Tomorrow will be a thrilling homecoming for Aussie forward Thon Maker as he takes on his former squad, the Milwaukee Bucks.
Of course, ‘homecoming’ may be a misnomer, because Maker rarely felt at home on a loaded Bucks roster, constantly finding himself the odd man out of the rotation.
Whether it was Jason Kidd or Mike Budenholzer at the helm, Maker simply couldn’t string together consistent minutes, leading to his requested departure to the Detroit Pistons back in February.
Lo and behold, a change of scenery was just what the young baller needed, and he has truly been making the most of his opportunity with Detroit, if you’ll pardon the woeful pun.
Considered something of a wildcard on the court, Maker has found his niche on Dwane Casey’s squad, as the reigning coach of the year has been able to formulate a gameplan that utilises his talents without asking him to do too much.
Now, the Bucks loom large, and with them, Maker’s biggest challenge up to this point.
Behind the sheer dominance of Giannis Antekokounmpo, the Bucks convincingly claimed the #1 overall seed, overtaking the up-and-down Raptors as the team to beat in the East.
The underdog Pistons are monitoring Blake Griffin’s nagging knee injury, which nearly cost them their playoff berth, and haven’t won a single playoff game since the 2008-2009 season - a dubious streak that they would obviously like to put an end to in this series.
Admittedly, Milwaukee haven’t seen much playoff success, dispatched in the first round in 3 of the last 4 years, while missing the postseason entirely in 2015-2016.
History is not likely to repeat itself here, and Detroit’s best hope is surely just to remain competitive. It's worth noting that the Bucks swept the Pistons handily in the regular season in 4 matchups, winning by an average of nearly 15 points.
With Griffin potentially shelved, Maker may start in his place to open the series. He showed a capability to step up in the playoffs during his tenure with Milwaukee, proving to be an effective shot-blocking and 3-point sharpshooting menace.
Now, he'll have to contend with the NBA's most dominant big man in Antekokounmpo, a challenge the likes of which Maker has never had to face in the postseason.
So yes, Thon Maker returns to Milwaukee with fond memories and a smile on his face. Whether he can handle the menacing player across from him, will surely dictate how long that smile remains.