Donte DiVincenzo had a typical rookie experience during his NBA debut in the Milwaukee Bucks’ 116-82 exhibition victory over the Chicago Bulls at Fiserv Forum on Wednesday.
There were some promising moments, some things to work on and also some lighthearted newcomer hazing.
The 17th overall draft pick out of Villanova shot 1 of 9, including missing all 5 of his three-point attempts, but he added seven rebounds and six assists in almost 20 minutes.
“It was fun to actually get out there and get the jitters out,” DiVincenzo said. “Just shoot and keep shooting. I was trying to affect the game in other ways.”
DiVincenzo spoke in the Bucks’ spacious new locker room while wearing a gaudy, pink backpack.
“John Henson got it for me (on Tuesday), so I got to carry it around all year,” said the rookie, who was also trying to figure out the team’s laundry system after the game.
Despite the shooting struggles, DiVincenzo’s teammates liked what they saw in the youngster.
“When you’re a rookie, your first game, everything is coming 1,000 miles per hour,” Bucks guard Khris Middleton said. “I think he did a good job, just playing in rhythm. Let the game come to him and take his open shots.”
Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo was adamant that DiVincenzo not be shy about pulling the trigger.
“I want him to shoot the ball,” Antetokounmpo said. “Every time he catches it. He’s an unbelievable shooter. He’s an unbelievable player.
“He does the right thing every day. Every day he plays the right way. He’s going to be very good for us this season.”
After talking to the media, Antetokounmpo headed straight to DiVincenzo’s locker and reinforced his point to the rookie.
“He’s just instilling confidence in me,” DiVincenzo said. “In the game, he threw the ball to me and I didn’t shoot the ball and he was like, ‘That’s not what I want. I want you to shoot the ball with confidence because we going to need you to shoot the ball.’ They told me to just let it fly.”
With fellow guards Sterling Brown and Matthew Dellavedova sitting out, DiVincenzo was the first player off the bench against the Bulls, checking in at the 7:21 mark of the first quarter. His first shot attempt, a deep three-pointer, badly missed its mark.
“It slipped right out of my hands,” he said. “It was a long one but Giannis even told me, ‘Keep shooting. We know you can shoot.’
“That’s the leader that he is. Ever since I got here, he’s been building me up.”
Given the green light from his team’s star, DiVincenzo kept firing away despite his misses. He also skied for rebounds and had several highlight-worthy assists.
In the final minute of the third quarter, he beat fellow rookie Chandler Hutchison off the dribble. When the help defense collapsed on DiVincenzo, he found Tyler Zeller with a no-look bounce pass for a wide-open layup.
Those kind of plays earned the rookie some praise from his new head coach.
“Donte, I think, has been a bright spot in practice,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He’s just a winner. I think he’s going to get better and better with his shots. He’s been killing it in practice and so I think it will carry over to the games.
“But tonight to see a guy, when maybe the ball isn’t going in, to find ways to get into the paint and find guys, pass and shoot. The drop-off to Tyler Zeller stands out to me. He rebounds. He’s got a knack for winning and competing.”