Hours after revealing he’d like a Bucks return in future, 24-year-old power forward Jabari Parker scored 33 points, 14 rebounds and created five assists despite the Atlanta Hawks losing their eighth successive game at the Fiserv Forum on Wednesday night.
Jabari recorded season-highs in points (33) and rebounds (14), while equaling his season high assist tally with five against the team that drafted him second overall in 2014.
He drained three shots from three-point range too, also a high for the power forward – who continues to impress alongside star guard Trae Young even in John Collins’ absence through suspension.
The Hawks have struggled for consistency to start 19-20 though and their 112-102 defeat on this occasion was their eighth consecutive league defeat. They are 4-14 – joint-worst record in the Eastern Conference alongside the New York Knicks, while only an injury-laden Golden State Warriors (4-15) are in worse circumstances league-wide.
Parker admits homesickness, open to Bucks return at some stage
After a Wednesday morning shootaround with the Atlanta Hawks, Jabari Parker soaked up the atmosphere of the newly constructed Fiserv Forum before sharing heartfelt thoughts about Milwaukee and his former team.
“It’s real special, man, how they were able to build this building. I haven’t played here but just seeing like the growth of the city, I really like the way that it’s developing.
It’s just so sad that I’m not able to share it with them and that they moved on, but that’s fine – that’s business. I do have a little homesickness, I just miss being here.”
Having signed a two-year, $13m deal with the Hawks in July, Parker has a player option for 2020-21 and refused to rule out a return to the NBA team that drafted him five years ago, but only if everything made sense.
“Never, I would never rule out a possible return here. I would never do that – it’s just so sad how it ended and I wish I could’ve stayed.”
Here’s his individual highlights from the encounter:
Parker missed 183 of a possible 328 regular-season games during his four-year stint in Milwaukee, sustaining two season-ending knee injuries among other niggling issues. The Bucks allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent in July 2018, where he signed a two-year, $40m deal with his hometown Chicago Bulls.
Jabari also revealed his happiness in Atlanta and that his joy for the game is “almost there” again, even with their recent woes – but admitted it has plenty to do with winning in the long-term.
Parker’s spell with the Bulls ended abruptly after ongoing tension between himself and head coach Jim Boylen saw him traded to the Washington Wizards on February 6 this year. They declined the second-year option on his deal – seeing him miss out on $20m – before he agreed terms with Atlanta this summer.
“He’s been a great scoring punch for us offensively, which is who he is and what he does. Defensively, he uses his voice.
The biggest challenge for him is the level of engagement that he can offer, being able to do that consistently and often, but he knows that and is still a young guy.” – Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce on Jabari’s influence
Analysis as Giannis leads the plaudits
It was Parker who largely pushed the pace on Wednesday, in a match that should have been a blowout in truth. His recent form suggests once Collins does return, the 22-year-old will feature as their starting five and Jabari could continue to see an increase in minutes.
Trae added 29 points and seven assists, but the battle between Bucks’ All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and his former teammate was an intriguing subplot on their way to victory.
The league’s reigning MVP revealed post-game that he knew better than to engage in a one-on-one battle with his former teammate – helping lead the Bucks to their first 15-3 start since 1973-74.
“We did that in practice every day. At the end of the day, Jabari’s such a good player one-on-one, so I try not to get out of your game because you know he loves to do that. He wants you to play one-on-one, because he’s so good at it.”
After hearing Parker’s comments, Giannis himself refused to rule out a reunion down the line either.
“I don’t think there’s a player that ever leaves Milwaukee that doesn’t love Milwaukee. As an organisation, that’s what we’re trying to do – make players love playing and being here.
At the end of the day, I want guys to love being here, playing for this team and with me. I love that if he ever finds an opportunity to come back, he’s willing to. Who knows? We might be teammates again.”
Parker is averaging 17.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game – while leading the Hawks in terms of field goal percentage at 51.8%. He’ll hope he can continue his impressive recent form on Friday evening, taking on the Indiana Pacers looking to end their dismal losing skid.
All quotes’ sourced from ESPN’s Eric Woodyard