When the Milwaukee Bucks made Jabari Parker the No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft, the Chicago native assumed his move north would be long-lasting. But after just four seasons, Parker signed with his hometown Bulls this summer, and he returns to Milwaukee for a preseason game Wednesday night as a visiting player for the first time.
The trip, which comes so soon after an acrimonious departure, has led to mixed emotions.
“[I made] some great memories being there, some great experiences, met some great people,” Parker said before Tuesday’s practice in the Advocate Center. “Pretty much bitter how it all ended, but most importantly, I had a sweeter moment being here. So that kind of like, I forgot all the bad memories I had with them.”
After Parker suffered multiple season-ending injuries and Giannis Antetokounmpo rose to superstardom, the Bucks shifted their focus away from treating Parker as a cornerstone. When the Bulls came calling with a lucrative two-year, $40 million offer, the Bucks allowed him to leave.
“I wasn’t planning on leaving so soon, especially like being there four years,” Parker said. “I love that group and all the training staff, medical staff. It just made it home. Every moment that I had, really involved in the community, was always out. But they went in a different direction, which I understand.”
He continued: “Things happen. It’s a business.”
The Bulls built protections into Parker’s contract, making the second year of the deal a team option. Still, he is just 23 years old.
“He’s got a lot left in the tank,” head coach Fred Hoiberg said of Parker on Tuesday.
Parker is coming in with a new team, but the Bucks are a different organization from last year too. Milwaukee hired a new coach in Mike Budenholzer and replaced Parker with veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova. Parker, who averaged 15.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2 assists per game during his tenure with the Bucks, said he isn’t harboring regrets.
“I don’t think it’s my responsibility to create all type of different scenarios in my head,” Parker said when asked if the Bucks gave him a clear explanation for the directional change. “I just take it for what it is, eliminates my confusion, and I just move on, just because it’s not as important right now.”