5 Things We Learned About Milwaukee Bucks During First Week of Training Camp
Training camp can be a formality players use simply to knock off some rust and get back into shape. For the Milwaukee Bucks, though, the first week of training camp provided some insight into how things might operate in 2013-14.
With a new coaching staff and almost entirely new roster, it was clear that the start of camp was going to provide fans with some answers.
From injury updates to how new players will be utilized, the first practices of the season brought both bad news and encouraging developments.
As the run up to the regular season continues, a clearer picture will likely be painted and roles will become more defined.
For now, though, what we know from Week 1 is a start.
Carlos Delfino Will Miss Entire Preseason
With the first week of training camp came news about Carlos Delfino's injured foot.
The 31-year-old small forward was signed during the summer and figured to play a significant role in terms of producing at arguably Milwaukee's weakest position.
Delfino fractured a bone in his right foot in Game 5 of the Rockets' first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City in May, when he dunked over Thunder star Kevin Durant. But Delfino said he played with a hairline fracture in the foot for more than a month at the end of the season.
"I had a fracture five months ago and I had surgery," Delfino said. "I had a little setback the last couple days.
"We don't have a time frame. They're taking pictures and we're going to know more in the next couple days. I can't wait to get on the court."
Without his services, the Bucks are limited to Caron Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton at small forward.
Butler is the only of the three with much experience, so the team can ill afford to suffer any more injuries at the 3.
If they want to be competitive this season, they'll need Delfino to get healthy. Hopefully the injury is one that will fully heal by the time the regular season comes around.
Caron Butler Is Already Showing Signs of Leadership
With 11 seasons of experience and two All-Star Game appearances, Caron Butler is not only the most decorated member of the Bucks, but also the most successful.
When the team traded for Butler in August, speculation was that the 33-year-old Racine, Wis. native wanted to come back to his home state to get more involved with the community.
It's not often that a player wants to be traded to the Bucks.
Now, just a week into training camp, it's clear what Butler is going to provide to the team.
Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times tweeted the following on Saturday:
It's already quite apparent Caron Butler is the glue of this team. Constantly encouraging or prodding teammates.— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) October 5, 2013
Woefel's comment seems to be echoed by a blog entry, written by Gardner for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which touched on the veteran taking his new teammates out for a team dinner before training camp got underway.
In it, Butler touches on the dinner itself and joining the Bucks:
"We just talked about expectations and where did we see this team going," Butler said during the team's media day event at the Cousins Center. "We felt real good about what we can get accomplished here in Milwaukee."
Butler was one of the last pieces acquired in general manager John Hammond's busy summer, joining the Bucks in a trade with the Phoenix Suns. The 33-year-old Butler is returning to his home state as he begins his 12th NBA season.
"I texted all the guys," Butler said. "I extended myself to coach (Larry) Drew and he gave me all the guys' contacts. I reached out to them and they openly came to the meeting and we talked. We had a good energy, a good vibe.
"That's what you want to do, establish a tone before training camp. We're going to do the same thing tonight as we go over some play-sets and continue to build our camaraderie."
Often times it's easy to overlook the little things like this, but Butler willingly stepping to the front of the line and becoming the team's leader is going to prove extremely valuable this season.
The Bench Appears to Be Strong
If one thing was apparent after the Bucks completed their offseason overhaul, it was that they now had plenty of depth on the roster.
After a week of training camp, that notion seems to be confirmed.
According to Gardner, on Thursday the second-unit team of Gary Neal, Luke Ridnour, John Henson, Ekpe Udoh and Giannis Antetokounmpo took control of a scrimmage against the first team and won rather easily:
The second team dominated a scrimmage against the first team as the Bucks completed a 3-hour plus practice session at the Cousins Center.
Guards Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal spearheaded the second unit which claimed a 40-29 victory.
"It was one of those things where we got off to a good start," said forward John Henson. "I told Luke after practice, I was like, 'He can play, man.' He runs the show like a vet like him should. That's really what got us going, man.
"Him and Gary, and me and Ep (Ekpe Udoh) always play well together. It was a good day for us."
The Bucks second squad was composed of Neal, Ridnour, Henson, Udoh and rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo. They went against a first team comprised of guards Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo, forwards Caron Butler and Ersan Ilyasova and center Larry Sanders.
Knight had a steal and a dunk late in the scrimmage as the first team tried to come back, but it fell too far behind.
Excessively praising the second team for their efforts or critiquing the first because of their struggles would be reading too much into the scrimmage.
However, the victory for the second unit should certainly boost their confidence and continue to give them motivation as the preseason progresses.
The Bucks lack a superstar but possess a wealth of quality players, resulting in excellent depth.
Is that enough to offset for not having one go-to player? We'll see.
Having depth is never a bad thing, though, and if the bench can continuing demonstrating quality play throughout the preseason and into the regular season, it will immensely increase the chances of Milwaukee being a playoff team in 2013-14.
The Team Will Play Smart, Up-Tempo Offense
Head coach Larry Drew isn't exactly Mike D'Antoni, but it appears he wants to run an up-tempo offense with the Bucks, though, not quite as extreme.
As Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported, Drew wants the team to push the ball over the half-court line in four seconds or less.
It's clear that while Drew wants the team to get the ball up court as quickly as possible, one thing that differs from standard run and gun protocol is the fact that he wants to be patient in the half-court game.
In Gardner's article, Drew is stated as saying:
"As I told our guys, we want to play up-tempo but we want to be smart with it. We don't want to come down and just jack up any kind of shot. We want to be very mindful of what the situation is. Make sure we get a good shot every time."
The way it sounds, Drew isn't all about shooting quickly within the shot clock.
Instead, he seems to be more about pushing the ball up the court and getting into an offensive set as quickly as possible.
That's not a bad plan.
Often times teams take way too much time getting the ball across the time line. Given Drew's sentiment, he wants the Bucks to clear that line as quickly as possible in order to initiate the most efficient and effective offensive set as possible.
This game plan seems to cater to Milwaukee's strengths.
The young backcourt of O.J. Mayo and Brandon Knight is young enough to get up and down the court without problems, as is the frontcourt of Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova.
With this youth, the Bucks shouldn't have problems pushing the ball and getting into offensive sets as quickly as possible.
Drew clearly wants to squeeze as many offensive opportunities out of the team as he can. If they're able to convert more efficiently, this is a plan that should increase offensive production.
Larry Drew Is Stressing Defense with the Number 43
In addition to pushing the ball and running an up-tempo offense, Drew indicated that he was looking to improve the team's defense.
And that's a much more important area to improve.
Last season the Bucks ranked 20th in opponents' points per game while allowing them to shoot 45.4 percent from the field. The latter number put them in the middle of the pack, but there's plenty of room for improvement.
In fact, Drew knows it.
As the Bucks started training camp last week, Drew set lofty goals defensively.
According to Gardner, Drew wants his team to hold opponents to 43 percent shooting from the field:
Drew said he believes in setting goals for his team and 43 represents the defensive field goal percentage he would like the Bucks to strive for this season. That's a lofty goal, a number that would have ranked third in the NBA last season.
Last year the Bucks ranked 15th in the league in that category at 45.4%.
To call the goal lofty is a bit of an understatement.
However, it's not completely unrealistic.
The Bucks have a tremendous interior presence that can influence any and every shot if they're in good position due to the incredible length of players like Henson, Sanders and Antetokounmpo.
This goal proves that Drew is committed to improving Milwaukee defensively and knows that in order to be successful, the team will have to get it done on both ends of the floor.
If—and it's a fairly big if—they can do that, there's no reason why the Bucks can't sit near the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference this season.
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