Just by looking at the standings, it doesn’t seem like the Milwaukee Bucks have much to be excited about.
On Monday night, the Bucks racked up their 30th loss of the season as they fell 116-94 to the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre.
Ersan Ilyasova went 11-for-16 from the field on his way to a season-high 29 points and the Bucks did outscore the Raptors 26-20 in the second quarter, but otherwise they looked out of sorts at both ends of the floor.
Neither O.J. Mayo nor Caron Butler were able to establish much of a rhythm in what amounted to the Bucks’ sixth straight loss and ninth in 10 games. Mayo committed four fouls and scored eight points in 17.5 minutes, while Butler played 16 minutes and scored five points.
Gary Neal, another veteran who may be on the outside looking in at the team’s future, was in uniform but did not see any floor time at all.
However, the focus for the Bucks has clearly shifted to the development of the young core of players and so it will be the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, Larry Sanders, John Henson, and Ilyasova getting the bulk of the minutes the rest of the way.
For the remainder of the 2013-14 campaign, success won’t likely be measured in terms of wins and losses, but rather in how this core can learn, improve, and establish some chemistry.
The season began with playoff expectations, but general manager John Hammond is now committed to seeing his young core develop and he had this to say to Fox Sports Wisconsin in a video that was posted on NBA.com on Jan. 14:
“We weren’t expecting to be in this position, but it is what it is … so what we deal with now it to talk about our young players and make sure those guys are getting quality time and that they’re improving game to game and more importantly, that they’re improving as the season progresses.”
Hammond also believes there is a high ceiling for the Bucks and described his vision for the team in the interview with Fox.
“The real youth of the team [is] all young guys and pieces that we think can be with our team for years and can be really productive pieces and guys that you can build with and build a championship contending team with.”
Lastly — in the same interview — Hammond commented on the kinds of moves that he would consider exploring as the Feb. 20 trade deadline approaches:
“(W)e always want to explore our team and make our team better. Right now I think the most important thing is that we keep this young core together. … We’d like to continue to add assets. If we can find a way to add a pick, add another young player, add another good contract to our team, that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about the future.”
Owner Herb Kohl seemingly approves of the direction in which Hammond is steering the team. Hammond was hired in April 2008, won the NBA Executive of the Year Award for the 2009-10 season, and last January had his contract extended for three additional years.
So although it might be difficult to watch the losses continue to mount this season, the excitement lies in the general manager’s plan to allow his young core of players to develop on a minute-to-minute basis.