One week into training camp and the general consensus from Milwaukee Bucks players has been positive regarding the shift to new coach Mike Budenholzer’s system.
Everything about practices is regimented down to the smallest detail. The work on the court, in the film room, training room and weight room is pointed, purposeful, slotted and efficient. And, of course, there’s the “daily vitamin” system that Budenholzer is known for.
While proper nutrition is important, a vitamin in Budenholzer’s lexicon is an analogy for getting specific, tailored work sessions in with assistants coaches.
“It’s just for guys to come in, obviously you want to take your vitamins every day, keep improving, getting better,” center Brook Lopez said Monday at the Sports Science Center when asked to explain what Budenholzer means when he talks about vitamins.
“It’s Bud’s thing where you come in, either by yourself or with one other guy, you’re getting 20-30 minutes of court time just working on whatever you need to work on however you need to improve.”
Each player knows when and where he is expected to be and how long their work should last. Certain days that work comes before practice and sometimes it comes after, but the point is to get it done without belaboring the point. There have been times where Budenholzer has had to remind individuals to get off the court in favor of getting off their feet and letting their bodies rest.
The result has been more focused work and less overall fatigue. In past years, Bucks players have been exhausted after individual training-camp practices or spent extensive time on the court either before or after practices getting work in.
“I think it’s very efficient,” Lopez said. “That’s kind of how I am as a person, so it fits me very well. I like to come in, have everything laid out, be in my routine … and I think it’s very beneficial toward getting the maximum amount out of each player.”
In addition to emphasizing efficiency, Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon says there’s a clear difference in tone from the team’s former coacher staff to its new one with Budenholzer at the helm. For him, it’s been a welcome shift.
“Honestly they’re very detail-oriented but at the same time they’re very enthusiastic, they’re very positive,” Brogdon said. “Their approach is just so different than what I’ve experienced in terms of being encouraging, being uplifting.”
Budenholzer’s daily structure is at least in part aimed at preparing his team for how he wants them to operate on the court. His offensive system is built on the delicate balance of playing within the framework and mixing in creativity.
Striking that balance comes with daily development work and building up a high level of knowledge and trust throughout the team.
“I think we usually err on the side of giving players a lot of confidence and freedom within the motion to make plays and make reads and make decisions,” Budenholzer said. “But then the way you teach it, the way you guide them with film and everything, you can probably be encouraging more of what you want them to do and spots you want them to get to. … It’s a constant debate and sometimes it doesn’t look pretty for sure.”
Injury report: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Sterling Brown did not participate in Saturday’s scrimmage but were both back on the court on Monday. When it comes to Antetokounmpo, Budenholzer downplayed any concerns about the Bucks star.
“Giannis has just got a little bit of an ankle,” Budenholzer said. “He had a great practice today, so hopefully he’ll be fine going forward.”
Second-year forward D.J. Wilson, though, likely won’t suit up for Wednesday’s preseason opener against the Chicago Bulls. Wilson injured his right hamstring during the second period of Saturday’s scrimmage and did not practice Monday.
“We’ll see how he reacts to these first two or three days and hope for the best, but he’ll probably miss a little bit of time, at least, here over the next few days,” Budenholzer said.
Aiming high: Bucks players, coaches and members of the front office have been unanimous in their high hopes for this year’s team while staying away from putting specific goals out there as bulletin-board fodder.
On Monday, Brogdon got a little more precise with his hopes for the team when asked about his perceptions regarding the squad’s depth.
“We have a lot of talent on this team,” he said. “I thought we had a lot of talent last year and this year we have even more. There’s no reason why we can’t make it to the Eastern Conference Finals and maybe beyond.”