Nick Van Exel gets first look at young Milwaukee Bucks
Charles Gardner, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
July 21, 2013
Despite another strong effort from rookie point guard Nate Wolters, the Bucks lost, 90-80, to the San Antonio Spurs.
But the bigger picture showed some positive developments for the Bucks (2-3) as they packed their bags and prepared to head home.
Second-year player John Henson proved to be one of the top big men in the NBA Summer League. He sat out Friday's game with a minor injury but finished with averages of 14.7 points and 13.7 rebounds in three summer games.
The Bucks' new coaching staff, including assistants Van Exel, Bob Bender and Scott Williams, had a chance to set the tone heading toward fall training camp.
The Bucks' summer-league plan revolved around the 6-foot-11, 224-pound Henson, and results were encouraging.
“I think it was an overall good experience,” Henson said. “I'm ready to go home; been in Vegas too long.
“Coach Van Exel actually talked about it in the locker room. As a young guy, stick to a couple things you can perfect before you start doing a lot of other stuff.
“That's kind of what I'm doing.”
Being active, rebounding, defending, finishing. And my game can expand from there.”
Henson sat out one game due to a groin injury but returned against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday and contributed 16 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.
Once the Bucks dropped out of the winners' bracket with their 72-68 loss to the Lakers, the team decided to take no chances with Henson and forward Gustavo Ayon (groin) in the summer finale.
“I think the guys the Bucks really wanted to see got a chance to play and show themselves,” Van Exel said. “John did a good job when he was there. He rebounded. He dominated the middle of the paint on the defensive end.
“Nate did his thing. He got better as it went on. Ish (Smith) was in the paint and was effective at creating. So the guys they wanted to see did well.”
Wolters, acquired by the Bucks in a draft-night trade after being selected 38th overall, hit 8 of 13 shots against the Spurs.
“It's expected,” Van Exel said of Wolters' early struggles. “I played terrible in my first summer league.
“Nate got better. He started to adjust. The adjustments he made, one was not over-penetrating. Getting to his spot a little bit quicker and running the offense from a better spot, where he can deliver his passes.”
Former Northwestern star John Shurna was in the Bucks starting lineup Friday and finished with 14 points and four rebounds.
“He's going to be a stretch 4 (power forward),” Van Exel said of the 6-9 Shurna. “Maybe he can play a little 3.
“He has the ability to set a pick, separate and create space. That's going to be his gift. He has a chance.”
Bender coached the first four summer-league games but left Friday for a scheduled family vacation in South Africa.
Bucks coach Larry Drew was not in Las Vegas and instead traveled to Estonia to watch first-round pick Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Under-20 European Championship.
“We're just trying to implement our system, our schemes,” Van Exel said. “It's not going to be like this in the regular season.”
Van Exel also lauded Bucks center Larry Sanders for working out with the summer-league team and supporting them at each game. Sanders will be part of the USA Basketball men's national team minicamp in Las Vegas next week.
“That's great to have a vet here who supports these guys and is giving them confidence,” Van Exel said. “When you've got almost your franchise player who is at every game, that means a lot to the young guys and to the franchise.”