Milwaukee Bucks rookies Leuer, Harris look ahead
Even at the highest levels of sport, coaches talk of "teaching moments" where they can single out a particular play or a singular game in the fledgling career of a player and ask them to learn from it, and build upon it.
It's safe to say Wednesday night's home closer for the Milwaukee Bucks and tonight's season finale in Boston are just that for Bucks rookies Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer.
No one would judge either player off how they played these last two games, in which they earned significant minutes due to injuries up and down the roster and the team's lack of a playoff berth. But, you can't go so far as to say it doesn't mean anything for them in the long run.
"We've seen them in practice, we've seen them all year," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "But you know, obviously in the last two games the way this is looking like with multiple players out both the rookies are going to get some minutes out there. And any minutes you can get in an NBA game can be helpful if you play them the right way."
The pair has had an odd journey this season, perhaps more so than any other Bucks rookie class. It's something Skiles and his coaching staff were well aware of as they joined a team off a lockout that had playoff aspirations at the outset, and made a major move at the trade deadline to make a big postseason push near the end.
It wasn't exactly the type of situation where rookies who aren't high lottery picks can come in and make an immediate impact.
"They've had an uphill climb with no rookie league, no summer work, no fall preparation, no real training camp, very little practice time," Skiles said. "They spend an awful lot of practices just going two-on-two and just sort of individual skill work, things like that.
"You wouldn't wish this type of rookie year on anybody, with the lack of time and everything. We feel like they've learned a lot, but this will be a big offseason for both guys."
To their credit, both Harris and Leuer recognize that fact.
"(I) just gotta get better and worry about me and what I can control and what's next for me, improve my game and come in next year and hopefully get an opportunity to go full steam," said Harris, who knows several teammates and his coaches might be worrying about other issues this offseason.
He's looking forward to summer league games just so he can get out on the court for significant minutes with the goal of improving his entire makeup as an NBA player.
"It's a broad statement but sometimes it carries a lot with it," Harris said. "Everything I could get better on. I'm going to continue to work on my body, continue to get stronger and continue to grow as a player."
Leuer is also looking to capitalize on a traditional NBA offseason and summer league play as a way to take another step in his development.
"It's going to be nice to have more time with the coaches to work out and having summer league and all that stuff to help you transition and develop your game. That's huge for a young player," the University of Wisconsin alumnus said.
"I think playing definitely makes you better, just getting repetition against good competition like you can in summer league can definitely benefit your game. And, also you're just getting in the gym and working on everything individually, getting in the weight room, getting stronger – those are all things I'm going to focus on."
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