Milwaukee Bucks prepare for compressed NBA season
By: By Chris Jenkins, AP Sports Writer, Superior Telegram
MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks are back. Well, at least one of them was.
Guard Beno Udrih showed up to work out and shoot baskets Thursday, the first day team facilities were reopened to players as the NBA lockout heads toward an apparent resolution. Steve Novak, a former Marquette star who most recently played for San Antonio, also was shooting at the Bucks’ facility.
If a tentative agreement between owners and players is ratified as expected, training camps could begin Dec. 9.
Bucks general manager John Hammond said the team’s front office has been filled with a sense of excitement since the deal came together.
“I think immediately, you could kind of feel that in your gut: Here we go, we’re getting ready to get started again,” Hammond said. “I think as each step progresses, that will continue.”
Restrictions on contact between team officials and players remain in place for now, but Hammond said teams are free to begin talking to agents.
“We can talk and we’re having conversations, just like I’m sure every other team is in the league,” Hammond said.
The Bucks have 12 players under contract, and Hammond pulled off what is expected to be his biggest move of the offseason before the lockout started.
Coming off a season where the Bucks generally played good defense but struggled to score, Milwaukee made a three-way trade on draft day to acquire Stephen Jackson, Udrih, guard Shaun Livingston and the rights to first-round pick Tobias Harris.
“Our roster is somewhat set, but we still have work to do,” Hammond said.
Hammond said the Bucks intend to bring back defensive stopper Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who is a restricted free agent.
“We appreciate Luc and what he’s done for us as an organization, and what he stands for,” Hammond said. “We have every intention of bringing Luc back.”
Hammond also was looking forward to the potential pairing of Udrih and Brandon Jennings in the backcourt. But he seemed most excited about the possibility of a strong bounce-back season from injured center Andrew Bogut.
“I believe this about Andrew: Andrew’s going to come back and have a really good year,” Hammond said. “People still don’t realize that Andrew has not had an opportunity to work the last two summers.”
The Bucks are coming off a disappointing season filled with injuries, but Hammond said he isn’t concerned that a compressed NBA season will take a toll on players’ health.
“‘‘That question is probably going to be asked more about our team more than any because of what we went through last year, the injured (players) that we had,” Hammond said. “I look at that and say it was an anomaly. I’ve never been around a team that’s gone through that before and I don’t expect that to happen again. I expect us to have a good season and a healthy season.”