Bucks’ Ilyasova mired in eye-opening slump

ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — When a player is mired in a prolonged slump, sometimes simply working through it is the best solution.

Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova is in a rut. It happens. Maybe he’s trying too hard to live up to the contract he signed in the offseason, maybe that has nothing to do with it. Whatever it is, Bucks coach Scott Skiles is faced with a dilemma. He has to walk the fine line of letting Ilyasova play through his slump, but also not letting his struggles hurt the team on the court.

“I can’t do that at the expense of the team,” Skiles said when asked if more minutes would help Ilyasova bust out. “I have other players that are productive right now. I’ve got to think about the whole team. He has to work out of it in the minutes he has. He can’t use that as an excuse, because that’s what it is, an excuse.”

He’s right. Right now Larry Sanders, Ekpe Udoh and even rookie John Henson have been more deserving of minutes.

Last year, when Ilyasova was arguably Milwaukee’s best player, the Turkish forward averaged 13.0 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, while averaging 27.6 minutes. Ilyasova, who signed a five-year, $40 million contract last summer, shot 49.3 percent from the field and was a deadly 3-point shooter, hitting 45.5 percent from beyond the arc. This season, his averages are down to 6.3 points and 3.3 rebounds, while he’s shooting just 31.3 percent from the field and 25.0 percent from deep. As a result, his minutes are down to 22.5 per game and just 16.5 per game in the Bucks’ last two.

“He’s got to get his body set, get back to the fundamentals of how you shoot and stay with it,” Skiles said. “He’s fading quite a bit now. He’s taken some shots where he’s four steps back and his arm is down by his side before the ball is even halfway to the rim. That ball’s not going to go in that way.”

It was going to be hard to expect Ilyasova to repeat last year’s numbers, especially the way he shot the 3.

“You have to look at a guy in total,” Skiles said. “His career percentages versus his one-year percentages or his six-month percentages, I don’t think his start is indicative of either one. He’s just got to work himself out of it. There’s nothing you can do.”

More time for Henson: One player that might take minutes away from Ilyasova is Henson. After his bust out performance in Miami, where he scored 17 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the rookie has at least earned more chances. “He deserves it,” Skiles said. “He played well in the game. For some guys, that’s a career game with those kind of rebounds. We’ll get him out there again and I’m not expecting that again, but you never know.”

No added emotions: Some coaches and players have added emotion when matching up against their former team, but that’s not the case for Skiles, who coached Chicago from 2003-07.

The Bulls made the playoffs in three of his four seasons, but when Chicago started 9-16 in 2007-08, Skiles was fired.

He holds no ill will. The reason he doesn’t get emotional is not because he was fired, it’s because he’s been a part of seven different NBA teams in his career.

“I still have friends there,” Skiles said of Chicago. “It’s a great organization and I was treated very well there. I still have fond memories, but it’s no different than any other game.”

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