Khris Middleton

Central Notes: Bulls, Donovan, Allen, Middleton

This year’s All-NBA voting offered another reminder of the depressing state the Bulls find themselves in, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. DeMar DeRozan, who received one third-team vote, was the only Bulls player mentioned on any of the 99 ballots. That comes after not having an All-Star and missing the playoffs for the second straight season.

Executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas promised changes following last month’s loss in the play-in tournament. The front office will reportedly scour the trade market in another attempt to find a taker for Zach LaVine, but Johnson notes that there were more rumors about LaVine at the 2023 draft combine than this year’s version.

If nobody is willing to take on the $139MM that LaVine is owed over the next three seasons, Johnson sees sign-and-trades involving DeRozan and fellow free agent Patrick Williams as the best chances for immediate improvement, along with a potential Lonzo Ball comeback. However, Karnisovas has already stated that he hopes to re-sign both DeRozan and Williams this summer.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The recent addition of former Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. to Billy Donovan‘s staff doesn’t mean the Bulls‘ coach is in danger of losing his job, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Cowley states that Donovan is “as safe as he has been since the day he was hired,” noting that Karnisovas expressed support for him after the season ended.
  • The Cavaliers may give serious consideration to breaking up their big-man tandem of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen this summer, suggests Chris Fedor of (subscriber only). The team has believed Mobley would eventually develop into a full-time center since he was drafted in 2021, according to Fedor, who adds that the two big men often appear to be in each other’s way on offense. Fedor believes the Cavs might be ready to part with Allen and maybe Donovan Mitchell or Darius Garland for an upgrade at the wing.
  • The Bucks only got minimal financial benefit from Khris Middleton missing out on a combined $2.1MM in bonuses tied to games played and the team’s success in the playoffs, Jim Owczarski of the Journal Sentinel states in a mailbag column. Milwaukee will have a slightly lower tax bill, but all bonuses count in determining the new salary aprons, even if they’re not earned, so the Bucks still project as a second apron team for next season.

Bucks Notes: Giannis, Lillard, Grades, Offseason, Beverley

After entering the season with hopes of claiming their second title in four years, the Bucks were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the second consecutive season, with superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo missing the entire series due to a calf strain.

As Jamal Collier of ESPN writes, Milwaukee made plenty of changes to try to advance further in 2023/24, starting with firing Mike Budenholzer and trading for Damian Lillard. The Bucks also cut ties with Adrian Griffin, Budenholzer’s replacement, during the season, hiring longtime head coach Doc Rivers in Griffin’s place. Yet the end result was the same: Antetokounmpo injured and a first-round exit.

With the NBA’s second-oldest roster, the Bucks looked brittle throughout the season, particularly on the defensive end, according to Michael Pina of The Ringer. Khris Middleton, Lillard and Antetokounmpo only combined to play 42 games together, and while they went 28-14 in those contests, they’ve all had their share of injuries the past few seasons.

Pina wonders if either Antetokounmpo or the Bucks — or even both — will eventually decide its best for the two sides to part ways, particularly if Milwaukee slogs through another up-and-down season again in ’24/25. That could turn out to be the most prudent choice for both parties, Pina contends.

Here’s more on the Bucks:

  • Lillard, who missed Games 4 and 5 after aggravating an Achilles injury, returned for Thursday’s Game 6 loss. He finished with 28 points and four assists. While the team was obviously disappointed to be eliminated by Indiana, Middleton appreciated how much work Lillard put in to return on Thursday, per Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It meant a lot,” Middleton said. “He was going through a serious thing that had been bothering him for a while. He felt he was good enough to go out there and play tonight. I thought he gave it everything he had also. So it’s a lot of respect from me and I think from everyone inside that locker room that he went out there and played 35 minutes. We needed him tonight, but just couldn’t pull it out.”
  • Eric Nehm of The Athletic gives an “incomplete” grade regarding the fit of Lillard and Rivers due to Milwaukee’s injuries. However, it’s clear the Bucks need to improve their roster, particularly adding more wing defenders, which will be a tall order for a team facing luxury tax restrictions this offseason, Nehm adds.
  • Mark Deeks of HoopsHype provides his offseason preview for the Bucks.
  • At the end of Game 6, Patrick Beverley threw a ball in the stands behind Milwaukee’s bench two times, hitting a pair of Pacers fans. According to Lauren Merola, Shams Charania and Eric Nehm of The Athletic, one of the fans was directing obscenities at Beverley in the lead-up to the incident, which was apparently escalated when the fan said, “Cancun … Cancun on three” when the team was breaking a huddle. The NBA is looking into the incident, per The Athletic.
  • Beverley also refused to speak to a very well-regarded ESPN producer — Malinda Adams — who wasn’t subscribed to his podcast after the game. On Friday, Adams announced (via Twitter) that both Beverley and the Bucks reached out to her and apologized.

Central Notes: Mobley, Garland, Pacers, Giannis, Lillard

Jarrett Allen‘s rib injury meant the Cavaliers needed a huge performance from Evan Mobley in Game 5, and he responded with 14 points, 13 rebounds and a game-saving block in the final seconds, writes Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Mobley switched onto Orlando’s Franz Wagner on a drive to the basket and tipped away a shot that would have tied the game.

“It was a big play,” Mobley said. “The game was on the line. I just went for it. I knew he was going to go for the layup. So, went for it, got a clean block and we got the rebound. So, got us to win. I’m just trying to make game-winning plays and winning plays as much as possible, especially on the stretch. And I feel like I did a good job this game.”

The win was vital for a Cavs team that had just come off two lopsided losses to the Magic and was hoping to avoid going to back to Orlando with a 3-2 deficit. Allen is considered day to day, and there’s no indication yet of whether he’ll be ready when the series resumes Friday night. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the team will continue to use a “committee” approach if his starting center isn’t available.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • After struggling to score for most of the series, Darius Garland provided an early spark for the Cavaliers in Game 5, Andrews adds. Garland, who had plus-minus ratings of minus-22 and minus-27 in the two losses at Orlando, poured in 17 points in the first quarter Tuesday. “Shoot. Shoot. Shoot,” Donovan Mitchell responded when asked about his advice for Garland. “I don’t give a damn. Shoot the ball. At the end of the day, go out swinging — and there’s a different spark we get when he’s like that. You see it. I’ve set the tones in Games 1 and 2, but there’s a different spark too when he’s also continuing to go. He’s a guy that’s [an] All-Star-level player, caliber player, and he’s just — shoot the ball, be you, be aggressive. And that’s what you see tonight.”
  • The Pacers feel like they squandered a golden opportunity to close out their series, losing by 23 points Tuesday to a Bucks team playing without Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, per Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Indiana players realize that they’ll have to match Milwaukee’s intensity in Game 6. “We gotta understand they’re a team on the brink of their season being done,” Tyrese Haliburton said. “They’re playing desperate, they’re playing hard as they should be. They out-competed us tonight. Dominated us in every facet of the game.”
  • The Bucks may continue to be short-handed as Antetokounmpo (left soleus strain) and Lillard (right Achilles tendinitis) are both listed as doubtful for Thursday’s contest, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Patrick Beverley (right oblique muscle strain) and Khris Middleton (right ankle sprain) are considered probable.

Bucks’ Giannis, Lillard Out For Game 5

APRIL 30: Antetokounmpo and Lillard are both out for Tuesday’s Game 5, Rivers told reporters prior the game, Eric Nehm of The Athletic tweets.

APRIL 29: The Bucks are on the verge of elimination and it’s unlikely they’ll have their two best players available for Game 5 of their first-round series with the Pacers. The team is listing both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard as doubtful to play on Tuesday, The Athletic’s Eric Nehm tweets.

Antetokounmpo hasn’t played the entire series due to a left calf strain that he suffered late in the regular season. Damian Lillard missed the Bucks’ Game 4 loss on Sunday due to right Achilles tendinitis. Lillard averaged 32.3 points and 5.3 assists in 40.7 minutes per contest during the first three games of the series.

Prior to Game 4, Milwaukee coach Doc Rivers expressed optimism that Antetokounmpo could return to action after the superstar went through a rugged workout on Sunday morning. “I think there’s a chance for him to play in this series. I really do,” he said.

Patrick Beverley (right oblique muscle strain) and Khris Middleton (right ankle sprain) are listed as probable to play.

The Pacers’ top player isn’t a lock to suit up, either. Tyrese Haliburton is listed as questionable due to back spasms, Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star tweets.

Bucks Notes: Giannis, Lillard, Portis, Middleton, Horst

Trailing 3-1 in their series with Indiana, the Bucks‘ best hope for a comeback rests with the return of injured stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, writes Jim Owczarski of The Journal Sentinel. Both players sat out Sunday’s loss, but neither has been ruled out for the series, which resumes Tuesday night in Milwaukee.

Antetokounmpo, who has been sidelined since suffering a calf strain April 9, has been listed as doubtful for the first four games. However, there’s cause for optimism after the former MVP completed an intense workout Sunday morning.

“It went well,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He moved, he shot, he’s running now with no resistance. So those are all very good signs.” Rivers said he’s “optimistic” about Antetokounmpo’s chances to return at some point, adding, “Like I think there’s a chance for him to play in this series. I really do.”

Lillard aggravated his right Achilles tendon late in Game 3. He wore a walking boot for Saturday’s film session, but didn’t have it on as he sat on the bench for Sunday’s contest. He was officially listed as out with tendinitis in the Achilles tendon.

“Not shutting him down,” Rivers said. “That’s a fact. I can say that much for sure.”

There is “obviously pessimism” about the status of both players with a quick turnaround for Game 5, Shams Charania said this morning on Run It Back (video link).

There’s more on the Bucks:

  • Milwaukee lost an important part of its rotation on Sunday when Bobby Portis was ejected seven minutes into the game for an altercation with Andrew Nembhard (video link), notes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Although Nembhard pulled Portis’ arm, the officials determined during a video review that Portis’ push and open-handed strike were two separate hostile acts, meeting the standard for an ejection. “The emotions got the best of him,” Khris Middleton said. “I thought, for the most part of the year, he’s done a great job flirting with that line and not crossing over it. Tonight, it just crossed over at the worst time for us.”
  • Middleton played 40 minutes on Sunday despite pain in both ankles, Nehm adds. The veteran swingman was dealing with a sprained right ankle entering the game, and he hurt the left one when Myles Turner landed on it during a third quarter collision.
  • Sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer there’s a legitimate chance that general manager Jon Horst will leave the Bucks this summer to become head of basketball operations for the Pistons. Horst wasn’t on board with either of the team’s coaching hirings over the past year, according to O’Connor, as he preferred Nick Nurse when the organization opted for Adrian Griffin to please Antetokounmpo and he pushed for Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson when Rivers was brought in at midseason. O’Connor notes that Horst is a Michigan native who got his first front office job with the Pistons, and he might be more comfortable building a young team than refining Milwaukee’s aging roster.
  • Kelly Iko of The Athletic looks at the strategic adjustments made by Rivers and Indiana’s Rick Carlisle that have helped to shape the series.

Central Notes: Bucks/Pacers Series, Haliburton, Lillard, Middleton, Pistons

The Pacers took a 2-1 series lead over the Bucks on Friday in their first home playoff game in five years. As Kelly Iko of The Athletic writes, the Bucks did a good job of defending Indiana’s preferred style of play. Milwaukee overcame a 19-point Pacers lead to force overtime behind a miraculous Khris Middleton three-pointer, and another to tie the game with 6.7 seconds left in overtime.

However, the Pacers countered everything the Bucks threw at them and prevented Milwaukee from stealing one on their home floor. With Tyrese Haliburton forced off the ball, Indiana placed Pascal Siakam on the same side of the ball to further extend Haliburton’s runway behind the three-point line.

We’ve got to look at ways to counter the things they’re doing and vice versa,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s going to keep going like that — back and forth, back and forth. … The ball movement is very important. We’ve got to remind ourselves to play with pace and move it.

Indiana is continuing to display that it’s the high-caliber passing team it was in the regular season, leading the playoffs in assists (29.0), secondary assists (5.5) and potential assists (51.5) per game.

In Game 1, we had a little segment on ‘one more,’ just being better at making the extra pass,” Haliburton said. “We’ve done a great job with these last two games getting guys open shots. When the ball is moving, everyone is touching it, getting open shots, the energy is just right — even if you’re not making them. I like to say the energy you put in the ball is important. I think every basketball player in the world can learn from that.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Haliburton hasn’t put up big scoring numbers in the series against Milwaukee and he made just 8-of-22 field goal attempts in Game 3, but that didn’t stop the Pacers guard from having the confidence to take the game-winning shot, Iko writes in the same piece. “Just knew I was shooting it, no matter what,” Haliburton said. “Didn’t know what I was going to get to, just based off of feel out there. .. Finally made a shot. I couldn’t buy a bucket today. Glad that one went in.
  • The already shorthanded Bucks got more bad news with Damian Lillard going down going down and grabbing his left knee in obvious pain. “It just happened so fast as I was landing,” Lillard said, per Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “My foot was gonna do one thing and when all his weight came down on my foot it kind of twisted me up. It was painful, initially, so I just stayed down.” Lillard returned to the game and knew he would deal with discomfort, but didn’t believe he was at risk of making the injury worse. Unfortunately, Lillard aggravated his Achilles tendon with 9.3 seconds left in regulation. Lillard told coach Doc Rivers he didn’t have any explosiveness in overtime but hopes that he can get some back before Game 4. He’s likely to be listed as questionable for Game 4.
  • Middleton was on the injury report for the Bucks ahead of Game 3 with an ankle sprain that occurred in the first quarter of Game 2. That made his 42-point outing all the more impressive, The Athletic’s Eric Nehm writes. “Just who he is, man,” teammate Bobby Portis said. “Just a testament to being resilient and just being a team player, man. Obviously, we’re already down Giannis [Antetokounmpo], so I just think he understood the moment, the situation and rose to the occasion. Some guys can be questionable and be out there limping or acting like this and that, but he was full cash money today and it was good to see him hit those big shots.” With Antetokounmpo possibly out for Game 4 and Lillard ailing, the Bucks will continue to look to Middleton for answers on offense.
  • After a historically disappointing season, the Pistons should look to acquire two-way veterans to help propel their team, Sam Vecenie and James L. Edwards III write. Vecenie compares the situation to last year’s Rockets, who improved tremendously without sacrificing assets by adding Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks.

Bucks’ Middleton Available, But Giannis Out For Game 3

Forward Khris Middleton, who missed Thursday’s practice after sustaining a right ankle sprain in Tuesday’s Game 2 loss to Indiana, is active and starting tonight for the Bucks, tweets Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

While Middleton being available is obviously good news for Milwaukee, two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has been ruled out for the third straight game of the first-round series due to a left calf (soleus) strain, as Eric Nehm of The Athletic relays.

A three-time All-Star, Middleton has been hampered by a variety of injuries the past two seasons. In 55 regular season games in 2023/24 (27.0 MPG), the 32-year-old averaged 15.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.3 APG and 0.9 SPG on .493/.381/.833 shooting.

Antetokounmpo continues to deal with the calf injury that has kept him on the sidelines since April 9. He has been ramping up his activity this week, but was unable to go through live drills at Thursday’s practice.

With Antetokounmpo out, the Bucks will need strong performances from Damian Lillard, Middleton and the rest of the supporting cast to keep up with Indiana’s high-powered offense, which ranked second in the NBA during the regular season. Controlling the pace and limiting transition opportunities will be another key to victory. The series is currently tied at one game apiece.

Injury Notes: Middleton, Giannis, Kawhi, THJ, Gafford

Bucks wing Khris Middleton sustained a right ankle sprain in the first quarter of Tuesday’s Game 2 loss to Indiana. He wound up playing 36 minutes, but he didn’t practice on Thursday and head coach Doc Rivers said “there’s a little” concern about Middleton’s availability for Game 3 on Friday, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

It’s another holding our breath situation, so honestly, I don’t know,” Rivers said (Twitter link via Nehm).

Middleton has averaged 19.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG and 5.0 APG while shooting 53.6% from the field through two games (35.5 MPG). Milwaukee would certainly miss the three-time All-Star if he’s unable to go on Friday, particularly with Giannis Antetokounmpo still out.

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

  • Speaking of Antetokounmpo, Rivers said the Bucks‘ two-time MVP was doing quite a bit of “shooting and moving” at Thursday’s practice. However, he was unable to go through live drills, as Nehm relays (via Twitter). Antetokoutnmpo was listed as doubtful before being ruled out prior to the first two games of the first-round series vs. the Pacers. The 29-year-old has been sidelined since April 9 due to a left calf strain.
  • Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue confirmed that Kawhi Leonard‘s knee responded well following Tuesday’s loss to Dallas, which was his first game back in three-plus weeks, per Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter links). Lue said Leonard will go through a non-contact practice on Thursday, Townsend adds. It’s unclear if the six-time All-Star will see even more minutes in Friday’s Game 3 after playing 35 a couple days ago.
  • Mavericks wing Tim Hardaway Jr. will be sidelined for Friday’s Game 3, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “He’ll be evaluated in a few days,” head coach Jason Kidd said. Hardaway sprained his right ankle in Game 2 and didn’t play the entire second half. Starting center Daniel Gafford (back) did not practice on Thursday and is questionable for Friday’s game, Kidd added.
  • In case you missed it, the Lakers will still be without Jarred Vanderbilt (foot) and Christian Wood (knee) for Thursday’s Game 3 vs. Denver. Both players had reportedly been aiming to return tonight.

Central Notes: Pacers, Lillard, Middleton, Bulls, Pistons

With All-NBA Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo on the shelf for tonight’s Game 1 matchup against the Pacers, the team’s second- and third-most important offensive contributors, Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton, are being expected to step up.

As Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes, Milwaukee will count on Lillard and Middleton to keep the team cooking with their distribution, not just their own shooting. Both are excellent when it comes to scoring in isolation, but the team as a collective will need to be strong, too.

“It’s the best team I’ve been on,” Lillard said. “So we’re capable. We can win games. And when we get (Antetokounmpo) back, we’ll be even better. So I think that’s that’s how I’m looking at it. I’m not looking at it like ‘Aw man. We can’t…’ We’ve shown it and I’ve been there before.”

Nehm notes that the team can go through major scoring droughts without Antetokounmpo operating as the fulcrum of the Bucks’ attack.

“We just can’t get stuck,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “When we get stuck, we have proven over years that we’re not great offensively. But when that ball is now there and we move it there and we get to the second side — or get to the second action, may be even a better way of saying that — we’ve proven that we’re really good. So we have to do that.”

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • For as long as Antetokounmpo is out in this series for the Bucks, the Pacers’ focal point on defense now becomes the team’s only other All-Star, Lillard. As Kelly Iko of The Athletic details, Indiana has already enjoyed some success in slowing him down during the regular season. In games played against the Pacers this season, Lillard’s field goal shooting declined to 32% from the floor and 26.5% from long range. “I’m not going to give away too many secrets,” guard Aaron Nesmith said of how the team defends Lillard. “They’re a very different team when we played them earlier in the year — different coaching staff, different roster a bit. There are things we’re going to do differently, but we’re excited — it’ll be fun.”
  • After missing the playoffs for a second straight season despite fielding a veteran-heavy team, Bulls team vice president Arturas Karnisovas conceded that personnel changes could be in order this summer. Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic breaks down how he thinks Chicago can begin to construct a winning team culture.
  • After a 14-68 run in 2023/24, the Pistons face a lot of questions regarding their roster this summer. Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscriber link) lists which players he deems most — and least — likely to return in 2024/25. Perhaps most surprisingly, he thinks 2022 lottery picks Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren could serve as intriguing trade chips for Detroit this summer. The Pistons are still looking to add a new lead executive in their front office, which obviously could dictate how the team moves forward in terms of its personnel.

Bucks Notes: Giannis, Lillard, Green, Olympics

The Bucks are listing Giannis Antetokounmpo as doubtful on the team’s official injury report due to a left calf strain, making it unlikely that he’ll be available for Sunday’s series opener with Indiana.

Antetokounmpo was held out of practice this week as he recovers from the injury he suffered in an April 9 game. He participated in a walkthrough on Friday, but didn’t do anything more physical, coach Doc Rivers told Jim Owczarski of The Journal-Sentinel.

Antetokounmpo was given a two- to four-week prognosis after the injury occurred, and Owczarski notes that Game 2 of the series will mark exactly 14 days. Game 3 will be 17 days away and Game 4 will be 19, while a potential Game 7 would take place May 4, giving Antetokounmpo three-and-a-half weeks to recover.

Milwaukee was 4-5 without Antetokounmpo this season, including a pair of losses last weekend that dropped the team into the No. 3 seed.

There’s more on the Bucks:

  • Damian Lillard had planned to practice Tuesday as he works his way back from an aggravated Achilles tendon and an irritated adductor muscle, Owczarski adds, but Lillard said the medical staff’s decision to hold him out helped him to be a full participant Friday. Lillard underwent imaging to check the extent of the damage to both areas before returning to the court. “After that it was just like we got a week to get right, to get ready and that was kind of the focus,” he said. “I didn’t want to go out there with my pride or doing anything unnecessary. That was kind of the plan.”
  • A.J. Green isn’t on the injured list after spraining his left ankle in an April 10 game. Rivers tells Owczarski that Green was able to do “most things” at Friday’s practice, but Malik Beasley and Khris Middleton will see extended minutes if Green isn’t able to play. “We have to keep shooting on the floor,” Rivers said. “But A.J. has not only been good offensively, I think he’s been very good defensively. I think he’s been one of our guard rebounders as well. I mean, obviously we would love him to play. He looked good today.”
  • Lillard said he was contacted by Team USA about another Olympics appearance, but he wasn’t willing to make a commitment, Owczarski states in the same piece. Lillard wanted to concentrate on what he hopes will be a long playoff run with the Bucks, and he was reluctant to be away from his family for most of the summer. “I never committed to it and I was also never like, ‘I don’t want to go,'” Lillard said. “So, the roster I think they got a full roster now, so I’m not offended by it at all.”
  • In a separate story, Lillard tells Owczarski that rumors that he’s dissatisfied in his first year with the Bucks are inaccurate. “I saw somebody say ‘Dame is not happy in Milwaukee’ or something like that,” Lillard said. “I know the truth. I love the situation that I’m in. I also know what I have going on outside of basketball going on that kind of drains me at times. People are going to make comments. People are going to say things. And if it doesn’t go the way they said it was going to go, nobody is ever (going to) come to them and say ‘All right, you said this. Now what do you have to say about it?’ They are never held accountable for what they say publicly.”