If the Bucks, then defending champions, were knocked out in the second round of the playoffs by the Celtics, the leaders of the Wisconsin franchise did not panic.
For Jon Horst, the GM of Milwaukee, there was no question of sounding the alarm and carrying out a major upheaval. Especially since they surrendered without Khris Middleton, All-Star and Olympic champion.
“The priority was to keep our group intact”
No, the Bucks will just take it back for a ride, with Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton fully back and an ever fiercer armada around their Greek leader and two-time MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“The priority was to keep our group intact,” advance Horst in The Athletic. “It’s really not easy to do. Even if we look back on the last two years, we were able to extend several guys and keep them with us: Brook, Khris, George, Bledsoe, Jrue, Bobby, Pat… It’s harder than people realize. think, because they are very good players who play for a very good team. But they are in demand on the market! It’s free agency. In the end, they chose us, whether it was taking their option or negotiating a new contract. They choose us as much as we run after them. »
With Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton, and to a lesser extent Serge Ibaka, Jevon Carter and Wes Matthews, who all gladly extended their leases in Milwaukee, the Bucks can clearly play the continuity card in their game. With veterans who know the song and are hungry for titles.
“It means so much to us because it means that they have accepted to be part of our culture, our hard core. We know it’s also because they have the chance to play with Giannis, of course. It’s the guarantee of playing at a high level but also of being part of our community. We really believe that our players legitimately want to be part of the franchise, and that they like living in Milwaukee, otherwise they would have made other decisions. They have a choice, believe me. »
In this case, the only real Bucks rookie in the offseason is Joe Ingles, from Portland (where he will therefore not have played a single game). The Australian veteran is still undergoing rehabilitation after his left knee cruciate ligament injury. Jon Horst put no pressure on him.
“There are a lot of factors that come into play. These are the cruciate ligaments, a major injury, difficult to predict. We know that nothing is certain but we are counting on a return in December or January. But the other factor is whether we really need Joe in the regular season. We are not going to rush anything, we will always see the long term with him because we see him with us beyond this season. We will be patient. »
“We have a team that knows each other and has the potential to be even better, and different! »
While waiting for the return to business of the former Jazz, it is the rookie MarJon Beauchamp who will probably be the recipient of a few minutes on the external positions off the bench. The Milwaukee GM sees a lot of potential in his latest draft pick. But he also believes that there is still room for improvement internally.
“We added a draft pick and I think MarJon will be able to impact the team and maybe immediately. He will have to save his playing time but he will help us. Jevon [Carter] had arrived for the end of the season, and we had done almost the entire season without Brook, which had allowed Bobby [Portis] and Grayson [Allen] to grow up. We have a team that knows each other and has the potential to be even better, and different! I think Grayson will get even better with time. Bobby will still progress. We’re gonna have Brook all season, and then Joe [Ingles] is also a big recruit for us. »
Rather very satisfied with his offseason, Horst is serene for the Bucks’ upcoming season. The hasty exit from the playoffs last spring should only be a hitch. A road accident. No consequence for the future.
“Building a team is hard to do every year. At the rate our business is going, we are forced to do it in a small window of time, and there is a lot of competition for the people we are looking for. Lots of decisions to make in very short time. I’m really proud of our group and how we manage to form the team collectively. We have the best player in the world. We have an excellent staff. We have incredible stars around Giannis with a big hard core. It gives us a certain level of confidence. »
Unhappy with injuries last season, the Bucks hope to be able to count on all of their forces present. And, if that’s the case, the competition will still suffer against Giannis, Jrue, Khris, Brook and all the others…
“We have won the most games in the playoffs and in the regular season combined over the last four years”, concludes Horst. “We have a very good group, an established group. We want it to last as long as possible at a high level. We will still be one of the best teams in the next regular season, and we will have a chance to go far in the playoffs. With a bit of luck, especially health… We’ll see, but I can tell you that I like our position. I am proud of our group and what they have been able to accomplish. »