Sudden Impact - Part I

Bucks holdovers take notice of savvy newcomers' quick transition

By Truman Reed

New Comers Making Instant Impact
Luc Mbah a Moute says "It's good to be around vets, because you get to learn from them, too. You watch how they carry themselves, because that's the way you want to be." Photo: Gary Dineen/NBAE

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute might be the most studious member of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Since his arrival in the National Basketball Association, Mbah a Moute has established himself as not only one of the Bucks best defenders, but as a devoted pupil of the game.

Assistant Coach Bill Peterson, who has carved his NBA niche with his player development work, has spent a great deal of time with the second-year forward and has consistently witnessed his drive and attentiveness.

"Luc has a great spirit to learn," Peterson said. "He wants to get better. He doesn't have a lot of junk in his game that he's been taught.

"He'll say sometimes, 'I don't understand,' or 'I don't know,' or 'Explain that to me.' Very rarely do I get that. You tell him what he's got to do, or what works, and he listens and does it."

Mbah a Moute can typically be found prior to each game in the locker room intently watching film of that night's opponent. He has clearly made it his business to know the ins and outs of the game.

In his short tenure with the Bucks, Mbah a Moute has had a total of 27 different teammates. He has seen both rookies and veterans make transitions onto the team - some successful and some not.

Since January 18, Milwaukee has added Jerry Stackhouse, John Salmons, Primoz Brezec and Royal Ivey - four veterans with a combined 37 seasons of NBA experience - to its roster.

Since then and March 14, a rigorous schedule hadn't allowed the Bucks a great deal of get-to-know-each-other practice time, yet the team had rattled off a 20-6 record and climbed into the fifth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference at 36-29 - its best record through 65 games since the 2001-02 campaign.

Mbah a Moute was asked for his observations of his four new veteran teammates and to explain how they've managed to become part of a winning blend so quickly.

"'Stack,' Salmons and the other guys, they've been great," Mbah a Moute said. "They've been picking things up and going with the flow of the team. They've been doing what's asked of them. They need to continue to do that in order for us to be good."

Mbah a Moute has been particularly impressed at how his newest teammates have been able to incorporate themselves into the team without the benefit of many practices. He was asked if the coaches and teammates have had to go over a lot of plays or concepts multiple times so the newcomers can get them down.

"Very rarely," he responded. "You very rarely have to tell them anything twice. Very often, you don't have to tell them anything. They figure it out for themselves. It's good to be around vets, because you get to learn from them, too. You watch how they carry themselves, because that's the way you want to be."

When the Bucks have had time to practice, the newcomers have shown Mbah a Moute a blue-collar work ethic that he believes has been a valuable component in the team's recent surge.

"They definitely go hard," he said. "They make plays and make you go hard. They compete. That's one of the things they bring to this team, along with their experience. You can't ask for better people around you."

Mbah a Moute isn't the only holdover from Bucks seasons of the past who has taken notice of the newcomers' sudden impact.

Stackhouse made an immediate impression on center Andrew Bogut, who spoke enthusiastically about the 15-year NBA veteran's presence.

"Jerry was a great guy to pick up at this time of the year," Bogut said. "He's a proven guy. He's a vocal guy in the locker room. He does whatever it takes to win. He's been on bad teams and playoff teams. He's been an All-Star. He's a good guy to have on the team."

Bogut has enjoyed watching Stackhouse and the other veteran newcomers, as well as every other player on the roster, buy into the team concept.

"That's been huge," Bogut said. "I would definitely rather have guys be too unselfish than selfish. And that's what we are. Everyone swings the ball and moves the ball. Nobody really cares about the glory. It's all about winning."

Bogut has seen his new veteran teammates' savvy step to the forefront even though they haven't had the benefit of time to master the playbook.

"Yeah, it's that plus NBA offense is really pretty similar when it comes down to it," he said. "It's pick-and-roll, post up and pin down, basically ... and try to run. These guys have all been in the league a long time. John (Salmons) has adjusted quickly. It's going to take time, obviously for him to get everything down, but we've got enough veteran guys on this team to help everyone along.

"And it's really about the team. If we keep that in mind, we're going to be all right."

Guard Luke Ridnour agrees.

"Yeah, it's been good to see everyone playing aggressively, playing hard and playing together," he said. "If we do that, we're a good team.

"We're getting better and better, and I'm excited to see us finish out the regular season the way we're playing and see what happens."

Rookie point guard Brandon Jennings has enjoyed having a variety of teammates surrounding him who will step up and make a big play with the game in the balance.

"We lost a lot of games in the last minute by two or three points early in the season," Jennings said. "I think we've gotten used to close games, and the team we have now is learning how to finish them.

"Instead of just shooting jump shots, we're just taking the ball to the rack and seeing what happens. The more we keep taking the ball to the rack in the last minute, I think we'll be all right."

As the playoff race continues, Mbah a Moute knows he will benefit from following his new veteran teammates' example both in practices and in games. And besides learning the ropes of the Bucks system, they have taken the time to pass along some expertise to the team's younger players.

Mbah a Moute, as usual, has been all eyes and ears.

"They've definitely given me pointers, especially different things within the game," he said. "Anytime I'm struggling, they come out with the right advice or the right words to say. They say the right things at the right time.

"They've been great for us."

The record bears that out loudly and clearly.

(Visit again soon for Part II of "Sudden Impact")

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