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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

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In Sports

Forward Jeff Adrien is taking advantage of his playing time with the Milwaukee Bucks. (PHOTO: David Bernacchi )

Trade paying off for Adrien


Ramon Sessions leaned against a wall at the Cousins Center, and looked out on the court as Jeff Adrien and Zaza Pachulia worked on jumpers.

It's Sessions' second stint in Milwaukee, and he's wrapping up his sixth year in the league. He's a veteran, with over 460 games played.

Many thought he wouldn't make it that far. The 56th pick of the 2007 NBA Draft by the Bucks, the odds were long Sessions would make the team. He didn't – and was sent to the NBA Developmental League (NBADL) where he played until January. An injury prevented him from making his debut with the Bucks until March.

He was given a shot by head coach Larry Krystkowiak over the final 17 games as the Bucks were decimated by injury, especially in the backcourt, and Sessions averaged 8.1 points and 7.5 assists in just over 26 minutes a game.

There was a chip on the shoulder.

"It's your livelihood," he said. "You've got to take advantage of it, take every day as a day to try to get better and try to prove yourself to be in this league. As a first round pick you've got a little more cushion because you've got a few years, and those guys are still hungry too, but we've got to be a little hungrier than those guys, being second round and undrafted guys."

Such was the case going into 2008 as well, but by averaging 12.4 points and 5.7 assists going into a free agent year he earned himself a four-year, $16 million contract from Minnesota.

Sessions remembers this well, especially as he sees Adrien walking the same path in Milwaukee.

The pair were acquired on Feb. 20 from Charlotte in exchange for Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal, and Adrien went from seeing 10.2 minutes of action with the Bobcats to 23.3 under Larry Drew's watch.

Injuries have decimated the Bucks front court, giving the 28-year-old power forward a chance to break out a little bit.

"It's been an interesting stretch," Adrien admitted. "Guys went down and I got to play a little bit more minutes. When you know there's not really a sub for you, you're going to be that much more focused on those games. Not saying I wasn't focused before, but it's one of those things that God has blessed me at the right time individually. Hopefully soon, as a team, it'll pay off. Hopefully next year it'll pay off and we can do it as a team, as one."

In that extended time, Adrien is averaging 10.7 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting 52.2 percent from the floor.

"It just shows you that guys in this league can play, from top to bottom," Sessions said. "If guys get opportunities, guys take advantage of it, and he's one of those guys. It's not just rebounding. He's scoring the ball well. He's playing well on defense. He's rebounding and he's bringing that energy. I knew he had it in him, just being around him for two years. If you see his work ethic, you know if he gets the minutes he'll take advantage of it and that's what he did here."

It's a coming out party of sorts for the 6-foot, 7-inch Adrien, who went undrafted out of the University of Connecticut in 2009. He bounced around Europe and the NBADL, earned a handful of 10-day contracts in Golden State, Houston and Charlotte before latching on with the Bobcats for good in December of 2012.

He played in 77 games in Charlotte before the trade, but averaged just 12.6 minutes per game off the bench.

A relative unknown once he came to Milwaukee – "All I knew about him was that he was a rebounder. That's all I knew," head coach Larry Drew said – Adrien is proving he has more to his game than just effort.

"Lo and behold, we get him in a trade and we bring him in and we find out he's much more than a rebounder," Drew said. "He's a guy that you can throw the ball to down on the block and he can play with his back to the basket. He can step out and shoot the 12, 14-footer."

Drew continued.

"The things that I hear him say during the timeouts in the huddles, stuff that as a coach you love to hear," he said. "He's come in here and he has shown to be much more than a rebounder, a guy that plays a physical brand of basketball. Had we not made the trade, I would have never known this about Jeff Adrien. He wasn't playing much in Charlotte. He certainly has made the most of his situation."

Such education of the Bucks, and other player personnel executives around the league, couldn't come at a better time. Adrien will enter the summer as an unrestricted free agent.

"This trade has been a blessing in disguise," he said. "I'm real thankful for it. You just gotta try to finish strong and see what happens. Milwaukee's been great to me. Coach Drew's been great. He's been giving me more minutes and I've been real thankful for it. I'll just try to maximize it as much as I can on the court and keep proving myself."

These 28 games in Milwaukee could very well change Adrien's life, his career. Sessions has been there, and done it. And he couldn't be happier to see it unfolding again.

"Definitely. You definitely want to see guys do well in this league," he said. "And when you're doing well, your contract is even that much better. For him, the situation worked out perfect because wasn't playing in Charlotte, he got traded here and he took advantage of it and now he's playing great going into free agency. You can't ask for any more than that. It's the story you want to have."


Talkbacks

Photodavie | April 9, 2014 at 1:45 p.m. (report)

And thanks (only in part) to Adrien, the Bucks are only 4 losses away from the #1 pick in the draft. GO BUCKS!

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