Central Notes: Middleton, Hayes, Mathurin, Cavaliers

Khris Middleton is recovering from an offseason knee surgery but is close to returning to full practices, according to Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Middleton got the surgery after the Bucks‘ first-round playoff loss and has been working out individually.

The 32-year-old wing has been through the recovery process before, missing the first 20 games of the 2022/23 season due to left wrist surgery. He dealt with further injury issues throughout the rest of the season, missing 18 straight games at one point. However, this injury is different, and he’s planning on being up to full speed right when he gets back, rather than last year when he had to ramp up his activity gradually, according to Owczarski.

I feel like I’m in a great space mentally, body feels great, knee feels great, so I don’t think this is something we should have to manage going down the road,” Middleton said.

According to Owczarski, the plan is for Middleton to be ready when the Bucks open the regular season on Oct. 26 against the Sixers, but that isn’t set in stone.

Sometimes things change but so far I’ve been on pace with everything that I’ve been doing,” Middleton said. “So, we’ll go over the schedule again, see where I’m at, see how I feel and just keep track of things that way. I don’t want to set a hard date of when I’ll be out there because it’s all about feel and comfort. And they’ve been doing a great job of just making sure every step of the way I’ve been feeling great and feeing like myself. And so far I have been.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Pistons guard Killian Hayes hasn’t had the smoothest first three years in the NBA after being drafted with the seventh overall pick 2020. Hayes has averaged a respectable 8.4 points and 5.3 assists across his first three years, but he hasn’t been an efficient scorer, shooting just 37.6% from the floor across that time, leading to a somewhat inconsistent role. The 22-year-old guard made strides last season, and now, it seems as though he’s in line for another potential jump. Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press tweets that Monty Williams gave Hayes some praise. “Killian has been terrific in camp,” Williams said. “His leadership is showing in various ways. I like big guards who defend, and he plays the right way … I tell him if you compete every day, you’re going to stand out.
  • Pacers wing Bennedict Mathurin had a strong rookie season, showcasing elite athleticism on the defensive end in stints, and the team is hoping those flashes can turn into nightly occurrences, Akeem Glaspie of IndyStar writes. In order for him to step up and take a role in Indiana’s starting lineup, Mathurin will have to continue to improve on defense, Glaspie adds. According to head coach Rick Carlisle, the starting five will be determined in training camp.
  • The Cavaliers had an impressive year last season, earning the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and winning 51 games. However, Cleveland bowed out of the playoffs in the first round, losing 4-1 to the Knicks. The Cavaliers took steps to address their issues in the offseason, starting with spacing, signing players like Max Strus and Georges Niang. According to Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor (Twitter link), guard Darius Garland is already noticing the changes. “You definitely feel the spacing, the floor is more spaced out,” Garland said, “It’s not as crowded anymore. You can see the difference. Just get used to having those shooters on the backside and kick it out to them.
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