ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — For close to an hour Thursday, Bucks point guard Brandon Knight put his strained right hamstring to the test through various shooting drills on the Cousins Center floor.
Knight’s workout with player development coach Josh Oppenheimer went well, and he will make the trip to Philadelphia with the rest of the team. But Knight isn’t guaranteed to play Friday against the 76ers, as the Bucks plan to be cautious in order to prevent the injury from lingering.
“With this type of injury you really have to lean toward the cautious side because it’s a very delicate injury,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said. “We are now in a position where we really have to allow this thing to heal. We have to make sure he’s strong enough and he’s comfortable out there playing, pushing off on it, stopping and going. He has to be mentally in a good place to go out there and play again.”
Drew will judge Knight’s availability for the Philadelphia game based on how the hamstring feels later Thursday night and Friday morning. Knight came through Wednesday’s workout feeling good and reported no issues.
“I’m feeling good,” Knight said. “It’s getting better day by day and that’s all you can really ask for. I’m getting treatment, doing all the things I need to do to take care of it.
“Hopefully I can make that progression to get back on the court sometime soon because I’ve been biting the bullet trying to emotionally support my team. It’s draining when you see your team struggling.”
Being able to do nothing to help the Bucks during their six-game losing streak has been hard for Knight. He’s tried to stay engaged as much as he can but is itching to get back out on the court.
Drew sat down with Knight when the team was Indiana last week just to make sure his point guard was staying up.
“I feel like I can come back and lift our team up a little bit,” Knight said. “I feel my abilities and my ability to lead by example and also verbally while I’m on the court can definitely help our team. It hurts me just knowing that I can’t be out there with the guys right now.”
There has been a battle raging in his head of late as Knight tries to balance returning with ensuring the hamstring is 100 percent so it doesn’t bother him all year.
Knight strained his right hamstring in the season opener on Oct. 30 in New York and missed three games before returning against Dallas on Nov. 9. After playing 15 minutes against the Mavericks and 24 against Miami three days later, Knight has Milwaukee’s last four games.
“When I see my guys out there fighting I want to be out there with them,” Knight said. I’m trying to be cautious but I’m also trying to hurry it along as well.
I do want to be 100 percent, but I want to be smart as well. It’s still early and we have a lot of games left. I want to be healthy for those games and I don’t want this to be something that continues to linger.”
It would be one thing if Knight was the only player hurting, but the Bucks have so many guys banged up that Drew decided to take it easy Thursday.
Caron Butler (shoulder), Ersan Ilyasova (right ankle), O.J. Mayo (left ankle), Gary Neal (plantar fasciitis), Zaza Pachulia (Achilles), Luke Ridnour (back) and Ekpe Udoh (right knee) all would have been limited Thursday.
With Carlos Delfino and Larry Sanders out as well, Milwaukee has 10 of its 15 players on the injury report. Everyone other than Sanders and Delfino will be game-time decisions against the 76ers.
“Some of these injuries are more serious than others,” Drew said. “We have three games in the next four games, so we have to make sure we can get guys healthy.
Staying positive: With so many injuries and stuck in a six-game losing streak, the Bucks showed a little frustration for the first time. after Wednesday’s 91-82 loss to Portland.
A day after the latest loss that followed the same script of hanging around only to have one stretch kill them, Drew was pleased with the way the players got back to work Thursday.
“Sprits are still up and guys are still saying the right things,” Drew said. “We had a chance to sit down and watch film today. I really just wanted these guys to see where we are having the lapses.”
Only three of Milwaukee’s losses have been by double digits and those have come to three of the NBA’s best teams in Miami, Indiana and Oklahoma City. Even in defeats that looked lopsided in the end, the Bucks hung around for a good portion of the game.
Whether it has been turnovers, poor offensive execution, bad shots or failure to rebound, Milwaukee has found some ailment to allow the opponent pull away.
“We just have to get through those periods,” Drew said. “Two weeks ago we were talking about how can we get off to a better start, well we’ve solved that. Now we have to learn how to finish games, particularly in crunch time situations where we have to be able to execute, get stops, take care of the basketball and rebound the ball.
Milwaukee’s last six opponents have a combined winning percentage of .857, leaving the fact the Bucks haven’t been getting blown out in most games despite being undermanned encouraging to Drew.
“If there is kind of a silver lining in losses, playing against these good teams where we are undermanned and being right there (is it),” Drew said. “But again, we’ve put ourselves in a position where there could have been a different outcome had we handled our business the way we should have. We didn’t, but we’ll learn from those.”
Knight feels the morale is still high because they have been able to compete with so many guys out. Milwaukee’s next 10 games are against teams with under .500 records, leaving the Bucks with a golden opportunity to get back on track if they can get healthy.
11 new players that have yet to play together consistently may need time to hit their groove, but Knight believes it won’t take long to get going.
“I think we’re be able to be able to pick up on it,” Knight said. “That’s something you have to be focused on while you are injured so you can step right in and not feel your way through and know what you can be doing to help the team.”