While far from indicative of their expected performance during the regular season, the Milwaukee Bucks have looked dismal in the 2013 preseason. Win-less thus far, the revamped team face a one-win Grizzlies squad tonight, hoping to avoid their fourth loss of the seven game schedule. The outing is a must-win if new head coach Larry Drew hopes to go into the regular season with respect from skeptical fans and analysts.
Drew has faced adverse conditions during his debut games on the sidelines for the Bucks. As of Tuesday, five key starters are on the injured list, including forward Ersan Ilyasova. The head coach explained at a recent press-conference that while he is excited that some of the younger bench players have seen extra time against tough competition, the abundance of injured starters is not conducive to the team-building he had in mind for the preseason. Just four of the Bucks 19 roster-players were with the team last season.
Second-year player John Henson has stepped into Ilyasova's role through the the first three preseason games, complimenting team poster-boy Larry Sanders at forward. Suffering from the loss of the dynamic Epke Udoh, the duo bared most of the team's offensive responsibility against Cleveland, Minnesota, and Charlotte, though they failed to score more than 90 in any of those contests.
Drew said Tuesday that he would remain with Henson and Sanders as his starters against Memphis, though first round draft pick Giannis Antetokounmpo will step-in an increasing amount, along with fellow reserves Stephen Graham and Olek Czyz. He made clear that he is not happy about the delay to his injured starter's seasons, however, who he said need to find time to play together before the start of the regular season.
At the same press-conference, the head coach called upon his relatively intact back-court to get the job done against the Grizzlies. Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo have replaced Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis as the core of the Bucks perimeter offense, though their performance has been lackluster thus-far. Joined by 12 year veteran Caron Butler, Drew has been waiting for the trio to click on the transition, the Bucks premier strength in 2012.
Milwaukee Bucks Key Preseason Injuries
- (C) Ersan Ilyasova – Knee
- (G) Gary Neal – Foot
- (F) Carlos Delfino – Foot
- (F) Epke Udoh – Knee
- (C) Zaza Pachulia – Achilles