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News » Prepared to burst off bench Gadzuric has provided Bucks an energetic spark in reserve role

Prepared to burst off bench Gadzuric has provided Bucks an energetic spark in reserve role

Prepared to burst off bench  Gadzuric has provided Bucks an energetic spark in reserve role By CHARLES F. GARDNER

St. Francis - Backup center Dan Gadzuric signed a six-year, $36 million contract before the 2005-'06 season, a deal that contributed to the eventual firing of former Milwaukee Bucks general manager Larry Harris.

The 6-foot-11 Gadzuric is still in Milwaukee, with two years left on his deal at the inflated rates of $6.75 million for the current season and $7.24 million for next season.

But Gadzuric has decided not to worry about the jokes over his contract or being a lightning rod for criticism.

And the 31-year-old native of the Netherlands has opted to go back to the playing style he showed in his early days with the Bucks , when he ran the floor, rebounded and sparked the team in a valuable reserve role.

Back in those days, Gadzuric was slamming home alley-oop passes from Toni Kukoc and generally enjoying life in the National Basketball Association.

"I feel like I need to go back to how I was in the beginning," Gadzuric said after the Bucks' practice session Monday, as they prepared for Wednesday night's matchup with the Denver Nuggets. "Run like I don't know what's happening.

"I've been trying to learn the game and I've learned a lot. I've been soaking it in, and maybe in the course of that, I kind of played more laid-back.

"It could be good, but I think it's not what the team needs from me. The team needs what I did in the beginning, hustling and the stuff I love to do anyways."

Gadzuric has played in all five games for the Bucks and is averaging 4.2 points and 4.0 rebounds while playing 13 minutes per game. He is shooting a gaudy 62.5% from the field (10 of 16).

Of course, the former UCLA player also has benefited from the return to health of Bucks center Andrew Bogut. Now that the 7-foot Bogut is back in the lineup and playing regular minutes, Gadzuric can come off the bench and provide a different look.

"He's playing like we know he can," Bogut said. "Those minutes backing myself and Kurt (Thomas) at the 4 and 5 are vital for us. He comes in and just causes so much havoc.

"He moves around, blocks shots, grabs rebounds. He doesn't realize sometimes he's one of the most active guys in the NBA when he wants to be.

"That's his game. We don't need that energy for 48 minutes. But when he plays 10, 15, 20 minutes, he does a great job for us."

Gadzuric drew laughter from the crowd at the Bucks' tip-off luncheon a few weeks ago when he said he was going back to his old self and being a little crazy on the court.

But he meant it.

"I don't really read about all that stuff; I barely hear that," Gadzuric said of talk about his six-year deal. "I got the contract, and that's what I worked for. There are certain situations where I don't play a lot. That's just the way it is.

"That's what made me; the energy game, the hustle game. That's why I got paid. The fans get into it, teammates get into it and it changes the game a little bit. I don't need to score. I can dive on the floor, and that jumps over to the next play."

Gadzuric has become the primary backup to Bogut, although the 37-year-old Thomas might be used against more physical big men.

"He's running the floor very hard, and he's rebounding the ball," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said of Gadzuric. "He's on the offensive glass. He's defending his spot. When he catches it, he's not trying to do too much with it.

"He's keeping it simple. If he's down low, he puts it up. Otherwise he passes it and is looking to go screen for somebody.

"He really runs the floor end to end, and I don't feel there's been any downturn in that for him."

One of the Bucks' new additions, rookie point guard Brandon Jennings, also is a nice fit for Gadzuric's game. Jennings is a blur on the fast break and already has found Gadzuric several times, including a behind-the-back pass for a dunk against the Bulls in Chicago.

"He takes it out and pushes it real well," Gadzuric said of Jennings. "All we've got to do is follow his lead and be at the right spots."

Gadzuric is relishing his role as part of a refurbished Bucks bench that includes point guard Luke Ridnour, forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and forward Ersan Ilyasova.

"We have a deep bench and anybody can play on our team," Gadzuric said. "It matters who contributes and who does the right thing at the right moment. If I can help my teammates, it gives me a great feeling."

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

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