The Bucks are halfway through their preseason schedule following Thursday’s three-point loss to the Grizzlies in La Crosse. Milwaukee returns to the BMO Harris Bradley Center tonight with a 2-2 record. Normally, I’d insert a mediocrity joke here, but I’ll save it until the games actually count (in 13 days!).
The Bucks will battle the Wizards, 1-4, tonight (7:30 pm CT) in the annual MACC Fund game. If you’re not aware of the MACC Fund, or its very real impact, check out this excellent article by Howie Magner.
Although the Bucks have been dealing with their fair share of injury woes, it pales in comparison to the Wizards. John Wall, Nene and Kevin Seraphin didn’t make the trip to Milwaukee. Wall will be on the sidelines for at least another month with a stress injury in his left knee. Nene could also miss the start of the regular season, as he deals with lingering plantar fasciitis in his left foot, and Seraphin is still recovering from a left calf strain. As a result, the Wizards trotted out a starting lineup of A.J. Price, Jordan Crawford, Martell Webster, Jan Vesely and Emeka Okafor on Wednesday. How many wins does that starting lineup spur during an 82-game regular season? I’ll set the over/under at 25.
Milwaukee will again be without rookies Doron Lamb (left elbow strain) and John Henson (left knee sprain). Ekpe Udoh returned from a knee sprain of his own on Thursday and played 21 minutes.
A few things to look out for tonight:
Ellis vs. Beal: Bradley Beal, the third pick in June’s draft, is off to a decent start this preseason. The 6’3 guard is averaging 14.2 points in nearly 27 minutes per game. He’s shooting 42.6 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. Monta Ellis has produced similar numbers – 13.5 points per game on 40.4 percent shooting – but has struggled to get into rhythm on both ends of the court. With Wall, Nene and Seraphin out tonight, the combo guard matchup will be something to keep a close eye on.
Rebounding: We know the Bucks’ frontcourt can block shots, but can they rebound? If you put much stock into the preseason, the answer would be a resounding ‘no.’ The Grizzlies manhandled the Bucks on the glass in the last game. That wouldn’t have been overly surprising if Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph were manning the paint, but they were not. Memphis – led by the likes Marreese Speights, Jerome Jordan, Hamed Haddadi and Ronald Dupree (!) — grabbed 15 offensive rebounds en route to a 47-39 rebounding advantage. The lack of rebounding last season was a big factor in the Bucks trading for Samuel Dalembert and signing Joel Przybilla. If Larry Sanders and Udoh can’t correct their well-documented rebounding shortfalls, Skiles could become inclined to play the veterans extended minutes this season. With Nene and Seraphin out, this game is a fine opportunity for the Bucks to show some improvement in this area.
Party like it’s 2010: Earl Barron makes his highly-anticipated return to the [BMO Harris] Bradley Center. For those of you who don’t remember his brief tenure in Milwaukee, the Bucks signed the 7-footer to a pair of 10-days contract in the 2010-11 season – the year that also featured Garrett Temple and Brian Skinner. Barron averaged 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game in seven underwhelming appearances. He did display a respectable – dare I say Gooden-ish – midrange jumper, so there’s that. The 31-year-old, who signed a non-guaranteed contract this offseason, is shooting 27.8 percent from the floor in 15.0 minutes per game this preseason.