http://www.jsonline.com/sports/bucks/greg-monroe-at-center-of-attention-for-bucks-b99601668z1-336742311.htmlMinneapolis — Landing a free-agent big man was a priority for the Milwaukee Bucks in the off-season.
They shocked the rest of the NBA by signing Greg Monroe to a maximum contract of $50 million over three years, a move that boosted expectations for the young Bucks this season.
Now the preseason is complete and it's time to see how it all works out over the 82-game schedule, starting Wednesday night against the New York Knicks.
All the early signs are positive with the 6-foot-11, 265-pound Monroe getting familiar with his new team and the Bucks benefiting from a true low-post presence.
"I don't think we've been surprised by anything," Bucks general manager John Hammond said of the former Detroit Pistons center. "That doesn't mean we're disappointed by any stretch of the imagination.
"He's been what we've expected. He seems to embrace a leadership role with our team. He might have been looking for something like that, and we needed it as well. It seems to be a good fit."
The 25-year-old Monroe averaged 12.7 points and 8.2 rebounds in just 23.6 minutes per game during the preseason, and his production should rise with more playing time in the regular season.
"All the things they're asking me to do I feel very comfortable doing," Monroe said.
Coach Jason Kidd has seen enough from "Moose" to believe he will make a major impact.
"It's what we wanted," Kidd said. "He's scoring the ball. The other side of that is we needed help rebounding the ball. The offensive rebounds; he is being able to give us second and third opportunities where he scores the ball. That's something we didn't have last year, and hopefully we can continue to build on that."
Monroe had 15 points and 12 rebounds in the preseason victory over Minnesota on Tuesday in Madison. He struggled offensively in the rematch Friday at the Target Center as the Timberwolves aggressively double-teamed him, but he did grab six rebounds.
"Rebounding is something I pride myself in," Monroe said. "I know it's a team effort, but it's something I've always felt was my job on both ends."
Monroe is not an athletic shot-blocker in the mold of John Henson or Giannis Antetokounmpo, but Kidd wants him to play a middle linebacker role and make the defensive calls from the back line.
"He can move his body," Kidd said. "He's long. He moves his feet extremely well for his height and his build.
"And he has the voice where he's not afraid to talk and call guys out. He's trying to help everybody, and our guys have to help him."
Monroe said he doesn't mind playing linebacker.
"That's just part of playing the position," he said. "The center is on the back line, so he can see more than most people. It's just about communicating and making sure everybody is in the right position."
Bucks guard-forward Khris Middleton played a key part in recruiting Monroe after the two became friends during Middleton's lone season in Detroit in 2012-'13.
"I see a better Moose," Middleton said of this season's version. "Somebody who is hungry to win, wants to get better and make his teammates better.
"You never know. Players move around in this league, and to play with him again is great. To have a big (man) down low that can score and make plays and defend, anyone would love to play with him.
"The offense we run is perfect for him. It fits him to be at the elbow making plays for other guys and also posting up."
Middleton declined to take much credit for his role in persuading Monroe to choose the Bucks, but Kidd thought it helped.
"People don't understand that players stay in touch with each other and they talk about different situations," Kidd said.
"'How is it? Is it good? Is it bad?' We told him what we wanted to do and he trusted us."
The Bucks' presentation to Monroe at 2 a.m. on the opening day of free agency was a stunning hit, complete with the Marlon Wayans video that featured the comedian joking about Kidd, the team's new owners and new arena. One of the team's primary owners, Marc Lasry, also made a strong impression on Monroe and agent David Falk.
But Kidd said he didn't know at the time that Monroe would choose the Bucks over the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers and New York Knicks.
"I was hoping I didn't have too much coffee so I could sleep on the plane to L.A." Kidd said of the free-agent frenzy in those early morning hours. "I thought Marc did an unbelievable job.
"For us, coming in and having the opportunity to be at the table with Greg, that was the start. Everybody played a role. But it came down to him feeling comfortable about the situation."
Monroe said the Bucks made "a great presentation" in the meeting in Washington, D.C.
"Like I've always said, this was a basketball decision," Monroe said. "What they did last year, I saw it. I didn't really need much more."
When Jabari Parker returns from his knee injury, the Bucks front line should feature Parker, Antetokounmpo and Monroe. Middleton would be at shooting guard and Michael Carter-Williams at point guard in one of the longest lineups in the league.
"I think we can space the floor," Kidd said. "We've got Greg inside where we can play four around one. He's also a playmaker and he can find guys."
Hammond said Monroe's personality also fits the Bucks' building plans.
"What we've done with this young core, we have tremendous character," Hammond said. "Greg is another player with that same sort of makeup. I think he's going to be a great teammate and our coaches are going to enjoy coaching him."