Khris Middleton doesn’t show a ton of emotion. And, that’s not necessarily a bad personality trait for a professional athlete to have.
Sometimes you just legitimately aren’t able to tell if he scored 51 points, or nine straight in overtime to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a win, or if he struggled from the floor for a season low nine points.
The ‘never too high, never too low’ sports cliche is embodied in the two-time all-star.
Until he loses a free throw competition to new teammate, Marvin Williams.
You could hear Milwaukee’s training staff counting out the consecutive makes as the two rotated taking shots from the foul line. 41. 42…
Moments later, Middleton lets out a groan of agony and launches the basketball 80 feet the other way, hitting the opposite shot clock square in the numbers.
Williams had won the friendly challenge. Pushing Middleton to overtly showing his competitive side.
“It was a lot of hard work,” Williams said of the post-practice shooting against Middleton. “Dude is shooting 90 something percent from the line. I asked one of the coaches how I got paired up with him in the first round, but I held my own, thankfully.”
Just another example of Williams bringing out the best in his teammates. Something he’s done throughout his 15-year career. One of his former teammates described him as one of the ‘utmost professionals’ in the locker room, a player not scared to do the things that don’t make it in a box score.
“Defensively I feel comfortable. Defense is defense no matter where you go in the NBA,” Williams added when talking about his adjustment period to Milwaukee. “Offensively I am trying to find my rhythm, just getting used to playing with the guys, getting in the right spots during the plays.
“So, I am watching a ton of film. Trying to watch all of my minutes when I get an opportunity. I’ll pick it up. I got a little bit of time.”
In seven games with the Bucks thus far, Williams has surpassed 120 minutes played. Although he has just 30 total points in those appearances, his efficient 11-of-26 from the floor has been a welcome addition, allowing Milwaukee to continue their league best offensive numbers.
When the playoffs approach it’s standard for NBA rotations to shrink. Historically eliminating consistent minutes for players who are deeper on the depth chart. It appears that usage won’t be an issue for Williams, as he has taken the bulk of Ersan Ilyasova’s minutes since arriving.
In the seven games Williams has appeared, Ilyasova, who was considered Giannis Antetokounmpo’s backup, has seen a decreased role in the lineup. He did not play in three of those, and hasn’t surpassed more than 19 minutes. Not all meaningful minutes either.
On his first day in Milwaukee, Williams was approached by Antetokounmpo, a conversation where the details stay between the two players, but a conversation appreciated by both, welcoming an established veteran into a vibrant atmosphere.
“When you look at this team from the outside looking in, best team in the NBA, you think these guys are dialed in,” Williams said. “And they are, don’t get me wrong, but I just thought it was all the time. They’re laughing, they’re joking. We just had a 10-minute practice.
“It’s just different here. I think coach does a great job of making guys feel good.”
Williams is slowly getting acclimated to the Bucks’ pregame wrestling routine, and he doesn’t control the music in the locker room. But, he is a guy willing to do whatever is asked to help bring a championship to a city that fell two games short of a Finals appearance last season.
“A ton of positives. The defense stands out,” head coach Mike Budenholzer assessed of Williams’ introduction to the team. “He’s going to be really really helpful and an important piece for us.”
He’s been described by some of his new running mates at a ‘great fit,’ or ‘big time signing.’ Players fully believe that he’s going to live up to his billing and contribute as advertised.
As much as he has impressed the organization, he has also been impressed by the MVP, giving credence to his decision to sign with Milwaukee in the first place.
“I can’t say I’m surprised by the way he works. You don’t just become the MVP. He’s probably going to be the MVP again,” Williams said of Antetokounmpo and watching his new teammate live in person each day. “To watch him work everyday is really fun, actually. I fancy myself as a really hard worker, but to see him come to work every single day, whether it’s a 20-minute shooting practice or film session or in the weight room or getting his treatment. He really really really loves basketball and he really really takes it seriously.