No vacation: Bucks veterans take advantage of summer

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Charles F. Gardner, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Monday, July 14, 2014

LAS VEGAS—Khris Middleton joked that he couldn’t find a seat at Friday’s summer league opener when fans packed the Cox Pavilion to watch top draft picks Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins.

But the Milwaukee Bucks forward was not merely a spectator while spending a few days in Las Vegas.

Middleton, Brandon Knight, John Henson and Larry Sanders all took part in individual workouts with Bucks coaches and relished the chance to meet new coach Jason Kidd. Carlos Delfino also was on hand to work with trainer Scott Barthlama as the veteran forward continued his recovery from foot surgery last December.

It all is part of the building process for a young team seeking improvement after finishing with a league-worst 15-67 record last season.

“I think it’s fun,” Knight said of learning under Kidd, the 10-time all-star point guard. “Just to have somebody who played the game and was really good at it.

“You get somebody who has seen a lot of different things, been through pretty much every situation you could be in. I think it will be a good experience for me, to be an extension of the coach and see the game how he sees it.

“Maybe get a new perspective, learn some different things, approach the game differently. Just be a sponge and try to learn.”

Middleton and Knight arrived last summer in the trade with Detroit that sent point guard Brandon Jennings to the Pistons.

They are adjusting to their second head coach in two seasons with Milwaukee. And Henson is already on his fourth head coach—Scott Skiles, Jim Boylan, Larry Drew and now Kidd—as he prepares to begin his third season with the Bucks.

“I’m really working on my shot and fixing it,” Henson said after he went through a session with the coaches Saturday. “There are a lot of little things that I never learned over the first two years that they’re teaching me. So it’s good.

“I think he (Kidd) is going to help us, and he has guys around him to help us, and I think we’ll be a lot better than last year.”

Henson has gained 16 pounds since early May, hitting the weight room to increase his weight to 233 pounds.

The 6-foot-11 Henson often struggled to battle more physical power forwards in his first two seasons.

“I think that was a big thing for me going into the summer, putting on weight,” Henson said. “That’s just one step. Now it’s time to get better skill-wise on the court and try to improve myself on a daily basis.”

Middleton said an important part of the trip to Las Vegas was bonding with teammates and supporting the summer league squad, including Chris Wright, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nate Wolters and Parker, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.

Sanders took all of his teammates out to dinner at P.F. Chang’s on Las Vegas Boulevard on Friday, not far from the team hotel.

“It’s just building chemistry early, getting a head start before the season is a great thing,” Middleton said. “Just seeing new faces, learning guys, finding out where they come from. Just welcoming them to the family.”

Most of the players are heading their separate ways for a few weeks. Middleton said he would be working out in Santa Barbara, California, but would return to Milwaukee in August to start preparations for next season.

“To get us all in one place, to spend time together and get work in is fun,” Knight said of his short stay in Las Vegas. “It makes those times in the season when it gets tough, you come back to times like this.

“You find ways to fight through. But if you don’t have times like this, it makes those times (in the season) tougher.”

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