Bucks' Middleton looking for shooting touch
HOUSTON—Khris Middleton is a soft-spoken guy.
But the second-year Milwaukee Bucks forward made some noise early in the season with his play, after arriving in the offseason trade that also brought point guard Brandon Knight from Detroit.
Now, he is trying to find a rhythm again after an unexpected trip to the bench caused a sharp downturn in his production.
Middleton went to the bench for a five-game stretch when coach Larry Drew decided to use Luke Ridnour and Knight together in the backcourt with rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo sliding over to small forward.
But the 6-foot-7 Middleton returned to the starting lineup on the Bucks’ last road trip against Oklahoma City and Toronto, going just 4 of 22 in those games.
He came off the bench against Memphis on Wednesday due to a sprained left ankle and hit 1 of 6 shots in 12 minutes.
In the last four games, he has hit only 6 of 35 shots (17.1 percent) and scored 15 points.
“It’s just something I’ve got to work through,” Middleton said. “I’m in a little slump. But I’ll figure it out and get my way out of it.”
The surprising part about the slump is Middleton was shooting so well earlier in the season.
He was 10 of 10 from two-point range and scored 27 points in a Bucks victory over Philadelphia in late December. And he had a career-high 29 points in a Dec. 6 game at Washington as the Bucks won in overtime.
In the game before he went to the bench, he led the Bucks in scoring with 23 points in a home loss to Minnesota.
“I’m getting the same looks, the same opportunities,” Middleton said. “It’s just those same shots that were falling before aren’t falling.”
Middleton is more frustrated about the team’s lack of success than he is about any personal struggles.
The Bucks have lost seven straight games entering Saturday night’s visit to the Toyota Center to face Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets.
And a two-game Texas trip finishes Sunday night as the Bucks travel to San Antonio to face the Spurs, the defending Western Conference champions.
“We have stretches where we play pretty good, and we have too many stretches where we don’t play well,” Middleton said.
“It’s discouraging but we have to learn from it and move on from it, just go out and play the next game with a winning attitude.”
Despite the Bucks’ lack of success, Middleton does not sense the team breaking into separate factions.
“It’s the whole team, not just the young guys,” Middleton said. “The older guys, they have the same record as us.
“We’re all positive, trying to encourage each other. Nobody wants to lose on this team, and we all want to get better.”
Larry Sanders, John Henson, Knight, Middleton and Antetokounmpo form the team’s young core, and rookie point guard Nate Wolters also could be included in that mix although his playing time has been limited lately.
“We have some great young players,” Middleton said. “It’s just one of those seasons right now where it’s rough, but I feel like we’ll learn from it and it will make us better in the long run.”
Middleton said he is staying confident as he tries to shake out of his slump.
“You won’t get out of a slump if you don’t shoot,” he said. “I have to be aggressive and play within the team like I have been.
“My teammates keep encouraging me to shoot the ball and keep playing my game.”