Young vets visit Vegas
Bucks turn out to support summer league team, train
Interest in last Friday’s 2014 Samsung National Basketball Association Summer League confrontation between Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker was so intense that ticket seekers were turned away at the door.
Considering that the showdown transpired in Las Vegas, where there are usually at least a few other things to do, that spoke volumes.
The duel between the top two selections in the NBA Draft is still generating buzz across the country, and there will certainly be more when they meet during the 2014-15 regular season and beyond.
Parker and second-year forward Giannis Antetokounmpo gave Bucks fans good season to be excited about during their first outing as teammates in the 2014 Vegas spectacle.
Nate Wolters, who averaged 7.2 points and 3.2 assists over 58 games as an NBA rookie with Milwaukee during 2013-14, and Chris Wright, who averaged 6 points and 2.5 rebounds for the Bucks in eight games to close out the season, are also gaining valuable experience as members of the team’s summer league contingent.
NBA TV televised all 67 games -- including 38 live – of the Samsung NBA Summer League, so Bucks fans got the opportunity to monitor the progress of several of the team’s most promising young players.
Away from the glare of the television cameras, though, several other key members of the Bucks’ young foundation have been in Vegas, too, working out and supporting their teammates.
John Henson, who made the 2013 Las Vegas All-Summer League Team coming off his rookie season with Milwaukee, went on to put up career-best numbers of 11.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game in his second pro season.
He blocked 116 shots – nearly three times as many as he did as a rookie – and put together a line of 17 points and career highs of 25 rebounds and seven blocks on April 10 against Orlando, becoming the first NBA player to achieve those three numbers in a game since Shaquille O’Neal did it during the 2003-04 season.
Henson returned to Vegas this season to work out and follow his Bucks teammates. It was all about achieving objectives he set at the end of his second pro campaign, which Henson considered invaluable.
"I got a lot more experience," he said. "I played a lot more. It was a good year for me personally. It was humbling with the losses. It was a rough year in a lot of ways, but at the same time, it was positive as well."
Henson said during the latter stages of his sophomore season that he planned to use it as a learning experience.
"You can’t have to remember what’s gone on this year," he said. "There are things that have to change.
"It’s exciting, being here at a time like this. Hopefully I’ll be able to look back and say, ‘I remember the season when we only won 14 games. Now we’re winning 40, 50 games and fighting for playoff position. That ought to be a great feeling."
Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton, acquired by the Bucks along with Viacheslav Kravtsov from the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Brandon Jennings on July 31, 2013, both enjoyed career-best seasons with Milwaukee in 2013-14. Both have also been working out in Vegas and checking out their teammates’ summer league games.
Knight, whose averages of 17.9 ppg and 4.9 apg were team highs for Milwaukee last season, set single-game career highs of 37 points on Dec. 31 against the Los Angeles Lakers, 14 rebounds against Cleveland on Dec. 20 and 14 assists vs. Charlotte on Dec. 23.
Knight is also making good on objectives he set as the 2013-14 season drew to a close.
"I know I’ve gotten better," Knight said. "My main goal last summer was to improve as a player. I know I did that. Now it’s just a matter of making our team better.
"My first season here was a confidence-builder for me. I know that when I am healthy, I can affect the game in a big way. Based on my play this year, I’ve taken steps forward, but I’m never satisfied. I’m going to continue to do whatever it takes to improve myself as a leader and as a player, in every aspect of my game. I’ll be working on everything."
Middleton, who played just 27 games in his rookie season with Detroit in 2012-13, made one of the most substantial jumps in minutes and productivity in the league during his first year in Milwaukee.
The sharp-shooting forward’s minutes shot up from 17.6 to 30 per game, and he hiked his averages from 6.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg and 1 apg to 12.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg and 2.1 apg. He led the Bucks and ranked 12th in the NBA in 3-point shooting at .414 and shot .861 from the free-throw line.
"It’s exciting to know that they want you here and that you’re part of the team’s future moving forward," Middleton said. "I plan to work hard on all parts of my game during the summer."