MILWAUKEE — John Henson won’t be selected for any all-NBA Rookie teams.
While the Milwaukee Bucks’ 20-year-old forward has had a nice inaugural pro season, it’s hardly been distinguishable. Henson played in 63 regular-season games, averaging 6 points and 4.7 rebounds.
But Henson will have something on his resume that most of those Rookie of the Year candidates won’t: playing in the NBA playoffs. Henson is expected to be one of only a handful of rookies who’ll get any respectable minutes in the postseason.
“I feel fortunate,” Henson said. “A lot of rookies don’t make the playoffs. I can count on one hand how many rookies who are on a playoff team that will actually be contributing.”
It’s not out of the realm of possibility Henson will even play major minutes against the Miami Heat in an Eastern Conference first-round playoff series, starting Sunday night in Miami.
That’s because both of the Bucks’ starting forwards — Ersan Ilyasova and Luc Mbah a Moute — are battling injuries. Mbah a Moute, the team’s starting small forward, has a bothersome knee and turf toe. What’s more, Mbah a Moute has been feeling under the weather the last several days.
Ilyasova, the Bucks’ starting power forward, has a sore right wrist and is wearing an elastic wrap that could affect his shooting.
Even if Ilyasova and Mbah a Moute are fine, Henson may still get a quick call from Bucks coach Jim Boylan. After all, the 6-foot-11, 220-pound Henson has emerged as one of the Bucks’ best players in recent weeks.
In the last five games, Henson has four double-doubles. One of them was an eyebrow-raising 17-point, 25-rebound, seven-blocked shot performance against Orlando. In those same five games, he has grabbed at least 11 rebounds four times.
Henson also had arguably his best game of the season against Miami Dec. 29. That’s when he had 17 points and 18 rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench.
Of course, as Henson is quick to point out, that was a regular-season game, not a playoff one. When asked how the Heat matched up against him and came at him in that outing, Henson laughed and said, “I don’t think they came at me in any way, to be honest. That’s probably why I had a good game.”
Henson doesn’t know how many minutes he’ll play against the reigning champion Heat and he doesn’t particularly care. His sole objective is to help the Bucks in any manner.
Like virtually every other basketball fan on the planet, Henson realizes the Bucks will have to play flawlessly to compete against the Heat, who had a 27-game winning streak during the season and ended the regular season with a league-best 66-16 record.
Yet, as talented as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and their Heat teammates are, Henson doesn’t believe they are invincible.
“They’re beatable; they’re beatable,” Henson said. “They are obviously the best team in the league; they have the best record. It’s going to be tough.
“But we’re going to throw some things at them and muck the game a little bit. We’re going to switch things up and see what happens. Hopefully, our preparation is good enough to at least put up a good fight.”
Henson, who was the 14th overall selection in last June’s draft, admits his adrenaline is flowing rapidly these days and can’t wait until Sunday night.
Henson said he’s been sharing his excitement with his close friend and former University of North Carolina teammate Harrison Barnes of the Golden State Warriors. Barnes will have the distinction of being the only rookie to start in the playoffs.
“We usually text each other every day or every other day,” Henson said. “We’re planning a few trips this summer and want to work out together somewhere.
“The other day he texted me and said, ‘Man, it’s been a long year.’ And I was like, ‘God is good; we’re in the playoffs.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, that’s true. How many people, how many rookies, get that opportunity?’
“I’m really excited.”