ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — Milwaukee Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute participated in practice Monday for the first time since suffering a turf toe injury on March 10 in Sacramento.
The injury is to his big toe on his right foot and has caused him to miss Milwaukee’s last eight games. Mbah a Moute is hoping to play Wednesday in Philadelphia, but will wait to see how the toe responds Tuesday.
Mbah a Moute felt a pain in his foot after he scored on a layup against the Kings. He left the game, but returned for the second half. He hasn’t played since.
“I’m feeling better,” Mbah a Moute said. “I started working out a little bit. It’s still painful and stuff like that, but it’s definitely getting better.
“I still have a lot of pain with cutting and pushing off of it really hard. I’d like to come back and play but that just depends on how this thing heals. I’m pretty optimistic. We’ll see tomorrow in practice. I have a couple more days to see if I can get this thing going and see if I can play on it.”
The Bucks have lost six of the eight games Mbah a Moute has been out and have given up 104.5 points per game without one of their best defensive players. It’s been tough for Mbah a Moute to sit and watch his team struggle and fall below .500.
“It’s frustrating,” Mbah a Moute said. “Especially not being able to play and participate, and the team’s not playing well right now. It’s part of sports, part of our jobs. Hopefully this ends soon and I don’t have to deal with it so I can continue to play and help the team in the push for the playoffs.”
Bucks small forward Mike Dunleavy missed Monday’s practice due to an illness, while center Larry Sanders sat out with soreness. Bucks coach Jim Boylan expects both to be able to play against the 76ers on Wednesday.
College coach fired: Mbah a Moute not only returned to practice Monday, but reacted to the news of the firing of Ben Howland, his college coach at UCLA.
Mbah a Moute was an important part of Howland’s teams that made the Final Four three consecutive years in 2006-08. The Bruins lost to Florida in the 2006 national championship game, lost to the Gators again in the 2007 national semifinal and lost in the semifinal to Memphis in 2008.
“UCLA is a tough program,” Mbah a Moute said. “Tough place to coach, there’s a lot of pressure at UCLA. The expectations are really high. I remember back in my day we went to three straight Final Four’s and that wasn’t enough, they didn’t care, they just want to see championships.
“From that standpoint, I understand how the school felt. He’s been there 10 years and he’s coached as well as any coach that’s coached there. The school felt like it needed somebody else. It’s sad to see a coach, somebody you worked with, leave. Coach Howland is a really good coach; he’ll find another situation and he’ll make it happen.”
Mbah a Moute was the Pac-10’s Freshman of the Year in 2006 and credits Howland for helping him develop into an NBA player and a top level defensive player.
“He did a good job of preparing all of us, especially defensively,” Mbah a Moute said. “He was a very good defensive coach. Most guys come out of UCLA usually as pretty good defenders. That’s because of the way he approached that and made it a point of emphasis.”