http://www.jsonline.com/sports/bucks/bucks-coach-jason-kidd-sees-signs-of-improvement-b99629419z1-360888541.htmlThe Milwaukee Bucks have passed the quarter mark of the season and are trying to stay in the hunt in a suddenly competitive Eastern Conference.
Bucks coach Jason Kidd is seeing some positive signs in the past week, knowing plenty of basketball is left in the 82-game marathon.
"I think we're getting better each time," Kidd said before Monday's game. "You look at the last couple of games with our defense, it looks like everybody's understanding the defensive principles and assignments.
"Moose (Greg Monroe) is playing well in the middle; Khris (Middleton) is shooting the ball extremely well; Giannis' (Antetokounmpo) total game is improved from last year, so everybody's improved. Our record might not show that, but it's a long way to go still. But we're starting to play better and this is no better time than in December and January to play some of your best basketball."
The Bucks improved to 9-13 on Monday with their 90-88 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
"When you look at last year, our record wasn't our concern, it was our progress, that we got better each day and that hasn't changed," Kidd said. "There's a win-loss, but you can take positive stuff from losing and we're starting to digest that."
Parker's progress: Jabari Parker returned to the starting lineup Saturday against the Knicks and played a season-high 36 minutes.
The second-year player from Duke played 32 minutes against Portland and contributed 12 points, six rebounds and four assists to the Bucks victory.
"I think any time you come from an injury and you're limited in games, the more time he's on the floor you can see that he's growing," Kidd said. "He made a heck of a pass to John Henson (on Saturday), the defensive stuff that he's doing he's getting better, he feels comfortable doing it. Another thing is his voice — he's talking a lot more than he did in the past."
Better prepared: Portland coach Terry Stotts has plenty of memories of coaching in Milwaukee, first as an assistant to George Karl and for nearly two seasons as head coach from 2005-'07.
"I loved my stint as an assistant coach; I thought that was a lot of fun," Stotts said. Then he paused and everyone laughed.
Terry, about that head coaching job?
"I was very thankful for the opportunity to be a head coach here," he said. "I was proud of the fact we made the playoffs in our first year (in 2006) and made a 10-game jump."
The Bucks were 23-41 the next season when Stotts abruptly was fired and replaced by Larry Krystkowiak.
"When you're a middle-of-the-road team, you just try to do the best you can," Stotts said. "I probably gained more going to Dallas and being with Rick Carlisle and seeing a different approach to coaching.
"Obviously I was with George Karl so many years...that gave me an opportunity to identify what else I could do as a coach."
Stotts was the lead assistant under Carlisle and was part of the 2011 Mavericks team that won the NBA title, with Kidd playing at point guard.
Stotts is now in his fourth season as coach of the Trail Blazers after being hired in August 2012. He led Portland to a 51-31 record last season but has a younger squad now.
"I feel like I'm a better coach now than I was with Milwaukee," Stotts said. "I'm more comfortable with what I want to get done as a head coach and have established my philosophy."