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Bucks see progress in arena talks, first round pick Vaughn

Guard nets 23 points to lead Milwaukee to first summer win

POSTED: Jul 15, 2015 11:19 PM ET

By Steve Aschburner

BY Steve Aschburner

NBA.com

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Bucks rookie shooting guard Rashad Vaughn, shooting free throws against Houston, hopes to give Milwaukee consistent outside shooting.

— It was a good day for the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday.

First the news that the Wisconsin state senate had approved $250 million in public subsidies for the franchise's hard-fought arena project. The state assembly vote to follow is expected to break along the same lines, clearing the way for a ground-breaking that would keep Milwaukee on pace for NBA's 2017 construction deadline.

Then the Bucks' first-round draft pick, Rashad Vaughn, had his best performance of the Summer League, scoring 23 points as Milwaukee won for the first time in its four LVSL games.

Vaughn did best what the Bucks need most, what convinced them to grab him at No. 17 on draft night, somewhat higher than most prognosticators figured. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard did just that, sinking half of his six 3-pointers among his 7-for-17 performance. It was a nice, calming sort of game for Vaughn after his 2-of-14 work from the arc in Milwaukee's three early losses.

"We want him to be aggressive," said Sean Sweeney, the Bucks' assistant coach who worked the sideline in the 97-93 victory over Houston's squad. "We want him to look to score, and then when they put two guys on him, make the right decision. For the most part he did that. Defensively, he's really tried to carry over what we want to do. We're defense-first and he's just tried to turn that over to how he plays."

Vaughn's shot is so smooth, so soft, it nestles into the net almost silently. But it could make some noise in time for Milwaukee, which needed perimeter scoring after ranking 23rd in the NBA in 3-point makes and 26th in 3-point attempts last season.

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Re-signing Khris Middleton and adding Greivis Vasquez from Toronto was good, and developing Giannis Antetokounmpo likely will improve his range this summer and beyond. But the Bucks are built inside-out, with Antetokounmpo, recovering Jabari Parker and prize free-agent acquisition Greg Monroe across the front line. The more they can hit from outside, the more room those guys will have to operate in or near the paint.

No one is putting pressure on Vaughn just yet. He was the second-youngest player selected in last month's draft, his birthdate (8/16/96) more recent than all but Kentucky's Devin Booker (10/30/96). At just 18, the product of one season at UNLV -- actually, just 23 games due to a knee meniscus injury that forced Vaughn to excel in his pre-draft workouts -- will enroll in NBA 101 as a rookie. His education and development will matter more than is impact, though head coach Jason Kidd does like to use a deep rotation.

"He's got more basketball savvy than I knew he had," Sweeney said. And Sweeney was the one to know. A native of St. Paul, Minn., and something of a coaching savant to hear NBA folks talk, Sweeney coached in an AAU program in the Twin Cities in which Minneapolis native Vaughn played.

"Seeing him grow up, I've seen him be really, really coachable," Sweeney said. "He pays attention real well. Like when I was in school, they said, 'Listen with your eyes and your ears.' He does that -- he learns from the eyes. He tries to make sure, if he makes a mistake, he doesn't make that same mistake again."

Vaughn went to Cooper High in Robbinsdale, Minn. -- "He's a north side of Minneapolis kid, so he's tough," Sweeney said -- but got frustrated there when coaches told him not to shoot 3-pointers. By his senior year, at Findlay College Prep in Henderson, Nev., he was ranked as the top shooting guard, playing in the 2014 McDonald's All-American and Jordan Brand games.

He averaged 17.8 points in 32.2 minutes at UNLV last season before his knee injury. Then he freshened up his stock in his workouts, though by the night of the draft, Vaughn wasn't sure how things would play out.

"I kept telling myself, 'This day can go really good or this day can go really bad,' " he said. "Literally I had no idea."

Vaughn's mother had invited family and friends to a party in Minneapolis. But her son wasn't participating in the festivities -- he was, in fact, in his hotel room. And not just in his hotel room.

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"I was in the bathroom," Vaughn said. "I wasn't, like, using the bathroom -- I was in the bathroom, in the dark, with the door closed."

The stress, the waiting, the uncertainty caught up with him.

"I was like, 'I'm not going to be able to watch the draft with everybody.' Too scary," Vaughn said. "So I went to the hotel room. [Where I was picked] depended on whether I was going the party. If I would have went late, I would have went home."

Vaughn showed no similar jitters Wednesday, battling in and winning his matchup with Glen Rice Jr. He ran the court well, dived for loose balls and tried to heed the basics defensively. He is a work-in-progress, sure, but he's not starting from scratch.

"He's someone who actually runs the floor pretty well," said teammate Sean Kilpatrick, 25, who spent last season in the D-League. "Not only that, but he knows the game. There's not a lot of guys his age, 18, 19 years old, who know the game the way he does.

"For example, a lot of guys his age, if they're in the corner and get stuck, they start panicking and turn the ball over. You don't really see that out of him. He'll pass out of double teams. He knows the game."

Said Vaughn: "[Sweeney] told us before the game, the key word is 'finish.' Finish the court, finish the play, finish the game. We came out and just finished."

Sounds like a lesson learned for a guy who is just getting started.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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