Wednesday, August 28, 2013

MECCA Basketball Court Comes Out Of Storage

Bucks MECCA Floor
A piece of Milwaukee sports history was reassembled at the U.S. Cellular Arena  last week. The infamous MECCA Floor was brought out of a twenty-five year storage by its owners of the past three years, the Koller Family, and was put on display at the downtown complex on Friday. The reshowing of the once “home-wood” of the Bucks and Marquette was more than just for spectators, however.

A $10 admission fee brought patrons into a discussion of the city's most current art scene debate. Representatives of the artistic community in Milwaukee were on-hand to push city officials to find a space to publicly display the highly regarded pop-piece permanently, using comparisons to the city's famous art museum and other progressive pieces as credit to its artful nature.

Commissioned in 1977, the MECCA floor sparked waves of heated controversy throughout the national and international sports and arts communities. Designed by artist Robert Indiana, Milwaukee natives were the first to be outraged by the piece, upset that its creator was not a local. Upon completion of the floor, taxpayers were further displeased with the near $30,000 price-tag; $112,000 in today's money.

Religious leaders complained of the openly gay Indiana creating the piece, basketball analysts found the bright-colors and comically-fonted lettering to be out-of-place on a basketball court, not to mention the golden-amber glow of the wood created by pigments on every inch of the surface. But, once revealed at the Milwaukee Arena in 1978, fans and players alike fell in love.

Gregory Koller was one of those fans to become obsessed with his pride in Milwaukee's MECCA floor. Owner of a local flooring company, the late Koller purchased the piece in an online auction in 2010. Ben Koller took over the ownership rights to the floor following his father's death, and continued the crusade to keep it out of storage by displaying it publicly.

Now 84, Indiana is also aiding that effort. The artist traveled from his secluded home off the coast of Maine to Milwaukee to attend the event at the U.S. Cellular Arena, praising the city for its acceptance of his talents and his then-controversial sexuality.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Brandon Jennings Moves On To Detroit | Bucks Trade Quality For Youth

Bucks Trade Jennings
Fans and critics anxiously waited last weekend for word on the status of Bucks’ star player Brandon Jennings. Speculation of a number of possible trade negotiations were flying around the web and local radio broadcasts since the team's season ended in the first round of the 2012 playoffs, though an official announcement on Tuesday signaled an end to the saga. In a press-release, the franchise revealed the finalization of negations between themselves and the Detroit Pistons to send Jennings to Michigan in return for a trio of first and second-year rookies.

The sign-and-trade deal saw the Bucks agree to a three-year $24 million contract extension for Jennings, which is now the responsibility of the Pistons. Milwaukee, meanwhile, takes-on the $5.2 million combined contracts of forward Khris Middleton, center Viacheslav Kravstov, and guard Brandon Knight.

The exchange is a step towards rebuilding both team's rosters from the ground up. Detroit has suffered a major fall-from-grace in the past few seasons, failing to manage a winning season in since 2010. Maurice Cheeks was appointed to replace head coach Lawrence Frank at the helm in June, followed by the signing of free agent veteran forward Josh Smith and 2004 NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups. Jennings is expected to start alongside Billups in the back-court for the 2013 season.

Bucks Grab Three Young Pistons In Trade

While the Pistons hope to get back into the playoffs with veteran experience, the Bucks are putting their faith in young-talent. Middleton, Kravstov, and Knight have a combined four seasons in the NBA since 2011. Knight is the most familiar with the league, starting 135 games for the Pistons after being selected by them 8th overall in the 2011 draft.

A Miami native, the 21 year-old Knight played just one season of collegiate basketball in Kentucky before applying for the draft. The Wildcats advanced to the final four of the NCAA Tournament with the help of 17 points per night from Knight. Prior to that, a younger Knight was honored twice as Gatorade’s National Boys Basketball Player of The Year during high school in Fort Lauderdale. He finished his four year tenure there as the second-highest scorer in Florida history with over 3,500 points between 2005 and 2009.

Middleton and Kravstov both had appearances off the bench for Detroit in 2012. The pair come from vastly different background, however. Middleton found success as a starting forward at Texas A&M for four seasons before being picked-up by the Pistons in the second round of last year’s draft. Kravstov spent his pre-NBA days in the Ukrainian Basketball League. A failed bid for a draft spot in 2009 kept the 25 year-old in his home country for another three years before signing with Detroit in 2012.