Bucks Coaching Staff’s Past Provides Playoff Aspirations

Jan 19, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks interim head coach Joe Prunty looks on from the sidelines against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 19, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks interim head coach Joe Prunty looks on from the sidelines against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports /

Teams lead by Jason Kidd and his coaching staff have faced midseason adversity. Can the Milwaukee Bucks repeat the path of the 2013-14 Brooklyn Nets and make the playoffs?

The Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, and Cleveland Cavaliers. What do these five teams all have in common?

They have all lost to the Milwaukee Bucks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center this season.

The Bucks capped an impressive week on Saturday, January 16th, by defeating the Charlotte Hornets on the road by 13 points. The victory was preceded by home wins over Chicago and Atlanta, giving the Bucks a 3-1 record on the week. With marquee wins over Atlanta and Chicago, the Milwaukee Bucks now hold a 12-7 record at home. Out of those 12 wins, five of them have come against some of the best teams in the NBA. The wins last week were followed with a dominating performance against the Miami Heat Tuesday evening. And with their recent stretch of solid play, the Milwaukee Bucks now hold an overall record of 19-25.

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With wins like they had last week and performances that saw the Bucks end the Warriors 22-game winning streak, and nearly repeat in Oakland the following week, it is confusing as to why this team finds themselves six games under .500.

The struggles of the Bucks have been well documented this season. To most, this season has been seen as a failure and much of the hype and expectations from the offseason have faded along with this teams record. Articles have been written calling for the Bucks to trade Michael Carter-Williams, Greg Monroe, or Jabari Parker. National writers such as Zach Lowe have even recently tried to dissect the Milwaukee Bucks, in order to figure out what happened to them this season.

Despite all of the panicked talk and turmoil surrounding the team, the Milwaukee Bucks still can have a successful season. One has to look no further than Bucks head coach, Jason Kidd, and his coaching staff for proof that this season is far from over.

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It was January 19th during the 2013-14 season, and Jason Kidd and his Brooklyn Nets found themselves on the outside of the playoffs looking in. They too were six games under .500, sporting a record of 16-22. The previous offseason the Nets had acquired Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry — three impact players that gave the Nets big expectations going into the year. But halfway through the season, many national writers were asking for Kidd to be fired and for the team to be blown up, as the moves the team made in the offseason were not working.

All the Nets did from that point on was finish the season with a record of 44-38 and defeated the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs, before falling to LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

Coach Kidd and his Brooklyn Nets during 104-103 victory in 2014 NBA Playoffs
May 4, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd and forward Paul Pierce (34) and center-forward Andray Blatche (0) and forward-guard Alan Anderson (6) during a break in the action against the Toronto Raptors in game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre. Brooklyn defeated Toronto 104-103. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The situations of the 2013-14 Nets and this year’s Bucks team have obvious differences. Brooklyn was loaded with veteran talent, had a huge payroll, and had a first-year head coach in Jason Kidd.

This season, the Bucks are missing the key ingredient in Coach Kidd, who has been sidelined since December 21st due to hip surgery. However, the coaching staff that Kidd had in Brooklyn followed him to Milwaukee, including Bucks interim head coach Joe Prunty. Therefore, not having Kidd physically on the sidelines hasn’t had much of a negative impact on Bucks as they are still working under the same system.

With that said, outside of roster differences and Coach Kidd missing time, many of the things that plagued the Nets early in the 2013-14 season are things that the Milwaukee Bucks  have struggled with this year.

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For example, the Nets were 5-13 on the road on January 19th, 2014. The Milwaukee Bucks are 7-18 on the road as of January 19th, 2016. One of the common themes of a young team is that they struggle on the road. This can be attributed to young players who feed off of the emotion from the crowd which propels them to perform at a higher level. On the road, with the crowd against them, the Bucks have had a tough time finding the same level of enthusiasm needed to compete on a nightly basis in the NBA.

This wasn’t nearly as much of a problem for the Bucks last season when they had veterans such as Zaza Pachulia and Jared Dudley on the floor to motivate them. This season young players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker have had to step into those leadership roles. A large task to ask from two players who could not legally buy alcohol before the season started.

Also during that 2013-14 season for the Nets, they were introducing many new faces into their lineup, such as Pierce and Garnett. The Bucks have faced the same challenge with the addition of Greg Monroe and the return of Jabari Parker. Take into account that the Bucks point guard, Michael Carter-Williams, had only played with the Bucks for less than half a season, and that essentially makes three players who needed to be molded into the Bucks system this offseason.

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However, the most important similarity between the 2013-14 Nets and the 2015-16 Bucks can be found in one word — defense.

According to NBA.com, through January 19th 2014, the Brooklyn Nets had a defensive rating of 105.8, the fourth-worst defense in the league. As of January 19th this season, the Milwaukee Bucks have a defensive rating of 105.9, also fourth-worst in the league. By the end of the 2014 season, the Nets were able to bring their defensive rating down to 104.9, which was good for 19th in the league. The Bucks have proven they can score enough to win games, but have not been able to stop teams on a nightly basis in order to consistently win games. If the Bucks can continue to learn to play together and improve their defensive shortcomings like the Nets did a few years back, they too can find themselves in the playoffs come seasons end. As recently as last night the Bucks displayed their continued growth on the defensive end by holding Miami to 79 points on 36 percent shooting.

It may be a tall task for these young Bucks to overcome five teams ahead of them in the standings in order to make the playoffs. However, the Bucks find themselves only four games out of the playoffs as of today, and only five games out of the fifth seed. Out of all the teams from the 5-12 range in the East, I do not see many or any of them winning more than 45 games, nor do I see the eighth seed having a record significantly above .500. Miami currently sits in the fifth seed and the Bucks proved Tuesday night that they are by no means outclassed by the Heat.

Also, anyone who has followed the Bucks this season can attest to the brutal schedule they have had this season. When breaking down the Bucks schedule in December and January, it shows the Bucks really haven’t been playing that bad of basketball.

Entering the month of December the Bucks were four games under .500. Since December 1st they have played the Spurs, Warriors, Raptors, Bulls, Mavericks, and Clippers all twice, along with facing the Thunder in Oklahoma City. This schedule from hell has occurred within the span of a month and a half, and remarkably the Bucks only dropped three games in the standings, nothing to be ashamed off by any means.

When you take into account this teams youth and their offseason roster changes, paired with a brutal schedule, it is not hard to see why the Bucks have struggled thus far.

But with the schedule easing up as the year progresses and the Bucks continued growth, I don’t think it is a farfetched notion that the Bucks can make a run for the playoffs yet this season. And with the Green Bay Packers season now over Milwaukee has no excuse but to get behind this team and help carry them into the postseason. If Jason Kidd and his staff could do it in 2014 with a bunch of old guys on the Nets, why can’t they do it with the young Bucks this season?

Only time will tell.