NBA-best Bucks working as if play will continue

While some might speculate that the NBA season will not resume because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Milwaukee Bucks, who had the league’s best record when play stopped, are going forward as if they will eventually be on the court.

“We are operating and functioning and just have a mentality that we will play,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said Wednesday during a conference call. “I think it’s important for players and all of us to function that way, to think that way, and it’s out of our hands.

“Luckily, [commissioner] Adam Silver and the league office, they’ll make the hard decisions and they’ll do what’s best for everybody, but I think it’s certainly important that we kind of operate and have a mentality that we will play again, and we’ll be excited about that if and when it does happen.”

Bucks players have maintained contact since the March 11 stoppage via group chat, according to All-Star guard Khris Middleton. Although they aren’t able to utilize team facilities, there’s still an emphasis on players keeping their bodies in top condition. Bucks players are relying on in-home workouts and basketball-related drills, though some are not possible.

Milwaukee isn’t overdoing anything, however. While still doing film work, it’s not as comprehensive as usual. The team might start doing group video sessions.

The team also sees the value in mental breaks, since overall health is the top priority these days.

Despite the current circumstances, the Bucks are still focused on improvement as a team.

“A lot of people find it hard to believe, but we actually live and believe it every day,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst said. “We’ve taken a focus to get better every single day and to literally just focus on getting better every day, not thinking about championships or Finals or opponents that we’re going to play weeks out or months out, but to really think about how to improve every day.

“That’s been a mantra and something that we believe in and something that’s ingrained and built into kind of the fabric of who we are.”

If the season resumes, the Bucks (53-12) will look to get back on track. Prior to the break, Milwaukee had lost three consecutive games for the first time under Budenholzer after playing the third-most games without a three-game losing streak in the last 10 seasons, per Elias Sports Bureau.

So, during the time off, Budenholzer is getting in as much video preparation as possible, but he’s also enjoying his family and a few streaming shows — such as “Yellowstone,” “Ozark” and “Game of Thrones.” Staying ready is the main focus right now, though.

“Basketball-wise, I would say we are kind of finding ways to dig into potential playoff opponents, maybe not just first round, but Eastern Conference,” Budenholzer said. “And right now that’s kind of where we are, with kind of a little bit more emphasis on if the season ended today it’s very, very close with Orlando and Brooklyn [as the seventh and eighth seeds].”

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