The Mike Budenholzer era officially got under way as the Milwaukee Bucks held their first practice under the new head coach Tuesday.
Budenholzer emphasized transition defense and spacing on offense, the hallmarks of a philosophy that helped him become the NBA’s coach of the year with the Atlanta Hawks in the 2014-’15 season.
“There’s always so much to put in and cover, defensively and offensively,” Budenholzer said. “It’s important – the guys probably just want to get out and play and do all that stuff – but I think they understand how important the fundamentals and our defensive principles and all those things are.”
Budenholzer opened his first practice by working on slowing opponents’ fast breaks.
“That’s where your defense starts,” Budenholzer said. “If you are not good in transition, you probably aren’t going to be good. Or you’ll be taking it out of the net and playing a lot of offense.
“You have to understand your roles and responsibilities.”
Budenholzer also put defenders in disadvantaged situations to create chaos.
“That was really cool. It’s just so we can learn to talk,” center Thon Maker said. “As a unit, I feel like we’ve been growing. We haven’t been good at it, but we’ve growing in terms of talking to one another as the game is going on.
“Some of the guys like to lead by example, so (Budenholzer) wants us to talk.”
There were also some new features on the practice courts at the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center. Five squares were taped off on every end – two in the deep corners behind the three-point line, two near the hash marks 28 feet from the basket and one at the top of the key behind the arc.
That’s where Budenholzer wants players to be on offense.
“We’re trying to create a lot of space for our players,” Budenholzer said. “Play aggressive and attack in transition but then follow it up with what we call our motion offense.
“Getting to spots and then playing and reading off of each other and actions that come from that spacing.”
Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova, who played for Budenholzer with the Hawks, foresees all that room on the offensive end benefiting Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“I think it’s the best thing for Giannis,” Ilyasova said. “Use his ability to just beat players one-on-one. His creativity, he’s always trying to (pass). That’s good and why we try to give him more space and be on those blue boxes to create more space.
“The biggest emphasis of Coach is just to share the ball, space up and shoot a lot of threes.”
Welcome, rookie: First-round draft pick Donte DiVincenzo thought he fared well in his first NBA practice.
“(The speed) is similar (to college), it’s just the guys are longer and more athletic,” DiVincenzo said. “The pace is similar to what we played last year (at Villanova), it’s just the guys are longer and cover more ground.”
Budenholzer seemed pleased with the 21-year-old, who was picked No. 17 overall.
“He’s got a confidence and comfort level playing,” the coach said. “He’s been good.”
Stronger maker: Maker, who had an up-and-down second season in the NBA, spent a lot of time over the summer working on his body.
He worked out at P3 in Santa Barbara, California, a facility famed for its high-tech approach that has become a trendy training spot for NBA players.
“It actually helped me fall in love with the weight room more,” Maker said. “Just doing the everyday things consistently.
“I learned to stretch before all my workouts. That means getting 30 minutes extra to do that, but it really helps me throughout the day.”