Bucks coach Jason Kidd at Media Day.
You can trust Jason Kidd as the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.
This isn’t a sentiment that has been promoted by many in Milwaukee, or around the league, for that matter. When rumors started linking Kidd to Milwaukee, we heard about the failed power play Kidd tried in Brooklyn and his plan to usurp power from those involved in Milwaukee. Upon leaving Brooklyn, we saw veteran players, including Andrei Kirilenko and Joe Johnson, bury Kidd for being unable to handle the pressure of coaching a team in a major market and an inability to control practices.
Many of the stories we’ve read suggest Kidd was inadequate as an NBA head coach, which simply isn’t true.
After an awful 10-21 start to the season (highlighted by this cup-spilling abomination), the Nets turned it around in 2014 winning 34 of their final 51 games on their way to the Eastern Conference’s fifth seed. Although plenty of NBA coaches have faltered when dealing with injuries, Kidd’s team thrived by drastically changing its lineup and style of play after losing All-Star center Brook Lopez in late December.
Kidd’s creativity allowed the Nets to use their speed and quickness to create open looks on offense. Using veteran small forward Paul Pierce as a small-ball power forward would cripple many defenses, but the Nets’ defense was the league’s 11th-best in 2013-14. The Nets didn’t have any of the league’s best shot blockers, but Kidd used the team’s long guards and mobile wings to create an intelligent defense with tons of switching.
So, what does any of this have to do with the Milwaukee Bucks?
The No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft, Jabari Parker, has drawn comparisons from many to Paul Pierce. Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the most intriguing prospects in the league as a 6-foot-11 wing who has already played some point guard. Brandon Knight is a young combo guard who can make plays off the dribble. Khris Middleton is a 6-foot-8 wing who surprised many with his deft shooting touch from the 3-point line last season. Larry Sanders was one of the league’s best defensive centers two years ago before struggling through a myriad of problems on and off the court last season. John Henson is a long and lanky big who has shown the ability to finish around the rim on offense and protect the rim on defense.
Last season’s results should show Bucks fans that Jason Kidd is a creative coach willing to take chances, and this roster presents opportunities for Kidd to do just that. The Bucks certainly won’t be as good as the Nets were last year, but it is a team composed of talented players with a varied set of skills led by a smart head coach looking to maximize their potential.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s more than enough to get me interested in the upcoming season.
What to Read
Normally, in this space, you’ll find my favorite pieces about the Bucks from the previous week, but since this is the first time we’re doing this, you’ll find my favorite pieces from the offseason.
It’s time to thrive, Giannis Antetokounmpo – Bucksketball’s Jeremy Schmidt took a detailed look at the players who have started their NBA career at age 19 and the importance of this season in projecting Antetokounmpo’s future in the NBA.
Milwaukee Bucks Arena FAQ – If you are completely new to the Bucks arena discussion, Frank Madden’s comprehensive guide over at Brew Hoop is the place to start.
Q&A: Jason Kidd on the young Bucks – James Herbert of CBS Sports interviewed an unusually talkative Kidd about the upcoming season. The thorough interview touches on many subjects, including Parker’s true position, Antetokounmpo’s competitive demeanor, and the potential of a Larry Sanders bounce-back season.
Clip of the Week
The block-into-fast-break-dunk sequence will get the most attention, but Bucks fans should be most excited about a couple of the other plays in this Giannis Antetokounmpo highlight video. Although the 19-year-old thrived in fast-break situations last season as a rookie, he struggled in half-court settings. If he can attack set defenses from the post this season (as he does at 0:51), he will quickly become a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
The Bucks head to Charlotte Wednesday for their season-opener. It’s the 30th year in a row the team has a season-opening road game. Milwaukee’s home-opener is the following Friday – yes, Halloween night.
Much has changed in Charlotte, as the Bobcats are now the Hornets, former Pacer Lance Stephenson inked a new deal as the team’s starting shooting guard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has a brand-new jumper, and Charlotte looks like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
Preseason in Review
Oct. 8: The Bucks started the preseason with an 86-83 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at the Resch Center in Green Bay. Khris Middleton led the way with 17 points, including a clutch 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter. Larry Sanders added 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Oct. 9: Milwaukee fell 94-80 to the Detroit Pistons. Middleton again led the Bucks with 13 points, but the entire team struggled. Pistons center Andre Drummond notched 15 points and 16 rebounds.
Oct. 11: In their annual MACC Fund game, the Bucks fell to the Chicago Bulls, 91-85. Free-agent acquisition Pau Gasol put up 20 points and 14 rebounds, while the Bucks couldn’t get anything going offensively. Ersan Ilyasova struggled mightily, shooting 4 for 20 from the field.
Oct. 14: Giannis Antetokounmpo started at point guard, but ultimately, the “Magic Giannison Experiment” underwhelmed, and the Bucks fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-100, with Kevin Love scoring 25 points.
Friday: This one went down to the wire. With a one-point lead with 43 seconds left, the Bucks ran a play for Jabari Parker. Game over. Parker finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks in the Bucks’ 105-98 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Monday: Although the games don’t matter, the Bucks put together their first winning streak since March 19, 2013 (yes, really), with a 120-107 victory over the New York Knicks. Giannis was quite happy about it. O.J. Mayo had a great night, hitting six threes and pouring in 24 points.
Wednesday: Despite Parker’s team-leading 18 points, the Timberwolves beat the Bucks 110-91, with Shabazz Muhammad leading the way with 19 points.
Stats of the
Khris Middleton was the league’s best 3-point shooter from the left wing, shooting a ridiculous 51 percent on 77 attempts. He also shot an impressive 46 percent on left-corner threes (via Kirk Goldsberry).
Opponents shot just 41.6 percent at the rim while being defended by Larry Sanders. That was the league’s third-lowest percentage among players that played more than 25 minutes per game and averaged more than one block per game. (via NBA Stats). (#TeamLarry)
John Henson recorded the eighth-lowest percentage on that list, 46.3 percent.