To put it lightly, the 2013-14 NBA season has not been fun for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Any optimism that may have existed in October quickly faded into a blur of injuries, losses, controversy and a record that now stands at 8-38.
There is likely no other team happier to see the calendar change to February and with good reason.
On Friday night, the Bucks were outdone 113-102 by the Orlando Magic to end an abysmal month, one in which they managed just a single victory in 15 tries. The only upside to this stretch — in which they were outscored by an average of 15 points per game – is that the Bucks technically avoided setting a new futility mark.
#Bucks wrap up January at 1-14. Not quite worst month in franchise history, but close. Went 1-15 in March of 1996.
— Andrew Gruman (@AndrewGruman) February 1, 2014
For the most part, the Bucks were an easy target, a matchup that most opponents could count on as a walk in the park. On some nights, Brandon Knight and company were simply overmatched, while on other nights their youth and experience was evident. Even further, the team appeared to lack chemistry, cohesion and any semblance of a game plan.
O.J. Mayo and Butler were pushed to the side, when maybe they could have helped. Their minutes fluctuated from game to game, making it difficult to establish a rhythm. In fairness, the Bucks weren’t always able to rely on Mayo as he missed several games – perhaps conveniently — due to illness.
Heading into the game against Orlando, Gary Neal had logged a total of 52 minutes in January. Against the Magic, he scored 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting in 24 minutes of action. Who knows: maybe if the Bucks hadn’t glued Neal to the bench for three weeks, he could have provided some much-needed scoring production for a team that could only muster up 89.5 points per game in the first month of 2014.
January also revealed that not everyone in the Milwaukee locker room is on board with the plan to develop talent at the expense of winning. Butler was the first to speak up about the direction of the team and his role. Shortly afterwards, Mayo and Knight expressed concern about both the strategic approach to games and the substitution patterns.
Even the fans, for many of whom the draft lottery can’t come soon enough, are starting to question the team’s effort.
Ultimately, every team eventually reaches a threshold for how much losing is acceptable. The Bucks have seemingly arrived at this point, but it remains to be seen if they can do anything about it.
Saturday night represents a chance to make a fresh start to the month of February against the Memphis Grizzlies, but the Bucks will be hard-pressed for a victory, especially on the tail end of a back-to-back.
From there, the Bucks will see the Knicks, Nuggets, and Rockets, before finally getting some reprieve against the Celtics, Pelicans, and Magic. However, until the Bucks start treating any of these games as winnable, there is no limit to how far they can fall.