Milwaukee is the NBA’s lone winless team this preseason
With the regular season just a week away, Milwaukee has two more opportunities to pick up a preseason victory. Wednesday’s meeting with the Knicks (2-3) will be the first of those, as the 0-5 Bucks welcome Carmelo and Co. to Northeast Wisconsin in a preview of next week’s season opener.
Green Bay’s Resch Center, standing just a short walk across Holmgren Way from hallowed Lambeau Field, will play host to the contest. The Resch Center has been a preseason destination of the Bucks for several years. Minnesota was the lucky team to visit last season, ultimately routing the Bucks 100-76 in the preseason finale.
Through five exhibition contests, Milwaukee has fallen to Cleveland, Minnesota, Charlotte, Memphis and Chicago – four solid opponents, one not so much. Yes, it’s just the preseason and records don’t mean much (Indiana is 2-5), but whatever way you slice it, the Bucks have simply been overmatched in nearly every game. The Knight-Mayo backcourt combo has struggled from the field, and Larry Sanders hasn’t flashed much, if any, offensive improvement. The Bucks have certainly missed Ersan Ilyasova after he suffered an ankle injury in the opener; John Henson has filled in adequately, but his limited offensive arsenal hasn’t produced huge numbers alongside the offensively-challenged Sanders. Perhaps most concerning is that Milwaukee has been outrebounded in all but one game and is minus-36 overall in that department (thanks in large part to an ugly 32-51 margin Monday in Chicago). With a frontcourt of Sanders and Henson, rebounding wasn’t expected to be an issue and the loose preseason rotation likely has something to do with the discrepancy.
As Wednesday marks exactly one week until Milwaukee’s regular season opener, here are a few things to keep an eye on in Green Bay:
How much will the starters play? At this point in the preseason, many teams are either finalizing their rotations or resting veteran starters. No Buck played more than 29 minutes (Gary Neal) versus Chicago on Monday, but with Mayo back in the lineup, Larry Drew could look to tighten his rotation in preparation for the regular season.
Giannis Watch: This one is basically a given, and probably will be for the entire regular season. The Greek Freak has earned some notoriety around the league over past couple of weeks, and it’s been well-deserved. His stat lines are nothing to write home about, but he’s doing things on the court that few fans expected to see this early. Antetokounmpo has been able to consistently get to the line and looks entirely comfortable gliding with the ball in the open court (though turnovers have been a bit of an issue). He may ultimately be phased out of the regular season rotation – especially if Milwaukee is competitive early on – but he’s shown enough so far to think he could be an intriguing sparkplug off the bench in limited minutes.
Beno’s Back: Beno Udrih will visit the Bucks for the first time as a member of the Knicks after Milwaukee previously sent him to Orlando in the J.J. Redick deal. Udrih will be the primary backup to Raymond Felton this season and should carve out an important role. Also, Chris Douglas-Roberts is on a non-guaranteed deal trying to make the Knicks roster, so we’ll chalk this one up as a homecoming, of sorts, for CDR too.
Tyson vs. Larry: Larry Sanders has already squared off with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year this preseason, and now he’ll face 2012 winner Tyson Chandler. The veteran seemed to take a step back last season, but he’s still one of the top defensive centers in the league; and word on the street is he’s expanded his shooting range in the offseason. Sanders has struggled to rebound and block shots (in limited minutes) thus far, and getting things going against Chandler won’t be easy.
Injuries: Milwaukee will again be without Ilyasova, as he continues to rehab his sprained ankle with the goal of being ready for the regular season opener. Ekpe Udoh remains out after undergoing knee surgery on Oct. 11 and is on track to return a few weeks into the season. On the New York side, J.R. Smith is not expected to play with a knee injury and Iman Shumpert is questionable with a sprained right elbow. Rookie Tim Hardaway, Jr. started at shooting guard in Monday’s loss to the Raptors, and he’ll step into the starting lineup again should Shumpert be held out again. Raymond Felton has also been ruled out with a hamstring injury, and it’s possible coach Mike Woodson could opt to rest a frontcourt player or two with the regular season looming.
The game tips off at 7:00 PM Central time and will not be televised locally.