ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — Milwaukee Bucks center John Henson will miss the team’s three-game trip to the west coast with a high left-ankle sprain.
Bucks coach Larry Drew says the big man will be out "at least a couple of weeks," but Henson is hopeful he’ll be able to return shortly after the team returns from the trip on Jan. 6.
"It’s a high-ankle sprain, so I want to stay off of it as much as possible to help it heal," Henson said. "I’ll be doing treatment twice a day, working out and doing conditioning. Hopefully this week where I don’t go with them will help me come back sooner than later."
Henson said he suffered the injury in Milwaukee’s overtime loss to Cleveland on Dec. 20. Late in regulation, Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao appeared to have tripped Henson but he actually tripped on his own.
After sitting out the following night against Philadelphia, Henson returned to play 35 minutes against Charlotte on Dec. 23. He tried playing against Brooklyn last Friday but struggled through 20 minutes.
"I tripped over myself, which makes it even worse," Henson said. "It happens. Hopefully I can get back quick and be fine."
Henson has been playing the best basketball of his short career, averaging 12.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game while starting at center in place of the injured Larry Sanders. His absence is just another blow to a Bucks team consistently plagued by injuries all season long.
"I’m sure there has to be a little bit of a mental setback, a mental blow," Drew said about Henson. "He had been playing well and all of a sudden he’s out for a couple of weeks. John is the kind of guy that will play hurt. I was about to sub him back in during the Brooklyn game, and I noticed he was limping when he came off the bench. He said he was hurt but he would play. That’s just the type of kid that he is.
"I’m sure this is a little bit of a blow. He’s been playing well, and we just want him to get healthy so he can come back."
Despite receiving bad news, Henson was in good spirits Monday and was hopeful he’ll be back sooner rather than later.
"It doesn’t do too much," Henson said of what the injury does to him mentally. "I don’t expect to be out too long. I don’t know if I’ll lose my rhythm so to speak. When I was watching practice today I was anxious to get out there, man. It’s going to be tough watching them on the road, but it’s part of the game. I just have to get better."
With Henson out, Drew said he’ll continue to start Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova inside. Sanders returned to the starting lineup Saturday after coming off the bench in his first game back from thumb surgery. Drew plans on using Ekpe Udoh and Miroslav Raduljica as the backup center based on matchups and acknowledged he may have to go small at power forward at times.
Sanders and Henson rarely played together last season and were expected to do so more this year before Sanders injured his thumb in an altercation at a local nightclub and missed six weeks. Henson is eager to get back and get a chance to play with Sanders to give the Bucks an incredibly long and athletic frontcout.
"Hopefully when I get back we can start playing together and everybody can see what that looks like," Henson said. "I think people forget my first summer league we played together and we were 4-1.
"Out of all the guys on the team, the guy I’ve played with least is Larry. Me and him are always excited to get on the court together and see how that looks."
Looking at the Lakers: Something has to give on New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles, as both the Bucks and Lakers enter Tuesday night’s game needing a win.
Milwaukee has lost eight of its last nine, while the Lakers have dropped five in a row to fall to 13-18. Pau Gasol has missed the last three games with an upper respiratory infection, while guard Xavier Henry was set to get an MRI on his right knee Monday afternoon.
The Lakers, already playing without Kobe Bryant, have used five different point guards this year and may be forced to use a sixth Tuesday against the Bucks. Jordan Farmar didn’t practice Monday but could play Tuesday. If he can’t go, the recently signed Kendall Marshall may have to start.
"They certainly have been hit by the injury bug as well, but they are still playing hard and still competing," Drew said. "When you look at their lineup, it’s just not a lineup that makes you say, ‘That’s the Lakers.’ But still they have guys that compete and play hard."
Sitting at a league-worst 6-24, Drew doesn’t want the Bucks getting too caught up in who their opponent is and focus on themselves.
"We have to do what we need to do and not put too much emphasis on this other team," Drew said. "We’ll be prepared from a strategic standpoint, but effort, energy and competing at a high level, we control that on our end."
The Bucks coach is hopeful getting away for a nearly a week will help his struggling team get back on track and start playing better basketball. Milwaukee will play the Lakers on Tuesday, travel to Utah for a game Thursday and finish up the trip in Phoenix on Saturday.
"I’m a firm believer in if you are going to get well, what better way to get well than being out on the road," Drew said. "You are a little bit more isolated there from the distractions here at home. That’s how we’re going to approach it."