A look at who is trending up and down the past week in Wisconsin sports, including the Bucks closing in on a new coach and a group of underrated Brewers players carrying the club through challenging times.
Milwaukee Bucks head coach search (Heating UP 🔥)
And then there were three. Earlier this week, NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Bucks had trimmed their list of potential coaches from as many as 15 candidates to ex-Toronto coach Nick Nurse, Golden State Warriors associate head coach Kenny Atkinson and Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin. The former obviously is the most decorated. Nurse led Toronto to an NBA title in 2019, was tabbed as Coach of the Year in 2020 and compiled a 25-16 playoff record over five seasons (three appearances). All the above, of course, makes Nurse a hot commodity. He’s also been named a finalist for the Phoenix Suns opening. Atkinson previously worked with fired Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer for four seasons in Atlanta and has head coach experience, leading Brooklyn to a .383 winning percentage from 2016-20 (we’re not sure that’s the type of experience you lead with on your resume). Atkinson turned down an opportunity to lead the Hornets last spring and returned to Golden State, where he’s assisted Steve Kerr since 2021. Griffin, in our opinion, has the most intriguing background. A nine-year NBA veteran, Griffin was involved in a trade to the Bucks in 2008 but retired that year and immediately crossed into the coaching ranks, serving as an assistant in Milwaukee from 2008-10. Since then, Griffin has had stops in Chicago, Orlando, Oklahoma City and on Nurse’s staff in Toronto. That’s what we know. As for what matters, the Bucks’ No. 1 priority should be hiring someone who jells with star Giannis Antetokounmpo. Selfishly – or not – we care most about keeping the Greek Freak in Milwaukee for the rest of his career.
Colin Rea, Brewers pitcher (UP ⬆)
Rea was the point man of Milwaukee’s fifth shutout this season, a 6-0 win Tuesday night over the reigning world champion Astros. Before passing the torch to a four-man relief crew, Rea allowed four hits and collected four strikeouts on 82 pitches over 5 1/3 innings. The 32-year-old Rea has limited MLB experience – 44 games (34 starts) across parts of five seasons with four different clubs – but has fared pretty well in tough circumstances in 2023. Asked to start seven games already – his most since toeing the rubber as an opener 18 times for the Padres in 2016 – Rea has compiled a 4.71 ERA (19 ER, 36 1/3 IP) and 1.266 WHIP. He’s not a strikeout machine (7.2 K/9), although he did tally nine punchouts in an April 30 appearance vs. the Angels. For holding down the fort and performing OK, Rea deserves greater praise.
Owen Miller, Brewers utilityman (UP ⬆)
Miller confirmed Tuesday night that his emergence during a super two-fer streak was not a fluke. The Wisconsin native rebounded from an 0-for-4 evening in the series start vs. Houston by going 3-for-4 with a yak, two RBI and a stolen base Tuesday. He also scored on a wonky pickoff attempt that ricocheted off his helmet while sliding back into second base in the fourth inning. Miller is swinging .404 in the month of May with nine extra-base hits and seven RBI. On the season, he’s hitting a remarkable .389 with RISP.
Brian Anderson, Brewers outfielder/third baseman (UP ⬆)
It’s not on the level of his torrid start to the season, which featured a seven-game hitting streak with three homers and 10 RBI, but Anderson is at least starting to drive in runs, again. In his last 10 games, the 30-year-old third baseman/right fielder is 8-for-32 (.250) with two jacks and seven ribbies. It’s a notable increase from his 11 games previous … in which Anderson failed to deliver a single RBI and was 6-for-39 (.154). For what it’s worth, the Brewers are better – they’re 12-3 – when Brian records one or more RBI.
Joel Payamps, Brewers reliever (UP ⬆)
Payamps has been the unsung hero of the Brewers bullpen all season – he boasts a 2.28 ERA and is holding opponents to a .236 average – but it’s what he’s done lately that has clinched our attention. In his past five appearances, Payamps has racked 10 strikeouts across 5 1/3 innings. In that same time, he’s given up three hits, a walk and no runs. Typically the seventh-inning arm of choice for Milwaukee, he was inserted in the sixth Tuesday, the first reliever to replace Rea, in a pressure situation. With one gone and runners on first and second, Payamps ledgered two swinging strikeouts. Like we said, the unsung hero.