Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Bucks to use stars against Jazz
When the Milwaukee Bucks opened the preseason on Monday, they did so without the biggest stars. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe all sat out the 122-112 win over the Chicago Bulls. Veterans George Hill, Kyle Korver and Ersan Ilyasova also got the night off to rest.
Will the crowd at Fiserv Forum get a look at those players Wednesday night in the preseason home opener against the Utah Jazz?
“My guess is yes,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said after practice Tuesday. “I’ll probably check with them and make sure they want to play. Usually, they say yes, so I would expect to see most if not all of those guys.”
Though it’s still just the preseason, Wednesday’s game will likely offer the first look at reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo against NBA competition. He played for the Greek national team this summer and starred in Sunday’s intrasquad scrimmage, but going against an outside opponent – even in the preseason – is a different situation.
Budenholzer has indicated that he plans to ramp up minutes for his star players over the course of the preseason, and no regular rotation player logged more than 24 minutes in Monday’s preseason opener. Antetokounmpo may not play much against the Jazz, but he plans to display a lot of the same traits fans have become used to over the years.
“I don’t try to experiment with anything,” Antetokounmpo said of his approach to the preseason. “I just try to go as hard as I can, try to get in shape because being in practice shape and being in game shape is totally two different things.
“What I’m going to do tomorrow is go out there, play as hard as I can. There’s going to be a lot of times that I’m going to be out of breath, but I’ve just got to push myself, push my team so we can get in game shape and get ready for the season.”
With most of their core players getting back on the court Wednesday night, the Bucks are continuing their progression toward taking another step this season. Last year ended with bitter disappointment as Milwaukee lost four straight games to the Toronto Raptors after taking a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Bucks players have referenced unfinished business over the past months, but they generally haven’t gone much further than that in discussing how badly they want to improve their position this season.
They’ve stuck with the “get better every day” mentality Budenholzer instilled last season while keeping their focus on their daily tasks at hand.
However, there’s still definitely an underlying hunger within the team, something that Antetokounmpo both feels and hopes will become apparent through competition.
“Being hungry is in your nature,” Antetokounmpo said. “You cannot flip a switch and be hungry or somebody make you hungry . ... I think everybody on this team wants to show that last year wasn’t just a year by accident, that we just won 60 games.
“I think we were a great team and we got better, but obviously there’s going to be a lot of teams that expect us, that know us now and they’re going to play harder. They’re going to want to beat the Bucks in the Fiserv Forum. When they play against us they’re going to play hard. We’ve just got to be ready. They’re not going to give us nothing. We’ve got to go out there and take everything that we want and we’ve got to earn everything.”