Bucks Monday: Caron Butler, Ersan Ilyasova eyeing return
NOV 18, 2013 3:54p ET
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.
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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