I want to welcome everyone who has followed me the past few seasons back to my blog, and to welcome anyone who’s new. I’m excited to get things going here again, and to give you an inside look at my experience playing for the Milwaukee Bucks.
And what an experience being in Milwaukee has been so far.
The fan support has been outstanding. I think they’re really excited about our team, how well we’ve played this season and what we’re capable of. In the past, visiting Milwaukee with other teams, I didn’t notice that much excitement. But there’s a buzz around the team right now.
It’s a different feeling in the city.
We’re trending upward. The franchise has a new direction with new owners, a new coach in Jason Kidd and a lot of young, exciting players, and the fans have come out in full force to support us. Hopefully, the more we win, the more that support will continue to swell and create a great environment at the arena and around Milwaukee.
Those who know me know I like to explore the city that I’m playing in, and Milwaukee has been nothing but good to me in that regard. I’ve already found a few restaurants that I really like and I’ve enjoyed it everywhere I’ve gone. That’s thanks to the people. Milwaukee is a small city and everyone is very friendly. It’s kind of a typical Midwestern city in that all the people are very nice and accommodating. With us playing well, the city is totally behind us. When we go places, people who recognize us will tell us how much they’re enjoying the season. That makes us feel great.
We aren’t close to comparing with the Packers yet. They’re the number one priority here. But at the same time, I think everyone appreciates that we’re just a bunch of young guys trying to take this franchise somewhere, and everybody’s playing hard. We’re getting the support that we deserve, and hopefully in time, we’ll get to the level of the Packers. It’s going to take time because obviously, it’s a football city right now.
LEARNING FROM A LEGEND
Playing for Jason Kidd has been a wonderful experience so far. I think he’s had a great impact on this franchise in a short period of time, and I’m really happy I play for him. I’ve had a lot of different coaches, and everybody has different attributes that make them good at what they do. But I think overall, J-Kidd may be the best coach I’ve had.
As a young guard, it’s great to be able to learn from one of the best point guards ever. I have a lot of respect for what he did and accomplished in the league.
He played for so long and he was on top of the game as a player, and I think everything that he’s experienced, he’s been able to transition that into coaching. There’s nothing new to him. Nothing catches him off guard. And he’s so closely removed from his playing career that he understands what players go through and what they need.
He’s definitely a player’s coach. He talks with us a lot, and he’s very even keel. But at the same time, being a former player, he demands a lot out of you. You respect that because he’s been through everything that we’ve been through and more. He knows what players are thinking at certain times. He’s very fair and team oriented, so everything that we do is together as a team.
I think that’s very important, especially with a young team like we have. Every player wants to establish themselves in the league, and that’s fine—but at the same time, you have to be able to pull together as a team as well to be successful. Jason has made that very clear from day one. I think that’s the same approach that everybody needs to have at all times.
The way he coaches also allows everybody to pick up on some of the little things that made him such a great player. The different angles he talks about when he’s talking about the game, or some of the things to look for in different situations that he picks up because of his unique vision. When we watch film together, he points out a lot of those things. It’s helped all of us become better.
THE YOUNG BUCKS
This team is different than any team that I’ve been on.
We’re a pretty close-knit group and everybody gets along with each other. This is one of the few teams I’ve been on where I could say that. Everybody hangs out with each other and everybody’s been great with each other. There aren’t any cliques or anything like that at all.
I’m really pleased with the way things have been going for us this year. I’ve been playing the one and the two, and I’m enjoying my role. I take pride in doing whatever the team needs me to do. When guys have gone down, I’ve been able to step up and take on more playing time, and I think I’ve done well with it. It’s still pretty early in the season so I definitely see my role evolving in different situations as the season goes on—but whatever it is that I’m asked to do, I’m ready for it.
We have a young team. So even though I still feel like I’m pretty young at 26, I’ve taken on a bit of a leadership role because I’ve been around, and I’ve seen a lot more than a lot of these guys have. When any of the younger guys have questions, I try to help them out and answer them to the best of my ability.
Some of these young guys on this team have really stood out with the way they’ve stepped up this season. Giannis Antetokounmpo is only 20 years old, but the world is in front of him and he’s taken advantage of his opportunities. He’s a great young guy and obviously very gifted, and hopefully he continues to work hard to develop the gifts that he has, because his potential is limitless. He’s already special at certain things and some of the plays he makes only a few people in the world can make.
Losing Jabari Parker for the season was a tough blow, and I can only imagine how bad it is for him. Nobody wants him or anybody to go through something like that. It was an unfortunate event, but I think he’s going to be fine. He’s 19 years old and has his whole future in front of him, and this time out could end up being something that helps him along the way. It’s an opportunity for him to re-evaluate everything, get his body right, get his mind right, and really break down his game and build it back up to an even stronger level.
Brandon Knight is another young guy who I’m really happy to have as a teammate. Obviously, he’s a very gifted basketball player. I’d played against him before, so I knew what he was capable of. He’s a scorer, and when you have a guy like that who can score anytime, it’s definitely helpful. This year he’s taken a step forward just by being more comfortable with the ball in his hands. He’s played well, and made some big shots at big times. We need him to do that for the team to be successful.
He’s also a really nice guy. I didn’t know him much before, but getting to know him as a person and being around him in this short time has been amazing. We have a lot of young guys on this team that have been great getting to know. I hadn’t been teammates with many of them before, but we’ve all fit right in pretty quickly.
One guy I’d known for a long time prior to us connecting as NBA players here is O.J. Mayo. We’ve been friendly since I was 12 or 13 because we grew up playing against each other on travel teams. He’s having a great year, but him being successful isn’t anything new to me. I’ve known for a long time what he’s capable of, and I knew once he got the opportunity to do what he’s capable of doing in NBA, he’d shine. Now he’s just showing everybody else what we already knew. We need him to continue to do that.
We have a good mix of young players and veterans, and we’re well positioned to compete with that kind of underdog mentality. If everything clicks at the right time for us, we can make some noise and be a factor in the East.
Off the court, things have been going really well for me.
In the last year or so, I’ve been able to establish my foundation and put together some great projects to give back in many different ways.
I also held a few events around the holidays with my Bayless Foundation to give back.
We did a turkey giveaway for Thanksgiving where we gave away 1,500 turkeys to underprivileged families and people in need at the time. Then before Christmas, we did a toy drive where the Bayless Foundation teamed with a local church here in Milwaukee, and purchased toys to give to kids whose families are struggling. It’s important to provide all kids with great Christmas memories, so I was proud to be able to do that. I’m just trying to get out there with my foundation and give back to the community in any way I can. That’s really important to me.
The first year of Team Bayless in AAU was a great success, and I’m proud of what everyone was able to accomplish in year one. The kids have been great, the parents have been great, and I’m just really excited to continue to see it grow. Hopefully, this summer it continues to go down that same path. We’ll see what happens. We’re going to have pretty much the same schedule, and hopefully we’ll continue to have success.
The guys are off playing for their high school teams right now, but the Division I offers are coming in fast, and I’m just really happy for those guys. One of my kids, Kobe Paras, has an offer from UCLA. Marcus Shaver from Phoenix, he’s getting offers from all over the country. So is Alex Barcello.
I want them to go wherever they want to go, and be able to have successful college careers. They all deserve a chance.
I check in with each of them every once in a while they’re in school. Because they’re going through the same process that I went through, I want to make sure I’m available for them to ask me questions. I definitely try to be a mentor to them if they need it.
Obviously, everybody wants to make the pros, but the concept behind the whole program that we put together is to make sure that these kids get a good education, and get to schools where they can really blossom while they’re there. I’ve taken a really hands-on role in making sure that happens, and being kind of a mentor to these guys. They are all great kids and they’re very special to me, so I want to see all of them succeed.