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Jason Kidd is talking about his hip resurfacing surgery when he grabs his cellphone and asks if you want to see photos.

"Have you had breakfast?" he says.

The first photo is an X-ray of Kidd's hip, post-operation, showing the metal prosthesis inserted during the procedure. No gag reflex on this one.

"Let me get you the fun one," Kidd says.

The second photo, taken in the operating room, shows the exposed spherical end of Kidd's femur — his hip had to be dislocated to be fixed — in all its gory.

The point is, this was not minor surgery. The Milwaukee Bucks' coach won't be playing pickup games with his players again anytime soon.

"Being able to have no pain is the ultimate goal and we achieved that up to this point," says Kidd, who blames the injury on wear and tear from his 19-year NBA playing career. "If there's no pain when I come back from rehab and I'm able to run in four or five months, hopefully I'll be able to participate in some pickup games."

What he can do, five weeks after the Dec. 21 surgery and ahead of schedule, is get back to coaching. Kidd is set to rejoin his team on the practice floor Monday and will be on the bench Tuesday night, when the Bucks play host to the Orlando Magic at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

He returns to a team that made strides under interim coach Joe Prunty, who went 8-9 in the 17 games Kidd missed, but remains a work in progress.

Primarily, the Bucks are still subject to too many defensive lapses. It can't be a coincidence that so many teams get hot from behind the three-point line when the Bucks roll into town. Houston and New Orleans combined to make 32 three-pointers in the last two games, ruining a 2-0 start to the road trip.

Once opponents start rolling, the Bucks seem incapable of halting the momentum and lose focus on the offensive end, too. It's partially a byproduct of youth and perhaps, as has been suggested, a lack of veteran leadership. But the season has crested the halfway mark and those excuses are growing old.

When the defensive effort is high, the Bucks have demonstrated that they can play with anyone. But they can't bring that effort to the court every third night and expect to win more games than they lose.

In retrospect, it might have been better for the organization if the Bucks had won 30 or 35 games in 2014-'15 instead of winning 41 — a 26-game improvement over the previous year — and making the playoffs.

Earlier this year, Marques Johnson noted that the team skipped a step or two in its development, which energized the fan base but otherwise didn't do the Bucks many favors, especially as general manager John Hammond and Kidd continued to revamp the roster.

"I think people from the outside thought it was just going to be automatic and we'd pick up from last year," Kidd says. "Expectations were a lot higher. But also, we had new pieces, with Jabari (Parker) being one of them, and Moose (Greg Monroe).

"Our defense did take a step back. Sometimes, you have to get games under your belt and see the good and bad and hopefully make the adjustments. As you can see, the guys are starting to play as a team."

Is it too late? The Bucks are 19-27 with 36 games left and facing a climb to the Eastern Conference playoffs that has gone from steep to nearly vertical. They're going to need crampons for this one, not to mention a lot of help, with four teams ahead of them for the eighth and final spot.

Kidd's track record as a coach — albeit a small sample with one year in Brooklyn and one in Milwaukee — suggests that the Bucks will continue to improve over the rest of the season. He says the playoffs are still "realistic."

"We would love to go undefeated," he says with a smile, "but I think one of the things we have to learn as a team is wins bring us closer together, but we also have to look at losses bringing us closer together. Sometimes, for a young team, that's hard to understand.

"We would like to finish on a high note before the (All-Star) break and then come back after the break ready to make a push."

The good news is that, barring a medical setback — Kidd still must take precautions to avoid blood clots — he'll be back on the bench the rest of the way. To paraphrase Huey Lewis, it's hip to be there.
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