Bucks bounce back to .500 record early in Kidd's 1st year

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ST. FRANCIS, Wis. (AP) — Sharing the ball is making basketball fun for the Milwaukee Bucks.

They're even winning games at a remarkable rate, at least compared to last year's miserable 15-win season.

The Bucks are 14-14 in Jason Kidd's first year as coach. They've managed to bounce back from rookie Jabari Parker's season-ending left knee injury by going 2-2 on a tough West Coast trip.

"That's the biggest challenge right there. I think we knew adversity was going to hit somehow, some way," center Larry Sanders said Monday. "It's not over. It's going to hit again. It's all about how we respond to it."

The seeds were apparently planted from the first day of the first training camp under Kidd.

Fittingly, the former All-Star point guard espoused a philosophy on offense to give everyone on the floor a chance to touch the ball. No starting spots were guaranteed. Kidd mixed and matched combinations.

But it seems everyone gets a chance to get their hands on the ball.

"We all enjoy being part of the success. You feel like you're involved," said passing big man Zaza Pachulia. "Trust me, I've been in a situation where I just have to wait for offensive rebounds, but this situation where you're involved in the offense ... moving the ball — it's more fun."

Almost everyone healthy plays. Bench play has become just as important as starters' minutes under Kidd.

That has built depth, which in turn should help Milwaukee handle the loss of the talented Parker, the second overall pick in this year's NBA draft.

"I think we've said from Day 1 that we're talking about the Bucks, not just one person. That's what we stand for, and you can see it by using everyone on the bench," Kidd said. "Everyone gets a chance to play, and everybody feels a part of it."

Counting Parker, nine Bucks are averaging at least 20 minutes a game going into Tuesday's game against Charlotte. A 10th player, Ersan Ilyasova, was averaging nearly 19 minutes a broken nose knocked him out for the last nine games.

Ilyasova could be back on Tuesday night, which would be a big boost for a frontcourt that is also minus reserve power forward John Henson with a sprained left foot.

Losing Parker was the biggest setback. He was averaging 12.3 points and 5.5 rebounds before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in the third quarter in a game against Phoenix on Dec. 16. The Bucks went on to win 96-94.

Down went one of the faces of the franchise and someone already known as a team-first player with a strong work ethic.

Kidd said Monday that there was no timeline on when Parker might have surgery. He was at the team's practice facility, and Kidd hopes to keep the prized rookie engaged the rest of the season while he balances his rehabilitation schedule.

With the way Kidd uses nearly his entire roster, it's practically impossible for someone to feel left out.

Forward Jared Dudley has averaged 17.5 off the bench the last two games. Reserve guard Jerryd Bayless has scored in double figures in six straight games, and seven of the last eight. Khris Middleton's 3-pointer at the buzzer lifted Milwaukee to its win over Phoenix.

Ilyasova said it doesn't matter to him whether he returns as a starter or reserve.

"Each team has an identity. The Milwaukee Bucks, it's kind of been our identity," Ilyasova said about the bench play. "It doesn't matter if you start a game or not."

Guard Brandon Knight leads the team at 17.5 points per game, while four others are averaging at least 10.1 points. Four others average at least 6.0 a game.

"It's a very balanced, a very deep team as well, even though we've been going through so many injuries," Pachulia said.

Note: A person with knowledge of the private negotiations of the purchase of the Bucks told The Associated Press that the new ownership group has committed another $50 million toward the construction of a new arena. The move was confirmed Monday by a person who requested anonymity because that person was not authorized to disclose details. The additional money increases the new ownership group's pledge overall to $150 million for a project it has estimated could cost $400 million. The previous owner, former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, has also pledged $100 million. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel first reported the new pledge.

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