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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Milwaukee Bucks: The Message is Abuilding

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Five years ago Seattle lost its NBA team to Oklahoma City. Last week Seattle lost its chance to grab an NBA team from Sacramento—and the news had special meaning for Milwaukee.

Artie: I think David Stern has some vindictive thing toward Seattle. He was all for the 2008 move to OKC but now he doesn't want any moving?

Frank: At first I was surprised the NBA owners rejected the Kings' sale to a Seattle group and basically dictated a sale to a Sacramento group. I thought those rich guys always scratched each other's backs.

A: So why not this time?

F: The key was that Sacramento's mayor, former NBA star Kevin Johnson, won approval of a plan for a new arena. That countered the arena plan Seattle put together last year. In other words, what mattered most was that the NBA got another bright, shiny, ridiculously expensive playpen. Otherwise the Kings would have been gone.

A: Jerry Brewer of The Seattle Times wrote this: "Stern made an example of Seattle five years ago when the league moved the Sonics to OKC after a contentious, ill-timed fight over building a new arena. Now, Sacramento represents the best-case scenario. It'll be so easy to go to cities now and lobby for new arenas by saying, 'You want to lose your team like Seattle? Or do you want to be like Sacramento?' "

F: Those questions are hovering over the Bucks and the supposedly wretched, hopelessly outdated Bradley Center.

: You've got to think Seattle will keep looking for a team.

F: Chris Hansen, the lead money man of the bid for the Kings, said, "Our day will come."

A: And remember, Stern began making noises several years ago about how the league really values the Milwaukee franchise but the building, well...

F: In Sacramento the NBA did what all pro leagues do: strong-arm a city into funding a new venue by using the threat that its team will disappear.

A: But I still think Stern had some special bug up his butt about Seattle.

F: Could be, but Stern, like any sports commissioner, works for the owners. His job is to line their pockets...

A: With money from the pockets of the average fan.

F: The main thing is to make sure that owners can maximize their profits while they're in charge AND when they eventually sell the franchises.

A: The Bucks' future may well depend on when and to whom Herb Kohl sells the team. As for the "when," I say the sooner the better.

F: But local investors' interest in the Bucks may well depend on a new arena—just the way Stern and the league want it.

A: But who pays for this new building? The big-shot business types are real good about saying how much money is needed, but not so good about saying it'll be their money.

F: How could Milwaukee politicians justify a big public commitment to a new arena? Especially since we've got a governor and legislature that seem determined to cut the financial legs out from under the city.

A: We've said many times that the Bradley Center is not inadequate for good ol' Joe Fan—only for the rich corporate types who want bigger and better suites, super-duper seating with waiter service, more fancy restaurants. If that's what's so important, YOU pay for it! You're the ones who'll be using all that stuff while Joe Fan sits upstairs.

F: We say no public money for a new arena, except for things like hooking up the sewer lines.  

A: No matter whose money is involved, the timing’s not good. The Bucks have been so mediocre—make that less than mediocre—over the last decade, that there's no real hue and cry for saving 'em.

F: An NBA franchise, we keep hearing, means a lot of prestige for the city. But how much prestige does a lackluster, constantly rebuilding NBA team generate?

A: What would rejuvenate things is if Kohl sold to someone who could bring some excitement, just even the possibility of change.

F: I think the ex-senator is known as a guy who genuinely loves Milwaukee but isn't a real "go get 'em" leader. A nice, smiling non-entity.

A: I'd say a lot of fans—me included—see him more as a meddler, and an incompetent one at that. I mean, something's got to explain this long stretch of sub-mediocrity.

F: You know, Milwaukee does sort of "owe" Seattle a team.

A: In '70 we grabbed their Pilots, who somehow didn't become beloved in their first and only season. But they sure had snazzy caps! All those "scrambled eggs" on the brim would have been perfect for Jim Backus as Thurston Howell III on "Gilligan's Island."

DOWN TO THE FINAL FOUR

F: There are only three teams left that could knock the NBA crowns off LeBron and his pals. Can I assume that you'd like to see that happen?

A: That's for sure. I'm not a diehard fan of any of the challengers, but someone beating Miami would finally make the season worthwhile.

F: But is there a team that actually can do that?

A: I'd say Indiana and Memphis have the best chances.

F: Because they have...

A: Stifling defense. This assumes that Indiana, which already has lost Danny Granger, otherwise stays healthy.

You're talking about "muscle up" defense inside, I take it.

A: Yeah. The Pacers with Roy Hibbert and David West, the Grizzlies with Zach Randolph and the "other" Gasol, Marc. But both teams, really, are all over the place on defense.  

F: How about the Spurs?

A: They would have a chance against the Heat—they looked terrific beating Memphis in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals last Sunday afternoon—but they may have too much age. Really, it won't be easy for anyone to beat Miami, but whoever's up against them has my full and unconditional support.

 

TURNING TO BASEBALL...

F: Since I've been on the East Coast for the last week I haven't seen any of the Brewers' games. How about you?

A: I haven't been watching much. I have better uses for my time.

F: A 2-8 trip against the three main division rivals will do that. But just like last week, I can report that the Brewers' record going into this week's home stand, 17-25, was no worse than it was last year at the same time.

A: No consolation there. They came home eight games behind Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and 10 1/2 behind St. Louis. 

F: How about Francisco Rodriguez reappearing in the bullpen? He pitched himself out of the big leagues with last year's Brewers, but Doug Melvin gave him another chance and he resurrected himself with a good minor-league stint.

A: Considering that by the all-star break the Brew Crew might be 30 games under .500, maybe Melvin can get something for "K-Rod" by the trading deadline.

There you go again—nothing but sunny thoughts.

A: I'm glad to see Major League Baseball is putting off an expanded replay system until 2014. There's not a single minute of Brewers baseball that I want to see replayed at this point.

F: I'm amazed at MLB's slowness in expanding the review system to help umpires. They've been reviewing "boundary" calls on home runs since 2009—and installed that system in mid-season. But since then, despite tons of obviously incorrect calls in games both meaningless and crucial, there's been no expansion to include fair-foul or trap-catch calls.

A: The technology sure has been there all along. Just ask any fan who watches a game on TV.

F: First there were stories that replay expansion would come during the 2012 season. Then it was projected for this season. Now it's next year.

A: And meanwhile there'll be more incorrect calls that decide games.

F: I loved Bud Selig's quote: "My thinking has evolved." Yeah, at about the same pace as the evolution of the human species.

A: I've heard him say things like that dozens of times about many things.

F: He gets credit for making bold decisions about interleague play, wild cards and realignment. And after the 2002 All-Star Game fiasco at Miller Park, by the next year he sold his plan to have the winning league get home-field advantage for the World Series—a change that lots of people think undermines the value of a full-season's achievements.

A: But with replay, which is all about the integrity of the game, he just dithers.

As usual, we saw laughable quotes about MLB's concern that expanded replay would hurt "the pace of the game."

A: Here's what Joe Torre, the MLB executive VP, said: "We have a rhythm in this game that we certainly don't want to disrupt."

F: Joe Torre, who presided over several Yankees-Red Sox games that dragged over FOUR hours for nine innings.

A: That's some rhythm.

F: The game had a decent rhythm once. But nowadays the only way to disrupt the rhythm would be to make the game quicker.

A: Three hours-plus just about every night. Sure wouldn't want to disrupt that! How about calling a legitimate strike zone?

F: And making hitters stay in the freakin' box? And making pitchers throw the freakin' ball in less than half a minute?

A: As Tom Haudricourt wrote in the Journal Sentinel, just like all the TV viewers everyone in the press box knows within seconds if an umpire missed a call or there's some doubt about it.

F: So Tom suggested something we've talked about for years—having a fifth umpire in the press box to view those instantaneous replays and alert the umps when there's a problem.

A: Tom also suggested that the fifth ump would be the official scorer. Good common sense, I'd say.

F: We evolved to that position long ago.

 

Frank Clines covered sports for The Milwaukee Journal and the Journal Sentinel. Art Kumbalek has never watched a game from a luxury box.