According to multiple sources, the Bucks have decided to shut down Ersan Ilyasova for “at least the next few games” as he continues to deal with an ankle injury.
#Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova has been shut down for at least the next few games. Same ankle injury is still bothering him.
— Andrew Gruman (@AndrewGruman) December 19, 2013
The decision comes after Wednesday’s loss to the Knicks in which Ilyasova played 49 minutes but shot just 2-of-10 from the field. Larry Drew said the ankle injury has left Ilyasova “a shell of himself,” and the sixth-year forward is averaging just 8.2 points and 5.1 rebounds on 30.5 percent shooting in nine December games.
Ilyasova suffered the original ankle injury in the team’s first preseason game, and he remained out until opening night. After playing the first three games of the regular season, he missed the next six. Since returning on Nov. 20, he’s scored in double-figures only five times and the Bucks have tallied just three wins.
Drew has experimented with bringing Ilyasova off the bench this season, but he started Wednesday, and Drew may need to get creative with his starting lineup going forward. Giannis Antetokounmpo made his first career start against the Knicks, and Drew said Thursday that he’ll likely retain that role Friday in Cleveland. O.J. Mayo missed Wednesday’s game for his grandmother’s funeral, so it’s unknown whether both he and the rookie will start. Going up against a Cleveland front line featuring Andrew Bynum, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao, Drew will likely re-insert Ekpe Udoh in the starting lineup alongside John Henson. Then, if Antetokounmpo is to continue his new role, he’d likely replace Khris Middleton at small forward; unless, of course, Drew opts to bring Mayo off the bench.
Bucks coach Larry Drew was pleased with Giannis Antetokounmpo's starting debut and rookie likely stays in starting unit Friday at Cleveland.
— cfgardner (@cf_gardner) December 19, 2013
Milwaukee also revealed Thursday that Gary Neal will not travel with the team to Cleveland. He’s currently in a walking boot and remains without a firm timetable for his return from plantar fasciitis. Neal has missed four of Milwaukee’s last seven games and it seems likely he could miss the next three contests, as the Bucks face Cleveland, Philadelphia and Charlotte over a four-night span. After Monday’s game in Charlotte, however, Milwaukee is off until Dec. 27.
The Bucks did receive some good news, as Caron Butler will travel with the team to Cleveland in hopes of making his return. Knee swelling has caused the veteran to miss the last 11 games. His return, whenever it may be, figures to create a bit of a logjam on the wing given the encouraging play of both Middleton and Antetkounmpo, who have seen more minutes in Butler’s absence.