Bucksketball Podcast

John Henson wants to be good and to be in Milwaukee

| July 15, 2013

Category: Summer League

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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.

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About the Author ()

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball. He founded it in January of 2009 because he hated his job. It’s like basketball, but with Bucks instead of basket. I know ... I’m sorry. He might come off as a bit negative, but I'm really not so bad. He just wants the Bucks to succeed, so he points out areas where they are coming up short. Someone has got to do it and he's ornery and opinionated enough to take on that task. He isn't sure if this should be in third person or not. Contact him at Jeremy@Bucksketball.com if you must use e-mail.

Comments (23)

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  1. OB says:

    I just had this conversation with a friend of mine about how Henson and Larry seem to actually be friends and are spending a lot of time in Milwaukee when they don’t have to be here.

    Good to see not everyone hates playing in this city.

  2. Bizzucks says:

    I feel refreshed

  3. Sillybilly says:

    New York is a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Same goes for LA. These kind of statements are common to hear from the average joe, so why do we assume that NBA players are all so different and want to live in the big market. I think the whole idea is a bit overblown.

    John Henson seems like he’s just a normal guy which is really refreshing. Larry attracts more attention but seems pretty humble as well and not at all attention-hungry. We are lucky to have two young and talented guys with such easy going personalities and strong desire to contribute.

    • Justin says:

      as maybe the only Bucks fan on these boards that lives in California I would agree that I wouldn’t want to live in L.A., but a lot of pro athletes don’t.. they live in Orange County, Malibu, or Calabasas.. those areas are away from the nonsense that goes on in central L.A.. I believe in team loyalty regardless

  4. Justin says:

    Loved the pick since minute one.. feel lucky to have a guy that is a total professional and very skilled to boot.. remember he came into high school as a guard

  5. Samuel says:

    You do know milwaukee isn’t the NBAs smallest market right? Not even close. Milwaukee is only a little bit smaller than Boston. It’s not big like my hometown Chicago, but I don’t understand why people think Milwaukee is small. It is like the 20th largest city in the USA. Which is actually saying something

    • OB says:

      Well market size is determined by number of homes with TVs, not overall population. So, however they figure out those numbers Milwaukee was the 5th smallest market in 2011.

      Boston is #10 in population and Milwaukee is 39th… 4.5 million vs 1.5 million people, thats a big difference. Only OKC, Memphis, New Orleans and Utah have smaller populations in NBA.

      • Samuel says:

        You’re very wrong about this…… I don’t know where you’re getting your information but it’s incorrect. Take the word of a guy who is obsessed with cities and there population. Neither Milwaukee and Boston have a population over 1 million. If you’re talking about their larger metropolitan area than sure you might be right but milwaukee is the 21st largest city in the USA and Boston the 20th

    • kennyjbeast says:

      its the smallest market team not the smallest city
      it means we dont have as much money as ney york or LA. kareem and brandon jennings both want to play in bigger markets so i think most nba guys do want big market teams but its cool that henson likes milwaukee

      • Marq says:

        It’s not just market size that NBA guys mull about. Perception and climate are a huge factor. Athletes tend to favor warm weather cities, and Milwaukee is perceived as a cold town, especially for a sport that takes place during the winter months. It’s also perceived as a white town, contrary reports from the locals. A lot of NBA guys want to be in places with a sizable black population. It’s true.

        That’s why you never see guys in a rush to get to Toronto, despite it being the fourth largest market in the NBA and a very modern, developed city with a lively night life and metropolitan population.

  6. happyfeethustle says:

    20th largest…maybe. A destination wanted by NBA YOUNG players-not so much.

    I love my hometown, and wish more people would support our BUCKS team. Might get some reciprocity from the players.

    Stay Healthy Henson- ur a key ingredient for our future success

    GO BUCKS GO

    • Chris says:

      The Bucks used to be supported. After 10+ years of having no direction it’s no surprise that support has waivered a bit.

  7. rowe499 says:

    If the Bucks don’t find a way to play John Henson 30 plus minutes this coming season … the franchise leaders may in fact be too stupid to contribute in their current profession in any meaningful way.

  8. Sfisch says:

    Wow! If this story is even close to being true, it is a wonderful story!

    When there is talk about what cities are attractive to pro athletes, I tend to wonder what exactly is being referred to. Are we talking about raunchy night spots? Other than that, what are all these spectacular things that other cities have to offer pro athletes that can’t be found in Milwaukee?

    Anyway, God bless John Henson and Larry Sanders. I hope they continue to find a great home in Milwaukee professionally and personally. I think the fans of the Bucks might appreciate them a lot more than fans of other teams.

    • Gman says:

      raunchy night spots is part of it — top notch strip clubs (haha not art’s), lots of fancy restaurants and night clubs, first class entertainment in the form of concert and shows and the like, upscale neighborhoods occupied by people of color, weather, and having the opportunity to be in contact with other celebrities and ‘ballers’ who are part of wealthy clubs and that crap, and also people don’t respond so strongly to celebrities and athletes in places that are filled with them, so there’s more anonymity (as much as you can have if you are 12 feet tall) is the supposition.

      i think a lot of it is hype and i also believe that many athletes are just not aware, mature, or open minded enough to recognize that they would thrive as people in smaller market settings, which would in turn help them thrive as athletes. It appears that Henson is just a quality person who has opened himself up and that’s all it takes. I’ve been out west a while and still very much miss MKE summers.

    • Gman says:

      raunchy night spots is part of it — top notch strip clubs (haha not art’s), lots of fancy restaurants and night clubs, first class entertainment in the form of concert and shows and the like, upscale neighborhoods occupied by people of color, weather, and having the opportunity to be in contact with other celebrities and ‘ballers’ who are part of wealthy clubs and that crap, and also people don’t respond so strongly to celebrities and athletes in places that are filled with them, so there’s more anonymity (as much as you can have if you are 12 feet tall) is the supposition.

      i think a lot of it is hype and i also believe that many athletes are just not aware, mature, or open minded enough to recognize that they would thrive as people in smaller market settings, which would in turn help them thrive as athletes. It appears that Henson is just a quality young person who has opened himself up and that’s all it takes. I’ve been out west a while and still very much miss MKE summers.

      • OB says:

        Clubs, bars, restaurants, various places to drop tons of money and be seen dropping tons of money. If you are a young millionaire pro athlete, hanging out on water street isn’t usually a great night out for these guys.

  9. BOB says:

    I have been working/living in the Philippines since 2007 and let me just say that i have lived in NY, LA and Brown Deer Wis and i MISS BROWN DEER!! The people in Wisconsin are special because they don’t care about your business as long as your not bugging THEM. As far as fans go they beat EVERYONE!! MISS IT MUCH!! Wisconsin sports rock!!

  10. Sfisch says:

    I think it’s a good point to say that a lot of pro athletes might like Milwaukee if they are open-minded enough to give it a chance. They might find that the Milwaukee area has a lot of the advantages of bigger cities — if not all of them — plus they might find that it’s a friendlier and more pleasant place in other ways.
    I actually now live in New Mexico, but I was born in Milwaukee; have strong family ties to the city and its environs; and have visited there throughout most of my life — one grandma lived near Hampton and Sherman, the other in Cedarburg past the covered bridge. I really love the area and still consider it a kind of home. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Bucks, Packers and Brewers, even while living most of my life in “hostile” territory in and around Chicago.
    Anyway, I hope that we fans of the Bucks, wherever we live, really embrace our players and help them to feel wanted and appreciated in Milwaukee.

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