Dollars rely on stability to produce more playoff success

STEVE MEGARGEE Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo has virtually the same set of teammates as last season. The goal of the Milwaukee Bucks is also the same: a second NBA championship.

The Bucks fire anyone who played significant minutes in their unsuccessful title defense, which ended in a seven-game Eastern Conference semifinal loss to the Boston Celtics.

“I love playing with people I’ve played with before. I know where they want to put the ball, how they operate, what kind of people they are,” Antetokounmpo said. “I think in the NBA some years you always build new relationships, and once you’re at the top of that relationship and you know how to play with this guy, maybe he moves on to another team. .”

Milwaukee has made few changes to its roster and believes the return of a healthy Khris Middleton could help produce a repeat of the 2020-21 season, when the Bucks won their first title in half a century.

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Middleton missed the Celtics’ series with a medial collateral ligament sprain in his left knee and underwent surgery on his left wrist this summer. Although Middleton doesn’t expect to be ready for the opener, the three-time All-Star plans to return early in the season.

Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton signed long-term deals in the offseason to stay in a core that also includes Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, Wesley Matthews and George Hill.

Milwaukee’s most notable additions are first-round pick MarJon Beauchamp and veteran forward Joe Ingles, a free agent acquisition who won’t play until at least December or more likely January as he recovers from a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament. The Bucks’ training camp roster includes 16 of the 17 players who finished the 2021-22 season with Milwaukee.

“That is, I think by a decent number, a record for me in my almost 30 years in the NBA, to bring back 16 guys,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think it mainly speaks to the conviction and the quality of the players. I hope it speaks to them about wanting to stay and be a part of what we do.

Brook is back

The Bucks should get a boost by having Brook Lopez out for a full season after a back injury limited the 7-footer to just 13 regular-season games last year.

Serge Ibaka also re-signed with the Bucks despite ending the playoffs out of rotation, a move that gives the Bucks frontline insurance in case Lopez gets injured again.

Allen’s mission

Allen set career highs in scoring, rebounding and 3-point percentage in his first season with the Bucks, but ended it shooting 2 of 18 from beyond the arc in the last six games of the Celtics series.

“I’m proud of the fact that I was able to keep improving,” Allen said. “I think looking at the end of the year, it just points to things you need to work on, especially in the playoffs when the teams know everything we’re going to do (and) we know everything they’re going to do. It just gets a lot harder, a lot more physical. It just adds something in my head that I need to improve.

reminder of Antetokounmpo

Antetokounmpo is coming off a 2021-22 season in which the two-time MVP scored a career-high 29.9 points per game to go along with 11.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game.

In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Antetokounmpo averaged 29.6 points, 14.7 rebounds and 7.1 assists against Boston to become the first player to record 200 points, 100 rebounds and 50 assists in a series eliminatory.

D de Beauchamp

The Bucks selected Beauchamp with the 24th overall pick in the draft, marking the first time the Bucks have retained a first-round pick beyond draft night since taking Donte DiVincenzo 17th overall in 2018.

Milwaukee hopes the 6-foot-7 winger and former NBA G League Ignite player can provide an immediate defensive boost.

Ingles’ arrival

The Bucks think Ingles will be worth the wait once he’s ready to play. The former Utah Jazz forward has 45 games of playoff experience and made 40.8% of his career 3-point attempts.

Holiday called Ingles “one of those people you hate to play against” because of his lyrics and physical play.

“But now that he’s on my team, I’m happy,” added Holiday.

Check out highlights from the Milwaukee Bucks NBA Championship Parade on July 22, 2021.

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