By Jim Owczarski Sports Editor Published Mar 18, 2015 at 1:02 PM Photography: David Bernacchi

Off on a side basket at the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin training center, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Michael Carter-Williams paired off with Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Sean Sweeney.

The trio worked on some pick and roll fundamentals, with Sweeney positioning Antetokounmpo for the screen and guiding Carter-Williams through it – and then pushing the 6-foot, 11-inch forward off to the side to show for a pass.

The pair listened, but more importantly they talked.

On the surface, this looks simple. Easy. Like it should be done, and easy to master.

It’s not that simple, however.

"Me and Giannis are really trying to work together just to build chemistry," Carter-Williams said. "Hopefully we’re both here for awhile and we’re able to build a relationship and really work off each other."

Ah, yes.

Carter-Williams, a 23-year-old pass-first point guard who stands 6-5, was brought to Milwaukee for the purpose of creating a trio with Antetokounmpo and 6-9 forward Jabari Parker to form the core of an organization that expects to contend for a trip to the NBA Finals in three to four years.

This is the start of that process. The team bonding on a long West Coast road trip a week after Carter-Williams was brought aboard. The hands on coaching.

The conversations. Where do you want the ball? What do you see?

It’s a daily occurrence for the two, one Carter-Williams had to learn about.

"He’s a really hard worker," the point guard said of Antetokounmpo. "I didn’t know him personally. I knew he had a lot of talent but if you have a lot of talent and you’re a hard worker you can really be something special. A lot of guys have talent but they don’t put in as much work and he’s here all the time, getting extra work in. That’s the one thing that really surprised me, is how hard he works."

And that is starting to pay off.

"He’s a pass first point guard but also can score and attack," guard Khris Middleton said. "He’s a dangerous player and with Giannis, he’s going to drive and make plays and he’s starting to knock down those jump shots. Things are going great for him. I definitely see it. I see it coming together."

It just isn’t consistent yet, for several reasons.

First, with Antetokounmpo. In the first seven games post-trade (three of which Carter-Williams missed with injury), he struggled as roles within the offense began to change. His field goal percentage dropped from 50.7 percent pre-trade, to 40.7 percent in that stretch. He didn’t seem as confident.

In Carter-Williams’ first four games, he looked almost too passive. His field goal attempts fell from nearly 15 per game in Philadelphia to just eight, but his assist totals were down as well. He, too, was trying to figure out where to go, and when to be there.

"That’s just the nature of it, the game," head coach Jason Kidd said. "You’re not going to come in and dominate day one. You’re going to feel your way through. it’s a process. Again, I think he’s done it ht right way by not forcing himself or his game or forcing things."

Then, at the end of a four-game, weeklong road trip that went from California to Utah to Denver and back to California, something clicked. It was in a loss, a 102-93 defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, but Carter-Williams looked … normal. He didn’t shoot well (5 of 14) but attempted six free throws and handed out seven assists.

Antetokounmpo had 16 points and pulled down eight rebounds, his best effort since the trade.

Beginning with that game (and heading into Tuesday night’s contest), Carter-Williams has averaged 14.9 points – the same scoring output he had in Philadelphia – on three fewer shot attempts. He’s averaging more trips to the line, as well. His assist totals are climbing, and his turnovers are down.

"Since the Golden State game I’ve felt really comfortable and just trying to get better each day, trying to learn new things, and try to learn all the sets and really continue to get comfortable," he said.

As for the other half of this duo, Antetokounmpo has also taken off. In the six games leading into Tuesday night’s game in New Orleans, the second-year forward is averaging 15.3 points, 6 rebounds and 2.2 assists. His free throw attempts are up, and his shooting percentage has shot back up to 47.2 percent.

This stretch included the March 9 home game against New Orleans in which Antetokounmpo and Carter-Williams combined for 54 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and five steals against five turnovers.

"When you see those two guys, the game they had against New Orleans, hopefully we would love to have that every night," Kidd said.

For Antetokounmpo, observers have noticed him revert back to the form he displayed pre-trade, one of aggression, attacking the rim. But he admitted he needed to find a comfort level with his new point guard to do that.

"Just gotta take a step back and let the game come to you, because with the trade and all that, with Michael, we needed to find rhythm," he said. "So, now we’re starting to find a rhythm and now I try to be more aggressive. Now everybody know their role. Now that we know our role and we have our rhythm, that’s what I gotta do to be more aggressive."

The team sees it in fits and spurts, and knows they need to perform the balancing act of waiting on it to fully click while winning games in the moment to maintain their Eastern Conference playoff position.

But, at least for two of the key building blocks for the future, they feel they’ve hit their stride.

"It’s there," Antetokounmpo said matter-of-factly.

"And it’s going to be more. It’s still coming, too. We always can do better. But it’s better than in the beginning, after the trade. The rhythm is a lot better between me and Michael, and all the team together."

Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.

A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.

To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.

Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining

In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.

Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.