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Bucks in London: 15 Sideline Observations

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Over the last two days James Plowright has had fantastic access to the Bucks and Knicks in London. He breaks down some of his observations from watching practice, speaking to players and chatting with people behind the scenes.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
1) The Bucks embraced the experience.
The Bucks asked to travel and play in London, whereas the Knicks were evidently "forcefully" asked by the NBA due to the draw that franchise's name has. These contrasting attitudes showed in practice and during media sessions.

The Bucks arrived in London a day earlier than the Knicks and seem to have really enjoyed their time in London. The players and coaches all seem happy to be here and in good spirits, a stark contrast to the 5-36 Knicks. Derek Fisher's team arrived a day later and have spent more time practicing -- the term "business trip" was used more than once by Fisher.

2) Larry Sanders' time in Milwaukee could be coming to an end.
Let's just say you got the general feeling this week that people have grown tired of Sanders' issues and the team may be perfectly happy to move on without him.

3) Brandon Knight is the Bucks' hardest worker and quite likely their best player (for now).
Brandon Knight may be the most polarizing player on the Bucks' roster, but Jared Dudley spoke glowingly about the Bucks' leading scorer:
"He is a combo guard, he can play off the ball or on the ball, I think playing under Jason Kidd has helped him more than any other player on our team. He's the best player on our team and he's definitely leading us."
For what it's worth, Knight was the last one off the court at shoot around -- the coaches literally had to shout at Knight to get off the court as they had to go. Work ethic like that is likely why Knight has made majors strides the past two seasons.

4) Greg Foster has been instrumental in the development of John Henson.
When I asked Henson if Greg Foster could one day be a head coach, Henson wouldn't even let me finish the question before answering:
"Oh man, he's been phenomenal for me, getting me to do the right things, staying after practice, getting into winning habits. I don't know if he realizes the affect he's had on me but it's pretty big.
5) Johnny O'Bryant is still relatively shy and has a lot to learn.
I kept a close eye on O'Bryant throughout the Bucks' practice and he seemed very much the rookie. O'Bryant was very shy and looked constantly worried about doing something wrong. He got schooled defensively on one-on-one post ups and certainly didn't look as polished as the other Bucks' bigs, all of which reiterates that fans may have to be patient for him to develop. O'Bryant could probably stand to be more inquisitive; many of the veterans offered O'Bryant help and advice, but he didn't always look like he was 100% listening to what they were saying.

6) The Bucks have a development plan for Giannis.

Greg Foster hinted that Giannis has a personal long term development plan, further evidence of just how important Milwaukee view him to their long term success. Foster hinted that they would like to add a three point shot to Giannis' game in the future, but for now they don't want to overcomplicate things.

7) Kenyon Martin could really help some of the younger Bucks players develop.
I managed to record Martin pulling aside Johnny O'Bryant to give him some advice on post defense. It was a great example of what "veteran presence" can do for you in the NBA -- in addition to the depth he provides up front, this is exactly what Kidd and the rest of his staff likely wanted to see when bringing him in on a 10-day contract.

8) Kendall Marshall prefers Milwaukee to LA.
There aren't many NBA players out there who would prefer to play in Milwaukee, but Marshall claimed that the relative calm of Milwaukee was something he was enjoying after spending last year with the Lakers. When a small market team finds a player who genuinely loves the city he plays in, it's pretty special and can really endear fans to a player.

9) Henson & Marshall have a fantastic relationship and support one another
Both Henson and Marshall spoke about the advantages of knowing each other's tendencies -- something fans have seen with increasing regularity of late. Sidenote: It was Henson and Marshall's idea to look around Stamford Bridge as they are both big Chelsea fans.

10) Kendall Marshall doesn't believes being left handed is an advantage in the NBA.
I asked him about the potential advantages of being a lefty, but Kendall didn't see it as significant -- when you get to the NBA level guys are so good it simply doesn't matter.

11) Ersan Ilyasova was surprisingly physical and has the most polish offensively of any of the front court guys.
His rust vs. the Knicks notwithstanding, I have always known Ilyasova was a good outside shooter, but in practice he really impressed me with his footwork and aggression. That's certainly not something you associate with him, but there were a number of times he really went at Henson and O'Bryant as if they were enemies, let alone teammates. There was also one moment in particular where Ilyasova stared down Greg Foster until he called a foul on Henson.

12) John Henson & Kendall Marshall have really emerged as a vocal leaders, especially defensively in the last few weeks.

Greg Foster spoke about how both guys have really embraced their role and are enjoying being part of a winning team for a change. The team bond is strong enough that even rotation players are more than happy to shout at the starters to tell them what to do.

13) Jared Dudley provided a detailed explanation of the Bucks' offense for you basketball nerds out there.
We run what is called a "push" offense where you space it out, you can run through the elbow, you can throw ahead, you can switch sides. When I was with the Clippers we had an elite point guard in Chris Paul making plays, on this team it's dependent on how the defense guards you. Sometimes it can be a flare, it can be back doors, so it gives you a lot of options and versatility offensively.

Offensively we don't really have a star, so we know it's defensively we will have to hang our hat on. We are pretty tall and athletic for our positions, so we try and get after guys and force a lot of pressure to get into our transition offense.

14) John Henson averaging 3.6 fouls per game so far in January may not be a bad thing.

Greg Foster said he believed Henson's high foul rate was a good sign some ways: "There's no reason to waste your fouls," Foster noted, referencing Henson having fouls to spare in his limited minutes. So in many ways the high foul rate is proof that Henson is going out there and being a physical presence. Foster believed that is one area of Henson's game which he need to improve, both defensively and offensively (setting screens etc).

15) The Bucks & NBA media guys are fantastic at their jobs and a delight to speak to.

I managed to spend some time talking with Charles Gardner (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel), Mark Rosenberg (Bucks' PR Manager) and Catherine Mumford (NBA Communications Coordinator). All were extremely pleasant and interesting to speak to during the week.

I also want to say a massive thank you to Brew Hoop for helping me get credentials to this year's game. I hope you have enjoyed the coverage brought to you from London!