ST. FRANCIS, Wis.— When Bucks general manager John Hammond answered a question before training camp started about where his team could still stand to improve, he quickly mentioned depth in the backcourt as a weakness.
After all, coach Scott Skiles didn’t have many options behind Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis at the end of last season.
One of those options remains in guard Beno Udrih. But just 45 seconds into Milwaukee’s first preseason game, Udrih hit his head on the knee of a teammate, left the game and went to the hospital. And considering that rookie Doron Lamb will likely be sidelined for the rest of training camp, can the Bucks really deal with having only four healthy guards on the roster?
That question was certainly on many minds as Udrih’s status remained unknown. But after being cleared following his trip to the hospital, Udrih took part in practice Thursday. The scare, though, did offer a gaze into the future if injuries hit in the regular season. Are the Bucks confident in their backcourt?
Wing Marquis Daniels was added to the mix before training camp, and Skiles has had only good things to say about him. At 6-6, he gives the Bucks size neither Jennings nor Ellis offer. And with a smaller lineup, Skiles said Daniels could even play as a small forward.
“He’s just a very good pro player,” Skiles said. “He’s a very good defender. He’s a good passer, he’s a good ballhandler. … He’s just one of those guys. He’s been around, he’s played in those systems. Nothing is going to happen in a game that he hasn’t seen before. … He’s another guy we have that could guard multiple positions, and that’s helpful.”
But in discussing his backcourt plans for the season, Skiles made it sound like his hope is to go to a three-guard rotation that would include Udrih and give him a great deal more time on the court than he had last season. Udrih has also made it known during the offseason that he believes he deserves a bigger role — something Skiles didn’t deny Thursday.
At the very least, Udrih’s combo guard skills will allow him to play alongside either Ellis or Jennings.
“He looks at his situation, too, and we might play three guards quite a bit and maybe play Marquis somewhere else,” Skiles said. “(Udrih) should — and I know he wants to — play more. The more he’s on the floor, the more productive he could be. … It wasn’t easy for Beno (last season) — he goes from playing 35 minutes per game to that cut in half. That’s a tough spot to be in. He deserves to be out there playing more. He’s a very good player.”
Udrih hasn’t been shy about expressing questions about his role, and it appears he may be on the brink of getting some answers. But after not shooting nearly as well as his career numbers last season, there’s definitely room for Udrih to improve. If he does, it could mean a much larger role off the bench.
“I don’t want to talk about my feelings, but I certainly hope so,” Udrih said of having an expanded role. “I think I deserve it. Like I said before, the plus-minus was good, so I just wanted to keep that plus-minus or get better at it with more minutes. Hopefully, I can do my job and go out there, and I’m really confident in that.
“With more minutes you get more confidence. With more shots, you get more chances to make shots. A lot has to do with confidence. More minutes, more consistent minutes … it makes a difference.”
But with so little depth behind Jennings and Ellis, there’s no doubting the Bucks will be crossing their fingers, when it comes to injuries, all season long.