Bucks rookies Andre Jackson Jr. and Chris Livingston revel in Summer League opportunity

new balance

In a gym on the outskirts of downtown Las Vegas, players in Milwaukee Bucks practice jerseys ran through long practices under the watchful eyes of new head coach Adrian Griffin and his new coaching staff. Summer League was work for these Bucks, with very little downtime in the Nevada heat and under the lights of the strip.

The reps were needed for the coaching staff as much as an interesting roster, which included Golden State’s Nico Mannion and 7-foot, 6-inch center Tacko Fall. Then were players who the Bucks liked enough to offer training camp contracts to in Drew Timme and Jazian Gortman.And while second-year player MarJon Beauchamp looked like he took a leap from a year ago, and AJ Green was healthy after recovering from a late-season ankle issue, most of the attention was on the 2023 drafted rookies – Andre Jackson Jr. and Chris Livingston.

More: Drafting Andre Jackson Jr., Chris Livingston is Bucks’ first step in a new direction under coach Adrian Griffin

The Bucks made significant investments in the pair, with the team trading $2.5 million to Orlando for the rights to Jackson Jr. with the No. 36 pick. They then signed him to a 4-year, $7.6 million deal with one season guaranteed and the next 50% guaranteed.Livingston was the last pick in the draft at No. 58 and the team signed him to a 4-year, $7.7 million with two years guaranteed.

“They’ve been well coached,” Griffin told the Journal Sentinel. “They’re attentive. They’re on time. They try to pick up as best as they can, as fast as they can and they compete on the floor. It’s been a pleasure coaching them.”

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Andre Jackson Jr. will work ‘smart’ on his shooting

The Milwaukee Bucks traded up in the 2023 NBA Draft to select Connecticut Huskies guard Andre Jackson Jr. in the second round.

The Milwaukee Bucks traded up in the 2023 NBA Draft to select Connecticut Huskies guard Andre Jackson Jr. in the second round.

Unsurprisingly, the rookie duo played quite a bit in the Bucks’ five games in Las Vegas.

Jackson Jr. averaged 25.3 minutes per game and scored 5.4 points, pulled down 6.4 rebounds and handed out 2.4 assists per game and averaged 0.6 blocks per contest – including a few highlight chase down swats.

“It’s been great – just constantly learning new things around a lot of high level guys, coaches, teammates,” he said. “So just trying to pick up on everything they’re giving insight on. Just trying to take it day by day and grow every day. I think that’s the biggest thing, is in this environment it’s easy to grow if you’re doing the right thing, so just staying on it.”

After the draft Bucks general manager Jon Horst acknowledged Jackson Jr.’s shooting issues at the University of Connecticut (42.8% from the floor, 29.3% from behind the three-point line) and Summer League offered a glimpse at how far Jackson Jr. has to go in that regard – he shot 33.3% from the floor and 20% from behind the three-point line.

While Jackson Jr.’s three-point percentage came on only two attempts per game, just 27 other players shot a lower percentage on at least that many attempts.

Working on it will be something Jackson Jr. is diligent about as he readies for his first NBA training camp.

“Sometimes you’ve got to work smarter,” he told the Journal Sentinel. “You can work as hard as possible, but if you’re not working smart it’s not going to show improvement. Just working every day with coach (Josh Oppenheimer), getting my shots in, getting my form shooting in, making sure I’m getting the ball up, making sure I’m holding my follow through, staying in my shot – just all the little things.

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“Just trying to stay focused and make every rep count, that’s the biggest thing. You’re better off getting 100 really good reps in than 500 bad reps – building good habits.”

Chris Livingston to dial in on details

Former Kentucky Wildcats forward Chris Livingston was a second-round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2023 NBA Draft.

Former Kentucky Wildcats forward Chris Livingston was a second-round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2023 NBA Draft.

Livingston was on the court slightly longer (26.7 minutes per game) in his five contests, and he averaged 10.6 points on 51.2% shooting from the floor. His three-point shooting was off, also, making 27.3% on his 2.2 attempts per game. He pulled down 5.8 rebounds and one block per game.

“The transition has been smooth,” he told the Journal Sentinel on going from college to Summer League. “Coach ‘Griff’ has done a great job of leaving the terminology pretty basic and done a great job of letting the rookies understand the actions and not be too confused out there on offense. He’s made the offense pretty smooth and basic so we can really pick up and gel with each other on the court. I think I’m adjusting to the speed of the game. I don’t think it’s faster than I expected, so I’m pretty good. I’m adjusting to that level pretty good.”

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The 19-year-old capped his stint in Las Vegas with one of the best individual games for the team, scoring 22 points on 9 of 14 shooting, pulling down five rebounds and coming up with two steals against Sacramento on July 15.

Now, it’s about looking ahead to camp.

“I’m pretty sure the biggest thing as you go next level to next level is each at level, the attention to detail increases,” Livingston said. “You have to pay attention to a lot more detail because the details is what’s going to separate a lot of talented guys out there on the floor, being at Summer League and at the NBA level. I think that’s the main thing you’ve got to think about.”

The July practices that began in Milwaukee and carried through the games in Las Vegas were important for the rookie duo, as once the calendar flips to October and games begin for real such playing time will be hard to come by.

But Griffin hopes the bar has been set in terms of how competitive he wants them to be once the full squad comes together.

“I think they’ve got a bright upside,” Griffin said. “For me, when I played, I tried to listen to what the coaches wanted and I would go out and do it – and when you do that you give yourself the best chance of getting on the floor. I think they’re extremely coachable. They’ve got a lot of talent, but as you know and I know talent alone (isn’t enough).

“A lot of players have ability. You have to have the coachability and the hunger to get better and I would say yes, when it comes to Chris and ‘Dre. It’s been a pleasure to coach them so far.”

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bucks rookies Jackson Jr. and Livingston revel in summer opportunity

new balance

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