Don’t look now, but the Milwaukee Bucks are one of the NBA’s most exciting teams to watch. With young stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe, and Malcom Brogdon, Jason Kidd’s squad is set to compete for a playoff spot in the weaker Eastern Conference.
Although the future looks bright in Milwaukee, there is one star missing in the team’s constellation of talent: Duke product Jabari Parker. The 22-year-old second-overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft is recovering from his second left ACL tear in three years. Now I am not necessarily sure if the Milwaukee fanbase is superstitious, but this may seem like déjà vu for Bucks fans. This is unfortunately not the first time a member of the Milwaukee Bucks has torn their same ACL twice. Left-handed, three-point shooting phenom Michael Redd tore his left ACL twice in a calendar year, ultimately ending his 11-year tenure with the team. Redd went on to play one more season in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns.
Both Parker and Redd were obviously victims of an ever-persistent injury bug, but the timing for Parker has proven to be costlier. Whereas Redd was already on the backend of a decorated career at the time of his injuries, Parker has only played in 152 of a possible 242 games in three seasons. Moreover, the Bucks did not offer Parker a contract extension, making him a restricted free agent at the end of this season. For comparison, Andrew Wiggins the #1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft signed a 5-year contract extension worth approximately $150 million this offseason.
This does not mean that Parker’s future with Bucks is over. As a restricted free agent, the Bucks will have “first right of refusal.” So Jabari Parker can choose to accept an offer from any NBA team, but the Bucks have the right to match that offer. If the Bucks choose to match the offer, Parker remains a member of the Bucks.
But don’t ask Jabari Parker what he thinks about the 2018 free agency market, because he is focused on only one thing: returning to the NBA better than ever. In a detailed interview with Steve Aschburner at NBA.com, Parker spoke optimistically about his return: “This season is successful for me, personally, if I’m able to play again… Get better. Being efficient. Playing in the playoffs — I’ve never done that, so that would be good to experience. And just make it through, take it day by day and game by game and see where it goes.” What may seem like the world crashing down for most 22-year-olds, for Parker this is just your regular day at the office. Maybe it is because he has already experienced the monotony of rehabbing an ACL tear. Or maybe he is simply a young adult patiently waiting to get back on the court.
Nonetheless, his return to the NBA is long awaited, for both Parker and Milwaukee fans. Read the full interview with Steve Aschburner here.