Bucks players announce donations, team matches contributions

As he often does on the basketball court, Giannis Antetokounmpo took control of the situation.

It wasn’t in the form of a thunderous dunk or game-changing blocked shot, though. In this instance, Antetokounmpo impacted the livelihood of Fiserv Forum employees who make their living working hourly in the Milwaukee Bucks arena.

$100,000.

Following in the footsteps of Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, Antetokounmpo promised to donate that substantial amount of money to ensure that arena employees have income while NBA games and events are suspended due to the coronavirus.

His teammates followed suit. Fellow All-Star Khris Middleton announced that he would match Antetokounmpo’s donation. The team also promised to match any donation made by one of their players.

By Saturday morning, the entire Bucks roster had contributed to the fund, helping to support hourly employees whose lives would otherwise have been negatively impacted by loss of wages.

In late January, Fiserv Forum announced a new three and-a-half year contract agreement with an organization that represents arena employees. Terms of the deal would increase minimum wage to $15 per hour. Wisconsin’s current minimum wage in 2020 is $7.25.

That bump in pay isn’t set to go into effect until July 1, right before the Democratic National Convention is scheduled to take over the arena.

Player donations and acts of good will have quickly become the norm over the past 48 hours.

Love, as well as Detroit Pistons star Blake Griffin have donated $100,000.

Jeremy Lin has made contributions in China and the United States.

The Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and others have announced plans to compensate hourly employees, including donations of $1 million.

The Cavaliers will pay workers of Rocket Mortgage Field House as if they are working scheduled shifts during the game-play stoppage.

Former President of the United States, Barack Obama, took to Twitter to thank players for helping out.

Zion Williamson, a 19-year old rookie, pledged to personally cover paychecks for Smoothie King Arana employees in New Orleans.

There is no scheduled date to resume games. NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that the league would revisit the situation after 30 days of suspension. All other professional sporting leagues who are currently playing games, including spring training for Major League Baseball, have also suspended day-to-day activity.

Since the postponement announcement, the Bucks were scheduled to play seven more home games in the month of March alone.

If an hourly employee was making $15 per hour, and working eight-hour shifts on game day, their pay before taxes would equal $840.

That is a substantial amount of money earned that could be put towards rent payments, child care, bills and other essential living expenses.

Both the wage estimation and scheduled hours are on the high side for an arena event. The guarantee rate of $15 doesn’t go into effect for another four months.

Report: Boston Celtics leaving Milwaukee on Thursday

Updated at 9:40 am CST, Thursday.

The Boston Celtics are leaving Milwaukee on Thursday morning, Cedric Maxwell, the team’s radio color commentator said during a Boston radio appearance.

Multiple Boston media outlets were reporting that the Celtics were self-quarantining in Milwaukee.

They were scheduled to play the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night, however, the NBA announced on Wednesday that games were “suspended” for the foreseeable future after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, also referred to as the Coronavirus.

Boston played in Indianapolis on Tuesday night, and travelled to Milwaukee on Wednesday afternoon.

Team’s were advised to “self-quarantine” if they had contact with the Jazz within the past few weeks. The Celtics played Utah on Friday March, 6, a game Gobert started and played 33 minutes.

Enes Kanter posted a video to his Instagram story at approximately 1 pm CST of the team’s plane landing in Wisconsin.

The NBA has not yet announced a timetable for a return to play as they work with health officials to determine the appropriate next steps and further preventative measures.

NBA season suspended until further notice

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule until further notice.”

That was the message sent out by league offices on Wednesday evening, officially putting the league on hiatus as they prepare to and work to determine the appropriate steps to deal with COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus.

Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus. Tip-off of their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was immediately postponed. The NBA’s press release said that Gobert was not in the arena at the time of the announcement.

NBA owners and commissioner Adam Silver had a conference call at 4:30 pm CST Wednesday. It was reported afterwards that the league was deciding whether or not to play games without fans in attendance, or suspend play altogether.

Prior to the suspension announcement, one spokesperson for the Milwaukee Bucks called it a “very fluid” situation when asked about any future plans.

The Bucks did have a team meeting, which was more of an informational for players on the virus, further educating them on preventative measures and protocols.

Media availability in Milwaukee was held approximately six hours prior to the announcement.

“At the end of the day we have to think about the health and safety. Not just the players involved, the fans,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said about the possibility of playing without fans in the stands. “I know the NBA is going to do a great job coming up with a solution that thinks first about our safety, our health and the fans health also.”

The 2019 NBA MVP also added insight about the “great meeting” with members of the team.

“You got to do a good job washing your hands, if you feel sick or if you have a cold or have the flu you have to report it immediately to the medical staff. I think our medical staff is also going to help us and (try to) keep us from getting it.”

Veteran sharp shooter Kyle Korver discussed the importance of players and fans being responsible and taking proper measures.

“There are certain people, because there is not a cure, if they get it they’re going to be in a bad place,” he said. “So I think it’s all of our jobs to do whatever we can to help not spread this. This is what we have to do right now.”

The Wisconsin Sports Zone will continue to update this story with reaction and communication from the league office and Milwaukee Bucks
.

Antetokounmpo OUT for at least two games

Milwaukee Bucks all-star MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss at least the next two games, according to the team.

The 2019 NBA MVP suffered a “minor joint capsule sprain of the left knee,” a diagnosis publicly released by the Bucks on Sunday afternoon. The injury occurred on Friday night during a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

On Saturday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Antetokounmpo would undergo a precautionary MRI to diagnose the injury that caused him to noticeably limp during and after Friday’s game.

Milwaukee is currently 53-10, and lead the Toronto Raptors for first place in the Eastern Conference by 8.5 games.

The next two games include a Sunday evening matchup in Phoenix against the Suns, then on Monday in Denver against the Nuggets. Following the conclusion of their three-game road trip, the Bucks return to Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee for a Thursday night matchup against the Boston Celtics.

Antetokounmpo and the Bucks lost Friday night’s game against the Lakers, 113-103. On Sunday, LeBron James encore’d his 37 point performance against Milwaukee with a victory over Kawhi Leonhard and the Los Angeles Clippers.

After the back-to-back performances, former NBA player and college basketball star, Jay Williams, of ESPN said that James officially surpassed Antetokounmpo in the MVP race.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 29.6 points per game, plus over 13 rebounds per game this season.

He will be re-evaluated next week before deciding his status before the game against Boston.

Giannis reportedly getting a ‘precautionary’ MRI on left knee

Milwaukee lost Friday at the Los Angeles Lakers and are now also dealing with an injury scare to superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The reigning NBA MVP fell hard on the floor in the second half of the game and injured his knee. He was able to stay in the game, but, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Antetokounmpo is getting a precautionary MRI on his left knee.

The Greek Freak has dealt with a number of minor bumps and bruises this year, missing six games, four of which were medically related.

Antetokounmpo finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in the loss to the Lakers as Milwaukee couldn’t overcome a 15-0 run by Los Angeles to open the second half. He was outplayed by the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who combined for 67 of LA’s 113 points.

The Bucks will be back in action on Sunday when they take on the Phoenix Suns.

LeBron and the Lakers: Round 2

The tired NBA cliché ‘just one of 82 games’ definitely doesn’t apply here.

The Los Angeles Lakers (47-13) have the best record in the Western Conference and hold a five-game lead over the second place LA Clippers. Milwaukee is in a similar situation. The Bucks (53-9) lead the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference by nine games with 20 to play.

Friday night will be the second bout between these two heavyweights this season. In round one, the Bucks won 111-104, in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score reflected.

Anthony Davis scored 36 for the Lakers. That was combatted by Giannis Antetokounmpo hitting five three-point shots en route to a 34 point performance.

That game was on December 19.

Since then, the two teams have lost just a combined 13 games.

A potential NBA Finals preview, this round could be much different than that first time around.

Here are five reasons why:

In Milwaukee, the Lakers were finishing up a stretch of playing five road games in eight days. They went from Orlando, to Miami, to Atlanta, Indiana and then finally Milwaukee. Over that week, LeBron James logged 147 minutes in four games. Then played 37 against the Bucks. Tonight, the Lakers will be well-rested, having not played a game since Tuesday, nor having travelled since Sunday night.

George Hill was red hot against the Lakers in December. Off-the-bench, Milwaukee’s back-up point guard scored 21 points and was 3-of-5 from the three-point line. He’s currently listed as questionable with a groin contusion. Hill sat out Milwaukee’s Wednesday night game against the Pacers.

Kyle Kuzma has been a lighting rod for attention, and rumors, with the Lakers this season. Regardless, he is shooting over 43 percent from the floor, 30 percent from three, and is averaging 12 points and four rebounds per game. He wasn’t available the last time these two teams played, he sat out with an ankle injury. Kuzma’s offensive spark could pay dividends for Los Angeles seeing as how their bench only totaled four points last time around.

Ersan Ilyasova hasn’t been much of a factor for the Bucks as of late. Against the Lakers he managed just two points in 17 minutes. Overall the team was -10 when he was on the floor. Ilyasova’s usage has changed thanks to the addition of Marvin Williams, who the team signed after he was bought out by Charlotte. Williams has been an upgrade on both ends of the floor and can provide some much needed rest for Antetokounmpo.

The Lakers made a buyout splash of their own. Markieff Morris is now a contributor for them. The majority of their offense will obviously come from James and Anthony Davis, however, now Morris is another body capable of defending Antetokounmpo. It’s never an easy task to defend the reigning MVP, but ensures that he’ll never be able to take a play off.

“Obviously they’re going to try to get pay back,” guard Eric Bledsoe said about the pending matchup in LA. “We beat them pretty bad. They’re going to come out strong and we just have to match that intensity.

“They’re at the top for a reason. They have two of the best players in the league and a great supporting cast. So we have to match that intensity.”

Marvin Williams is impressed by, and impresses, new Bucks teammates

Khris Middleton doesn’t show a ton of emotion. And, that’s not necessarily a bad personality trait for a professional athlete to have.

Sometimes you just legitimately aren’t able to tell if he scored 51 points, or nine straight in overtime to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a win, or if he struggled from the floor for a season low nine points.

The ‘never too high, never too low’ sports cliche is embodied in the two-time all-star.

Until he loses a free throw competition to new teammate, Marvin Williams.

You could hear Milwaukee’s training staff counting out the consecutive makes as the two rotated taking shots from the foul line. 41. 42…

Moments later, Middleton lets out a groan of agony and launches the basketball 80 feet the other way, hitting the opposite shot clock square in the numbers.

Williams had won the friendly challenge. Pushing Middleton to overtly showing his competitive side.

“It was a lot of hard work,” Williams said of the post-practice shooting against Middleton. “Dude is shooting 90 something percent from the line. I asked one of the coaches how I got paired up with him in the first round, but I held my own, thankfully.”

Just another example of Williams bringing out the best in his teammates. Something he’s done throughout his 15-year career. One of his former teammates described him as one of the ‘utmost professionals’ in the locker room, a player not scared to do the things that don’t make it in a box score.

“Defensively I feel comfortable. Defense is defense no matter where you go in the NBA,” Williams added when talking about his adjustment period to Milwaukee. “Offensively I am trying to find my rhythm, just getting used to playing with the guys, getting in the right spots during the plays.

“So, I am watching a ton of film. Trying to watch all of my minutes when I get an opportunity. I’ll pick it up. I got a little bit of time.”

According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, “the last buyout addition to play at least 100 playoff minutes for a title team: Peja Stojakovic on the 2011 Mavericks.”

In seven games with the Bucks thus far, Williams has surpassed 120 minutes played. Although he has just 30 total points in those appearances, his efficient 11-of-26 from the floor has been a welcome addition, allowing Milwaukee to continue their league best offensive numbers.

When the playoffs approach it’s standard for NBA rotations to shrink. Historically eliminating consistent minutes for players who are deeper on the depth chart. It appears that usage won’t be an issue for Williams, as he has taken the bulk of Ersan Ilyasova’s minutes since arriving.

In the seven games Williams has appeared, Ilyasova, who was considered Giannis Antetokounmpo’s backup, has seen a decreased role in the lineup. He did not play in three of those, and hasn’t surpassed more than 19 minutes. Not all meaningful minutes either.

On his first day in Milwaukee, Williams was approached by Antetokounmpo, a conversation where the details stay between the two players, but a conversation appreciated by both, welcoming an established veteran into a vibrant atmosphere.

“When you look at this team from the outside looking in, best team in the NBA, you think these guys are dialed in,” Williams said. “And they are, don’t get me wrong, but I just thought it was all the time. They’re laughing, they’re joking. We just had a 10-minute practice.

“It’s just different here. I think coach does a great job of making guys feel good.”

Williams is slowly getting acclimated to the Bucks’ pregame wrestling routine, and he doesn’t control the music in the locker room. But, he is a guy willing to do whatever is asked to help bring a championship to a city that fell two games short of a Finals appearance last season.

“A ton of positives. The defense stands out,” head coach Mike Budenholzer assessed of Williams’ introduction to the team. “He’s going to be really really helpful and an important piece for us.”

He’s been described by some of his new running mates at a ‘great fit,’ or ‘big time signing.’ Players fully believe that he’s going to live up to his billing and contribute as advertised.

As much as he has impressed the organization, he has also been impressed by the MVP, giving credence to his decision to sign with Milwaukee in the first place.

“I can’t say I’m surprised by the way he works. You don’t just become the MVP. He’s probably going to be the MVP again,” Williams said of Antetokounmpo and watching his new teammate live in person each day. “To watch him work everyday is really fun, actually. I fancy myself as a really hard worker, but to see him come to work every single day, whether it’s a 20-minute shooting practice or film session or in the weight room or getting his treatment. He really really really loves basketball and he really really takes it seriously.

“I just think the way he works is fun to watch.”

Wesley Matthews: Be a good human

When the Milwaukee Bucks signed Wesley Matthews this past off-season, they knew exactly what to expect on the court.

He’s a lock-down defender, consistent three-point threat and veteran presence in the locker room.

Adding him to the roster also benefits Milwaukee off-the-court as well. The Wisconsin native, who played college basketball for Marquette, is regarded as one of the more charitable players in the NBA, unafraid to put his face at the forefront of community initiatives while striving to consistently impact others.

On Thursday evening, in front of a group of kids from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, Matthews announced a partnership with Cousins Subs that will help ensure local youth have winter coats to keep them warm and protected from the unpredictable Wisconsin climate.

“To do something that benefits the state and benefits the city, a city that I love and a state that I love,” Matthews said at the Cousins Subs on 65th and Greenfield in Milwaukee. “To be able to do something, and give back, and to just be good humans.

“At the end of the day, above anything else, pro-athlete or whatever your job title is, the most important thing is to be a good human.”

Throughout his career, Matthews has done everything from assisting build bicycles for less-fortunate youth in Dallas to donating enough Peanut Butter and Jelly to make 20,000 sandwiches, ensuring that kids had food to eat during the summer months.

From now until March 2, bring a new or gently used coat to one of four Cousins Subs locations in Milwaukee and it will be donated to the Boys and Girls Club. In return, donors will receive a coupon for a free sub.

“We at Cousins Subs share Wesley Matthews’ belief that it’s important to give it all you have at work and in the community,” Cousins Subs Vice President of Marketing Justin McCoy said in a press release. “We’re proud to support a servant-minded athlete like Matthews as he works to make Milwaukee a better place to live, study and play for the youth who will receive coats through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.”

At the “tip-off” event, Matthews sat and ate at a table with the kids. They asked him questions on a variety of topics, including playing soccer as a child and his favorite music to listen to before a game.

Bango made his rounds, handing out winter hats to people in attendance, and of course tending to the register and drive-thru window.

“If you see someone that needs help, you help them,” Matthews said. If you’re in a position where you can help them, do it. You take care of yourself, you take care of your family, you take care of your friends, and they all do the same things.

“That’s what we are doing here and that’s what I am excited to do.”

The Boys and Girls Clubs were also represented by Deonte Lewis, their Chief Philanthropy Officer, who thanked Wesley for giving back to the clubs. Clubs that Lewis visited as a youth in Milwaukee as well.

“These coats represent hope,” he said. “What we’re showing young people that may not have a coat, may not have a book bag, or may not have the necessary things to get through this blistering cold.

“We want to be thankful and appreciative of us being selected as beneficiaries of this.”

The Cousins Suns accepting donations are located on 65th and Greenfield, 2900 N. Oakland Ave.
1612 W. Wisconsin Ave. and 1150 Miller Park Way.

“If something as simple as putting a coat on somebody’s back can make their day a little bit better then I am glad and I am proud to be partnering with Cousins to help make that happen,” Matthews said.

“Just excited to be back home and doing something for the state.”

The Bucks are playoff bound, so now what?

The Milwaukee Bucks have already clinched a 2020 playoff berth.

Posting the league’s best record at 49-8, the team has 25 games remaining before the start of post-season play.

Here are 25 facets of their game to pay attention to as they inch closer and closer to their first playoff series.

In no particular order…

25. Now that it’s officially official, and the Bucks will play post-season basketball for the fourth straight year, how many more regular season games will Giannis Antetokounmpo play? He’s averaging just under 31 minutes per game, but that will certainly increase in April, May and possibly June. Coach Mike Budenholzer knows that it’ll always be a fight to sit the MVP, so will he?

24. How will Milwaukee continue to seamlessly work newly acquired veteran Marvin Williams into the mix? Historically, buyout players haven’t made a huge impact on championship teams but the team feels that Williams impact can be felt beyond the box score.

23. Donte DiVincenzo is averaging 22 minutes and nearly 10 points per game this season. He wasn’t available in the playoffs last year. How will the sophomore guard continue to mature as a contributing NBA player?

22. He’s back from a hamstring injury. Potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate George Hill is an extension of Budenholzer when he’s on the floor running the second unit. Although the minutes may shrink slightly, they need the impact of his leadership and efficient scoring.

21. This topic is gaining more steam as of late, but the evolution and addition of a turnaround jumper to Antetokounmpo’s game.

20. Ersan Ilyasova is technically Giannis’ backup. The team doesn’t ask him to be Antetokounmpo when he’s on the floor, but they need him to be in a healthy rhythm when the season winds down. He could give them effective playoff minutes, and maybe even draw a charge or two.

19. Another ‘beyond-the-box-score’ player, Wesley Matthews was signed to defend and be a leader. We’ll see how Budenholzer uses him down the stretch, because when the team faces All-NBA type talent, they need his defensive prowess to be fresh.

18. Giannis started the season shooting 55 percent from the free throw line in October, and 59 in November. In December he increased to 64 percent and in February he’s up to 66 percent from the charity stripe. See a trend here? He doesn’t need to shoot 90 percent from the line, but the more he can stay north of 65 percent, the team should feel really good about their chances.

17. Similar to No.21, as Antetokounmpo continues to develop an inside jump shot, his ability to hit a three will loom huge for Milwaukee as well. He’s not Kyle Korver, obviously, but if he can be a minimal threat, and make defenders think about closing out on him, it causes a problem for the opposition’s entire defensive scheme.

16. Speaking of Kyle Korver, he also needs to get in a consistent rhythm before the playoffs begin. His instant offense, and skillset in the half-court offense will pay dividends.

15. Don’t stop the wrestling matches. Keeps the team loose.

14. Do you like your Robin Lopez to sip tea or hit a left handed hook? Either way, his ability to contribute on both ends of the floor, especially when brother Brook is out, is beneficial.

13. The Bucks don’t really have any players who can only play offense or only play defense, do they? Is anyone on their roster an extreme liability on either end of the floor? That’s a good sign.

12. Keep an eye on the competition. The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors are playing really well as of late, and gaining confidence. Both teams have recent playoff history with the Bucks as well.

11. On the flip side, the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat are experiencing injury issues. That doesn’t mean they won’t be a threat, but these two teams, as well as the Indiana Pacers, are getting bit by the injury bug at the worst possible time.

10. Khris Middleton is on the brink of joining the 40-50-90 club. That means he finishes the season hitting 40 percent of his three point attempts, 50 percent from the floor and 90 percent from the line. This is an exclusive and elusive club and would be a major accomplishment for the two-time all-star.

9. Will Antetokounmpo repeat as league MVP? He’d trade two MVP trophies for a championship trophy, no doubt, but it will be interesting to see how strong he finishes the season and how the votes shake out.

8. Don’t let teams hang around. It was an issue for the team early, then they fixed their late game intensity levels. This issue is creeping back up for the Bucks as of late, especially when they give up monster performances to star opponents. Once you build a lead, you have to keep it. Especially when the other team is far inferior.

7. Brook Lopez has 7 technical fouls this season. Will he hit double-digits? Curious if there are Vegas odds on how many techs Lopez finishes with this season.

6. 70 wins would be one heck of an accomplishment. The players will tell you that they’re only focused on the end goal of a championship. However, who wouldn’t want to say that they won 70 out of 82 regular season games.

5. He doesn’t care if he hits them, he needs to continue to shoot them and gain confidence. Talking about Antetokounmpo from beyond the three point line. Let it fly. Yes, this is a repeat. But, it’s important for him to continually develop the confidence, and the success, to hit threes during a live game.

4. When Eric Bledsoe gets hot from three, the team plays on a whole other level as well. Watch for the team to get him involved from beyond-the-arc early in games, which will then open up the rest of the half-court offense for their point guard to operate. Looking ahead, the team will look for Bledsoe to play superior defense in the post-season too, especially if they square off against elite guards Kyle Lowry or Kemba Walker.

3. Budenholzer is going to decide how many players he rotates in during a playoff series. How guys play in the final 25 games, as well as matchup advantages, is going to play a big part on how far he looks down the bench come April.

2. Shoot to get hot. Shoot to stay hot. Mentioned this with Ilyasova, and Korver, and Hill among others. Horst has done a phenomenal job surrounding Giannis with shooters. When Giannis sees a double team, or triple team, or teams take away his ability to drive, these shooters, from Pat Connaughton to Matthews to DiVincenzo, have to knock down open looks and keep defenders on their feet. It’s all about the rhythm.

1. STAY HEALTHY! Here’s looking at you, Giannis.

Bucks, Giannis roll to easy win in Detroit

Milwaukee returned from the NBA All-Star break Thursday night and did so in impressive fashion.

Powered by 33 points and 16 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks rolled to a 126-106 rout of Detroit.

The game was over almost before it began. With key injuries and a lot of roster turnover, the Pistons were no match for Milwaukee. The Bucks led by 14 at the end of the first quarter, by 29 at the half and by 31 in the third quarter. Detroit outscored Milwaukee by seven in the fourth quarter but it was not nearly enough.

Milwaukee got 28 points and eight rebounds from Khris Middleton, while Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez combined for 37.

The Pistons were led by former Bucks forward Christian Wood. He had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Another former Milwaukee player, Thon Maker, had 11 points.

Milwaukee has now won the first three games in the series against Detroit and haven’t actually lost to the Pistons since Feb. 28, 2018.

The Bucks improved to an NBA-best 47-8 with the win, including a 22-5 mark on the road. They’ll come home now to face Philadelphia on Saturday.