It has been a long time since the Milwaukee Bucks were a team that really generated buzz on a competitive level, but the turning of the tide this offseason is palpable with a superstar draft pack in Jabari Parker and a burgeoning head coach in Jason Kidd adding their talents to the organization in the last month.
Of course, they aren’t the only guys that make the Bucks more buzzworthy than usual this year. Even though they posted a league-worst 15 wins last season, there are young players on this roster worth getting excited about, and guard Brandon Knight is one of them.
Knight, attending the Las Vegas Summer League last week, seemed optimistic that Milwaukee won’t be back in the league basement again this season. In fact, he thinks the team can use last year’s frustration as motivation for a better year to come.
“There’s a lot of things that I like to use as motivation, but a 15-win season is definitely one of them,” Knight said. “The guys that were there last year can either come back with the same mentality, or we can change and use last year as motivation. I feel like this coaching staff will push us, but we have to push ourselves and hold ourselves accountable, as well.”
That coaching staff is now headed by Kidd who, despite a controversial move to Wisconsin a few weeks ago, is someone that the young Bucks players are looking forward to working for.
“It’ll be a lot easier to be under a guy who played the position at the highest level with the best of the best,” Knight said. “For me, it gives me a chance to learn a lot. I’m a student on and off the court, so it’s something I’m looking forward to. I’m really excited for the season to get underway. It’s a new transition, a new chance.”
Knight and Parker are two of the team’s building blocks moving forward, but so is Greek forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had a surprisingly effective rookie season and looks even better after a strong showing at the Vegas Summer League.
“He’s getting better,” Knight said. “The biggest thing that I’ve seen so far is that his confidence level is higher. Of course, Summer League is pretty different from the regular season, but his confidence is definitely much better than it was last year. That, in my mind, is the biggest step in making improvement – finding that confidence.”
Parker, naturally, already has plenty of that, having been among the top players in the country for his entire adolescent life. Still in his teens, Parker is someone who fans see as a savior for the Bucks, and Knight doesn’t necessarily disagree.
“I wouldn’t say it’s hype; I’d say it’s earned,” Knight said about the lofty expectations already placed on his new rookie teammate. “There’s still a lot for him to learn at this level, but I like him a lot as a player and even more as a person.”
Players like Knight, Parker, Antetokounmpo and Larry Sanders are hoping to get the Bucks back into postseason contention as soon as possible, because even though they had the worst record in the league last year, they were a team constructed to contend for the postseason.
The talent level has only improved in the last month, meaning if all things play out the way should over the course of the next couple years, Milwaukee will be right back in the Eastern Conference playoff picture and 2014’s 15-win campaign will be long forgotten.
“It’s up to us,” Knight said, and he’s right. The only way a team can get better is if the talent improves and the returning players grow. It already seems as though Milwaukee is primed to succeed on both levels heading into next season.
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