Bucks’ unlikely pairing of DiVincenzo, Henson bonded by 3s, doughnuts

PORTLAND — Since the arrival of Giannis Antetokounmpo, every NBA enthusiast around the world has had their eyes on the Milwaukee Bucks and waiting for them to make notable noise in the Eastern Conference. With the rise of Khris Middleton expectations became even greater and left everyone wondering just when the Bucks will become a relevant championship contender. Now, under the helm of new head coach Mike Budenholzer, the Bucks are off to a 10-3 start and finally coming to fruition.

Budenholzer wasted no time getting to work. Before the season started, he was thinking of ways to squeeze every possible skill he could from the entire Bucks’ roster. All players, newly added, veterans and rookies, but particularly seventh-year center John Henson and rookie guard Donte DiVincenzo.

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NBA veterans and rookies usually don’t have the same experiences, but that’s not the case for Henson and DiVincenzo. Thanks to Budenholzer’s instant tweak of extending Henson’s shooting range, they are both facing the NBA 3-point line for the first time.

Before this year, Henson was 1-for-13 from behind the arc in his previous six seasons and the brunt of those attempts were a result of him having the ball in his hands with an expiring shot clock and having to put up a last-second heave.

Now in Budenholzer’s system, the 6-foot-11 Henson is not only shooting 3s on a regular basis, but he’s also shooting them at a respectable 37.9 percent (11 of 29).

“It’s something I’ve been working on for a while and when Bud [Budenholzer] became coach, he called me and said, ‘Hey, corner 3s, we’re going to give you a chance to show what you can do,’ from then on out, I was just working on that,” Henson said. “And credit to the staff for giving me confidence, too.  Great staff, they encourage me to shoot and they get mad at me when I don’t shoot certain ones. When the opportunity comes, I might as well let it fly. I’ve been shooting it well as of late, so hopefully I can keep it up.”

DiVincenzo was the Bucks’ first round-pick, No. 17 overall, in this past summer’s NBA draft. Playing for the 2017-18 national champion Villanova Wildcats, he was named the Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four and he also was tabbed the Big East’s Sixth Man of the Year while shooting 40.1 percent from 3-point distance. Although DiVincenzo faced a few setbacks due to preseason injuries, he is now finding his stride and is back in his familiar sixth-man role, logging 19 minutes per a game off the bench for the Bucks.

“The pre-draft process is long, especially coming right off of the championship,” DiVincenzo said. “I really didn’t get a break, so I’m learning my body and trying to work out different things, and unfortunately got a couple of injuries … I just got to battle back and keep working. Thankfully I got help before training camp and ever since it’s been good.”

Along with the rest of the roster, Henson and DiVincenzo have bought into Budenholzer’s methods and strategies. They know that defense is the key to keep achieving at a high-level throughout this season.

“Defensively, we make the offense take tough shots,” said Henson on Budenholzer’s system. “Contesting 2s and long 2s, and don’t want to give up easy layups. It’s a great system because offensively, we’re talented on that end and the system on offense goes to everyone’s strengths … That’s why we are where we are.”

“Spacing the floor,” said DiVincenzo concerning his role on the team. “That the shooting is right and being able to make plays for other guys, and on the defensive end, that’s what I pride myself on, being able to defend and making it easier for the other four guys on the court … I need to keep improving every day and on every aspect of my game. There’s not one specific thing, there’s a lot of little different things I want to get better at throughout the year and keep gaining confidence throughout the year.”

Off the court, the key to making the Bucks locker room happy is making sure they have two boxes of  doughnuts (Voodoo Doughnut is a favorite, but it’s available in just a few cities) in the morning. Being a rookie, DiVincenzo is in charge of that errand.

“Yeah I went this morning and I got their Voodoo Doughnut, a bunch of mixture, different kinds,” laughed DiVincenzo. “For the most part these guys are really good with me. I know talking with a couple of other rookies around the league, that I got it a little bit easier than some other guys.”

Said Henson: “He’s doing good, best rook I’ve ever had. He gets us our doughnuts and does his duties and it translates on the court too, he plays well and plays the right way, and I’m happy to have him on the team.”