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Jason Kidd hoping Bucks return to defensive best, Johnny O'Bryant returns to practice

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports


Fox Sports Wisconsin: Johnny O'Bryant back at practice, Bucks' focus returns to defense
Andrew Gruman's latest features lots of updates on injuries and some renewed focus from Jason Kidd on his team's recently struggling defense.

"Just finishing plays," Kidd said of what the focus of Thursday's practice was. "Not just the (defensive) principles, but finishing plays. Rebounding the ball has been something we've struggled to do. Also, transition defense and being able to get back. Those are the things we worked on today."

As for the walking wounded: Rookie Johnny O'Bryant (sprained knee) was back at practice for the first time since the preseason, though it doesn't sound like he'll be playing this weekend when the Bucks host the Clippers. Ditto for John Henson (sprained foot) and Ersan Ilyasova (nasal fracture), with Ilyasova's swelling still preventing him from being fitted for a mask and Henson hopeful that he might be able to head out on the team's road trip next week. Andrew also noted on Twitter that Damien Inglis (perpetually broken foot) is due to be reevaluated next week.

In other words, don't expect reinforcements for the Bucks' front line just yet, and with 15 guys already on the roster the Bucks haven't had a spot available to sign a short-term stopgap either (camp cut Micheal Eric would have seemed an obvious candidate). That could change if the NBA granted Milwaukee a hardship exception, which can happen if a team has four players miss three or more games concurrently. Ilyasova has now missed four straight, so technically the Bucks would qualify by that standard, but no word if the Bucks are thinking of pushing for it with a number of guys nearing a return.

Also at Fox Sports Wisconsin: James Carlton doing God's work with his weekly Young Bucks Tracker.

JS: Milwaukee Bucks stumbling on Western swing
Charles Gardner has more on the Bucks' recent defensive struggles:

"We've got to get back to playing defense and helping one another," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "And not worry about the offensive end."

The Bucks' recent efforts have dropped them to 17th in the league in opponent field goal percentage (45.6%) and 18th in opponent scoring (100.5 points per game).

"It's not frustrating," Kidd said. "This is basketball. We're a young team and we're going to make mistakes.

"We're going to make mistakes the next game. But it's can we learn from them and correct them and just see them before they happen."

Milwaukee’s Makeover: How the Bucks Decided to Buckle Down and Play for the Future
We've mentioned Zach Lowe's terrific piece on the Bucks a couple times already, but once more wouldn't hurt, would it? Probably the best thing I've read about the Bucks this year, combining great X's and O's talk with a great perspective on the team's direction on and off the court.

Kidd gives his players a written test every game day, a trick he picked up from Rick Carlisle and Terry Stotts in Dallas, he says. The tests ask about strategy and basketball history — everything from diagramming a particular set to naming the first coach in Miami Heat history. The coaching staff grades each one and keeps a running tally of player scores through the season.

"I’m not gonna lie," Antetokounmpo says. "Sometimes I cheat and ask the older guys."

Kidd hopes the players cheat. He noticed in Dallas how the tests got young guys talking about strategy, and he wants to foster the same kind of dialogue among Milwaukee’s players. Kidd is sometimes unsure the young foreign-born players understand instructions in English, and the discussion gives them another way to absorb coaching, he says.

Sheridan Hoops: Jabari Parker Exclusive Interview
Michael Scotto's profile of Jabari Parker touches on all aspects of the rookie's early adjustment to NBA life, though there's one part that's garnered special attention...

"Kidd’s hurting Jabari by not giving him enough playing time," an Eastern Conference scout told SheridanHoops. "He’s 19 years old. He should be playing at least 35 minutes a game. Instead, he’s playing 29. That sounds like not a big deal, but seven or eight minutes per game adds up. It’s a lot of experience."

"In this day and age you play him," an Eastern Conference executive told SheridanHoops. "The whole resting him because he’s so young, let him get that ‘I want to play every night and not want to come out’ mentality."

"The best way you learn is on the court," another Eastern Conference scout told SheridanHoops.

My take? Much ado about nothing.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about Jabari playing major minutes, but the notion of Kidd really "hurting" Jabari by "only" playing him 30 minutes per night just seems overly dramatic (was this a Nets scout or something?). Keep in mind that Parker didn't even average 30 minutes per game in college last year, and we saw Giannis Antetokounmpo wear down as his rookie season went on while playing only around 25 mpg. So yes, I want to see Jabari starting and playing in crunch time, but I can't say I'm that worried that a few extra minutes of rest will demonstrably slow his development or adversely affect his "mentality" about wanting to come out of games.

Bucksketball: Shot Charts!
Our friend K.L. collected season-to-date shot charts for all the Bucks' rotation players -- very much worth a look, if only to check whether your eyetest (who's good from where?) matches the data.

Milwaukee Mag: Quick Bucks
Eric Nehm's weekly update on the Bucks is officially on my must-read list.