ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — Ever since the Milwaukee Bucks and
Dallas Mavericks swapped shooting guards in free agency this summer, the first
meeting between the two teams has been circled on the calendar.
Saturday night will mark Monta Ellis’ first trip back to the
BMO Harris Bradley Center since leaving the Bucks to sign as a free agent with
the Mavericks, while O.J. Mayo will face his former team for the first time.
“I find nothing interesting about that,” Mayo said
after practice Wednesday. “That’s the way the business goes. We’re here to
play the game.”
While Mayo downplayed the game having any special meaning,
Bucks coach Larry Drew expects both players to have some extra juice Saturday
“It will be interesting to see Monta coming back here
having been here last year, and certainly O.J. having played in Dallas last
year,” Drew said. “I’m sure both guys are going to be geeked up come
tomorrow night. I know shots are going to be flying all over the place. It
should be exciting.
“You have to hold the reins because both guys are
explosive scorers. They want to do well playing against their previous team.
I’m sure I’m probably going to have to pull O.J. to the side a bit. Both guys
are scorers and will look to get back at their old team.”
Traded from the Warriors to the Bucks in March of 2012 as
the primary piece in the Andrew Bogut trade, Ellis always had a particularly
tenacious attitude when facing Golden State.
Ellis averaged 21.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.3
steals and shot 42.6 percent from the field in three games with Milwaukee
against Golden State, leading the Bucks to a 3-0 record against his old team.
In his last trip to Oakland, Ellis scored 26 points on
10-of-19 shooting to help the Bucks to a 103-93 victory.
“Most players are like that when they play their
previous teams,” Drew said. “I’m sure he’s going to be geeked up
about coming back to Milwaukee having played here. Certainly he wants to put
the dagger in us. We have to be ready.”
Acquired along with Kwame Brown and Ekpe Udoh in exchange
for Bogut and Stephen Jackson, Ellis played 103 games in Milwaukee. Starting
all 82 games last season, the 28-year-old averaged 19.2 points, 3.9 rebounds
and 6.0 assists per game while shooting 41.6 percent from the field.
In June, Ellis opted out of the final year of his contract
that would have paid him $11 million for this season.
According to a league source, Ellis turned down a two-year
extension with the Bucks worth a total of $36 million last fall. The deal would
have required and included the $11 million player option plus an additional two
Ellis ended up signing a three-year deal worth $26 million
with the Mavericks in July and has thrived in Dallas thus far. His 32 points in
the team’s season opener was the most by a player in their Mavericks debut.
Through five games, Ellis is averaging 24.0 points, 3.8
rebounds, 4.6 assists and shooting 51.3 percent from the floor.
Last year, Drew coached against the good Ellis and the bad
Ellis. Ellis scored 27 points with 17 assists in one game against Atlanta, but
scored just five on 2-of-14 shooting in another. How does Drew prepare for
“First of all, he’s going to get enough touches where
he’s going to score the ball,” Drew said. “Sometimes you can focus a
little bit too much on one guy and you are leaving other guys open. We just
tried to make it tough for him and make him earn every basket. He’s an
“He can make shots, he can get into the paint, he’s a
strong finisher. We just tried to make his scoring opportunities tough. Guys
like that are going to have many opportunities to score the basketball. We just
can’t let him have any easy ones.”
Mayo spent one season in Dallas before declining the player
option for this year. He wasn’t pursued in free agency by the Mavericks and
ended up signing a three-year, $24 million deal with the Bucks.
He had his best game this season Wednesday against
Cleveland, scoring 28 points and connecting on 6-of-7 3-point attempts.
“I don’t think nothing at all,” Mayo said of
playing the Mavericks. “It’s just another game for us to get ready for on
Injury update: The Bucks were without power forward Ersan
Ilyasova (sore right ankle), center Larry Sanders (sprained right thumb) and
point guard Luke Ridnour (back spasms) at practice Friday.
Ridnour and Sanders are listed as doubtful for Saturday’s
game against Dallas, while Ilyasova is listed as probable. Brandon Knight
returned to practice Friday for the first time since straining his right
hamstring in the season opener Oct. 30 and is probable for Saturday.
“He seemed to be moving around OK,” Drew said of
Knight. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow. I was told he will be a
possibility. We wanted to see how he did through today’s practice. Tomorrow
will be the big test.”
Even if Knight is able to play, Drew may still start rookie
Nate Wolters at point guard. It would allow Knight to ease back from the injury
but also keep the hot hand on the court at the beginning of the game.
“Brandon has been out a little while, and we seem to
have a little rhythm with the group we’ve been starting,” Drew said.
“I may lean to stay with that until we get everyone back healthy.”
Though Ilyasova is listed as probable, he’ll need to make
progress in order to play. Drew said he won’t rush Ilyasova back and wants to
make sure the team gives him the necessary time to let the ankle fully heal.
Bucks small forward Caron Butler left in the middle of
Friday’s practice after tweaking his ankle. Drew is hopeful to have him against