Milwaukee Bucks: Imagining a documentary on the early 2010s Bucks

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 05: (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 05: (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks
MILWAUKEE, WI – NOVEMBER 3: (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) /

The 2012-13 season

Scott Skiles took control as Bucks head coach in 2008, and entered 2012-13 in the final year of his contract, something which created a level of resentment that would later blow up spectacularly in Milwaukee’s face.

A week into 2013, with the Bucks at exactly .500 in the standings, Skiles and the team officially parted company by mutual consent, or so they said. In reality, Skiles could see he wasn’t going to be back the following year, and with a roster built by a general manager, John Hammond, who was also in a contract year and therefore not exactly empowered to do anything radical, the coach decided it was best to get out while he was somewhat ahead.

By that point, Skiles had implemented near constant lineup changes, aggravating many players who didn’t know what their role with the team was supposed to be. A horrid start to the season saw Ilyasova benched, while a respected veteran such as Samuel Dalembert went from being brought in as a starter to being out of the rotation entirely.

When Skiles departed, Adrian Wojnarowski incredibly reported a friend of the former coach as saying:

"“Scott hated his team.”"

That was something that Skiles would later dispute in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Charles Gardner, but when asked whether he had wanted to be Milwaukee’s coach, the best Skiles could muster was:

"“That’s a question it’s not easy to answer.”"

In other words, if the 2012-13 Bucks were dysfunctional, it’s no real surprise. The organization lacked any clear direction, had its top executive, coach, and players in the final year of their respective contracts, and said coach was known as a hard-nosed perfectionist who was in charge of a roster that wasn’t even remotely consistent, let alone anything more than that.

Following Skiles’ departure, Jim Boylan took charge on an interim basis (no, not this one), and the Bucks still had every opportunity to make something of their season. They were in the playoff places after all.

Six weeks later, though, the Bucks made a trade that would go on to be remembered as one of the worst in franchise history. Along with other pieces on both sides, the Bucks sent second year wing Tobias Harris to Orlando in exchange for J.J. Redick.

Redick joined an increasingly large cohort of Bucks employees who would be out of contract at the end of the season, and was not particularly thrilled to have been acquired by Milwaukee. Redick admitted to crying at hearing the news, later described his whole experience with the Bucks as “challenging”, and endured one of the worst stretches of his playing career before swiftly leaving for the Clippers in the offseason.

It wasn’t entirely Redick’s fault, as the Bucks tried to force a three-guard lineup built around him, Jennings and Ellis into working. Considering the lack of size and the significant defensive limitations of that trio, who could possibly have predicted it wouldn’t work out?

Well, seemingly, the Bucks’ front office.

According to a 2019 report from the Toronto Sun’s Ryan Wolstat, the Bucks never wanted to deal away Harris, but were ultimately forced to at the behest of Kohl. The push for competitiveness at all costs ultimately saw the Bucks part with a future All-Star in exchange for possibly the worst nine weeks of J.J. Redick’s career (40.3 percent from the field, 31.8 percent from deep).

In the end, the high volume offense of Jennings and Ellis, the Bucks’ commitment to pushing the pace, and Ilyasova breaking out of his putrid early season funk helped Milwaukee to do what they needed to do. Or at least what Kohl wanted them to do.

With 38 wins secured, the Bucks snuck into the playoffs as an eighth seed, and a first round date was set with the star-studded juggernaut of the Miami Heat.