 shots defended.

No. 3 is Brook Lopez. He’s holding opponents to a 47 percent completion percentage. No. 2 is his twin brother Robin Lopez at 45.3 percent. The top spot, with a 39.4 percent success rate, belongs to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Translation: you’re better off shooting a mid-range or three-point shot against the Milwaukee Bucks this season.

Although defensive efforts such as blocked shots and rim defenses are an individual statistic, the Bucks success on that end of the floor is immensely predicated on team communication and cohesion.

Point guard Eric Bledsoe recently explained how the perimeter defenders attempt to “funnel” opposing players towards the rim, giving the team’s big men a chance to defend from the weak side. This allows guards to press players more at the three-point line, ensuring their look from deep will be contested, instead of sagging off and giving them more of an open shot. Often players will then drive towards the paint, having to decide between a midrange pull-up or an attempt at the rim.

Bledsoe continued, saying that their goal is to force those midrange attempts, because they’re some of the toughest shots in the game.

“Shoutout to Brook, man,” he then said unprompted during an interview after the Bucks beat the San Antonio Spurs in Milwaukee. “He don’t get enough credit. He had like seven blocked shots. Not to mention all of the shots he alters. He’s just phenomenal.

“Having him down there, timing when they’re trying to throw the lob or when they’re trying shoot a floater. He’s trying to protect the basket and try to guard his man. It’s tough. So he does a hell of a job.”

Lopez has had two or more blocked shots in six of his last seven games.

Antetokounmpo, personifying what it means to be a good teammate, was asked how much Lopez’s efforts make his defensive workload easier.

“My job or the whole team’s job?” he began his reply to the question.

“He makes it way easier. But, it messes you up a little bit Because, you kind of see the guy driving the ball and you look back behind you and you see Brook, and then you don’t do your job because you think that Brook is going to block every shot.

“But, it has been amazing. He’s been amazing. Him and Robin defensively, they make everybody’s job way way easier. But we got to continue to do our job at a high level and continue to help out Brook.”

Since arriving in Milwaukee at the start of the 2018 season, Brook Lopez has averaged a career-high in blocked shots, surpassing a two per game average mark for the first time last season.

“I think we all feed off of the defense,” Lopez said. “It’s a complete team thing on the defensive end. We have our guys putting pressure on guards, making them play downhill, more uncomfortable than they normally would be and making them do stuff that they normally wouldn’t want to do.

“It makes it easier for the bigs to be easier to help. And then knowing we have a helper back there is huge.”

Milwaukee is currently third in the league, averaging 6.4 blocked shots per game. Lopez is second overall with 95 total swats.

While the Bucks were engaged in talks to re-sign Lopez this summer, his defensive skill set, complimentary to the team’s scheme, definitely played a factor in the decision making.

“He was doing a lot of this last year, but it does feel like he is getting even better,” head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Teams are driving it and testing the basket and testing things at the rim.

“He gives multiple efforts, he blocks multiple shots on the same possession. He does it disciplined, goes up vertical. We’re beyond happy that we have him back there protecting the basket.”

Antetokounmpo is a big fan of having Robin Lopez contribute off of the bench as well, saying it’s “big” to have an additional and traditional “big man” presence in the paint. Something the team didn’t necessarily have last season.

In his last 10 games, Robin is averaging nearly 17 minutes per game, producing eight points and three rebounds on 60 percent shooting.

DiVincenzo: I want to be able to guard whoever

“He can guard anybody.”

That’s awfully high praise coming from Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Without description you’d probably assume he was talking about All-Star Khris Middleton, or Wesley Matthews, or point guard Eric Bledsoe.

Undoubtedly safe assumptions. The Milwaukee Bucks have one of the top rated defenses in the NBA, Bledsoe was first-team all-defense last year, Middleton is one of the team’s top perimeter defenders and Matthews has made a career thriving on guarding the opposing team’s biggest offensive threat.

However, Antetokounmpo was answering a question about second-year guard Donte DiVincenzo.

“He’s done a great job just guarding and getting in passing lanes,” the 2019 NBA MVP added. “Getting deflections, rebounding the ball. He’s everywhere.

“He just plays with confidence, that he’s arrived. Really hype about that and he’s going to help us.”

On separate occasions this season, DiVincenzo has slid into the starting rotation for consecutive games when fellow teammates have been sidelined with injuries.

First he started seven games while Middleton was out with a thigh contusion. DiVincenzo averaged 10.3 points per game during that stretch. Then, while Bledsoe sat with a fractured fibula, DiVincenzo moved right back into the starting rotation, scoring 8.2 points over that eight game stretch.

In total, DiVincenzo has started 20 of his 33 games played this season and in total contributes 8.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

“He’s been given a big opportunity and he’s taken advantage of that opportunity,” head coach Mike Budenholzer said of DiVincenzo’s increased role. “That’s what our league is about. When you get a chance you got to take advantage of it.

“Defensively, I think Donte’s defensive has stood out. He’s disruptive, he does things without fouling. He has kind of developed a discipline there.”

An injury-riddled rookie season, DiVincenzo played just 27 regular season games last year and was inactive for all 15 of the Bucks post-season games. His prowess on the defensive end of the floor is one of the bigger reasons his sophomore campaign has caught the eye of his teammates, but also the league.

“That’s my biggest thing, I want to be able to guard whoever they put me on,” he said when asked about Antetokounmpo’s compliment. “If I can make it easier for (Middleton), for (Antetokounmpo) and (Bledsoe) and George (Hill) and those guys, if they don’t have to run around, they don’t have to guard a million ball screens and they can kind of gain their breath on the defensive end, and still defending hard.

“If I can take the pressure off of their shoulders, and they want to play with me, that’s what I want.”

Players who can contribute consistently on offensive, and are assets on defense, are likely to carve out effective and lengthy careers. Every locker room needs that type of weapon in their arsenal.

A perfect example of that is DiVincenzo’s teammate, sixth man of the year candidate George Hill.

Hill has a career average of 11.2 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. Budenholzer has called him an extension of the coaching staff while running the team’s second unit this season. He’s shooting an unprecedented 56 percent from the floor, 52 percent from three and 83 percent from the free throw line.

“Donte is like my little brother,” Hill said. “Just sitting with him, talking to him, watching him develop, it’s been tremendous. Believing in himself, having confidence to go out there even when he has a bad game. Staying on him, telling him ‘you’re going to come back and bounce back and have a better one.’

“That kid is going to be special. He’s still developing, still learning. I think he has high expectations for us.

Making sense of the NBA’s challenge system

Brook Lopez said exactly what was on his mind.

“It’s whatever, man. I’m not surprised that they can’t get it right the first time.”

During the Milwaukee Bucks win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on New Year’s Day, Lopez was whistled for a foul on what appeared to be a cleanly blocked shot.

Lopez’s reaction earned him a technical foul, but head coach Mike Budenholzer did throw the imaginary red challenge flag for the referees to review.

After examining the footage, the call was confirmed.

The crowd at Fiserv Forum booed, loudly. Lopez put his hands on his hips and paced with frustration from the bench to the court to line up for Minnesota’s ensuing free throws.

Initially, the question directed to Lopez wasn’t about his anger regarding the call, but whether or not he ever lobbies Budenholzer to use his sole challenge of the game on similar plays.

Coach’s challenges in the NBA are new for the 2019-20 season. They get one per game, no matter the result. Budenholzer has mentioned on numerous occasions that he and the Bucks’ coaching staff is still adjusting to the addition, and there are many factors that go into deciding whether or not to make the call.

Time left in the game, number of fouls on the accused player and likelihood of a successful challenge are all calculated in the 60 seconds or less that a team has to make that call.

The only video they can access is on the scoreboard at the arena, and that video isn’t controlled by NBA coaches. It’s an imperfect science to say the least.

However, as of Jan. 2. 2020, NBA coaches have been successful on 47 percent of challenges.

“In general, the challenge has been, probably, learning when, where and how to use it,” Budenholzer said post-game. “Why they overturn things and they don’t. It doesn’t feel great for anybody so far, but there’s still a lot of the season left.”

The 47 percent over-turn rate is a bit inflated. On fouls called, coaches have won just 42 percent of their rebuttals. The averages increase because ‘out of bounds’ calls are adjusted 78 percent of the time, and ‘goaltending’ is reversed at a 58 percent rate.

As for when challenges are used, league wide there have been a total of 20 used in the first quarter this season. Compare that to the final period of the game where monitors have been called upon 155 times.

Expect Lopez to be in similar situations throughout the season, he’s currently averaging a career best 2.5 blocks per game (85 total) and Milwaukee’s perimeter players have said how they have confidence to funnel opposing offensive players in Lopez’s direction.

Antetokounmpo, Budenholzer and Bucks remember Commissioner David Stern

Updated on 12/1/19 at 10:45 pm

The NBA announced the passing of former Commissioner David Stern, three weeks after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

He served as Commissioner of the NBA from 1984 to 2014 before current Commissioner Adam Silver was appointed.

Stern was 77 years old.

“I want to send my deepest condolences to the family,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said following the Milwaukee Bucks win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday evening. “I know how it is to lose the leader of your family, to his wife, to his children.

“He means so much to the game. He made this game global. He gave guys like me Luka (Dončić),Toni Kukoč, we can go on and on, Pau Gasol, International players, he gave us a chance. The game is going to miss him. You cannot talk about the NBA without talking about David Stern. Definitely going to miss him.”

Antetokounmpo, who unexpectedly lost his father, Charles, in 2017, said he learned of Stern’s passing after waking up from his gameday afternoon nap.

“Before he said my name, I didn’t know much,” he said on meeting Stern on NBA draft night in 2013. “Once he said my name, my life changed. My family’s life changed. A lot of people love him. He changed a lot of people’s lives.”

Antetokounmpo shared that when he met Commissioner Stern backstage at the draft, he already knew his story and did his research, knowing where he came from.

Bucks head coach, Mike Budenholzer, was asked about Commissioner Stern’s legacy and impact on the league before Wednesday’s tip-off against Minnesota.

“I feel very very fortunate to have been in the league under his leadership for the first 15 to 20 years of my career,” he said. “Lucky enough to become a head coach while he was still commissioner, so when he addressed the head coaches, just the leadership, the vision, the importance of the league and its history. Where we’ve been and where we want to go, and just how important all of, whatever it is you’re doing in the league, for us as coaches how important we all were.

“All-star games, addressing the teams those are unique situations where he’s in the room with the best players in the world and again the leader of our league, the leader of great great players.
Very grateful for him and the best to his family and thoughts to his family.”

Budenholzer later added the impact Stern had on growing the NBA as a brand and community involved organization.

“I thought how the NBA committed to being involved in the community and committed to making a difference, really throughout the world, expanding our game, basically going into every country, every continent. Growing the game but making a difference. I think that was important to (Stern) and he felt it. Again, using the word ‘leader’ he led us, hopefully making a difference in a lot of different places and making the world a better place.

“So many things away from the court, just felt like he had a huge impact and a huge vision for the platform the NBA and players and coaches have that can make a difference.”

The Milwaukee Bucks spread holiday cheer, year-round

The Milwaukee Bucks play on Christmas Day for the second straight season.

Prior to 2018, the Bucks last played on Dec. 25 in 1977.

The perception of Milwaukee has changed, significantly, since Giannis Antetokounmpo ascended to league MVP and asserted the Bucks into the NBA Finals conversation.

A portion of casual fans refer to Christmas Day as ‘the real start’ to the NBA season. Even if that’s true, then Milwaukee “starts” the year as the best team in the league, 27-4, with Antetokounmpo on course to repeat as the Most Valuable Player.

Milwaukee’s success is relatively new. During Antetokounmpo’s rookie season in 2013, the team won just 15 games. Already this year, the team won 19 games in-a-row.

Winning doesn’t mean the team has forgotten about the fans and city that stuck with them throughout the years. In fact, financially it may be the opposite.

While this time of year the national focus is on giving and good will, the Bucks have implemented initiatives all season long to assist those in less fortunate situations, and to help build the surrounding community.

With a few holiday surprises mixed in, of course.

Here are just a sampling of examples of the Bucks organization and their players assisting off the hardwood.

The gift of sneakers

NBA superstars have more shoes than they know what to do with. On occasion, players with signature shoes can show up at the arena or practice facility or even their homes, to an unexpected delivery. That doesn’t mean they are all obligated to be charitable.

Antetokounmpo has made it almost routine to find a post-game fan and put a smile on their face.

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1208941494587056128

Assisting pays off

The Bucks have dished out 805 assists through 31 games this season. In donation terms, that’s a check worth $12,075 addressed from head coach Mike Budenholzer to Feeding Wisconsin. For every assist the team records this year, coach will donate $15 to the cause, with a minimum donation of $25,000.

With the team at 805 and 51 games to play, it’s safe to say that donation will exceed the minimum amount.

Santa “Middleton” Claus

Khris Middleton was an all-star last season, signed a five-year contract worth $178 million, and continues to be a philanthropic superstar this season.

Middleton executed the ’12 Days of Khrismas,’ donating money, time and gifts to multiple organizations in Milwaukee this winter. One of his events included a trip for foster families to see Frozen 2 at a local movie theater.

https://twitter.com/Khris22m/status/1207419210588139521

Other events included donating a coat to every single student at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School and donating money and gifts to a local toy drive. Knowing the type of charitable work Middleton and his team do in the community, his giving wasn’t just limited to these few listed events either.

Big time blocks

Next time Brook or Robin Lopez block an opposing team’s shot, cheer. Blocks are exciting and important plays on the basketball court. But, anytime the Bucks block a shot this year, the Hunger Task Force receives a $50 donation from the team.

They have 192 so far, worth $9,600.

In addition to the Hunger Task Force, the Lopez Brothers have teamed up with Next Door Milwaukee to provide books to children in Milwaukee. They’ll donate $100 to this cause every time either one of them record a block.

During a conversation with Robin Lopez, he revealed that reading is something that was instilled in the brothers at a young age by their grandmother, who loved to read and tell stories. His favorite literature to read as a child was “Through the Looking Glass.” Reading is still a hobby for both of them today.

The Big Ragu helps puppies

If you love the Bucks, and you love puppies. Who doesn’t? You’re going to be a big fan of Donte DiVincenzo from this point forward. This past ‘Giving Tuesday’ DiVincenzo urged fans to contribute to the Wisconsin Humane Society to help fund their fostering programs.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5oK67olLTI/

Win the tip

Next time you’re at Fiserv Forum, or watching a road game on TV, pay attention to the opening tip. Every time the Bucks win an opening tip, a donation will be made to ‘Habitat for Humanity’ worth $500. They’ve already surpassed $12,000 this year.

Shedding light on these acts of kindness shows the benefit of having an elite team represent the city of Milwaukee, and do it while trying to improve our community.

Players aren’t bound by contracts to make additional donations, or spend their rare free time taking local kids on holiday shopping sprees or delivering lunches to community centers or providing tickets to inner city youth. But, those are things that have already happened this season and will continue to occur throughout.

‘Tis always the season in Milwaukee.