Giannis Antetokounmpo wants Bucks to focus on building good habits

MILWAUKEE -- Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said he wasn't worried about his team's 0-5 preseason performance, including a 107-97 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night, while acknowledging they have some areas to clean up before the regular season begins next week.

"It doesn't worry me," Antetokounmpo said after Wednesday's game. "What worries me is our habits and building good habits.

"Right now, we're not vocal enough. We're not urgent enough. We're not hungry enough. But at the end of the day, it's the preseason. We have the whole regular season to find ourselves."

After Antetokounmpo spent the summer playing for the Greek national team at Eurobasket, the Bucks wanted to be cautious with his minutes during the preseason. He started Wednesday for just his second exhibition game and scored 24 points on 6-of-21 shooting against the Nets while grabbing 14 rebounds in 32 minutes.

Antetokounmpo said after the game that he felt "a little bit out of rhythm" after such limited action -- he also played 21 minutes on Oct. 6 against the Atlanta Hawks -- during the exhibition season, but still felt confident in the way he paced himself during training camp.

"It's not going to be easy," he said. "I think sometimes your mind forgets and thinks it's going to be easy. But I feel like, me personally, you've got to come out and set the tone, play hard. Build good habits, play to improve, play for the team. And as a team, we have to be hungry, we've got to play together, we have to defend better."

Milwaukee had an unorthodox preseason schedule featuring a trip to Abu Dhabi last week for the first two NBA games in the country's history against the Hawks. Upon returning to the states, the Bucks closed out their exhibition schedule with a preseason back-to-back against Chicago and Brooklyn on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Nearly all of their rotation players sat out Tuesday's game in Chicago, and the Bucks were also short-handed for Wednesday's game, missing Grayson Allen (illness), Pat Connaughton (calf) and Wesley Matthews, who missed the entire preseason with an ankle injury. Connaughton sat out his second straight game after starting Saturday in Abu Dhabi, but Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer called the injury minimal and said the team was being cautious. Budenholzer added that Matthews was "getting close" to a return to the court.

The Bucks have about a week to go before their season opener on Oct. 20 against the Philadelphia 76ers, for which they will already be playing without forward Khris Middleton, who started to resume basketball activities in practice this week for the first time since undergoing wrist surgery in July. But Antetokounmpo still felt confident in his team's ability to get back on track before the games begin to count next week.

"Guys are down, who knows when they're going to get back, so this is who we have right now," Antetokounmpo said. "We still have a great team, but we're seven or eight days from the next game and when it really counts. We've got to buckle down and start trying to build good habits."