Ball Don't Lie - NBA

You know, I've been hurt before.

Strip away all the transparency I have to offer and I remain a Chicago Bulls supporter. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles, despite his red-leaning instincts and insistence on advancing the cause of the 19-foot contested jumper as some sort of pro-level staple. The man can coach. The man can lead. He was born and bred to do exactly what he's doing.

But because I'm a card-carrying Mc (in Arizona, at least), I believe any joy in life will result in something miserable, and Skiles' ending run with Chicago in 2007 showcased a man who wanted to move on. He'd clearly had enough, and he was taking it out on his players, his rotation, the media and his fans.

This is my worry heading into 2010-11. I shouldn't feel this way -- men grow and change and adapt (ask your girlfriend or wife or partner; I'm sure it's true!) -- but I can't help but wait for the other shoe to drop with Scott.

In the meantime, I'll try to warm myself with how fantastic the Milwaukee Bucks were in 2009-10.

Nobody with a heart could promote any strain of apathy with this team. They spoke to your screams and pointed fingers, gathered from a Rec League run or a three-on-three pick up. They were the guys you chose that did everything right. And paired with the sublime announcing duo of Jim Paschke and John McGlocklin, this was a must-watch from October until the end.

Next year? Seriously? I'd rather not discuss it, if I'm honest. I guess I have to. I guess that this is my gig.

If John Salmons(notes) opts-out, the team will be about an MLE under the salary cap limit. That's important, because while under-cap teams don't get the MLE, the Bucks will be fighting for those sorts of players, and we've no idea as to what level the (current) Milwaukee ownership wants to take this payroll.

Instead, the Bucks might feed on your goodwill. Including the promise of internal development (let's face it, that's only in regard to Brandon Jennings(notes)), and the return of Andrew Bogut(notes). I love this team, but it might miss the playoffs next season.

Who gets better? Andrew Bogut is fantastic, and Jennings could be a franchise-changing talent. But beyond that, this is a team full of "this year."

Do you really want Salmons back? Do you want Carlos Delfino(notes) working on your behalf? Do you need Kurt Thomas(notes)? I know you respect these guys, but are they anything to bank on? Anything to look forward to?

I fully admit to bringing the 'ludes to this party, but I can't ignore what I've learned, and what I've seen. And that cap number presumes the Bucks will pass on re-signing Luke Ridnour(notes) (I doubt they let him go), who was quite good this year, and the draft pick they'll take from the Chicago Bulls.

If John Hammond has any hair on his chinny-chin-chin, he'll blow it up. He'll keep Bogut, Jennings and Luc Mbah a Moute, and that's it. He'll trade, he'll move and he'll realize that this team was working at its absolute peak, and that this is nothing that can be sustained.

It's not the nicest thing to say, but this could be it. I hope it isn't, but a lot of things have to go right for the Bucks to take the next step.

As an outside admirer, I could give a rip. I love this team. I admire this franchise to no end, its fans, its front office, the media that documents this squad and the players. Watching the Bucks this year was an abject joy, one that allowed me to thank those stars for the luck that I've stumbled into, and I've nothing but gratitude for the Milwaukee organization for that.

What comes next? I've no idea. I don't think John Hammond does, considering the climate. I know he wants to build a winner, I know he's good at it, and I hope he's aware of the average of his rotation.

Beyond that? Thank you, Milwaukee. The Bucks are a brilliant team, and you're a city worth drooling over.

Shangri-La, and all that.

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