Veteran Luke Ridnour dislikes not playing, knows role is to help younger players

Point guard Luke Ridnour is averaging 5.1 points and 3.3 assists in 20.3 minutes per game this season for Milwaukee.

Jeff Hanisch/Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — The Milwaukee Bucks’ youth movement
makes sense in their current situation, but the impact has been felt by some of
the veterans who have lost playing time to younger players.

While Luke Ridnour may understand why a rookie is playing over
him, it doesn’t make sitting on the bench any easier.

Acquired in a three-team trade from Minnesota in July,
Ridnour was expected to be Milwaukee’s primary backup at point guard behind
Brandon Knight. But between a back injury, the Bucks’ record and Nate Wolters’
emergence, the 32-year-old has been the odd man out.

“Yeah, it’s really hard,” Ridnour said after
Tuesday’s practice at the Cousins Center. “You play in the league to play.
The way our record is and the way it’s going, it’s not a fun situation. For
anybody, you know? But you just have to take it in stride.”

The Bucks also received a 2014 second-round pick from
Minnesota and cash considerations from Oklahoma City in the deal that sent the
draft rights to Milwaukee’s 2003 second-round pick Szymon Szewczyk to the
Thunder.

Ridnour played in all six of Milwaukee’s preseason games,
but his back flared up prior to the season opener on Nov. 30 in New York. He
missed the first seven games of the season before returning Nov. 11 against
Indiana.

In the meantime, Knight went down with a hamstring injury
and the 22-year-old Wolters was forced to jump in and play heavy minutes. The
second-round pick out of South Dakota State performed admirably and proved
worthy of playing time even when the two point men slotted ahead of him
returned.

Ridnour averaged 21.5 minutes per game in the first 11
contests after his return, but sitting at 3-15 at the time, Bucks coach Larry
Drew decided he had to find a way to play Wolters.

As a result, Ridnour played just three minutes against
Washington on Dec. 6 and hasn’t played in three of the Bucks’ last five games
due to coach’s decisions.

“I told him what we were looking to do,” Drew
said. “We want to take a look at some things. I’m not saying any of these
things will be permanent. He was professional about it. Maybe deep-down inside
he was a little angry, which he should be. He wants to play. I want guys who do
want to play. I don’t want guys to accept not playing.”

Ever since his rookie season of 2003-04 when he played just
16.5 minutes per game for Seattle, Ridnour has played consistent minutes. He’s
been a starter in the NBA for seven of his 11 years in the league.

To say this is a new experience for Ridnour would be an
understatement, as this is the least amount of playing time he’s received since
he was a rookie. Ridnour started 201 of his 206 games over the last three
seasons with Minnesota, including starting all 82 games last year despite the
Timberwolves having Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved.

“I’ve never been in this situation, so I’m just going
with it and trying to stay positive,” Ridnour said. “The biggest
thing is our record. As a team, we have to try to win games.”

 While certainly not
happy with his current role, Ridnour has been professional in his approach.
Drew applauded the veteran for how he’s gone about his business, even taking on
a bit of a mentorship role with Wolters.

“To go through a situation where a younger guy comes in
and a team wants to take a look at them, some guys react differently than
others,” Drew said. “I’ve seen it on both sides. A guy may not be
happy with it and the first thing he’s yelling is he wants out. But that has
not been the case with any of our guys.

“The one thing I’ve tried to do is be totally up front
and totally honest with these guys as far as what we’re looking to do and
combinations we are looking to try. No combination is set in stone. I think
this is a chance I have to really look at different combinations and evaluate
different combinations. I think the real professionals embrace that. They will
give it a shot and say, ‘Don’t forget about me.’ “

Wolters has appreciated the help Ridnour’s provided him and
understands not every veteran would be willing to do the same. 

“He’s helped me out a lot,” Wolters said.
“He’s a really good guy and has been in the league for a really long time.
When he’s out on the floor I try to watch and study. He’s a good player and a
good guy to learn from.”

Drew acknowledged Ridnour will have his chance to play this
season and knows he’ll find a player ready to jump in when called upon. With
Gary Neal battling plantar fasciitis, Ridnour played 26 minutes last Wednesday
against San Antonio and 16 minutes against Dallas on Saturday.

“Physically, yeah,” Ridnour said when asked if he
feels he can contribute to the team. “It’s just a matter of getting your
opportunity and trying to help the team any way you can. I think more
importantly, it’s everyone finding a way to do what they can to help the team
win.”

Rindour could be a trade target of teams looking to add a
veteran point guard, but he may be hurt by the fact he’s in the final year of
his contract and the Bucks are anticipating his $4.32 million coming off the
books after the season.

“I’m not worried about that,” Ridnour said.
“I’ve been in the league long enough. That’s not really an important
factor to me. I know good things will come. I have faith and trust in the Lord.
He has a good plan. He always turns everything for the good. Whenever that is,
however it happens, it will work out.”

Short-handed again: The Bucks were forced to practice with
just nine players Monday and Tuesday, as veteran small forward Caron Butler and
Neal sat out, while guard O.J. Mayo left the team to attend his grandmother’s
funeral.

Butler was on the court in the part of practice open to the
media, but Drew said he did not participate. He has missed Milwaukee’s last 10
games with a swollen left knee.

Of the nine bodies available, Khris Middleton and Ersan
Ilyasova were limited due to ankle injuries. Neal rode the bike during practice
but sat out again due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Drew was still left wondering who
he will have available to him for Wednesday’s game against New York.

“We’re just in the situation that we’re in,” Drew
said. “I said it from day one, we’re going to have to play the hand that’s
dealt to us. Right now that’s dealing with all these injuries and having to
move some guys around.

“It’s tough to deal with. It’s tough on the players, as
well, because you have guys playing positions they aren’t used to playing and
aren’t accustomed to playing. In all fairness, it’s not their natural position.
We just have to deal with it until the storm passes over.”

The Knicks are equally banged up, as point guard Pablo
Prigioni (broken toe), forward Amar’e Stoudemire (knee soreness), forward
Kenyon Martin (abdominal strain) and point guard Raymond Felton (strained left
hamstring) won’t play against the Bucks.

New York is down to just former Bucks guard Beno Udrih at
point guard with Prigioni and Felton out. Center Tyson Chandler may return for
the Knicks on Wednesday after missing 20 games with a fractured right leg. He
was going to attempt to practice Tuesday before deciding whether he can play.

Bucks make a special visit: After practice Tuesday, the
Bucks’ entire roster and coaching staff made their annual visit with patients
of the MACC Fund Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Bucks players donated an XBox, a PlayStation, video games,
Bucks calendars and hats to the children, while Sam’s Hope Literacy Foundation
donated books for the players to distribute to the kids.

Former Bucks guard and current FOX Sports Wisconsin
television analyst Jon McGlocklin founded the MACC Fund on Dec. 10, 1976 when
he retired during halftime of a game in Milwaukee.

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