When I woke up on Wednesday, June 29, I thought, “What a great day for sports.” The sun was out, and it was a beautiful day. There were three basketball-related events taking place on that day in the morning, afternoon and evening.
My day started with the trip down to the Bradley Center media room. I got there at around 10:40 a.m. and stood with more than 100 media members and employees of the Milwaukee Bucks organization. There was a reason we were there with anticipation.
Stephen Jackson, the last of the Bucks’ new players to be introduced to us, strolled in the room with head coach Scott Skiles and general manager John Hammond. Rumors surfaced on NBA Draft Day that Jackson didn’t want to be traded. He’s been traded before, so he knows that’s a part of the business. But, he probably thought, “Why am I being traded to Milwaukee?”
Look, if Kareem Abdul-Jabbar couldn’t wait to take the next flight out of the Brew City, then it doesn’t speak volumes about any NBA player who wants to play here unless his career was winding down and his options were limited.
Jackson was in a good mood when he addressed everyone in the room. We like when our local professional athletes put on their happy face in public.
“I’m definitely happy to be here,” he said. “I approach this game and being traded a lot in different ways. I’m still doing what I love to do and what I’m blessed to do, and that’s playing basketball.”
Jackson also wants a consolation prize to ease the transition from playing in a fair weather city (Charlotte) to a cold weather city (Milwaukee). It’s been reported that he wanted the Bucks to extend his contract. This upcoming season (whenever it starts), Jackson is scheduled to make $9.26 million and $10.06 million in 2012-13. We have to see how he plays first before giving him a better deal.
The Bucks will do everything they can to make Jackson comfortable in Milwaukee. “The only perception I had from other teams is (you’re) going to a boring city,” Jackson said. “That’s what people always say. But since I’ve been here, the weather has been great. I didn’t expect the weather to be great. Every time I come here, there’s snow everywhere.”
Adding Jackson to the mix will make the team tougher. “Whatever it takes,” he said. “If it’s a slap, a fight, whatever it takes. We’re here to win games. This is not high school, and we’re not doing any babysitting. It’s no time for being babies or being scared. If you’re scared, go to church.” Amen brother.
We need toughness on the team. The Bucks have been through that before with Gary Payton, Anthony Mason, among others, who were supposed to make the team tougher. With the addition of Jackson comes some baggage that you get in exchange for helping them get back to the playoffs. He’s 33 years old, and most people will remember him getting suspended for 30 games for going in the stands during a game in Detroit when he was with the Indiana Pacers and fighting with a fan and coming to bat for teammate Ron Artest. We forgive you for that, Stephen, as long as you can help us win some games.
After the press conference, I made it to opening day at Summerfest before 1 p.m. to meet Brandon Jennings in the Sports Zone. He was at the press conference too. The Bucks point guard made the first of two early afternoon appearances there to meet spectators, wearing red Under Armour sneakers and a white T-shirt with the words “Floor General” under the interlocking UA emblem in green block letters. He talked about the acquisition of Jackson.
“It’s great,” he said. “We got Stephen Jackson, and we got some (new) players (Beno Udrih and Shaun Livingston, also draft day trades). I think we’ll be tougher this year.” Jennings was asked to assess the meaning of having Jackson on the team. “He’s a great leader,” he said. “He’s also an NBA champion (with San Antonio). To have that with our team, I think we’ll be great.”
I can see the basketball pundits already picking the Bucks to win 50 games and go deep into the playoffs. The last time we went deep into the postseason, we were a Glen Robinson jump shot away from making the NBA Finals. Stay tuned.
The last event I attended was the Buzz Williams’ Texas Style barbeque on the Marquette campus in back of the library. The name of the event was fitting, because we ate catered food that was cooked by Bubbs BigTexas Style BBQ.
This was the fourth year that Williams held a meet and greet BBQ for loyal supporters of the Marquette men’s basketball program. Past and present players were in attendance to meet the fans and take pictures. Williams, ironically, was on time for his speech to the crowd around 7:00 p.m. After home games, Williams keeps us waiting for almost an hour before his postgame press conference.
“This has been the nicest weather in the four years (of the event),” he said. “When I woke up this morning, I spent a little time with my kids before I had to leave. And I walked outside, and I was driving to work. I was like, ‘There’s not a cloud in the sky.’ ”
Williams told the crowd that everyone was surprised the team made it to the Sweet 16. “The ring company was surprised too,” he said. Players normally get their rings for making it to the NCAA Tournament by now. They have to wait for the ring company to add some extra details on the rings. Williams gave us only 7 ½ minutes of his time before he had to go.