The mere thought of an injured John Henson was a chilling idea for Milwaukee Bucks fans Tuesday night. You can see his injury in the video, it looked bad and then it looked worse when he began to clutch his knee. But, Henson says he’s fine and the Bucks will likely have him evaluated further today.
Injuries. It seems like the Bucks can never get far without another, eh?
Through two and a half weeks of camp, the Bucks have already had a few. Let’s go through them in order of most impactful, to least. Note that if Henson does miss any meaningful time, he’ll vault to the top of this list.
Doron Lamb – Torn elbow ligament
Lamb injured his left elbow just before the start of camp in voluntary workouts. He’s missed all of training camp thus far, but has recently been cleared to run without limitation. It sounds like the Bucks are optimistic that he’ll be able to get in a few practices before the end of training camp, but he’s all but been ruled out of any preseason games.
Lamb missing both a months worth of practices and every preseason game is incredibly damaging at least as far as his season goes. Throughout last season we heard about Tobias Harris missing summer league and a full training camp and how it negatively affected his understanding and awareness all season. Lamb had the good fortune of a full summer league, but he’s missing out on thousands of minutes of basketball reps this month. For a rookie, those reps make the difference between being in the right place and the wrong place once games start. Even if Lamb has a fantastic ability to comprehend and understand his place on the court, he’s going to be pretty far behind his teammates. That’s not a great place to be as a rookie.
It seems unlikely that the Bucks were banking on Lamb to be a big time factor this season. He was a second round pick after all. But the team seemed very high on him heading into and coming out of summer league. Now, firmly behind four other guards in the Bucks rotation, he’ll likely be a bit player this season unless other injuries force the team’s hand.
Ekpe Udoh – Sprained left knee
The Bucks are lousy with big men. I mean that in the sense they have a lot. I love when people say they’re lousy with something, it’s so old-timey and fun. Anyway, the Bucks have seven big men all capable of largely the same things more or less. Coming into camp it seemed reasonable to expect Ersan Ilyasova and potentially Samuel Dalembert to grab the majority of the minutes in the Bucks front court, with Ekpe Udoh, Drew Gooden and John Henson battling over the next big chunk. Larry Sanders was quickly on his way to becoming an afterthought and Joel Pryzbilla was the wily vet we assumed was prepared to sit back and get in where he’d fit in down the line.
But Sanders has changed some things. He’s shown a previously undemonstrated ability to know what’s happening and control himself on the court through three games. He’s not just blocking shots, he’s playing defense too. He’s still fouling a ton – through three games he’s averaging 8.15 fouls per 36 minutes, which is EVEN HIGHER than his team leading (by quite a bit I might add) 7.4 fouls per 36 minutes last season. Sanders is also averaging 13.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, blowing away his nine per 36 and Udoh’s 8.3 per 36 from last season.
If he can some how figure out that whole foul thing, Sanders could be in line for more minutes than people expected this season. With Udoh out, it’s possible he’s losing ground. Scott Skiles knows what he’s going to get out of Udoh – a terrible rebounder, but smart defender who can block shots without fouling. But he expressed concern about Udoh’s conditioning slipping after the knee injury. These next couple of weeks could be Sanders’ big opportunity to change his season. Udoh’s injury doesn’t make a big difference in the grand scheme of the Bucks season probably, but it could help shape what the early season front court rotation looks like.
Luc Mbah a Moute – Rehabbing from offseason patella tendon surgery
If there’s one thing the Bucks can feel confident about, it’s that Mbah a Moute will be reliable. He’ll still be the Bucks best defender and he’ll be capable of sliding into whatever role they need. His absence has opened the door for the sophomore Harris to solidify himself as the Bucks starting small forward and, given Skiles’ preference of keeping Mike Dunleavy in a sixth man role, he’s largely done so.
Mbah a Moute doesn’t need a camp to know how he fits in with the Bucks or to understand what they’re trying to do. He’s the old man of this group, at least in Bucks years. The longest tenured Buck, he’s only played for Skiles in the NBA. He knows what to do, he knows where to be. When he returns, it’ll be more of a question of how the Bucks want to use him. If Harris isn’t defending as well as the team would like, there will likely be no hesitation about throwing Mbah a Moute into the starting lineup, as it appears the team originally intended to do.
But for now, Mbah a Moute’s absence gives Harris the chance to prove he’s ready to defend on a nightly basis the way the Bucks want their starting small forward to do.