After a week of training camp, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and the Milwaukee Bucks take the floor in their preseason opener tonight primed to build on last season’s playoff campaign.
Last season, Milwaukee turned a lot of heads with their success as the « Fear the Deer » campaign produced 46 wins and a trip to the postseason for the franchise for the first time in four years.
The Bucks have steadily improved since drafting Luc, which just happened to coincide with a regime change that brought in new coach Scott Skiles and has helped lift the Bucks from the cellar to legitimate contender in just two seasons. No. 12 spoke to theMilwaukee Journal-Sentinel about the journey:
« I’ve been living the dream, » said Mbah a Moute, the Cameroon native who just turned 24 on Sept. 9. « The first year was kind of rough. Last year was a great year for us. « I’m really excited about this year again. Everbody has to bring their best, and that’s when you have a good team. A lot of times when you play defense, if you’re good enough, you get moved to different positions. And it’s a blessing to be in that spot. One of my personal goals is to make it to one of those first-, second-, or third-team defensive all-NBA teams. I’m going to work at it and try to make it. »
Now in year three, Luc said there’s more of a comfort level in Milwaukee than there has been in his past two seasons, a positive effect of experience:
« This one is better, » Luc told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel when asked about the team’s progress in camp. « In terms of guys understanding what to do and also the coaching staff . . . it’s their third year around so they know how to put the stuff out there better so guys understand. I feel like the guys from last year are really understanding. We have a lot of veterans on this team, too, that pick up stuff really quick so I think it’s been better than the last two years. »
To go along with a strong core of young players like Luc, point guard Brandon Jennings, center Andrew Bogut and forward Ersan Ilyasova, the Bucks added some veterans this offseason. They retained veteran guard John Salmons, who was a sparkplug down the stretch after being obtained at the trade deadline last year. They also brought in veteran swingman Corey Maggette and veteran big man Drew Gooden.
« We have a really good team this year. It’s just a matter of how everybody is going to come together and how quick it happens, » Luc told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. « With the pieces that we added, it gives us competition. Every time you have competition everybody brings their A-game. That’s what we need in order to be a good team. »
Luc played at both the power forward and small forward positions last year and is one of the more versatile players that Milwaukee has. His size enables the Bucks to go to a big lineup with Luc manning the small forward. And his lockdown defense will keep Luc on the floor, as his coach told the Journal-Sentinel:
« Luc’s probably once again going to find his spot out there, wherever it is, » Skiles said. « It might be a little more on the perimeter. The best work he’s done has been at the 4 spot but yet maybe defending a 3 (small forward).
« When you’re the best at something on your team, you generally get in the game. He’s the best defender we have on a team of good defenders – Bogues (Bogut) and Luc are together in being the two best defenders. That’s what makes it hard to get him out of the game. »
Already known as one of the league’s best defenders just two years in, No. 12 upped his offensive play last season and said he spent time this summer working to keep improving that area of his game.
« I’m always working on my game and that’s part of becoming a better player, » he said. « This year I’m going to continue to develop my jump shot. »
To watch Luc talk more about his offseason and the coming year with Garry D. Howard of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, clickhere.
TO BEAT THE HEAT
Like many of his fellow NBA players, Luc kept an eye on the news this offseason as LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwayne Wade to make the Miami Heat an instant title contender.
With his Bucks being in the same conference as Miami, Luc knows he and his teammates are up for a great challenge this year.
« It’s going to be really intense, » Luc told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. « Any time you have a chance to put those great players on the same team, I think anybody would do that. They are going to be really good, and so are we.
« It’s just going to be a matter of competing. We have to go out with the same mentality and try to stop them, whatever one it is. I might end up playing all of them in the same game. That’s fun. I love doing that. That’s why you want to play this game, to have an opportunity to go at players like that. »
But Luc joked the move by Miami to unite the three players who had previously been on three separate teams might be a blessing in disguise for him personally, as the Journal-Sentinel reports:
« You know what, it’s actually better for me, » Mbah a Moute said. « You only play them four times instead of 12. I’m always guarding those three guys. Now they’re on one team, so you just get done with them.
« You don’t have to go to Cleveland and guard LeBron, and you don’t have to go to Toronto and guard Bosh. It’s just Miami.
« You only play them four times a year, so that’s good. »
The Bucks will play Miami at the Bradley Center on Dec. 6 and Jan. 7, and they will face the Heat in Miami on Jan. 4 and April 6.
While the Bucks expect to see the Heat down the road in the playoffs, their first task at hand will be taking the Central Division crown and they’ll face their main competition for that title on Tuesday night.
The Bucks tip off their preseason at the Bradley Center on Tuesday when they play host to the Chicago Bulls. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST and for Bucks fans in the windy city, the game can be seen on CSN-Chicago.
Bucks ready to see some new faces (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, October 4, 2010)
Bucks Media Day: Luc Richard Mbah A Moute (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, September 28, 2010)
Bucks hoping bigger will be better this season (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, September 29, 2010)
Let’s see Luc, is it LeBron or D-Wade, or Bosh? (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, September 21, 2010)
Six things to know about the Bucks (HoopsWorld, October 4, 2010)