Preview: Bucks vs. 76ers
The Milwaukee Bucks are about to experience another unique test.
One of the youngest teams in the league will have to play without coach Jason Kidd as he recovers from right hip surgery.
It will be up to Joe Prunty, a longtime NBA assistant, to lead the Bucks while Kidd is out. Kidd has said he hopes to return to the office in a couple weeks, though it’s unclear when he might be able to coach in a game again.
There is no doubt that he’s still in charge, though.
"Trust me, as soon as we are able to be talking with him, we’ll definitely be in touch," said Prunty, who will make his debut Wednesday night when the Bucks host the NBA-worst Philadelphia 76ers (1-29).
The Bucks said Monday night that Kidd was expected to make a full recovery following a successful operation at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, "though there is currently no timetable for his return to the bench."
Kidd, 42, said the injury dated to his playing days and his second stint with Dallas between 2008-12.
The pain has been become chronic and periodic cortisone shots were no longer helping, Kidd said Sunday after Milwaukee snapped a three-game losing streak and won for the second time in seven contests with a 101-95 victory at Phoenix.
The task of leading the Bucks out of their early hole in the Eastern Conference falls on Prunty, who is in his 20th season in the NBA and his third year working with Kidd. Prunty assisted Kidd in Brooklyn, then followed him to Milwaukee last season.
Prunty said he will continue to call offensive plays, while assistant Sean Sweeney will draw up the defense.
Youth, defense and depth were the hallmarks of the Bucks’ surprise run to the playoffs last season.
At 11-18, the Bucks have had more problems early on this year. Defense was a problem in the opening weeks, though the team has been better in that area of late.
Injuries at point guard to Jerryd Bayless and Greivis Vasquez have sapped the team of backcourt depth. Three-point shooting has also been an issue.
The Bucks did welcome back forward Jabari Parker after he missed last year with a knee injury. Center Greg Monroe has been a welcome addition, especially offensively, after arriving as a free agent from Detroit.
The ideal Bucks starting lineup, which would also include 21-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo, wouldn’t have a player older than 25.
The team’s average age on opening night was 24 years, 144 days. Only Philadelphia had a younger roster (23 years, 66 days).
"I think if we can put together whole games, not having lapses, I think we can be pretty good," said forward John Henson, who at 24 is another key member of the Bucks’ core.
The up-and-down season has included home wins over NBA powers Cleveland and Golden State, and a 113-95 road loss Dec. 15 to the Los Angeles Lakers, the team with the second-fewest wins in the league.
Perhaps Prunty can get a few tips from Luke Walton, the Warriors’ interim coach while Steve Kerr recovers from back surgery. Golden State started the season an NBA-record 24-0 under Walton before the streak was snapped earlier this month by the Bucks.
"It wouldn’t be bad for Joe to take what Luke has done," Kidd joked.
Even-keeled and composed, Prunty isn’t viewing his shot on the sideline as a showcase for himself.
Milwaukee beat the visiting 76ers 91-87 in the first meeting Nov. 4 as Khris Middleton had 21 points, Monroe scored 18 and Antetokounmpo added 17. The Bucks have won seven in a row in the series and six straight meetings at home.
Philadelphia committed 28 turnovers Tuesday and fell 104-90 at home to Memphis for its 11th consecutive loss.
"You can write 28 turnovers for 36 points. That can be a headline. It can be a single-sentence article, and we can all go finish our Christmas shopping," coach Brett Brown said.
The 76ers now play their next six away from home, where they are 0-17 and have lost 22 in a row. Philadelphia has also dropped 27 straight overall and 28 in a row on the road against East opponents.