Too big, too fast, too strong was the story of Henson's game against the Nuggets. hoto by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Too big, too fast, too strong was the story of Henson’s game against the Nuggets. hoto by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

It’s been hard for Milwaukee Bucks fans to miss John Henson in Milwaukee this summer. If he has it his way, it’ll be hard for the NBA to miss him next season too.

He’s been at Summerfest. He’s gone fishing with fans in Lake Michigan. He’s tailgated at Brewer games. He hasn’t made the typical quick and lengthy migration out of Milwaukee we often see with Bucks players. Even the ones that embrace the city seem to hang out at Summerfest for a week or so and then take off again. But not Henson. It’s surprising, even to him.

“It wasn’t really my plan, but I went up there for a week and I loved it,” Henson said of his presence in Milwaukee this summer. “Stayed up there for like, three weeks and I went home for a week and then came back.”

What’s caused the long trips? An apparent genuine enjoyment of the NBA’s smallest markets.

“To be honest, I love the city. The summers are great,” he said, not realizing this summer has actually been kind of brutal weather wise. “The winter is a little rough, but the summer is great. I’ve been up there a little more than I thought I would be. I plan on going back after Vegas probably for a couple weeks.”

My temptation is to hold him up as an example of what is right in the sports world. We don’t get a lot of love in our little city, so it feels pretty cool when a guy seems to genuinely enjoy the place. Most guys put on the front, but their actions quickly deviate from their initial calculated statements and experiences.

Henson doesn’t seem real calculating though. Everything he says comes out with the expression of a child who is holding back his excitement because it isn’t the right time to be excited. Maybe I say that because he has one of the most youthful looking faces I’ve ever seen on a Bucks roster. But it’s moreso the sheepishness and reserved grin he wears on his face. Henson has youthful exuberance in bunches. So, I’ll trust for now that he really does enjoy our little city, which is a pretty cool thing.

I write this on an off day. It’s Monday morning and the Bucks don’t play again until Tuesday night. John Henson may not play again at all though. He missed Milwaukee’s 69-61 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans with a sore right groin, but logic indicates that the Bucks are probably being overly careful with him. Players come to the Las Vegas Summer League with something to prove, but after his dominant first game, there’s very little Henson can prove going forward in Las Vegas.

He had the crowd and media buzzing after he led the Bucks to an 88-74 win over the Denver Nuggets. His 19 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks seemed effortless, coming in just 20 minutes. More encouraging, he had this big game while being the focal point of the other team’s preparation for the game. I’m sure the scouting reports and game plans for summer league aren’t a third as intense as the preparation for a regular season or even a preseason game, but when the Nuggets lined up Saturday, surely they knew Henson was someone who had to be accounted for.

After a strong rookie year, Henson knew that.

“You’re a little bit of a target now,” he said, “people know who you are and that kind of comes with the territory.”

But he seemed to embrace the challenge. Embrace seems to be the key with him this summer. He’s embraced being a leader on this summer league team. He’s embraced the city of Milwaukee. He’s embraced the weight room, noting that he’s added 7-10 pounds and is currently at about 224, with a goal of sticking between 225 and 230 this season. He said the extra weight was noticeable when he was holding position and battling for rebounds on Saturday. Here in summer league, he can’t so easily be moved anymore.

He’s embracing the new regime as well. He wants to be a starter, but he indicated that he trusts coach Larry Drew’s decisions.

“That’s the goal,” he said of starting. “But whatever coach Drew decides what my role is going to be, that’s what I’m going to do and I’m going to do it well. I talk to him a lot. He’s practiced with us, I met with him a couple times. He’s a player coach, he always says he knows it’s a player league.”

It is without question a player’s league, specifically it’s a very good player’s league. That’s where John Henson is trying to get and it sounds like he wants to get there in Milwaukee.