ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — Milwaukee Bucks forward Carlos Delfino will likely miss most of training camp after suffering a setback in his recovery from right foot surgery.
Delfino fractured his right foot while playing for Houston in Game 5 of the Rockets’ first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City last April. Signed to a two-year deal with a team option for a third season this summer, the 31-year-old was still in a walking boot at the team’s annual media day Monday.
“I had a fracture five months ago and I had surgery,” Delfino said. “I had a little setback the last couple of days. We don’t have a timeframe. They are taking pictures and we’re going to know more in the next couple of days. I can’t wait to get on the court.”
After spending three years with the Bucks, Delfino signed as a free agent and played a big role with an upstart Houston team last season. He first noticed the injury in his foot with a month left in the season and played through the pain.
Delfino played effectively off the bench for the Rockets until he completely fractured the foot while dunking over Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant in Game 5.
“I don’t really like to talk about this injury because I was playing injured for a month,” Delfino said. “Most of the injury was probably my fault because I tried to play five or six weeks with a fractured bone in my foot . . . I tried to dunk and it just cracked.”
The Bucks have veteran Caron Butler to start at small forward with Delfino, second-year player Khris Middleton and rookie Giannis Antetokoumpo as backups. Delfino’s absence will open the door for Middleton and Antetokoumpo to play more minutes during the exhibition season, but Milwaukee needs the Argentinian to return as soon as possible.
“Hopefully he’s on the mend and hopefully we can get him back as soon as possible,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said. “I’ve always been a big Carlos Delfino fan, and I was ecstatic when we signed him. I’m hoping he can recover as fast as he can so he can join the team.”
Ready to go: The Bucks will open camp Tuesday at the Cousins Center, as Milwaukee will practice twice a day on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of this week and just once on Thursday and Sunday.
The team will host a fan fest followed by an open practice at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Saturday as they prepare for the exhibition opener Oct. 8 in Cleveland. With the season opener four weeks from Wednesday, Drew doesn’t have much time to get a roster featuring 11 new players on the same page.
“We’re going to force feed them,” Drew said. “We have no choice. We don’t have a lot of time to get everything in, particularly before our first exhibition game. It will be a gradual process. We aren’t going to try to do it overnight. We will force feed them a little bit to try to get everything in we need to get in.”
Drew has experience dealing with massive turnover, as last year’s Hawks team featured 10 new players at the beginning of the training camp. The only difference this season is Drew doesn’t have a group of veterans who have played in his system before. Only center Zaza Pachulia has played for Drew, leaving 17 players needed to learn a whole new system. It’s a challenge he embraces.
“It’s going to come down with these guys working and playing together, seeing how well they mesh together, see how well they gel together and see how well they play together,” Drew said. “We’ll be looking at different combinations, we’ll be throwing guys in different positions. I have to see what I have. I know what these guys are capable of from an individual standpoint but we are talking about putting it together as a team. It will be a process, but I’m excited about it.”
Knowing the challenge of teaching so much in such a short time was going to be there, Drew went to work reaching out to players to get started as soon as he was hired. He wouldn’t speak to team expectations Monday because how the group meshes as a team is still completely unknown.
It could take the entire training camp and even into the regular season before Drew gets a feel for this year’s roster, but exhibition games and practices will be critical over the next four weeks.
“I know I have my work cut out putting everything together when you have a group of new guys, but tomorrow when we step out on that floor for our first two-a-day we’ll be a team that’s going to be committed in trying to achieve our goals,” Drew said. “One guy won’t do it, two guys won’t do it. We’re going to have to do it together, we’re going to have to do it as a team.
“Will it be easy? No, it will not be easy. Will there be some bumps in the road? Absolutely. Training camp is a time to start putting everything together. After a few days of training camp I’ll have a pretty good feel of where we are.”
Early meeting: Brought to the Bucks to provide veteran leadership on and off the court, Caron Butler wasted no time getting to work. Butler texted all of his teammates to invite them to dinner recently as a team-building outing.
“I extended myself to coach Drew and he gave me all the guy’s contacts,” Butler said. “I reached out to them and they openly came to the meeting we called. We had a good energy and a good vibe and that’s what you want to do, establish a tone for training camp. We are going to do the same thing (Monday night at dinner) as we go over some play sets and continue to build camaraderie.”
Many of the players spoke of the importance of Butler’s gesture, especially as the Bucks are placing a great deal of focus on team chemistry after last season’s locker room crumbled.
“It was definitely good for the young guys,” Bucks center Larry Sanders said. “They have jitters coming into this situation and they don’t know what to expect. Just to have that comfort to know we are here together and you aren’t out here on your own. You are on a team now and we have each other’s backs. It’s just starting that family atmosphere.”
Scratched: Former Marquette point guard Junior Cadougan will no longer be a part of Milwaukee’s training camp roster due to visa issues.
An extreme long shot to make the roster, Cadougan impressed the Bucks enough in summer league to earn an invitation to camp. He attended media day Monday before learning of his situation. Although he played four years of college basketball right down the road, The Toronto native’s visa will temporarily prevent him from chasing his dream.
Milwaukee will now have 18 players in camp, as Polish forward Olek Czyz, former NBA guard Stephen Graham and former University of Miami guard Trey McKinney-Jones joined the roster for camp.
Czyz, 23, spent the 2012-13 season with Virtus Roma in the Italian League, averaging 5.9 points and 3.7 rebounds in 50 games. He played collegiately at Duke for two seasons before finishing his eligibility at Nevada.
Undrafted out of Oklahoma State in 2005, Graham has spent parts of six seasons in the NBA with Houston, Chicago, Cleveland, Portland, Indiana, Charlotte and New Jersey. He’s averaged 4.0 points and 1.8 rebounds over 239 career games.
A Milwaukee native, McKinney-Jones attended South Milwaukee High School before playing two seasons at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and two seasons with the Hurricanes.
Front office changes: Longtime team employee Chris Gilmartin has been promoted to director of NBA scouting, while Luke Steele joins the team as advance scout.
Gilmartin begins his 17th season with the Bucks, most recently serving as an assistant coach under Jim Boylan. He started as the team’s assistant video coordinator before spending the last 10 years as the advance scout. Gilmartin joined the coaching staff when Boylan took over as head coach in January.
Steele comes to the Bucks after spending 12 seasons with the Hawks. He began with Atlanta as a basketball operations intern in 2001 and most recently served as the team’s senior video coordinator.