MILWAUKEE — After a dunk in the fourth quarter Friday night, Carlos Delfino took a long look back at his former team’s bench and smiled. There’s no ill will, he was just having fun.
In his return to the building where he spent the past three years of his career, Delfino put on one of the offensive shows he did every so often in Milwaukee. Hitting 8 of 11 field goals and 6 of 7 three-pointers, Delfino scored 22 points to lead Houston to a 115-101 victory in a game it once trailed by 18 points.
Delfino understands the business side of the game and doesn’t blame the Milwaukee Bucks for not offering him a contract, but during the offseason he was hoping they would.
The Argentine forward didn’t want to leave the franchise that gave him his first consistent minutes in the league, and the Bucks didn’t want him to leave. But an abundance of wing players left Delfino as the odd man out.
“After you spend three years defending the colors, you want to go back to the city,” Delfino said. “I thought I was going to be wearing Milwaukee colors all the time.
“At the end of the day if it doesn’t work for the business, you know you are going to get moved. I was feeling (sad) more about the personal stuff, (and not) getting a call and getting a contact before finding out. I was more sad about that.”
When healthy, Delfino provided the Bucks with a solid role player who did a little bit of everything. Delfino averaged 10.5 points per game in three years with the Bucks but always had the potential to go off offensively, especially if left open for a 3-pointer in the corner.
Friday night, the Bucks did just that and Delfino made them pay. The Rockets thrive when guard Jeremy Lin and James Harden get into the paint, collapse the defense and kick it out to shooters such as Delfino.
When the game turned in the second half, the Bucks let the Rockets’ guards go right by them, collapsing the defense deep and leaving the shooters open.
“When Carlos makes a couple, he’s got a beautiful shot,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “He goes for long stretches without missing. He has a beautiful stroke.
“Carlos just plays. He has no agenda when he plays. He’s a pro. He’s a fun guy to be around. For our team, we’re young, he’s a nice stabilizing factor.”
Delfino agreed the transition to the Rockets has gone smoothly, and he’s enjoyed being a mentor to one of the youngest teams in the NBA.
After the Rockets fell behind by 18 points in the first half, McHale tore into his team’s defensive effort and it responded. Houston forced 19 turnovers in the second half and 25 for the game, scoring 28 points off of Milwaukee’s miscues.
“We got the message,” Delfino said. “We were having trouble on defensive possessions one after another, enough to get beat. We were having fouls and two plus one. We had a great talk here and we changed the situation. I think it is a great way to win; it has a different flavor.”
Though he holds no grudge, Delfino certainly found satisfaction in performing well against the team that let him go. Hence, the smile he gave.
“It’s special,” Delfino said. “With familiar faces I used to see on my side. Coming and getting a victory this way was special, but at the end of the day it’s just one game out of 82. There’s a personal satisfaction, but tomorrow we have another game.”