In this case, the butterfly was in Milwaukee.
And the hurricane was felt in New York. On both sides of the Brooklyn Bridge, actually.
It was November 16 when the NBA trade moratorium was lifted, and almost immediately it looked like the Milwaukee Bucks had done everything they could to clinch the 2021 NBA title. They acquired New Orleans’ Jrue Holliday in under an agreement with four teams. And they acquired the Bogdan Bogdanovic from kings in a signing and an exchange.
The Bucks, who had recently convinced Giannis Antetokounmpo to extend his contract, looked set for years to come with a powerful, powerful and diverse roster.
Except it turned out that the Bucks and Kings had taken the plunge on Bogdanovic’s trade, violating the league’s tampering rules. Bogdanovic signed a free agent contract with the Hawks instead. Donte DiVincenzo stayed with the Bucks and had a great season as a role player before sinking with a late season injury.
Much to Milwaukee’s eternal regret.
But it was a sliding glass moment that ultimately affected both New York basketball teams as well. Maybe Bogdanovic wouldn’t have helped the hapless Bucks those first two games look like a rambling AAU team, but he almost certainly would have won them the number of games needed to get around the Nets entirely in the half. East final or, at least, a sure home advantage.
And if that were the case, the elimination of the Bucks by the Nets wouldn’t be the fate that seemed to exist on Thursday, hours before the teams rocked Game 3 of the series in Milwaukee, with the Bucks desperately clinging to their season.
With Bogdanovic, and with the health of the whole squad that the Bucks have mostly enjoyed this season, the Bucks would undoubtedly make a better exit from this game than they at least did, and would be more than probably a slight favorite.
So bully for the Nets.
But the Bucks’ November madness – for which they were ultimately penalized by a second-round draft pick – has been as damaging to the Knicks as it turns out to have served the Nets.
For while most of the haunting memories Knicks fans will attach to the one-sided five-game wash against Atlanta in the first round will come from Trae Young, Bogdanovic has proven to be just as awkward.
In Game 1, after all, he pulled off what could have been the biggest blow of the series, in what was almost certainly his turning point. With the Knicks holding a 103-100 lead and less than a minute to go, there was a pinball-like ricochet from hand to hand, mainly RJ Barrett’s. But Barrett couldn’t secure the ball and he bounced straight off Bogdanovic in the corner, who pierced him.
The Hawks never trailed off again in that 107-105 win and never looked back after stealing Game 1 at the Garden.
“We did almost everything right in this game, except for one thing,” said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau later. “Credit to Bogdanovich. He ended up with the ball in his hands and shot and it was a dagger for us.
For the series, Bogdanovich averaged 14.4 points, just behind Trae Young, and scored 33% of his 3 points. If Young was the main culprit in the Knicks’ untimely end to the season, Bogdanovic was an unindicted co-conspirator. And if things had gone according to the original plan, he wouldn’t have been near Atlanta or Manhattan torturing the Knicks.
He would have been in Milwaukee waiting to torture – and burn – the Nets, as a member of the Bucks. The Milwaukee butterfly turned two basketball seasons upside down in New York City. One for the best. One for the worst. Crazy sliding doors.