For maybe one more night

It figures that just as I started to get interested in the Milwaukee Bucks again, they would flop in two playoff games and now stand one loss away from having their season end.

So before the Bucks lose tonight or Saturday, you should read what Jabari Parker has to say:

The moment I went down … I knew.

As soon as I felt my knee buckle, and I hit the ground — I knew right away what had happened. I knew right away what it would mean.

I had torn my ACL.

Again.

Not exactly how I pictured my comeback season coming to an end.

But as tough as the injury itself was … where it really has hurt? It’s not where some people think. It’s not for what it means for my future: I’ve been through this before, and I came back better. And I know the player that I’ll be when I’m back on the court again. That doesn’t scare me. But the fact that I can’t be out there with my team, right now, during these playoffs — to finish what we started? Knowing the team that we’ve been growing into together … and not being able to see that through with them?

That’s what has hurt the most.

See, this year … it’s meant a lot to this team. This year, from the very beginning, was about us making a name for the Bucks — about us forcing our way into the argument of who the East’s top contenders are. We knew, going into the season, that we weren’t a team with a ton of playoff experience, or with a ton of veterans who’d been in these situations before, or with résumés like some other guys have in our division. We didn’t know our peak … and neither did anyone else.

And that was part of the fun.

This year, we vowed not to be one of those teams that other teams picked on. We vowed not to be one of those teams that guys felt they could rest their stars against, or relax against in any way. And, honestly, it’s not like we had some master plan, or that we did anything special. We just went out and played. That’s it. We went out every night, and we kept our composure, and we found our confidence, and we took each challenge as it was presented to us. We figured — what fun is it to play in the NBA if we’re not taking on those challenges? If we’re not getting hyped for the Clevelands, the Golden States, the San Antonios? If we’re not working hard to perfect our late-game plays, and flip the results on some of those last-second losses? If we’re not holding our own with the teams that we’re using as our standard?

And up until the night of my injury, we took on those challenges on the court together. So, you know, that’s what has really hurt: Not being able to be out there with my team, while they’ve kept this thing going.

And that’s exactly what they’ve done: They’ve just kept going. They’ve just kept playing. They’ve just kept making strides — and I’ve been so proud of them. And I know they’ve been proud of me, too, as I’ve had to take on new challenges of my own, with my rehab.

And through it all: We’ve both had the city of Milwaukee.

Milwaukee, man … it’s home. You know I’m a Chicago kid, and Chicago will always have a big piece of my heart. But with Milwaukeefor me it was just love at first sight. As soon as I got here, I was like, Wow, this is the place for me.

I love this city.

It’s funny — I always think about this one day, pretty soon after I got here, when I took my car out for a drive around town. I pulled up to this spot … and I saw these olds guys, hanging out, sitting outside with their hot rods. I mean some real nice cars. And I parked my ride, I got out, and, man … we just got to talking. You’d look at us, and you’d probably be thinking that we have nothing in common — these old white guys, and then here I am, this young black ball player who’s bumpin’ rap music? No way. But it turned out we did. And it was just this really great day. I’ll still go back there, sometimes, and me and those guys, we’ll just catch up. I’ll ask them about cars. They’ll tell me stories about going to Bucks games in the ‘70s. It’s just very Milwaukee. We can talk about anything.

And that’s what I love about this city. It’s — well, it’s the love.

Honestly, I love this city so much that it scares me sometimes, in a way, you know? Like, I’ve seen other guys get traded and leave since I’ve been here … and you realize, Wow, as players we really don’t have that much control over it all. But one thing I do have control over, regardless of my playing career, is knowing that I want to raise my own family here someday. It’s that deep.

The Bucks have indeed taken big steps this season. It looked as if they had taken additional big steps by winning game one of this playoff series at Toronto and then just crushing the Raptors in game three. And then came games four and five, and the Bucks will have to win at home tonight and at Toronto Saturday to probably lose to Cleveland in the next series.

My concern with the Bucks dates back to their old days:

With the exception of the 1971 champions and the 1974 runners-up, the Bucks have always been not quite good enough. They had Marques Johnson and Sidney Moncrief and acquired Bob Lanier in the late 1970s, but were not as good as either Boston or Philadelphia. The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dynasty ended when Abdul-Jabbar decided he didn’t like Milwaukee anymore.

The Bucks now have one of the best players in the NBA in Giannis Antetokounmpo. (And you thought “Abdul-Jabbar” was hard to pronounce in the ’70s. I had to announce Antetokounmpo’s younger brother in a state championship game.) What if the Greek Freak decides he doesn’t like Milwaukee anymore? All the work the Bucks have done to build a team that is on the way up would be for naught. Again.

 

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