Henson grabs starter's minutes for Bucks
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
ST. FRANCIS--John Henson started nine games as a rookie last season.
Former Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles experimented using Henson as a starter early in the season but later said the young player was not ready for it.
Flash forward to tonight in Boston, when the 6-foot-11 Henson will be the Bucks starting center for a second straight game.
This time he’s more prepared for the challenge and trying to show he can stay in the starting lineup.
Henson was solid in a starting role in the Bucks’ 92-85 home-court victory over the Celtics on Saturday night. He contributed 13 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks and three assists in 34 minutes.
And he’s getting a great opportunity with teammate Larry Sanders out with a torn ligament in his thumb and veteran Zaza Pachulia still slowed by offseason Achilles surgery.
“I’ve got to stay within myself,” Henson said after practice Monday at the Cousins Center. “It’s always a lot easier when you know you’re going to play a lot.
“You can let the game come to you, and you don’t have to press the issue so much.”
Henson and power forward Ekpe Udoh gave the Bucks a stronger defensive presence Saturday and helped Milwaukee win the rebounding battle against a physical Celtics team.
The 6-foot-11 Henson blocked three shots after swatting away a career-best six shots the previous night in the Bucks’ loss at Charlotte.
“I want him being that anchor on the back line of defense,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said. “With no Larry Sanders, he’s that guy that does that for us.
“I’m going to continue to push him. When he’s playing at a high level, we stand a good chance of having some success.
“The other night short-handed with no Ersan (Ilyasova) and Zaza still not at 100 percent, John has had to log on some minutes. Hopefully he’ll take advantage of this.”
The long and lean Henson usually faces more physical opponents, particularly when he is playing center.
But he said he has a plan to cope with that.
“Some of the things I have to do that other guys might not have to do is maybe play defense a little earlier,” Henson said. “Not let them get to their spots.
“A guy with a bigger body like Zaza maybe can play behind and push them off. It’s little stuff I have to do to help me out. But it’s part of the game. You have to know your limits and know what you need to do to be successful.”
Henson normally plays power forward but also has some advantages when he slides to the center spot.
“There are a lot of guys in our league that are not that big from a strength and weight standpoint that play the 5 position,” Drew said. “I don’t see why he couldn’t do it.
“He just has to get a bit stronger. I see that happening.”
Henson has developed a nice left-handed hook but is trying to add a few other moves to keep opponents guessing.
“I really like John’s game,” said Bucks assistant Scott Williams, who works closely with the Milwaukee big men. “I like his length and his athletic ability.
“We’re working on his strength and his timing. The scouting report is kind of out. He likes the right shoulder turn to his left-hand hook.
“And I think we’re going to take this month of December and really start working on a counter move to that. We started (Sunday) working on a right-hand hook, more left shoulder-turn stuff.”
Henson, who will turn 23 later this month, admitted he’s more comfortable shooting with his left hand around the basket.
“As I watch more film on myself, it’s almost like I have a wide-open lane to my right hand when I turn,” Henson said. “I think I have trouble because I can always get the left hook off over someone.
“But if I would come back to my right it would be a lot easier and a less-contested shot. I’ve got to find a balance. It’s building that trust in the right.”
Henson is averaging 10.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks while playing nearly 25 minutes per game. And he’s shooting 51.4 percent.
“I’m trying to put him there (around the basket) as much as I can,” Drew said. “I call it his sweet spot, where he can maneuver with as few dribbles as possible.”
Henson said ending the 11-game losing streak Saturday was critical to the Bucks’ mental well-being. Now they enter another stretch of four games in five days.
After facing Boston again, the Bucks meet Detroit at home Wednesday. Then they play at Washington on Friday and host Brooklyn on Saturday.
“I feel lighter as we speak,” Henson said. “As a team I think we’re starting to grasp the concepts and how we need to play. I think it’s a big help.”