The Milwaukee Bucks made one of last season’s most impressive turnarounds.
In 2013-14, Milwaukee finished a league-worst 15-67. But last season, the Bucks reached the playoffs with a 41-41 record under first-year coach Jason Kidd.
The front office made several moves last offseason, most notably signing free-agent center Greg Monroe from the Detroit Pistons. This season, however, the Bucks have lagged.
Milwaukee is a new team in a few ways. Monroe was one major change. Power forward Jabari Parker, the second overall pick in the 2014 draft, is back from a torn ACL after playing just 25 games as a rookie.
New additions such has point guard Greivis Vasquez, a former King, have been out because of injuries.
Entering Saturday, the Bucks were 20-32 with a five-game losing streak and seven games out of a playoff berth.
“We are in the process,” Kidd said. “We’re the youngest team, and we have to go through the growing pains, and we have some new pieces. We would even include in that Jabari. He only played a few games last year for us before the injury.”
Milwaukee is bringing along Parker gradually. He is averaging 11.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in 28.6 minutes per game. The Bucks also are in their first full season with Michael Carter-Williams at point guard.
Injuries have been an issue for most of the season. Besides Vasquez (ankle), the Bucks recently have dealt with injuries to shooting guard O.J. Mayo (hamstring) and power forward John Henson (back).
“With Jabari back and Greg, and we’re still not healthy,” Kidd said. “Vasquez has been out for a while, and we were counting on him to run the show and also give us that three-point threat. He made over 100 threes last season, and O.J.’s been hurt, and (Jerryd) Bayless has been hurt. So that bench hasn’t been healthy ... but this a new group, a young group, and we’re learning how to win.”
We are in the process. We’re the youngest team, and we have to go through the growing pains, and we have some new pieces.
Milwaukee Bucks coach Jason Kidd
Even Kidd missed time after hip surgery but said his absence wasn’t a major factor. For a team with only one player older than 30, Kidd said the Bucks must mature, get healthy and put together some wins.
“I don’t matter,” Kidd said. “I think when you look at the time when I was out, the coaching staff and the guys did a really good job in getting better, and hopefully we can continue to do that.”
Injuries began hitting the Utah Jazz last summer when point guard Dante Exum suffered a season-ending torn ACL.
The Jazz has had its rough moments this season, but it is playing hard every night and staying in the playoff picture.
Entering Saturday, Utah (24-25) had won five consecutive games and was in eighth place in the West. The Jazz relies on its defense, which allows just 96.0 points per game (third best in the league), and a willingness to grind out wins. Quin Snyder should be in the running for Coach of the Year.
The Phoenix Suns’ fortunes continue to look bleak. The Suns fired coach Jeff Hornacek last week and elevated Earl Watson to interim coach.
Phoenix had lost six consecutive games entering Saturday, and veterans such as small forward P.J. Tucker, power forward Markieff Morris and center Tyson Chandler will come up in trade rumors as contenders seek reinforcements at the trade deadline.
The Suns were talking playoffs before the season. Now they’re next to last in the West and in the discussion for LSU freshman forward Ben Simmons, the presumed No. 1 pick in this year’s draft.
96.0 Points allowed per game by the Utah Jazz, the third-best average in the league
“Now, it is rare to be in the presence of guys from the greatest team in NBA history. So we’re pretty lucky today, because we’ve got one of those players in the house – Steve Kerr from the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls!”
President Barack Obama as he hosted the champion Golden State Warriors last week. Obama is a big Chicago sports fan, and the Warriors are threatening the 1995-96 Bulls’ record of 72-10, the best in league history.