Hawks' Jabari Parker won't rule out possible return to Bucks after season

MILWAUKEE -- After a Wednesday morning shootaround with the Atlanta Hawks, Jabari Parker took time to soak in the atmosphere of the newly constructed Fiserv Forum before sharing heartfelt thoughts about Milwaukee and his former team, the Bucks.

After spending his first four seasons in the league with the Bucks, the former No. 2 overall draft pick had 33 points, 14 rebounds and five assists in his return Wednesday night. He entered as Atlanta's third-leading scorer with 16.9 points per game -- his most since 2016-17.

"It's real special, man, how they were able to build this building," Parker told ESPN. "I haven't played here, but just seeing like the growth of the city, I really like the way that it's developing.

"It's just so sad that I'm not able to share it with them and that they moved on, but that's fine, that's business. But I do have like a little homesickness from being here. I just miss being here."

Parker, 24, faces a player option for 2020-21 with the Hawks after signing a two-year, $13 million contract on July 11. He wouldn't rule out a return to the first NBA organization that he called home -- but only if the opportunity presented itself.

"Never. I would never rule out a possible return here," Parker told ESPN. "I would never do that. It's just so sad how it ended and I wish I could've stayed."

Parker missed 183 of a possible 328 regular-season games during his Bucks tenure. Twice he suffered season-ending left knee injuries: He tore his ACL during his rookie year and again during his third season. The Bucks allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent in July 2018, and he signed with his hometown Chicago Bulls.

Parker says he's happy in Atlanta and that his joy for the game is "almost there" again.

"It's growing continually, but in order to get that 100 percent joy and passion, it comes with winning," said Parker, who has played in seven career playoff games, all in April 2018. "I just want to be a winner."

The Hawks (4-13) are in the midst of a seven-game losing skid.

Parker's time with the Bulls came to an abrupt end, stemming from a fallout with head coach Jim Boylen. On Feb. 6, he was traded to the Washington Wizards, where he finished the 2018-19 season before ultimately inking his current deal in Atlanta.

Offense has never been an issue for Parker, who has averaged 15.2 points per game during his career. His defense, however, has raised concerns. He ranks 242nd out of 256 forwards with a defensive efficiency of 116.2, according to NBA Advanced Stats.

"He's been a great scoring punch for us offensively, which is who he is and what he does," Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. "Defensively, he uses his voice. The biggest challenge for him is the level of engagement that he can offer, being able to do that consistent and often. But he knows that.

"He's still a young guy in terms of age."