ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — The Milwaukee Bucks have exercised the third-year player option on power forward John Henson and the fourth-year player option on point guard Brandon Knight, general manager John Hammond announced Saturday.
Contracts for first-round picks are guaranteed for two years, while the third and fourth years are controlled by team options. Saturday’s decisions were just formalities, as the Bucks were undoubtedly keeping both players for the 2014-15 season.
Terms of contracts aren’t released by the club, but the rookie scale under the collective bargaining agreement indicates Henson will be paid $1,905,360 next season, and Knight will make $3,749,601.
Selected 14th overall by the Bucks in the 2012 NBA Draft, Henson averaged 6.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in his rookie season. The 22-year-old is expected to play a much bigger role this season and could open the year in the starting lineup if Ersan Ilyasova is still out with a sprained ankle.
Acquired in the sign-and-trade of Brandon Jennings, Knight was picked eighth overall by Detroit in the 2011 NBA Draft. He has started 135 games over his first two seasons and enters his first year with the Bucks at just 21 years old. Knight has averaged 13.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists in two years with the Pistons.
With decisions made on Henson and Knight, the Bucks still have a team option for next season on small forward Khris Middleton to either pick up or decline.
Closer to full strength: The Bucks continued to get positive news on the injury front, as center Zaza Pachulia and guard Gary Neal made it through Saturday’s practice without any issues.
Pachulia went full bore on his surgically repaired right Achilles for the third day in a row, while the plantar fasciitis in Neal’s left foot calmed enough to allow him to practice for the second consecutive day.
“It was good Zaza participated today,” Drew said. “Gary Neal, we were really waiting to see how he would be after yesterday, but he checked out OK. Now we’ll have to see how he is tomorrow. Hopefully both guys will be OK again.”
If Sunday’s practice goes well, both should be able to play in Monday’s exhibition game in Chicago. That would be a welcome sight for a Milwaukee club that hasn’t been close to full strength all preseason.
“We have some more bodies to work with, so we can look at some different rotations,” Drew said. “If ‘Z’ checks out, we’ll really have to monitor his minutes and everything he does out there. One of the big things with him will be once he gets the Achilles loose, we don’t want it to stiffen up on him when he’s on the bench.”
Bucks center Larry Sanders was back at practice Saturday after being absent Friday due to an illness. He’s likely to play against the Bulls on Monday.
“I’m feeling a little bit better,” Sanders said. “I’m still a little bit congested, but the sweat today was good. It’s working through me a bit. I’ll get in the steam room and do stuff like that.”
Ilyasova’s sprained right ankle continues to improve, as he pushed hard on the stationary bike Saturday under the supervision of strength and conditioning coach Robert Hackett. He is unlikely to play Monday, but could return to basketball-related activities sometime next week.