Aussies in NBA: Maker impresses Garnett with work ethic
|Kyle Standfield||Dec 22, 2016|
Thon Maker may not have seen much action on the court, but he's working hard in stoic silence, waiting for his moment to arrive.
The South Sudanese born Australian, who was selected 10th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in June, has played a total of just 29 minutes through his first 25 games in the NBA.
Despite this, Maker is working vigorously behind the scenes on both his body and basketball skills, and has drawn praise from one of the best players of the modern era.
"Giannis and Thon Maker's focus and appetite is what I took away is greater than great. They just want to get better," Recently retired future Hall-of-Famer Kevin Garnett said after joining Milwaukee for practice.
"I guess for me, I'm looking at these kids and the biggest question is the appetite. I wonder with these kids today what their appetite is. For me, that tells me who they are.
Thon Maker, he was refreshing."
Maker's regular season debut came when he played the final 95 seconds in a blowout loss to Detroit in early November, notching his first career rebound.
"The fact that I'm in the NBA still kind of feels weird," Maker said later.
For a person who has played just under 30 minutes of professional basketball, Maker already has himself quite the highlight reel.
First he knocked down back-to-back deep triples.
https://youtube.com/watch?v=84yH0o8uvV0 Then, he crossed up Chris 'Birdman' Anderson.
https://youtube.com/watch?v=826dezcaxxs However, it's his work ethic off the court that continues to win his coaches and teammates over, including fellow countrymen Matthew Dellavedova.
"He hasn't been playing but we see how he is improving in the weight room and on the Practice court," Dellavedova said.
"I think he is going to be a great player in the league and you can see how excited everyone is when he goes into the game and scores or gets a block."
Similarly, head coach Jason Kidd has high praise for his rookie big man.
"He loves the game of basketball and works extremely hard," Kidd said. "He's doing great, he's a competitor."
With limited playing opportunities, the Bucks organisation would be forgiven for assigning Maker to the D-League to get some playing time and experience under his belt. However, both Kidd and Maker don't see that as a viable option right now.
"We're going to keep Thon up as much as we can. Let him go up against Giannis and Jabari. That's the best D-League you can go against," Kidd explained.
Maker echoed that opinion.
"Since the draft we have been going up against each other every single day in practice and I've gotten better by a whole lot," he added.
Head coach Jason Kidd's willingness to play Maker has seemingly increased as the season has progressed. Maker appeared in just 6 of the Bucks' first twenty games. However, out of the last 5 matches, Maker has played in 3 of them.
While this is a pleasing trend, don't expect Maker to become a consistent rotation player in Milwaukee this season.
And that's okay.
The 19-year old has youth, time, and a heck of a work ethic on his side.
"When I get my chance, I'll be ready. I'm seeing it, and in practice I'm going through it so when it comes to games I'll be ready."
Future Hall-of-Famer Kevin Garnett can't wait to see Maker unleashed upon the NBA when the time comes.
"Thon, I'm looking for you coming soon. Seriously," Garnett said.
When Maker does eventually break into the rotation, it will be well and truly deserved.