It's a difficult transition made every year by NBA rookies. They are used to being the big man on campus, the star of the team, the go-to guy.
Reality first sets in on draft night. After a few months of speculation, they are drafted by a team. Unfortunately, in most cases, they are drafted lower than hoped, and they embark on a journey that will result in little to no playing time, in which they will battle just to be noticed in hopes to catch their break to become a star.
Jodie Meeks knows this journey all too well. Meeks had a superb junior season for the Kentucky Wildcats. He set the single-game scoring record by scoring 54 points against Tennessee. He played so well he was named a second team All-American. Most felt he would be a first-round draft choice.
That's not how things worked out for Meeks. He fell into the second round and the Milwaukee Bucks selected him with the 41st overall pick. That meant no guaranteed contract, no big money deal. Nothing would be given to Meeks, and he would face an uphill battle just to make the roster.
Meeks never allowed that to be a hindrance. He listened to Bucks coach Scott Skiles when Skiles told him to always play hard and eventually, there would be a break for him to capitalize on.
That break came in the second game of the year when the Bucks faced the Detroit Pistons. Starting shooting guard Michael Redd strained a knee ligament that would keep him out of action for a minimum of two weeks. Although Charlie Bell has taken Redd's spot in the starting lineup, Meeks has worked his way into the rotation off the bench.
Meeks didn't adjust well in his first couple NBA games. He only scored six points while shooting 2-9 from the field in 22 minutes. He looked timid and overwhelmed by the moment.
Saturday night against the New York Knicks Meeks finally looked like he belonged in the league. In 27 minutes, he scored 19 points off the bench, shooting 7-11 from the field including 5-7 from behind the arc. The Bucks won an easy game over the Knicks, but more importantly, they may have found a future replacement for Michael Redd.
It's no secret that Bucks would love to trade Redd and his huge contract. His inability to stay healthy will make that very difficult for the organization.
Charlie Bell is also in front of Meeks on the depth chart. Bell only starts over him due to his veteran status. Bell no longer has the speed or moves to get off his own shot. Like Redd, he is a pure jump shooter and nothing more.
Meeks will see his playing time diminish once Redd returns to the lineup, but he should gradually take more time away from Bell. As a role player, the more defense he is willing to play, the more playing time Skiles will be willing to give him.
The hardest part for Meeks is already over. He's made an NBA roster and is already receiving significant playing time. Now it's a matter of allowing his natural abilities to come out in the games to showcase his talent.
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