Khris Middleton

Bucks’ Antetokounmpo, Middleton Set To Return To Action

Bucks All-NBA power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and star swingman Khris Middleton are expected to be available for Milwaukee on Monday against the Pistons, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Antetokounmpo has been sidelined since January 11 due to an ongoing knee issue. When healthy, he’s played like an MVP again for the 29-17 Bucks. The two-time MVP – also a former Defensive Player of the Year and six-time All-Star – has been averaging a career-high 31.0 PPG on .524/.245/.653 shooting splits, 11.9 RPG, 5.3 APG, 0.9 BPG and 0.8 SPG through his 35 healthy games.

Middleton, a three-time All-Star himself, has missed all but seven games this season. The 6’7″ wing out of Texas A&M has most recently been shelved since December 15 with a knee injury of his own. In his seven healthy games, he has averaged 11.1 PPG on .325/.268/.895 shooting splits, plus 4.4 APG and 2.6 RPG, far cries from his 2021/22 season averages of 20.1 PPG, 5.4 APG and 5.4 RPG.

Antetokounmpo and Middleton are both listed as probable to return vs. Detroit.

Bucks Notes: Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Lasry

Giannis Antetokounmpo will sit out for the fourth consecutive game due to left knee soreness when the Bucks play Toronto on Tuesday, Eric Nehm of The Athletic tweets.

However, it appears Antetokounmpo has a good chance to be back in action for the Bucks’ next game. Milwaukee doesn’t play again until Saturday, when it visits the Cavaliers. The team has gone 1-2 with Antetokounmpo resting his knee.

We have more on the Bucks:

  • Khris Middleton came back from wrist surgery, then dealt with a right knee injury. He admits it’s been a rough stretch for him physically, Nehm writes. “Rehab is tougher than actually playing games,” Middleton said. “More hours in the gym, harder stuff. Games are fun. You’re in and out. I won’t say easier, but games are supposed to be easier than practices and stuff like that, so I’m ready to put this (stuff) behind me and move on to the fun stuff.” Middleton has only appeared in seven games this season, with his most recent outing on Dec. 15.
  • A previous report revealed that team governor and co-owner Marc Lasry was looking to sell his stake in the franchise. Now, Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that while he’s in no rush to sell off his portion of ownership, Lasry likely remains willing to sell at a high valuation. The Bucks have been valued by Forbes at $2.3 billion.
  • In case you missed it, the Bucks are among several teams interested in the Pistons’ leading scorer Bojan Bogdanovic. Get the details here.

Central Notes: Green, Terry, Middleton, Haliburton

Bulls forward Javonte Green underwent a right knee scope on Wednesday, and Chicago reportedly expects him to return in around a month. After that news broke, head coach Billy Donovan explained why the team and Green opted for surgery, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

“He obviously had that bone bruise, which was causing him some problems,’’ Donovan said. “He did swell from it. Medical guys thought that this was something that could be managed if we backed off of him. They had a bunch of different therapies that they could try to do. They did that, and there really wasn’t much progress after a week.

“Given Javonte’s options with where we’re at in the season … obviously it was Javonte’s decision to do it, but I didn’t think from what I got from medical, and even what I got from Javonte, that there was a lot of progress with the interaction of just resting him,” Donovan continued.

Green is on the second year of a two-season, $3.5MM contract he signed with the Bulls, and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The 6’5″ vet has emerged as a tenacious, if undersized, defender, mostly playing small forward and power forward.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Rookie Bulls wing Dalen Terry is not currently in the rotation, even with the team missing key swingmen like DeMar DeRozan and Green. He is hoping to carve out rotation minutes at some point this season, Cowley writes in a separate piece. “I’m definitely anxious to get playing time,’’ Terry said. “With the position I’m in right now, it’s just like you’ve gotta embrace it, but you can’t ever get comfortable. I can’t get comfortable with learning every day and not playing. I just have to find that balance.’’
  • Bucks All-Star small forward Khris Middleton practiced with Milwaukee on Tuesday and was involved in the club’s subsequent shootaround Wednesday, but will require more practice reps before he can make his return to the floor, writes Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He continues to try to progress from the knee soreness that has kept him shelved since December 15. “It’s the next ramp-up step in returning to playing,” Middleton said. “It went well. Really, no swelling that came back yesterday, feel pretty good today. I know people get frustrated, but it’s like a day-by-day thing where I have to put myself through these various steps and have to sustain it for a lot of time in order to be back playing without pain or swelling.”
  • Pacers star point guard Tyrese Haliburton suffered a left elbow sprain and left knee bone contusion, and is set to miss at least the next two weeks before he is reassessed. Bob Kravitz of The Athletic writes that the team seems to have found a long-term keeper in Haliburton, a player who might actually love Indiana back for once, much like Hall of Fame shooting guard Reggie Miller, who spent all of his 18 NBA seasons trying to bring a title to the Pacers.

Eastern Notes: Hornets, Magic, Middleton, Fields, Raptors

The Hornets and Magic are among the seemingly lottery-bound teams who have yet to show much aggressiveness in trade discussions involving veterans, multiple sources tell Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

“One of the unintended consequences of the play-in tournament is a chilling of the trade market,” one Eastern Conference executive told Pincus. “When almost the whole league can make the (play-in), you just don’t have as many sellers in December or January. End of the month, we’ll see more action leading into February.”

According to Pincus, the fact that virtually no teams are attempting to create cap room for the summer of 2023 could also be a factor in slowing down the in-season trade market.

“Nobody wants cap space this summer,” a Western Conference executive said. “The really bad teams are so bad, they can keep their (quality veterans) too. There aren’t any fire sales like we saw last year with Portland, but (even) that was for the purpose of retooling.”

While it’s true that we haven’t seen much action yet, we still have more than a month until the February 9 trade deadline arrives, so it’s too early to draw too many conclusions about this season’s market — I expect more sellers to emerge in the coming weeks and plenty of trades to be made as the deadline gets closer.

Here’s more from around the East:

  • Khris Middleton will accompany the Bucks on their four-game road trip that begins on Monday in New York, but head coach Mike Budenholzer was noncommittal when asked if the star forward would play at all during the trip, which runs through next Saturday. Asked if there was any concern that Middleton’s right knee soreness might be an issue that requires surgery, Budenholzer simply replied, “No” (Twitter links via Eric Nehm of The Athletic).
  • At age 34, Hawks general manager Landry Fields is one of the youngest heads of basketball operations in the NBA, but his rise through the front office ranks at such a young age became possible only because his playing career ended prematurely, as Howie Kussoy of The New York Post (subscription required) writes in a feature on the former Knicks wing. “I look back and I’m super proud of the fact that I was able to get to the NBA and experience some of that NBA success, Fields said. “… But there’s also this sadness to it. I was really thinking there’d be so much more. I thought there’d be 10-plus years in the NBA.”
  • The player development magic that has helped make the Raptors successful in the past has vanished this season, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. The team doesn’t have enough reliable rotation players to complement its top guys and has had to rely too heavily on its starters, as Koreen and Michael Grange of observe.
  • While some of those top Raptors players, such as Fred VanVleet, are seemingly having down years, Josh Lewenberg of argues that the Raptors have failed VanVleet more than he has failed the team — the former All-Star point guard has had to carry too substantial a workload due to Toronto’s lack of solid backcourt depth.

Health Updates: LeBron, Walker, Prince, Bucks, SGA

LeBron James has been helping to keep the Lakers in the play-in race, averaging 36.6 points per game on 58.5% shooting during the club’s 3-2 road trip that wrapped up on Monday.

However, James won’t be available when the Lakers return home and host the Heat on Wednesday. He has been ruled out for the game due to a non-COVID illness, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

Lakers guard Lonnie Walker will also miss his third consecutive contest, McMenamin adds. Previously listed as out due to a tailbone contusion, Walker is now on the injury report with left knee soreness.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Timberwolves forward Taurean Prince intends to make his return to action on Wednesday night vs. Portland, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Prince, who was dealing with a right shoulder subluxation, last played on November 23 — he has missed Minnesota’s last 20 games.
  • After playing on Tuesday night vs. Washington, Jrue Holiday (non-COVID illness) and Joe Ingles (left knee injury management) have been ruled out for the second half of the Bucks‘ back-to-back set on Wednesday in Toronto, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Khris Middleton (right knee soreness) and George Hill (non-COVID illness) will also remain sidelined.
  • Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed Tuesday’s game due to a non-COVID illness, but he’s not on Wednesday’s injury report, so it appears he’ll be available tonight in Orlando, tweets Rylan Stiles of Locked on Thunder.

Central Notes: Antetokounmpo, Holiday, LaVine, Drummond, Mitchell

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday are both available to play for the Bucks tonight against Washington, Eric Nehm of The Athletic tweets. Antetokounmpo sat out Sunday’s loss to Washington due to left knee soreness. Holiday has not played since Christmas Day due to a non-COVID illness.

The Bucks have listed Khris Middleton (right knee soreness) and George Hill (non-COVID illness) as out.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Zach LaVine, in the first season of a five-year max contract, admits he needs to do a better job giving consistent effort on the defensive end, he told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “That might just be finishing plays as well as the possession goes on,’’ the Bulls’ wing said. “Getting a rebound, one more contest, one more rotation, one more effort … and you know, you can take that on the chin and say, ‘Yeah, there’s been possessions where if I have to make that last rotation, I have to give a better effort toward that.’ That’s something I do have to be better at.’’
  • Bulls center Andre Drummond thought he’d spend his entire career with the team that drafted him, the Pistons, he told Mike Curtis of the Detroit News (subscription required). “For me, (Detroit) was always a place that I thought I was going to be for my entire career. But, it didn’t go that way,” he said. “They had other plans; I think they wanted to restart their team again and it’s never any hard feelings. I know the way of the business. It’s always love. I love (Pistons owner) Tom Gores. I love his family. I love the city of Detroit and I love the staff there.” Drummond played seven-and-a-half seasons with Detroit before he was traded to Cleveland.
  • Donovan Mitchell‘s 71-point eruption on Monday has washed away his disappointing postseason performances with Utah last season, Michael Pina of The Ringer writes. The 25-year-old Mitchell has been as efficient offensively as he’s ever been during his career. If he can sustain that, the Cavaliers got a special talent that rarely gets traded, particularly before the player reaches age 30.

Injury Updates: Payne, Shamet, Jovic, Green, Antetokounmpo, Holiday, Middleton, Hill

Suns reserve guards Cameron Payne (right foot strain) and Landry Shamet (sore right Achilles) have seen their statuses updated to probable for Monday’s game against the Knicks, Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic reports (Twitter link). Payne has been unavailable since December 13, while Shamet has been sidelined since Christmas Day.

Long-term, Phoenix is still without All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker (groin strain) and power forwards Cameron Johnson (right meniscus surgery) and Jae Crowder. Crowder has been away from the Suns all season while hoping for a trade.

We have more injury-related news:

  • While getting some run with the Heat‘s G League team, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, rookie Miami power forward Nikola Jovic has been sidelined with back spasms, reports Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (via Twitter).
  • Mavericks shooting guard Josh Green (sprained right elbow) remains shelved for a Monday matchup against the Rockets, the team announced (Twitter link). The elbow was reportedly reassessed on Friday. Dallas also confirmed that Dorian Finney-Smith (right adductor strain), expected to miss at least another week, and Maxi Kleber (right hamstring surgery), out indefinitely, remain unavailable.
  • The Bucks could be missing their three best players on Sunday night as they square off against the Wizards, reports Josh Robbins of The Athletic (via Twitter). Khris Middleton (sore right knee) and Jrue Holiday (non-coronavirus illness) will miss the contest against Washington, while All-NBA forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (sore left knee) and reserve point guard George Hill (non-coronavirus illness) are both questionable to play.

Central Notes: Bogdanovic, Middelton, Lopez, Haliburton

The Pistons may have the league’s worst record, but that won’t deter Dwane Casey from proclaiming that Bojan Bogdanovic deserves All-Star recognition, Mike Curtis of the Detroit News writes.

“I hope people don’t look at our record as a rebuilding team and punish him for that because to me, Bogey’s an All-Star,” the Pistons’ head coach said. “I’ve coached a lot of offensive players in my career when you talk about (Dirk) Nowitzki, (DeMar) DeRozan, a lot of those guys, Kevin Garnett. Offensively, he’s right up there with those guys as far as scoring the basketball.”

Bogdanovic, who signed a two-year extension with the Pistons early this season, is averaging a team-high 20.8 points.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Bucks forward Khris Middleton made his long-awaited return from wrist surgery early this month, but now swelling in his knee has sidelined him, Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. “I would say way better than I was last week when I stopped playing,” Middleton said Saturday. “A lot of swelling in my knee went down. Just taking it day-by-day. Just trying to make sure the next time I go back out there I’ll be out there for the long run.” Middleton missed his fifth consecutive game on Sunday, Eric Nehm of The Athletic tweets.
  • Bucks center Brook Lopez was sidelined much of last season due to a back injury. Lopez has not only been healthy this season, he has emerged as a candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year award. He told Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated that he’s humbled to be in that discussion. “Absolutely it would mean something, it would be a great honor,” Lopez said. “I’ve had a very interesting career arc. The changes I’ve had to make to my game to stay in the league, I’m proud of that and I’m proud of the player I’ve become. It would definitely be an honor.”
  • Tyrese Haliburton was held to one point the first time the Pacers faced the Heat this month. The rematch was way different, as he erupted for 43 points and set a franchise-record with 10 3-pointers on Friday. Haliburton felt he had something to prove to Miami, Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star relays. “Last time we played these guys, they really had me in check,” he said. “I just had to come out here and respond the right way.”

Injury Updates: Middleton, Maxey, Booker, Wright, Tate

After making his season debut on December 2 following offseason wrist surgery, Bucks wing Khris Middleton has now missed four consecutive games with right knee soreness. Head coach Mike Budenholzer provided an update on Middleton’s status ahead of Friday’s game against the Nets, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

I think, I would say he is making progress, probably not at the rate we had hoped,” Budenholzer said. “To be able to get work in, to be ready to play — it’s really still, he only played I think four, five games — so there’s still that being ready for an NBA game and all that goes into that. So, we’ll see how the next 24, 48 hours go. … But I think overall we’re encouraged. And I think he’s in a good place and he’ll play when he’s ready. It’s a long season. We have to be patient. It’s hard for Khris. It’s hard for us, but just keep the big picture in mind always.”

While Budenholzer is typically vague when giving health updates, hopefully the fact that Middleton’s knee has been slow to respond doesn’t keep him out of action for much longer. Through seven games (24.6 MPG), the three-time All-Star is averaging 11.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG and 4.4 APG.

Here are some more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers isn’t confident that Tyrese Maxey will return for Sunday’s matchup against the Knicks, but he provided an encouraging update on Friday, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “He’s making great progress,” Rivers said. “[He] had a great workout [Thursday], so he’s close.” The third-year guard has been sidelined since November 18 after suffering a foot fracture.
  • Suns star Devin Booker has been dealing with groin soreness since Saturday’s victory over New Orleans, with Friday marking his third straight missed game. Head coach Monty Williams isn’t sure when the shooting guard will be back in action, according to Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports (Twitter link). He’s been shooting the last couple of days. Not moving as much, but is progressing a bit…he’s chomping at the bit. As you can imagine, Book’s frustrated when he can’t play,” Williams said, adding that he wouldn’t speculate about whether Booker would play on Sunday.
  • The Wizards announced that guard Delon Wright, who has missed the team’s past 29 games with a hamstring injury, would be back in action on Friday against Sacramento, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link). Wright should bolster the Wizards’ defense, which ranks 22nd in the NBA.
  • Jae’Sean Tate has been sidelined since October 30 due to a right ankle injury, having made just three appearances for the Rockets thus far this season. However, head coach Stephen Silas said on Friday that the forward’s return “looks like it will be pretty soon,” tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

Central Notes: Livers, Bulls, Mitchell, Bucks, Duarte

Pistons forward Isaiah Livers suffered a setback while attempting to return from a shoulder injury, the team announced on Friday in a press release. According to the Pistons, Livers had advanced to the “end stage” of his rehab process, but reaggravated the AC joint in his right shoulder during a workout. Livers will take a step backward in his rehab work and will be reevaluated in approximately two or three weeks by the Pistons’ medical staff, according to the team.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Asked on Friday after the Bulls fell to 11-17 if the front office erred by bringing back nearly the same roster as last season, head coach Billy Donovan said he doesn’t feel that way, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I think the character in that locker room is really, really good,” Donovan said. “I just think that with the adversity that happens in the game, we have to collectively have more resolve.”
  • The Cavaliers will host the Jazz on Monday and then visit Utah in early January, but Donovan Mitchell will likely make another trip to his former team’s city in February for the 2023 All-Star Game, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, who says no Eastern Conference guard has been better than Mitchell this season. “Donovan’s essentially elevated their entire situation here,” Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle said on Friday after Mitchell scored 41 points to help defeat his team.
  • The Bucks will be without Khris Middleton on Saturday vs. Utah due to right knee soreness, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter links). Giannis Antetokounmpo has also been added to the team’s injury report as questionable due to left knee soreness.
  • Pacers wing Chris Duarte, sidelined since November 4 due to ankle sprain, appears to be on the verge of returning to action at the NBA level. Duarte has played two games with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in the G League as part of his rehab and could be back with the Pacers in time for Sunday’s contest vs. New York, tweets Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star.