Jabari Parker will make his debut as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, and it promises to be a high-profile first act.
Parker, the No. 2 overall pick in the June 26 draft, will face off against top overall pick Andrew Wiggins as the Bucks meet the Cleveland Cavaliers in their NBA Summer League opener in Las Vegas. He'll face the Utah Jazz on Monday.
There was plenty of drama on draft week in New York about which player would go No. 1 overall.
In the end, it was Wiggins going to Cleveland and Parker landing in his preferred destination with Milwaukee.
Just a few days after Parker was drafted, new owners Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens tabbed Jason Kidd as the franchise’s new coach with a three-year, $15 million contract.
Kidd, in some of his first comments as Bucks coach, praised the 19-year-old Parker and even made a comparison to LeBron James.
That was high praise indeed for the former Duke player and Chicago native who led his high school team (Simeon) to four consecutive state titles.
The summer league will give Kidd a chance to evaluate the Bucks’ young talent, including Parker, second-year forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and second-year point guard Nate Wolters.
The Bucks’ summer squad headed to Las Vegas on Monday. They will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before opening play at 7 p.m. Friday against the Cavaliers at the Cox Pavilion.
Kidd will be present, but assistant Sean Sweeney will coach the team with help from Eric Hughes. Both Sweeney and Hughes were part of Kidd’s coaching staff in Brooklyn last season.
It is expected Parker and the Bucks will finalize his rookie-scale contract before he wears his No. 12 jersey for the first time in a game. As the No. 2 pick in the draft, Parker’s first-year slotted number is $4.1 million. But teams are allowed to pay 120 percent, so the first year of Parker’s deal could be closer to $4.9 million.
Parker and Wiggins, the dynamic 6-8 forward from Kansas, are sure to be compared throughout their careers, starting with this first professional meeting.
But the Bucks forward said he’s not going to worry about what people say, either positive or negative.
“It’s not my job to compare,” Parker said. “What does the draft really give entitlement to, the best player?
“You’ve got Doug McDermott, you know scoring 3,000 points. You’ve got Julius Randle who went to the national championship (with Kentucky). Shabazz Napier won two national championships.
“I mean, we’re all good. We’re all great players.”
Many of those first-round picks will be on display in Las Vegas, where 24 of the league’s 30 teams compete in a tournament that seemingly grows bigger each summer. The tournament opens Friday and continues through July 21 on the campus of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
Each team is guaranteed a minimum of five games and a tournament champion will be crowned.
Parker appears to be a great fit for Milwaukee and already has generated plenty of excitement without playing with his new team yet.
“It means a lot,” Parker said of the Bucks’ steady interest in him leading up to the draft. “They’re really taking their chances on a guy like me.
“I just wanted to keep on going where I’m wanted and where I’m embraced.”
Following Friday’s matchup, the Bucks will play Phoenix at 9 p.m. Sunday and Utah at 9:30 p.m. Monday in opening-round games. Then they will be seeded for the tournament portion of the summer league schedule.
In addition to Antetokounmpo and Wolters, forward Chris Wright will be on the summer league roster. Wright played on a pair of 10-day contracts with the Bucks last season and signed a non-guaranteed contract for the 2014-’15 season.
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Second-round pick Damien Inglis (No. 31 overall) will not be able to play due to a broken foot suffered in pre-draft workouts, but center-forward Johnny O’Bryant from Louisiana State (No. 36 overall) is on the roster.
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