MILWAUKEE - The NBA's Milwaukee Bucks will open their training camp today, and coach Scott Skiles promises a renewed emphasis on defense.
The Bucks held their annual Media Day yesterday, where Skiles said the team had to get bigger during the off-season - and it did. Skiles said the Bucks gave up too many lay-ups last season, especially after Andrew Bogut was hurt and then traded - and 6-10 Drew Gooden was given the job of facing the NBA's larger-and-bulkier centers. The Bucks acquired 6-11 veteran center Samuel Dalembert in a trade from Houston. They also signed 7-1 center Joel Przybilla for his second stint in Milwaukee. And they drafted 6-11 John Henson in the first round in June. The Bucks will also have three 6-10 players besides Gooden - Ersan Ilyasova, Ekpe Udoh, and Larry Sanders.
Skiles said the Bucks proved last year that they can score, as they averaged 99 points a game. But they also gave up around 99 points a night - and Skiles said a better defense would give the Bucks a stronger running game in transition. Udoh said the Bucks now have enough big men to cause problems for other teams. Skiles also expects big things from his smaller backcourt. High-scorers Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis will have their first training camp together - and Skiles says he's excited to see they can do. Jennings averaged over 19 points a game last season, and Ellis - who was traded from Golden State in March - had almost 18.
Bucks' forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is expected to miss Milwaukee's entire training camp - and part of the regular season - after he had knee surgery in May. Mbah a Moute struggled last season through an ailing patella tendon in his right knee. He said it has bothered him for the last year-and-a-half. And after his surgery, Mbah a Moute says he looks forward to being pain-free and playing at a higher level. Mbah a Moute is a native of Cameroon, took part in the NBA's "Basketball Without Borders" program for children in South Africa in late August and early September. When he got home, he had his knee examined - and he said it felt like it was really healing for the first time. Mbah a Moute averaged just under eight points and five-and-a-half rebounds in 43 games last season.