Bucks Monday: Brandon Knight making strides

ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — The beginning of Brandon Knight’s time with the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t go according to plan. Two minutes into his first regular game, Knight was on the Madison Square Garden court grabbing at his hamstring.

Even when Knight was able to return to the court, his hamstring prevented him from being the player he wants to be. The burst wasn’t there and the rust showed.

But all of a sudden something clicked. Over the past two games, Knight has looked like the player the Bucks coveted when they traded for him this summer.

Knight scored 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting Friday against Charlotte and followed up with 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in Saturday’s win over Boston.

“I would say so,” Knight said when asked if Saturday was his best game with the Bucks. “As I continue to get more healthy and get my feet back wet after sitting down about three weeks, I know I’ll continue to get better and better and I know our team will continue to get better and better.”

Acquired in late July in the Brandon Jennings sign-and-trade, Knight was looking to come in and make an impression immediately with his new team. The Pistons had already given up on him as a point guard, and Knight couldn’t wait to prove them wrong.

But the hamstring injury delayed things and turned the first few weeks of the season into a long waiting game.

“It’s frustrating, but I think my NBA career so far has been all about patience,” Knight said. “Just in Detroit being in a tough situation, I’ve learned to deal with things. God has a plan, and so I’m just patient, work as hard as I can and let things fall into place.”

Knight, who turned 22 years old on Monday, has shown in the past two games what made him the eighth pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. He’s looked like a completely different player in the last two games than he had earlier in the year, something that can be credited to getting healthy.

He has begun to look more comfortable in Larry Drew’s fast-paced approach to bringing the ball up the court and has been on the attack of late. Turnovers had plagued Knight for most of the year, but he’s committed just five in his last two games.

Knight was in complete control of Milwaukee’s offense on Saturday, something the Bucks would love to see consistently moving forward.

“Brandon played really well,” Drew said. “He shot the ball well, he got into the paint a few times. Defensively, he’s really aggressive defensively. I didn’t realize he is as good a defender as he is.”

When told of what Drew said about his defense, Knight smiled and paused before coming up with a response.

“I think there’s a lot of things people don’t know,” Knight said. “Just being in Detroit, you don’t always get to see teams like that, so I think people will be surprised as I play more and more this year about the things I do.

“But definitely defensively, I take pride in playing defense against other guards. I think with my size, my strength and my ability to move laterally, I can defend any point guard in the NBA.”

Ilyasova practices: Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova returned to practice Monday but is still uncertain for Tuesday’s game in Boston due to hamstring and thumb injuries.

Ilyasova is officially listed as probable to play against the Celtics, but Drew says he’ll wait until Tuesday morning to make a decision.

“Hopefully he’ll be available,” Drew said.

Suffering a sprained ankle in the preseason opener on Oct. 8, Ilyasova has been in and out of the lineup since the regular-season opener on Oct. 30.

He’s played in nine of Milwaukee’s 16 games but hasn’t been his usual productive self, averaging just 8.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.

“He’s not been the Ers that everyone is used to seeing, the activity when he’s out on the floor,” Drew said. “I can clearly see that he’s still suffering from the ankle injury. He’s not moving anywhere near the way he’s done in the past.

“We’re just hoping the thing can hurry up and heal so we can get him back to full strength.”

Ilyasova left Friday’s game in Charlotte with a sore left hamstring and didn’t play Saturday. Drew didn’t know when the thumb injury occurred but knows it’s been an issue.

“I know he’s been wrapping it every time he’s come out on the floor, and I know there’s been swelling in it,” Drew said. “He’s a little wounded right now.”

The Bucks will play without Caron Butler on Tuesday, as the veteran small forward is expected to miss at least a week with a swollen left knee.

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