Jon Leuer Understands His Role
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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Milwaukee Bucks first year forward Jon Leuer is currently going through the ups and downs that many rookies before him have experienced. His opportunities to play come sporadically, forcing him to learn mainly from the sidelines for the first time since he was a freshman in college. It’s a big adjustment for someone like Leuer, who was a focal point of Wisconsin’s system over the past three years, but he’s approaching it properly.
“Just having the mindset of work as hard as I possibly could and hopefully earn some minutes and do whatever I can to help this team,” Leuer said to HOOPSWORLD. “That’s really all I’m focused on is just to be ready whenever coach call my name and bring what I have.
“Growing up watching the NBA and just seeing it for so many years, you kind of get a feel for it. I felt like my game would translate pretty well and like I said before right now I’m just trying to work hard every day, learn from the coaches and do whatever I can to help this team.”
When Bucks head coach Scott Skiles does call on Leuer, it’s never with an easy assignment. There are no nights off in the NBA, especially in the paint. Even for a former Big Ten, a conference known for its physicality, player like Leuer, it’s extremely challenging.
“You just try to be as physical as you can and work as hard as you can,” Leuer said. “At the end of the day that’s really all you can do is give it your best effort. That’s what I’m going to do tonight but it’s going to take a team effort. It’s not just one guy, so we’re all going to have to step up and try to fill the void that these guys have left with their injuries.”
The injuries Leuer mentioned are to fellow post players Andrew Bogut and Drew Gooden. Bogut may not play again the rest of the year due to a troublesome ankle. Gooden is nursing an ailing wrist and knee. Leuer is one of the guys Coach Skiles looks to in their absence, but he understands he’s part of a committee filling in for the starters.
“I don’t really look at it like that, as an opportunity for myself,” Leuer said. “It’s just an opportunity for the guys who weren’t playing to step up and help this team. Obviously it hurts losing Bogut for maybe the year and now with Gooden out that hurts us even more. We definitely have step up collectively as a team and showcase what we can do.”
While banged up on the frontline, the Bucks are much healthier in the backcourt where they feature Brandon Jennings, Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston. All three are capable of creating offense for others and Leuer has often been the beneficiary.
“It’s fun,” Leuer said. “I got to play with Jordan Taylor in college. Playing with these guys makes the game a lot easier. They can create their own shot, create for others and it’s just fun to play off them.”
With the talented offensive players that the Bucks already have, Leuer has come to learn that point production should be the least of his worries. Instead he’s looking to make his impact in other ways.
“To bring energy,” Leuer said of his role. “To be active when I’m out there and rebound. On defense know all the principals and try to execute them, knock down open shots when I have it and make my teammates better too. All the stuff that comes with playing basketball, that’s what I have to do.”
Being the energy guy has it’s downfalls. Leuer may only play 13 minutes a night, but he feels those 13 minutes the next day due to the toll an NBA game has on the body. Luckily, he recuperates quickly.
“I’m not too bad,” Leuer said. “I’ve got young legs. It’s obviously different from college, having so many games sometimes having back-to-back games, that’s an adjustment. For the most part I’m holding up pretty well.
“We take advantage of our rest days but at the same time I want to get into the gym and work on my
game and get better. I’ve been doing that pretty much everyday with the coaches and they’ve been great with helping me develop into an NBA player. (Coach Skiles) has taught me a lot in the short time that I’ve been here. I’m just trying to learn from him every day. He really has brought the young guys along and I feel like he’s helped us all develop.”
The more time Leuer has with Skiles, the better his chances of becoming a regular part of his rotation become. The lockout hurt Leuer like it did all rookies. He missed out on invaluable time with the cancellation of summer league and the abbreviation of training camp. He’ll be able to make up for lost time this offseason, though, and that could be the key to finding the consistency he needs to earn a bigger role.