Out of chaos comes opportunity. Or in John Henson’s case, opportunity comes out of an ejection.
When forward Larry Sanders was ejected on his birthday after getting two quick technical fouls in the second quarter, the Bucks rookie had just that, an opportunity, and made the most of it.
Though the Bucks fell to the defending-champion Heat in overtime, Henson opened eyes, scoring 17 points and grabbing 18 rebounds in 27 minutes. Afterward, LeBron James called Henson a “big-time player.”
The Bucks knew Henson had this kind of potential when they used the 14th pick of last June’s draft on the former North Carolina star. But like most rookies, there’s an adjustment to the NBA. Henson’s learning process was slowed by a preseason injury, also blocked by the stellar play of Sanders and Ekpe Udoh.
“The question with John is not can he come into the game and have success; we already know that,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. “It’s just does he know what we’re doing? He’s getting better at it. He’s just got a typical rookie learning curve that he’s going through. Obviously he was really, really good tonight.”
While he flashed his vast potential and grew up a bit on the road against the league’s champion, there was a time at the end of the game where Henson looked like a rookie.
Henson’s jumper put Milwaukee ahead 91-84 with 4:50 left, but then he got beat on a rebound on the other end by Chris Bosh. After the Bosh put-back and a missed shot by Udoh, James drilled a 3 and the lead shrunk to two.
“There are critical moments where you absolutely have to have a stop and when we were (up) 91-84 we needed a stop and possibly a score,” Skiles said. “Then Erik takes a timeout instead of me and the whole game can change.”
It would have been a fitting ending to his night if Henson could have converted on his chance to play hero at the end of regulation. After Monta Ellis missed a wild 3, Henson grabbed the offensive rebound with about two seconds on the clock. And, reminding everyone he was a rookie, Henson didn’t realize he had time and wildly threw up a shot that badly missed.
Nobody can blame Henson for having the game speed up on him at the end; he’s never been on the floor in a close game late as a professional. The Bucks didn’t win Wednesday and there certainly aren’t any moral victories in the NBA. But watching Henson flash his potential against Miami is a gigantic positive to take away from a tough loss.
Now, was it his coming out party or a flash in the pan? Only time, actual and playing, will tell.