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Jabari Parker’s long road of rehabilitation finally led to his long-awaited goal Friday night and he was pleased with the results.
Playing in his first game in almost a year since tearing his left ACL for a second time on Feb. 8, 2017, Parker returned to the lineup for the Milwaukee Bucks in their thrilling 92-90 victory over the visiting New York Knicks.
Coming off the bench, Parker finished with 12 points, on 4-of-7 shooting, and three rebounds in 15 minutes of action, his playing-time restriction, for now.
“It felt great,” Parker told reporters after the victory. “But honestly, training myself to think about it as just getting better. It’s not going to take just one game, a few games, just the whole process. That game didn’t really stick out as much as people perceive it to be.”
It certainly did to the crowd at BMO Harris Bradley Center, which gave the Chicago native a rousing standing ovation when he checked into the game for Giannis Antetokounmpo with 5:25 to play in the opening quarter
It also meant plenty to his teammates.
“It was a great feeling,” Antetokounmpo said of having Parker back on the floor. “Everybody was really excited about JP coming back tonight.
“Most importantly, he was just playing, having fun. It’s just great to see him out there competing with us again.”
No stranger to injuries himself, Khris Middleton could not have been happier for Parker.
“I’m proud of him,” he said. “It’s tough to go through what he went through twice, then come back and play like nothing’s ever happened. It’s great. I know there was a lot going through his mind, but he did a great job of just going out there and playing basketball.
“It’s good to see one of your brothers go through what he went through and then get the standing ovation that he got,” Middleton said. “He loves this city, so it’s only right that this city loves him back.”
Milwaukee interim coach Joe Prunty said Parker did well in his return.
“I thought he had a very good debut,” Prunty said. “I thought there were a lot of positive things that he did out on the floor. One of the things we talked about a lot, there are certain things he does naturally. He can score the ball, he can make plays for himself and other people. But I thought defensively he was solid, was in the right spots.
“Again, there’s a rhythm and timing to the game every time you step out there, and it’s difficult when you’ve been off for a while, and I thought he did a really nice job of fitting in and helping the team win the game.”
Which Parker will attempt to do again Sunday afternoon at Brooklyn. Milwaukee (28-23) stands sixth in the Eastern Conference standings headed into that game at Barclays Center.
“[The] only way to go here is going up,” Parker said. “You can’t beat the low of any point that I’ve been at any stage of these few months.
“Anything that I do from this point on is just to go up, and that’s a blessing.”