MILWAUKEE - After a successful West Coast trip, the Milwaukee Bucks returned home to a frigid Wisconsin on Monday, ready to unpack their bags and settle in for a while. Since leaving Milwaukee last week, the temperature dropped ten degrees to below zero, as the winter sinks its teeth in a little earlier than --at least I-- expected.
Despite the frosty conditions, inside the Bucks practice facility the mood was warm, as the usual healthy banter among teammates could be heard while they completed their post-practice shooting competitions.
The Bucks split their four-game set out West, with the two wins coming against Golden State and Denver, arguably the two toughest matchups of the lot. It should come as no surprise that the Bucks responded immediately to losses in Portland and LA, as they have quickly garnered a group wide distaste for losing.
After the win against the two-time defending champs, Matthew Dellavedova gave a pretty simple reasoning for why their performance was so sharp.
“We weren’t happy coming off our loss [in Portland],” Dellavedova said. “We weren’t happy with how we played, we didn’t play our best, so it was a good way to respond.”
Across the other side of the locker room, Thon Maker re-iterated his earlier comments that the defensive issues with the Trailblazers CJ McCollum would not reoccur with Steph Curry.
“Exactly! That’s what I was talking about,” Maker said. “The guys just brought that energy tonight. The communication was better, even on the bench we were standing and talking, and the guys on the court did a great job bringing that extra energy and just being alert.”
Coming home, the Bucks hold a 10-3 record, good for second in the Eastern Conference, and their best start to a season since 1992-93.
Yesterday, the Bucks welcomed in a combination of active-duty military personnel and veterans, on what was Milwaukee’s first practice since Veterans Day in the U.S.
Bucks star Khris Middleton spoke about the honour of meeting some of his country’s greatest servants.
“It’s great they were able to come and watch practice and we were able to celebrate them and the sacrifice they give for our country,” Middleton said. “There’s no other sacrifice out there like it.”
As the Bucks worked on their free-throws to wrap up practice, you could see the mutual admiration between player and the military personnel, as they got the chance to hang out on-court.
Petty Officer, Barry Franklin, of the U.S Coast Guard spoke with the attending media, his beaming smile showing through as he explained to the group that seeing the players up close was an honour, which was quite remarkable, given the guests where the real stars in the building.
Contributing to the positive vibes is the fact the Bucks will now experience a six game home stand, giving them a chance to not only work on some early season kinks in their schemes, but unpack their bags and enjoy the company of family and friends.
Staples in the Milwaukee rotation last season, both Dellavedova and Maker are experiencing new difficulties in securing playing time on the much-improved Bucks roster. Both Australians’ have been limited to garbage time minutes, as Mike Budenholzer locks down his 10-man rotation.
While being a healthy scratch new experience for Dellavedova, Maker has been here before, and understands that getting down about the situation is not beneficial.
“I can only control getting better on my own or asking somebody for help. Just getting in the gym, you can control that as a player,” Maker explained. “If you do have frustration you can let it out on the court but it’s the NBA, you’ve got to stay hungry and get in the gym. Right now I’m starving.”
At this point, it’s hard to see either breaking in for key minutes while the Bucks continue their success, though the season is long, and both are visibly continuing to work relentlessly on the practice floor after the starters are finished.
For now, that's all they can do.
The Milwaukee Bucks host the Memphis Grizzlies this morning, tip-off is at noon (AEST).