Bucks a bit rusty in first five-on-five action, but Giannis says they’ll be ready when games start

For the first time since March, the Milwaukee Bucks were able to play five-on-five during practice Monday morning in Orlando.

“I think anytime you play five-on-five for the first time there’s maybe just a tiny bit of rust,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “But I was really pleased with the guys, how they played, the way they played, so I think overall it was a real positive. To say they’re ready to go play a 48-minute game would probably be a stretch, but it was a good start.”

Star Giannis Antetokounmpo was a little more blunt in his assessment.

“I sucked. I was terrible,” the reigning NBA MVP said with a smile. “Obviously, being in shape and being in basketball shape are two different things, so I always take it day by day, try to get better each day. I know I’m going to be ready when the scrimmages start and the games start. I’m going to be ready.”

The club had not played five-on-five since COVID-19 led to the league suspending the season in March. Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton each said they weren’t able to shoot a basketball for months and just recently started getting work in when the Bucks facility reopened in late May. But unlike many of the teams in the NBA bubble, Milwaukee won’t necessarily have to hit the ground running when the games start counting again July 31. They have a 6.5 game lead for the top seed in the Eastern Conference and a three game lead for the best record overall.

“We’re going to be rusty as a team, obviously, because we haven’t played basketball for a long time,” Antetokounmpo said. “Obviously in the beginning of the season we played great basketball. We were 53-12. We want to pick it up from where we left, but at the end of the day, I think we’re going to try and use the scrimmages and the eight games just to get back to playing good basketball so we can be ready for the playoffs.”

Bucks reportedly close practice facility following results of COVID-19 testing

The Milwaukee Bucks have had to close their practice facility following the results of the team’s coronavirus testing on Friday.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the team is not expected to reopen its facility prior to leaving for the NBA restart in Orlando on Thursday.

Milwaukee is not the first team to close its facility due to the virus. The Denver Nuggets and Las Angeles Clippers also shut theirs due to positive tests last week.

As of last Thursday, there had been 25 reported positive tests out of the 344 players tested between June 23 and June 29.

Budenholzer: NBA champion this season would be ‘more worthy and more special’ than any other year

When the NBA restarts its season in Orlando later this month it will do so more than four months after play was suspended due to the coronavirus and will happen with just 22 of the league’s 30 teams. The games will be played at neutral sites and no fans in the stands.

Those abnormal circumstances have led some to suggest that whatever team ends up claiming the championship will have an asterisk next to its name. That somehow the accomplishment of winning a title in a bubble in the midst of a global pandemic and social unrest is not as worthy as doing it any other year. But not everyone feels that way. Certainly not Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer.

“The champion from this experience, this season, I think is going to be more worthy and more special than any champion,” Budenholzer said Wednesday morning. “Every year there are things, I guess, in theory make it easier to be the champion, and every year I think there are things in reality that make it more difficult to be the champion. Usually the things that make it more difficult far outweigh anything that makes it less or easier, if that’s even the right word.

“I think the challenges of this season — this pandemic, everything that’s happening in our country — the ability for a team to go back and compete and play against the other 21 teams in the NBA and come out as a champion, in my mind, it will be more special.”

Star Giannis Antetokounmpo was of the same mindset regarding a potential asterisk.

“At the end of the day, this is going to be the toughest championship you could ever win because the circumstances are really, really tough right now,” the reigning NBA MVP said. “Whoever wants it more is going to be able to go out there and take it.”

NBA releases schedule for Orlando restart

The Milwaukee Bucks are hoping to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974 when they head to Orlando next month to restart the season. Before they enter the playoffs, though, they’ll have to face a tough eight-game schedule that will see them face many of the teams they’ll have to topple to win the Eastern Conference.

Milwaukee’s first game when things get going at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports will be against the Boston Celtics on July 31. The teams split the two games they played earlier in the year. Boston enters the restart No. 3 in the East and 9.5 games back of top-seeded Milwaukee.

The Bucks will follow that with a game against Houston (Aug. 2), who they beat earlier in the year. Then it’s on to Brooklyn (Aug. 4) before taking on a Miami (Aug. 6) team that beat them twice during the regular season.

Milwaukee’s final four games include a matchup against defending NBA champion Toronto (Aug. 10), along with two teams fighting for playoff spots in Washington (Aug. 11) and Memphis (Aug. 13). They’ll also see Dallas (Aug. 8), with the Mavericks potentially trying to move up in Western Conference playoff picture.

Milwaukee enters the restart 6.5 games up on the Raptors for the No. 1 seed in the East.

The NBA was forced to shut the season down in March when the coronavirus hit the country. It’ll have been more than four months since the last game is played when the league tips things off on July 30 with the New Orleans Pelicans facing the Utah Jazz.

July 31: Boston Celtics
Aug. 2: Houston Rockets
Aug. 4: Brooklyn Nets
Aug. 6: Miami Heat
Aug. 8: Dallas Mavericks
Aug. 10: Toronto Raptors
Aug. 11: Washington Wizards
Aug. 13: Memphis Grizzlies

AP: NBA, players sign off on final terms for restarted season

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have finalized terms of the deal that will allow the league to restart the season at the Disney World campus near Orlando, Florida next month.

The league and the union made the announcement Friday.

Many of the details were already known, such as how “stringent health and safety protocols” would be in place for the 22 teams that will be participating, that no fans will be present and that games will be held in three different arenas at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.

With all necessary details completed and agreed upon, the league said it would release the schedule for the 88 “seeding games” — eight games for each of the 22 clubs, starting on July 30 — later Friday, as well as the national broadcast schedule for that portion of the season.

“We have worked together with the Players Association to establish a restart plan that prioritizes health and safety, preserves competitive fairness and provides a platform to address social justice issues,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We are grateful to our longtime collaborator Disney for its role in playing host and making this return to play possible, and we also thank the public health officials and infectious disease specialists who helped guide the creation of comprehensive medical protocols and protections.”

Those protocols will be critical, given the current state of coronavirus testing in Florida.

Numbers in the Sunshine State have soared in recent weeks, and Orange County — the Orlando area — has seen at least 10% of all tests come back positive for 10 consecutive days. That’s more than double what the rate in that part of the state was from June 6-15, and more than 10 times higher than the 0.9% clip of positive tests there from May 9-22.

Earlier Friday, the league and the union announced that 16 of 302 players tested on Tuesday, the first day of mandatory testing leading up to the restart, came back positive for coronavirus. Players who tested positive must remain in self-isolation until they satisfy public health protocols for discontinuing isolation and have been cleared by a physician.

“It has taken true collaboration between the league and the union — special kudos to our Executive Committee and several other team reps — along with the continued support and assistance from medical experts, public health officials and many others,” NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said. “Additionally, our platform in Orlando presents a unique opportunity to extend the ongoing fight against systemic racism and police brutality in this country.”

Wisconsin Herd’s Frank Mason named MVP of G-League

The Milwaukee Bucks organization has the market cornered on MVPs.

Superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo took home the award for the 2018-19 season and is the favorite to win it again after the NBA completes its season in the next few months. On Thursday, the organization’s G-League affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd, saw its top player named MVP.

Guard Frank Mason earned the honor after averaging 26.4 points, 5.0 assists and 1.1 steals per game, while shooting 42.5-percent from beyond the arc.

Mason was a second-round pick of the Sacramento Kings in 2017, playing in 90 games before the Bucks signed him to a two-way contract prior to this season. He played in six games for Milwaukee.

Before the G-League season was canceled due to COVID-19, the Herd owned the best record.

NBA one step closer to returning

The NBA is one step closer to resuming its season.

On Thursday, the league announced its owners had approved a return to play plan that would see 22 teams come to Orlando for a mix of regular season games, a potential play-in game for the final playoff spot in each conference and then the normal 16-team playoff field. The targeted date for the season to resume is July 31.

The league has been suspended since March 11 when the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.

“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a press release.  “While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts.”

Of the 22 teams, 13 are from the Western Conference and nine are from the Eastern Conference. The NBA decided to allow every current playoff team to return, as well as teams within six games of the No. 8 seed in each conference.

All the teams will play eight more regular season games for seeding purposes. It’s possible there could be a play-in game for the No. 8 seed if teams’ records across regular season and seeding games are the same. Once that is determined, the league will move into the normal playoff structure. There will be 16 teams with each round being a best-of-seven series.

The plan must still be approved by the NBA Players Association, though that is believed to be a formality, as leaders of the union reportedly worked with the NBA on the plan.

When the season was suspended, Milwaukee owned the best record in the NBA and the best record in the Eastern Conference by 6.5 games on Toronto. The Bucks will be looking for their first NBA title since 1971.

Bucks re-open practice facility to players

The Milwaukee Bucks are getting back together…kind of.

Roughly two months since the team was last on the court together, the organization is re-opening its facilities to players.

Beginning last Friday, the NBA started to allow teams where stay at home orders due to COVID-19 were being relaxed to re-open their facilities. Only a select few, including Cleveland and Portland, opened up on Friday.

Many others are following city and state guidelines that have yet to allow for reopening. Seemingly, that was to include Milwaukee, seeing as Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order is in place until May 26. Instead, the team, in consultation with the NBA, has opened its facility in a limited nature.

The NBA did put restrictions in place for teams that reopen:

— No more than four players would be permitted in a facility at one time
— No group work, including no practices or scrimmages
— Players still can’t use non-team facilities like athletic clubs, fitness centers, or gyms

It remains unclear when, or if, the NBA will resume its season. Commissioner Adam Silver held a call with representatives from each team last Friday. He reportedly told them that a decision on whether to return would not have to be made in May or even the early part of June.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s social media, email and bank account hacked

The social media, email and bank accounts of Milwaukee Bucks’ star Giannis Antetokounmpo were hacked Thursday, his agent confirmed.

Early in the afternoon a series of racist and inflammatory tweets came from his account.

His brothers took to Twitter to respond to the hacker.


The tweets were deleted, and the team, along with his brothers and girlfriend, sent out tweets about the hack.

Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry believes NBA could return in July or August

It’s been 50 days since the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic led to the suspension of the NBA season and it appears we’ll still have to wait quite a bit for it to be back. However, there’s growing optimism it will, in fact, return.

Speaking Thursday on CNBC’s Halftime Report, Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry expressed the opinion that his team would be able to play out the rest of its season.

“I think there are a lot of unknowns, but my opinion is we will end up having a season and have the playoffs, but that’s going to be a while away,” Lasry said. “The question is, is that in July or is that in August? I think we’ve got to get back to everything being open. A number of facilities are going to open May 8. I think for somebody like the Bucks, it’s going to take longer, just because we have to comply with (Wisconsin’s) stay at home (order). But that’s OK. You need to get started. I think some teams will have a little bit of an edge, but that’s life.”

The NBA announced earlier this week that teams in areas where stay at home orders are relaxed will be able to open their facilities as early as May 8. There will be restrictions in place, including only allowing four players in the facility at one time, requiring staffers to maintain social distancing and no practices or scrimmages. As Lasry said, that won’t include the Bucks due to the Safer at Home order in Wisconsin being in place to May 26.

“Yeah…but I think we need to do that,” Lasry said when asked if there was some unfairness to allowing some to reopen while others can’t. “I don’t think we can wait for everybody to be on the same timeframe. If the goal is that you want to end up having a season, let’s get things open. Let’s get people getting back in shape and then we’ll figure it out come July or August what we can do in finishing the season and finishing the season without fans.

In the absence of live sports, many have turned to old games, documentaries and other forms of nostalgia to satisfy their competitive cravings. That kind of yearning isn’t lost on Lasry.

“What’s clear is people want to see sports,” he said. “You’re seeing it with “The Last Dance,” where you’re having record earnings. You saw it with the NFL Draft, where you have record viewers. I think as you have that, people want to see sports, so I think we’ll end up finishing the season.”