Jason Kidd is returning to the Milwaukee Bucks’ bench Tuesday night for the first time since undergoing a hip procedure on Dec. 21.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Kidd led the team’s practice on Monday ahead of the Bucks’ home game against the Orlando Magic. Kidd’s return coincides with two home games in a week. The Bucks play at Memphis on Thursday before they take on Miami Friday night and after Tuesday’s home game at the Bradley Center.
It’s unclear if Kidd will travel with the team on away games, but according to ESPN, Kidd hopes his doctors clear him for travel at the end of the week. After Friday night's game, the Bucks begin a three-game road trip against Sacramento, Portland, and Utah.
In Kidd’s absence, interim coach Joe Prunty led the team to an 8-9 record. During that stretch, the Bucks showed signs of defensive life coupled with strong performances from Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo in recent wins against Atlanta, Miami, and Charlotte. However, in the latest losses to Houston and New Orleans, the Bucks showed the defensive lapses that have been plaguing them all year.
Although Kidd was in constant contact with the team, especially Prunty, he used his time on the sideline to reflect on the team’s season:
“I think people from the outside thought it was just going to be automatic and we’d pick up from last year. Expectations were a lot higher. But also, we had new pieces, with Jabari (Parker) being one of them, and Moose [Greg Monroe].
“Our defense did take a step back. Sometimes, you have to get games under your belt and see the good and bad and hopefully make the adjustments. As you can see, the guys are starting to play as a team.”
In hindsight, a 26-game improvement over the previous season last year might not have been the best for the Bucks' long-term growth. The excitement the team generated in the playoffs energized a fan base whose expectations are not being met this year.
Although missing the playoffs seems like a step back, the opportunity to make another lottery selection could be just what the Bucks need.
Besides watching his team, Kidd observed the habits of other teams. He came to the conclusion that the Bucks need to show more emotion towards each other.
“It was something I talked with the guys about, cheering each other on. Wins always brings teams closer together, but [for] championship teams, losses bring them closer together. So for us, when we lose, we can’t break apart. We’ve got to become a tighter group. As a young group, sometimes you don’t understand that.”
Kidd wants to see simple gestures between his players in the hopes that it will generate positive energy.
“I talked about how championship teams touch each other … handshakes, chest bumps, whatever it may be. For us, we have to get to that level.”
Regardless of the record the Bucks finish the season with, bringing this young team closer together should be the goal. If Kidd and general manager John Hammond hope to build a championship caliber team with the young core they have, creating cohesion is imperative.