ST. FRANCIS, Wis. (AP) — Jason Kidd figures that he will have a higher cellphone bill after getting stuck at home while recuperating from hip surgery.
The Milwaukee Bucks coach would reach out to his staff while the team by sending a lot of text messages.
It’s time for Kidd to give those thumbs a rest.
Five weeks after undergoing surgery, Kidd is returning to the bench on Tuesday when the Bucks host the Orlando Magic.
“Unfortunately, the phone bill went up a little bit, but they got the message, and they got the message to the right people,” Kidd said Monday after practice.
Maybe his return will give the team the spark needed to jump back into the playoff race. Entering Monday night, Milwaukee was 19-27, in 13th place in the Eastern Conference, five games behind eighth-place Miami.
“Gotta take it one game a time, that starts tomorrow,” guard Khris Middleton said.
Kidd is ending 17-game absence from the sideline in his second season in Milwaukee. The Bucks went 8-9 during that stretch under interim coach Joe Prunty, who is Kidd’s lead assistant.
The 42-year-old Kidd has gradually worked his way back since the surgery on Dec. 21 to fix a hip that got worn down during his 19-year playing career.
He has watched some home games from the office. He has been at the suburban Milwaukee practice facility when the team is in town, though Monday was his first meeting with the reporters since the surgery.
Kidd got a unique perspective watching games on television.
“Effort” and “energy” have been Bucks buzz words since Kidd arrived in Milwaukee. While Kidd said he liked the effort on the court while away, he is hoping to see more emotion.
More chest bumps during a timeout after a late defensive stop. More high fives after a player makes a clutch 3.
“Wins always bring teams closer together. Championship teams, losses bring teams closer together. For us when we lose, we can’t break apart,” Kidd said. “As a young group, sometimes you don’t understand that.”
The team’s average age on opening night was 24 years, 144 days. Only Philadelphia had a younger roster (23 years, 66 days).
The Bucks made a surprise run to the playoffs last season, finishing 41-41. Michael Carter-Williams joined the Bucks in a midseason trade, and most of the young core returned in 2015-16. General manager John Hammond added big man Greg Monroe to the mix, and forward Jabari Parker returned from a torn left ACL.
But the playoff push raised expectations around the league. The Bucks were no longer an unknown. And with Monroe joining Carter-Williams and Parker for a first full season, the Bucks say they are still learning how to play together for a full season.
For as good a job as Prunty did in the interim role, the loss of Kidd threw another obstacle into the Bucks’ building blueprint.
“It does take time, there is a process for us,” Kidd said. “To just think it would just pick up where it was last year, we’re kidding ourselves.”
Playing better 3-point defense has been an issue of late in road losses to Houston and New Orleans. The athletic Bucks are a strong team inside the arc, especially when driving the lane, but are 28th out of 30 teams in 3-point shots.
Getting hands up on shooters, running potential shooters off the 3-point line and better rotations are some things the Bucks could work on to tighten perimeter defense.
“We’re not a 3-point shooting team. When we give up the 3, the advantage is not in our favor,” Carter-Williams said.
With eight games left until the All-Star break, the goal is to get closer to .500 to build momentum for a second half push.