Bucks ready for season opener
Kidd hopes for major improvement from 15-win season
MILWAUKEE — Scholastic references were flowing Tuesday at the Milwaukee Bucks’ practice facility, where Jason Kidd’s team closed the book on training camp and turned its eyes toward the regular season, which begins Wednesday in Charlotte.
In some ways, the metaphors were appropriate as Kidd takes the reins of the NBA’s third-youngest squad (average age is 24.2), making him part teacher and part parent.
“When you look at it, you can compare it to Marquette (University),” Kidd said. “In the sense of age, this is a college team.
This is a great time for us to coach. We’re going to talk, teach, show and sometimes we’ll get it right, sometimes we won’t. … the guys have all responded in a positive way which makes it all the more enjoyable.”
It’s a different situation than he found himself in a year ago, when he was hired fresh off a 19-year playing career to manage a Brooklyn team loaded with big-name veterans. Kidd said that meant “a lot of the teaching was more placement and they did the rest.”
“Here, we can show them but we also have to teach them and show them again exactly the different options because it’s all new to them,” Kidd said. “It takes time, but it’s been fun to see their growth.”
Kidd has inherited a Milwaukee team that’s in rebuilding mode, the core built around fourth-year center Larry Sanders, third-year forward John Henson, second-year forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and the franchise’s cornerstone, No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker, a 6-foot-8 forward out of Duke.
Not since Glenn Robinson, the No. 1 pick in 1994, have the Bucks landed such a high-profile player. And with Milwaukee trying to get back on the map, all eyes are on Parker as he begins his first NBA season.
While some have him as a preseason favorite for Rookie of the Year, the 19-year-old has a different goal in mind.
“Making the playoffs, that’s my personal goal,” Parker said. “That’s way more important. That gives me a little bit more under my belt. It’s just something I’ve always looked forward to. If we all succeed, then they start looking at individuals.”
It’s a tall order for a Bucks team that finished an NBA-worst 15-67 last season, but Kidd said his staff and players are up to the challenge.
“As the season goes, the good comes with the bad so how do we handle the bad?” Kidd said. “How do we stop a three-game losing streak? How do we stop an 8-0 run without using a timeout? This is stuff young players tend not to know … For us, I’m a big believer that players can figure it out and work it out so it’ll only get better as the season goes on.”
Where Parker will fit — and how the team’s rotation will look — is yet to be seen. Kidd experimented with multiple combinations during the preseason but wasn’t ready to announce who will start Wednesday in Charlotte. That’s just fine with Parker, who said, “Either way, I’ll give it my all.”