ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — When Milwaukee Bucks forward Tobias Harris missed time during last season’s shortened training camp due to a blood disorder and dehydration, the lost time and lack of preparation left him way behind his teammates when the lockout-shortened NBA season began.
And with so much hope that Harris’ raw talent could give the Bucks a productive young weapon, the small forward struggled to fit in for much of the season, as the time missed proved to be too hampering for an unpolished rookie. It was a huge blow for a Milwaukee team that could’ve used more athleticism at the forward spot.
This season, Harris is healthy and looks like a candidate to fill out Milwaukee’s starting lineup. But for the second straight year, it appears the Bucks’ rookies will open the season behind the rest of their teammates.
First, it was Bucks second-round pick Doron Lamb, who many tabbed as a potential surprise player this season, straining his left elbow and has missing all of training camp so far. With playing time available in the backcourt, Lamb could very well have made a splash in camp, and although the team has left the door open for him to return before camp ends, he’ll start out pretty far behind the curve.
Then, Tuesday night in Chicago, first-round pick John Henson — who had impressed many with his 10-point performance against the Pistons in the team’s second preseason game — left the game against the Bulls in the third quarter with a knee injury. On Wednesday, Bucks coach Scott Skiles said the injury was a left knee sprain, which will likely keep him out for about two weeks.
“Nothing serious,” Skiles said of Henson’s injury, “but he’ll probably be out a little while, a week or two. No structural damage or anything like that, just a sprained knee.”
But with time so valuable for the Bucks’ young players — as Harris proved through his struggles last season — the pair of injuries could slow down the development of two players Milwaukee surely could have used this season.
“You don’t want to fall behind, that’s for sure,” Skiles said. “It happened to Tobias last year. It’s hard to catch up once the season starts. But you know, you can’t do anything about it. (Henson) just has to work now, do his rehab, and try to get back as soon as he can.”
The two rookies aren’t the only Bucks who have been affected by injuries this camp. Forward Luc Mbah a Moute remains out due to his offseason surgery on his right knee, and he’ll no doubt miss the rest of camp. Even point guard Brandon Jennings told reporters on Tuesday in Chicago that he had been playing with an ailing toe; although, he practiced Wednesday and Skiles said he hadn’t been told anything else about the issue.
At least it wasn’t all bad news on the injury front on Wednesday. After straining his left knee and missing two preseason games, Bucks forward/center Ekpe Udoh returned to practice on Wednesday and is probable to play in Thursday night’s game.
With Udoh likely back in the picture, and Henson now out, the Bucks’ frontcourt picture remains as unclear as ever, according to Skiles.
“Right now, John’s out and we don’t know when he’s going to be back,” Skiles said. “Ekpe practiced today for the first time, so hopefully if nothing happens, he’ll be able to play tomorrow. But if all the guys are healthy, it’s impossible to play them all. You just can’t in an NBA game. Somebody is going to get left out. … I don’t know who that is yet.”