New-look Bucks eager to get training camp started
Larry Drew called every member of the Milwaukee Bucks after signing up as the team's new coach this summer to talk about his expectations.
Every few weeks or so, it seemed the Bucks would let go of a player and add a new piece. More conversations.
The time for talk is over. Training camp starts Tuesday for the overhauled Bucks.
''It's going to get some time to get everybody on the same page,'' Drew said. ''So many new faces ... but it's something that I embrace as far as challenges are concerned.''
The Bucks finished 38-44 last year, making the playoffs as an eighth seed before getting swept by the Miami Heat.
Milwaukee made the playoffs for the first time since 2010, with Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings combining for almost 37 points and 13 assists per game in the backcourt.
But forget about that team.
''Four old faces, 11 new faces ... It's exciting around here,'' center Ekpe Udoh, one of the few holdovers, told reporters while other Bucks were busy getting their pictures taken on the practice court at a suburban Milwaukee training facility.
Better keep that roster handy in the early going.
Brandon Knight (13.3 points per game with Pistons), O.J. Mayo (15.3 points with Mavericks) and Gary Neal (9.5 points with Spurs) are the top additions in the backcourt.
Drew, a guard when he played in the NBA, comes to Milwaukee after a winning record and three straight playoff appearances with the Atlanta Hawks.
''Coach Drew has already said he'll want me off the ball a little bit,'' Knight said. ''He says we don't want to be too predictable.''
First, he's got to figure out what he's got. He's confident that he'll be able to do so - just give him a little time.
''Certainly, I've always been a defensive-minded coach,'' Drew said. ''As far as an identity - ask me that same question in a couple weeks.''
In the frontcourt, Caron Butler (10.4 points with Clippers) has returned to his native Wisconsin to provide a veteran presence at small forward. Carlos Delfino (10.6 points with Rockets) is back for his second tour in Milwaukee.
Delfino, though, walked around media day with a protective boot on his right foot, an injury that carried over from last season's playoffs. General manager John Hammond said he was due to undergo more tests this week.
''It was a setback and we'll deal with it appropriately,'' Hammond said.
Overall though, Hammond feels pretty good about where the Bucks are headed. He played the mad scientist role in piecing practically a whole new team together.
Some guys on last season's roster weren't sure about where they might be in 2013-14. Jennings was a restricted free agent, while unrestricted free agents Ellis and Mike Dunleavy weren't retained.
''Being on the last year of a contract is not an easy way to live,'' Hammond said.
The current Bucks didn't criticize the departing players. Though nearly everyone was excited about the character on the team, both from the new additions and the holdovers.
''You always want that. Ultimately you need good character people to be a really good team. You always try to accomplish that. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't,'' owner Herb Kohl said. ''When it does work, you have to be willing to make changes, and that's what we did.''
The Bucks did make a big splash with one of their few returnees after signing center Larry Sanders to a four-year extension.
The 24-year-old Sanders had a breakout season last year in averaging career-bests of 9.8 points and 9.5 rebounds. His 2.83 blocks per game were second in the NBA to Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka.
''We look at him as a big building block piece,'' Hammond said. ''We look at him as one of the best goaltenders in the game.''
Notes: Kohl was asked several times about the possibility of getting a new arena. The Bucks are heading into their 26th season at the Bradley Center, their home since the facility opened in 1988. He's talked for years about the need for a new facility, though the issue has gained renewed traction after incoming NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Kohl spoke about the issue a couple weeks ago at a meeting of Bucks corporate sponsors. ''I will do whatever I need to do in order for us to get there,'' Kohl said. ''It's about getting a new facility with the Bucks playing there under a long-term lease ... it's not about me.'' ... Besides Sanders and Udoh, forwards Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson are the other returnees for Milwaukee.
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