MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Bucks are back, and so are a whole cast of familiar faces. Sixteen players from last year's team returned to Milwaukee for training camp.
"That is, I think, by a decent number, a record for me in my almost 30 years in the NBA," said Mike Budenholzer, Bucks head coach.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday were all smiles on media day, and one goal remains on their minds.
"I want to win a championship and either, anyway or the other, I'd get it done," said Antetokounmpo, Bucks forward. "The feeling that I felt, it was a nice feeling, and you know, I kind of got jealous of Golden State, you know, seeing them in the parade and the ESPYS and like, you know, that feeling now, you know what's getting stripped away from you, so hopefully, God can bless us to win another one."
To do so, the Bucks brass brought back a championship core. That resonated well with the veterans, especially since Bobby Portis, Pat Connaughton, Jevon Carter, Serge Ibaka and others wanted to come back.
"Having everybody back, I think, kind of puts us ahead," said Holiday, Bucks guard. "Being comfortable with each other, fighting each other during training camp, but even before that, everybody pretty much being back here and playing pickup and working out together definitely gives us camaraderie early."
Ever since their season ended in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics, that loss has proven to be a big motivator, especially for Portis.
"I worked on my game a lot this summer," said Portis, Bucks forward. "That series was like, what I needed to take the next step in my career, as well. You know, catching the ball and trying to lace the seams up and shoot it kind of slow, but I think that kind of woke me up a little bit."
To make another run, the Bucks also added some new faces. The team brought in first-round draft pick MarJon Beauchamp, center Marques Bolden and forward Joe Ingles.
Unfortunately for Ingles, who is still recovering from an ACL injury, his debut might not be until January.
"I'm in a good spot," said Ingles, Bucks forward. "Very glad to be here. I've continuously gotten better and better throughout this process and keep taking it week by week."
And then there's Middleton, who has been battling wrist and knee injuries. With his cast off, he gave a timeline for his return.
"Hopefully, it's closer to the start of the season," said Khris Middleton, Bucks forward. "I know it won't be that week, but hopefully, you know, sometime soon after that but hopefully I won’t miss too much of the season."
The Bucks have an experienced team that hopes to have everyone healthy, and with training camp underway, everything ramps up quickly and this squad is ready to go.
"I think a lot of people are going to have expectations for us," said Antetokounmpo. "We might achieve it, we might not, but at the end of the day, it's like, what are our goals, which is to win a championship and the expectation out there, it doesn't really matter because as a group, that's all we think about."
The Bucks tip off their preseason slate Saturday, Oct. 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies at 7 p.m. The regular season begins Thursday, Oct. 20 in Philadelphia.