Injury-ravaged Bucks don't have enough players for real practice
FEB 11, 2014 3:25p ET
ST. FRANCIS, Wis. -- Who will the Milwaukee Bucks have available Wednesday night against New Orleans? To coach Larry Drew, that's the million dollar question.
The Bucks were unable to do anything team-related at practice Tuesday, as just seven players were healthy enough to participate.
John Henson (right foot), Ekpe Udoh (left ankle sprain), Caron Butler (left ankle sprain) and O.J. Mayo (conditioning) will not play against the Pelicans, while Ersan Ilyasova (back) is questionable. Rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo didn't practice Monday with a right wrist injury but is expected to play.
If Ilyasova is unable to go, Milwaukee will have two healthy big men in Zaza Pachulia and Miroslav Raduljica. Drew said he will be forced to go with a small starting lineup -- likely starting Khris Middleton at power forward -- if Ilyasova is out.
"There's nothing you can do from a true practice standpoint," Drew said. "What we do in those situations is just get some shots up and lift weights. As far as doing anything from a team standpoint, there's just nothing you can do. We're so beat up, banged up and depleted that there's nothing you can do."
The All-Star break couldn't be coming at a better time for the Bucks. Heading into a game or even a practice with so few players available takes its toll on everyone involved. Milwaukee will have four days before returning to practice next Monday.
"They are tough to deal with," Drew said of the injuries. "Day-to-day you just don't know who you are going to have and what you are going to have. You still have to approach it, no matter what the situation is, you have to be prepared for it.
"When you sit over there and you have more guys in street clothes than you do in uniforms, certainly there's some mental searching going on. We know what our situation has been all year long. You go into a game with just two bigs, that puts you behind the eight ball a little bit."
Drew was asked Monday if he's had conversations with management regarding his job status. In the middle of the first year of a three-year contract, Drew said no such chat has taken place despite the team's 9-42 record.
"It hasn't come up," Drew said. "I'm not even concerned about that. I think right now I'm trying to keep things in perspective as far as who we are and where we are. I don't concern myself with things I can't control. I try to keep my eyes on the task and the task is coaching this team. As long as I'm in this line of work, there's always going to be rumblings when things aren't going well."
In his fourth season as an NBA head coach, Drew admitted he's never experienced anything close to what the Bucks have gone through this year. He felt last season in Atlanta was "a storm" with 11 new players, 11 expiring contracts and his contract due up at the end of the season.
But this has been an eye-opening season with all the injuries and struggles.
"This injury thing has been unbelievable," Drew said. "That's just another chapter in my book as things I've had to endure as a coach. You go through a lot of different situations if you have been in the league long enough. I'm going through situations as we speak right now as a coach. Just from a coaching standpoint, it's been a challenge. It hasn't been easy. I think I've weathered the storm and I will continue to do that every time I step out on the floor with these guys."
While fans turned their sights to the future and the upcoming draft long ago, it's tough for players to look ahead while in the middle of their season, especially those fighting for their place in the NBA.
"It's tough because who is really looking a year down the road or two years down the road," Bucks guard Brandon Knight said. "You are thinking about the now. Especially a player like myself, I want to see how we can improve right now. But when you start to have negative thoughts, that's when you have to think of the positive side or the future."
Drew was able to take more of a look toward the future, but he still sees the importance in focusing on the task at hand this season. The current task is finding a way to compete with an improved Pelicans team with a shorthanded roster and just two available big men.
"You can kind of see it," Drew said. "You know where you are as far as the team is concerned thus far, and chances are what's going to happen after the season are over, all the possibilities as far as the draft is concerned, where you are cap wise -- all those things you have an idea of. But I'm the type that doesn't look too far ahead. I just take it a day at a time."
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