Revolved & Reunited
Pachulia, Ridnour, Delfino celebrating Milwaukee homecomings
There are no revolving doors in either the BMO Harris Bradley Center or the Milwaukee Bucks Training Center.
Maybe there ought to be, because three players who carved successful niches with the Bucks and within the Milwaukee community have returned to the fold. And the players, the organization and Bucks fans are mutually happy about their homecomings.
Zaza Pachulia, Luke Ridnour and Carlos Delfino spent a combined six seasons and played a total of 406 games for Milwaukee spanning 2004 through 2012 before spending a collective 12 seasons and 829 games with the Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets, respectively.
The 32-year-old Ridnour, who played 154 games with Milwaukee during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons, shot career bests of .478 from the field and .907 from the free-throw line during that latter campaign. He was reacquired by the Bucks on July 11 in a three-team trade involving the Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Six days later, Milwaukee signed Pachulia and Delfino to free-agent contracts.
Pachulia, 29, played 74 games for the Bucks in 2004-05, his second NBA season, averaging 6.2 points and 5.1 rebounds before inking a free-agent deal with Atlanta in August of 2005. He posted a career high of 12.2 ppg in 2006-07 and averaged 7.9 rpg in both 2005-06 and 2011-12 for the Hawks, with whom he made 40 playoff appearances.
Delfino, 31, spent three seasons with Milwaukee spanning 2009 through 2012, averaging 10.5 points over 178 contests. He ranks seventh in Bucks history in 3-pointers made with 325. Delfino left the Bucks to sign with Houston as an unrestricted free agent in August of 2012 and averaged 10.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2 assists for the Rockets last season, hitting a career-high 158 3-pointers and shooting .375 from long distance.
Bucks General Manager John Hammond seized the opportunity to bring the three former Bucks back where they established themselves as consummate professionals both on and off the basketball court.
“That helps that we know who and what they are,” Hammond said,. “They’ve been here, they’ve had success here and they’re happy to be here, and I think that’s important for them and for us.”
Pachulia was enthusiastic about his return to Milwaukee when he became reacquainted with the media before beginning training camp.
“It’s good to see a lot of familiar faces from eight years ago,” the 6-foot-11-inch, 240-pound center said. “This is where it started for me, even though Milwaukee was my second team. I still consider my time here the beginning of my NBA career.
“It feels good to be back where I started. It makes me proud and happy to have two more guys, Luke and Carlos, come back, and to have Caron (Butler) back where he was born and raised. Even our strength coach (Milwaukee native Robert Hackett) came home. It’s a great story. All the guys are committed to make things happen.”
Pachulia will bring valuable savvy to the Bucks, having played for new Bucks Head Coach Larry Drew for the past three seasons with Atlanta.
“I always had fun playing for ‘L.D.,’” Pachulia said. “The first thing I want to mention is he always says to his teams, ‘We should average 25 assists if we want to win the game.’ Basketball is a team sport. It’s always fun for everyone to play with a team that averages 25 assists. It’s fun for the fans, too. We won a lot of games like that.
“He has the experience of coaching new guys, just last year. We had a lot of new guys. We have great guys here – great veterans and great, young rookies who are committed and willing to learn. They’re willing to learn the system right away.
“He loves this game. He’s really professional. He’s always prepared for the games. He’s fun to play for.”
Pachulia was relatively new to the NBA during his first Milwaukee stint. He has become well-versed in the ins and outs of the league during the past eight years.
“The last eight years were great for me,” Pachulia said. “I learned a lot, had a lot of great experiences and had the opportunity to play for some great coaches, under some great GMs and with some great teammates. I’m proud to have been a part of a team that made the playoff six years in a row, which is a record in the Eastern Conference right now.
“I’m planning to bring my experience here to Milwaukee. I feel I’m a different player than I used to be.”
Ridnour has played a variety of roles during his 10 NBA seasons. He did not start a game during 82 regular-season appearances with Milwaukee in 2009-10, yet provided a steadying veteran influence, averaging 10.4 ppg and 4 apg. Last season, the 6-2, 175 guard started all 82 regular-season contests with Minnesota, averaging 11.5 ppg and 3.8 apg.
“Just being able to take care of my body has been a big part of why I was able to play so many games last year and even the year before (when he started 53 of 53 games),” Ridnour said. “I want to play every game. That’s a big part of it. To get out there and compete is what we get paid for and what I personally love to do, so the more people we have who can stay healthy, it’s been shown that those are the teams that win. If we can do that, we’re going to have a good year.”
Ridnour was excited when he heard that he was coming back to Milwaukee.
“In this business, you never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “I’m excited to be here and I know my family is. They enjoyed our time here. I’m looking forward to helping get this team back to winning and doing some damage in the playoffs.”
Ridnour believes Hammond has assembled a cast of players who will mesh successfully.
“I see they’re all good people” he said. “When you have that, you have good chemistry in the locker room, guys cheer for each other. If you get that in the NBA, it’s always a positive.
“I’ve been on a lot of teams that have had a lot of new players and a new coaching staff and we’ve made it work. I think this month will be a big one for us. Everybody has to come in with their thinking caps on, learn the system and learn each other. In the NBA, you never know what’s going to happen. That’s why it’s so exciting.”
Delfino, who missed training camp recovering from offseason foot surgery, is nonetheless looking forward to bringing his team-first approach back to Milwaukee. The 6-6, 220 Argentinean National Team standout enjoyed his most productive NBA seasons during his previous Bucks stint.
“I am known around the league as a team player, and basketball's a team sport,” Delfino said. “The more guys on a team you have who embrace the idea of playing together and passing the ball, the better the team will be.
“I also try to help the young guys learn the game. I’ve been playing basketball since I was 15, so that’s 16 years. I've always tried to play the game the right way.”
Delfino, like Ridnour, likes the Bucks’ potential.
“I think with the group of guys we have, we can be good,” he said. “e just have to have some time to be around each other and work together. I think we have good people and good players.
“We’re in a situation where we have to spend time together on and off the court so we can learn each other and our new coach. Maybe it will be easier for Luke Ridnour and myself since we've been here before, and Zaza was here before. We need time, but we also want to be the best team we can be for opening night.
“Everything will come with time. We have to be sharp, be smart, be focused and work hard.”