Anyone who is a fan of the 1994 Kevin Smith film Clerks has probably seen—in any number of its dozens of video releases—the film’s original ending.
Cut before the film was released theatrically, but included on subsequent Laserdisc, DVD, and Blu-ray releases, the original ending features the shocking twist of store clerk Dante being shot and killed.
It’s a terribly abrupt and disturbing ending, in large part because of the unexpected high degree of fun that had come before.
Sunday’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal game seven beat down of the Milwaukee Bucks at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks was like that—an ugly, shocking, disturbing, completely unsettling end to what had until then largely been a joyous 2009-2010 season.
Yes, it is easy for those who either don’t believe in or don’t care about the Bucks to quickly dismiss a team that did not make it out of the opening round of the NBA playoffs. (After all, doesn’t every NBA team make the postseason?)
But remember that the Bucks were a team most picked to be among the dregs of the NBA this season. Yet look at what they accomplished:
Finishing the season 10 games over .500.
Making the playoffs for the first time in four years. (No, not every NBA team makes the postseason.)
Pushing a heavily favored Atlanta team to a seven game series in the postseason, even though most thought the series would be finished in five.
They were able to accomplish so much after another mid-season injury (January 10) to guard Michael Redd, and a late-season injury to center Andrew Bogut (April 4), who had been having a breakout year.
Much of the credit for the Bucks successes this season has to go to GM John Hammond, who deservedly won the NBA Executive of the Year award last month, as well as coach Scott Skiles.
Hammond’s decision to draft Brandon Jennings in last year’s draft and his move to acquire guard/forward John Salmons from the Bulls in February paid huge dividends this season, and Skiles has been unanimously praised for developing a wonderful chemistry with his team, despite making undesirable lineup changes due to injuries.
If Milwaukee can resign Salmons (who averaged nearly 20 points a game for the Bucks), if the Bucks can remain relatively injury-free next season, and if Brandon Jennings can improve on his impressive rookie season, the Bucks might have the biggest upside of any team in the NBA, pending what happens in what could be a blockbuster offseason in free agency.
Yes, those are big “ifs,” but should situations fall the right way for the Bucks, their window for success could be opening wide.
On the contrary, the window for the Milwaukee Brewers seems to be slamming shut faster than the chances for a Furry Vengeance sequel. (Further proof that you can write anything on Wikipedia: Note the mention of Brooke Shields as Furry Vengeance 's “hot wife.”)
After Sunday’s humiliating 8-0 loss at San Diego that wrapped up a series in which the big bats of Milwaukee scored a grand total of two runs (and this was a four-game series), it’s almost hard to believe the Brewers are only five games under .500.
If the Brewers hadn’t had the luxury of playing Pittsburgh six times already, who they’ve outscored 61-17 despite only going 4-2 in those games, things might be even worse.
Despite a slow start for Prince Fielder—who has only seven more hits than Gregg Zaun, and the Brewers catcher started 0-for-21—and despite the awfully offensive offensive display in San Diego, the Brewers’ bats aren’t where most are putting the blame. Casey McGehee, Rickie Weeks, and especially Ryan Braun are performing up to expectations (and, in McGehee’s case, beyond, although he has cooled off a bit).
No, despite offseason efforts to overhaul what was the worst pitching staff in the majors in 2009, the Brewers still find themselves unable to get outs.
While newly rich Yovani Gallardo has rebounded from an awful start, and newly acquired Randy Wolf has been okay, the rest of the lineup has ranged from disappointing to disastrous.
Dave Bush has been erratic and Doug Davis has been awful. And the only reason Chris Narveson is in the rotation is because his chief competition was Jeff Suppan, whose demotion to the bullpen was the easiest decision Ken Macha had to make since coming to Milwaukee.
Worse still has been that bullpen. And not just because Suppan now resides there. Trevor Hoffman, who was so steady last season, has already blown four saves this season and has held teams scoreless in only six of his first nine outings. New set-up man LaTroy Hawkins has done nothing but remind people why no team who signs him ends up wanting him around very long (the Brewers are his seventh team since joining the Cubs in 2004). And Claudio Vargas’s comeback to Milwaukee has been about as successful as Vanilla Ice’s latest comeback .
While Milwaukee still resides in the upper half of clubs in terms of offensive production, outhitting teams such as the Yankees, Phillies, and Rays, it’s clear that their 20- and 17-run games against Pittsburgh have exaggerated those numbers.
It’s also becoming clear that they are not going to be able to regularly score as many runs as their pitchers allow.
The Brewers recent struggles (losing eight of ten as of this writing) haven’t gone unnoticed by the number crunchers at AccuScore . In the week from April 26 to May 3, they’ve dropped the Brewers’ chances of making the postseason in 2010 from 20.4 percent to just 6.5 percent, the biggest drop of any National League team.
And now we don’t even have Bob Uecker to listen to.
Yes, we have not even hit Big Brother 's summer season yet and the Brewers have loads of time to turn things around. I know.
But given what we’re seeing now, if I had to guess which team—the Bucks or the Brewers —would next make a serious postseason run, my money would be squarely on the Bucks.
Get well, Bob.
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