Why veteran leadership is important for this young squad.
By: Jim Boyce
The Milwaukee Bucks officially signed Jason Terry Monday afternoon, adding another backup at the shooting guard position. Now whenever a veteran such as Terry is brought in there seems to be several reactions. One being dismissal, “what is 38 year old Jason Terry going to do for the Bucks?” Another is misplaced optimism from casual fans who remember him from his prime and expect that he will put up numbers like it is 2006. Lastly there are people who realize Terry might not offer a ton on the court at his age, but that his locker room presence can help the team.
The reality is that Jason Terry is limited at this stage of his career, but what he can still do is play 15 or so minutes a game and hit three pointers when the opportunity arises. More importantly what Terry and Steve Novak, who is likely to be resigned by Milwaukee, can bring is veteran leadership. While it may cause some to roll their eyes, veterans in the locker room can make a significant difference on a young team and recent Bucks history gives us a solid example.
The 2014-15 Bucks were a feel good story for most of us who follow the team. Following a 15-67 campaign the season before even the most optimistic Bucks fans were not predicting more than 30 wins on the season. The Bucks, who lost first round pick Jabari Parker early that season, hit the 30 win mark by the all star break. While they cooled off in the second half, they still finished 41-41 and played a six game series against a highly rated Chicago Bulls team.
While the young nucleus of Giannis Antetokuonmpo, Khris Middleton, and Brandon Knight/Michael Carter-Williams were the players fans focused on, the glue behind that team was the veterans. Jared Dudley, Zaza Pachulia, Jerryd Bayless, and O.J. Mayo all played key roles off the bench, and led the way as far as defensive communication. In 2015-16 Dudley and Pachulia were gone. O.J. Mayo struggled with injuries, poor performance, and quite possibly some personal issues. That left Jerryd Bayless as the elder statesman on the team, and he missed time with his own injuries. The Bucks struggled as their bench offered next to nothing behind Giannis, Parker, and Middleton. Defensive communication suffered as the Bucks plummeted in the rankings. The team struggled out of the gate and never made serious strides towards the playoffs, finishing 33-49.
Jason Terry and Steve Novak are not going to push the Bucks to the next level. Milwaukee is not likely to be taking down Cleveland or Golden State in a seven game series this year. However Giannis and Parker, as well as other youngsters like Rashad Vaughn, Malcolm Brogdon, and Thon Maker can learn a few things about the grind of an 82 game season from two guys who have been through it for the last decade plus. Both Terry and Novak played with Coach Jason Kidd during the latter part of Kidd’s career and can work as extensions of him on the floor as well as on the bench. If the young players can learn how to handle adversity, losing streaks, and the general rigors of a long season, it could go a long way in future seasons when the Bucks are contending for something. In fact Terry himself talked about helping Giannis reach new heights in his first interview upon signing. The vets may not get the Bucks back into the Eastern Conference playoffs this season, that lies more on the development of the young players, but if they help those players improve in any way they will have been worth signing.