Bucks Monday: Caron Butler, Ersan Ilyasova eyeing return

ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — With the training staff watching his

return to practice like a hawk, Caron Butler kept nodding in their direction to

ensure them he was doing just fine.

Butler and fellow forward Ersan Ilyasova were back on the

practice court Monday, as the Milwaukee Bucks appear to be getting closer to

having both ready to play.

But as two key pieces returned, two sat out. Point guard

Brandon Knight was out again with a sore right hamstring, while guard Gary Neal

missed Monday’s practice after the plantar fasciitis in his left foot flared up

again.

With another practice Tuesday, Bucks coach Larry Drew will

wait to make a determination on the availability of all four players for

Wednesday’s game against Portland at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

“It’s a good stretch and we’ll try to use it wisely, just

juggling the guys who are banged up,” Drew said “We have to somehow not do too

much to where they are banged up even more. Then the guys coming back, we need

to give them some time to learn what we are doing. We’re trying to balance both

things.”

When he went down late in last Wednesday’s 94-91 loss in

Orlando, Butler didn’t anticipate returning to practice this soon. Clutching

his left shoulder and in a lot of pain, the veteran small forward feared the

worst when he heard a pop.

“I was very concerned,” Butler said. “I thought it was much

worse than it ended up being. After hearing the pop, I was just like ‘Oh, man.’

I was just hoping it wasn’t anything broken or fractured. From the feel and

look of it initially (I thought) it was worst case scenario.”

But an MRI and two different opinions on the injury all came

back with encouraging results, and Butler feels he has a chance to play either

against the Trail Blazers or Friday in Philadelphia.

Athletic trainer Scott Barthlama and his staff have designed

a special sleeve for Butler to wear around his shoulder for protection. The

sleeve includes some padding to prevent aggravation if someone would hit Butler

on the left shoulder.

Butler feels it was important for him to go through the full

practice, contact included, so he knows he’s ready to play instead of realizing

he can’t go during the middle of a game.

“If I decide to play this game or the following game, I’m

not going to want to come out of the game,” Butler said. “So this is the test

right now, not during the game. You push yourself and you let the coaching

staff and your teammates know to have confidence in knowing you can be out

there.”

Ilyasova has missed Milwaukee’s last six games after missing

the majority of the preseason with a sprained right ankle suffered in the first

exhibition game of the year. The ankle began to bother Ilyasova again after

playing in the first two games of the regular season and he’s been held out

since.

The Bucks don’t plan to rush Ilyasova back, making him

questionable for Wednesday even if he practices again Tuesday.

“He was a little rusty,” Drew said. “He hasn’t been out

there in a while going up and down the floor. He’ll get his rhythm and timing

back and it’s good to have him back.

“He’s been out since the first exhibition game, and we’ve

put a lot of things in since then. He’s been here watching us, but it’s totally

different from being out there.”

Neal has been battling plantar fasciitis in his left foot since

last season when he played for San Antonio. The painful injury has caused him

to miss time in the preseason and one regular season game and is something that

is hard to kick without a long period of rest.

Though Neal has battled through the pain quite a bit, Drew

hopes the injury doesn’t nag him to the point where he has to sit from time to

time all year long. 

“I sure hope not,” Drew said. “I’ve never had that type of

injury. I’ve heard a lot about that type injury and it can be a nagging injury.

I hope that’s not the case.”

Monday also marked Luke Ridnour’s first practice in over

three weeks. The veteran point guard returned from a back injury to play Friday

and Saturday, but was clearly still shaking off the rust of an extended

absence.

“I’m getting better,” Ridnour said. “It was good to get a

practice in finally and hopefully I can get a couple of practices in here to

get my rhythm back a little bit.”

Ridnour played in all 82 games for Minnesota last year and

didn’t miss a game for the Bucks in the 2009-10 season. For a player not used

to sitting on the sidelines, Ridnour is certainly happy to be back.

“It was tough,” Ridnour said. “Man, I hate sitting out. It’s

hard to sit out. That’s why I jumped back into it. I was willing to at least

give it a chance.”

Back spasms for a 32-year-old can be a worrisome injury, but

Ridnour is confident he won’t have to battle the pain all year long. 

“I feel pretty good now,” Ridnour said. “I think I got it

under control. Once I have it under control I’ll be good to go.”

Sanders update: Bucks center Larry Sanders was back with the

team Monday for the first time after undergoing thumb surgery caused by an

injury suffered in a Nov. 3 altercation at a Milwaukee nightclub.

Sanders, who underwent the surgery last Monday to repair a

torn ligament in his right thumb, is in a hard cast and is expected to be out

for five to six weeks.

“I’m going to play it on how I feel and how the thumb

heals,” Sanders said of his personal timetable. “How I’m able to catch and grip

a ball, things like that (make a difference). 

I’ll be in shape, so as soon as the thumb is ready, I’ll be ready.”

Despite having his injury occur in an off-court incident,

Sanders says his teammates have been very supportive of him through the entire

process.

“It’s basketball, injuries are going to happen,” Sanders

said. “Although mine was an off the court injury, you deal with it. We have

players who have fallen. We’re working through it and guys have responded well.

“The whole team has been encouraging. That’s very positive

to come to work knowing guys are on my side and fighting for me.”

Sanders recently met face-to-face with NBA veteran Keyon

Dooling when the former Bucks guard was in town. Dooling spent one year in

Milwaukee but developed a strong relationship with Sanders, a rookie at the

time.

“He’s always in my ear,” Sanders said. “He’s a very positive

guy and has stayed close to me throughout the years. He just said the same

things he’s always said to me: Just be me, stay positive, fight through

adversity and good things are going to come. This isn’t a perfect world, there

aren’t any perfect people. Mistakes are going to happen to everybody, just

fight through it, learn from it and be better.”

As for the extended time he’ll spend on the bench unable to

play, Sanders plans to get closer to the coaching staff and help in any way he

can.

“Just stay active, stay engaged in whatever the team has

going on,” Sanders said. “I’m going to stay in young guys’ ears. If I see

anything, try to communicate it and say little positive things here and there

that I know is going to carry over to winning.”

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