A month after fracturing his left ankle in Houston, Andrew Bogut got mostly good news from his latest check-up this week, as John Hammond today announced that Bogut's recovery was progressing as expected and that his ankle would likely not require surgery.
"On Tuesday (February 21), Andrew had a CT scan performed on his injured left ankle. The results of the scan were reviewed by Bucks orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Michael Gordon, along with additional foot and ankle specialists who agreed that Bogut's ankle was healing appropriately and at this time surgery is not indicated.
"Bogut will be allowed to progress to the next stage of his rehabilitation program, and will undergo an additional scan in approximately one month. The initial recovery period of 8-to-12 weeks has not changed."
So despite the nominally good news about Bogut's recovery, the question of whether he can return this season appears as unclear today as it did a month ago.
We're now around four weeks into the suggested 8-12 week recovery period, which would mean Bogut could return as early as a month from now or as late as the end of April, coinciding with end of the regular season. Either way, with the Bucks' recent struggles dropping them into 10th in the East and 2.5 games back of Boston for the final playoff spot, it's looking increasingly unlikely that the Bucks will earn a postseason berth no matter when Bogut returns.
Needless to say, that's a big problem for a franchise that made returning to the playoffs its number one priority heading into the lockout-shortened 11/12 campaign. Instead, the Bucks find themselves staring at the possibility of NBA purgatory for the second year in a row: not good enough for a playoff spot, but not bad enough to claim a potential difference-maker in the June draft either. That would likely be a worst-case scenario for the franchise, though you can argue it's not much worse than sneaking into the playoffs only to be swept away by the Heat or Bulls (who would effectively have home games in Milwaukee anyway).
The reality is that the Bucks remain torn between the short-term credibility provided by wins and the long-term need for a core good enough to not only make the playoffs but do something once they get there. The Bucks understandably hoped that Bogut and Brandon Jennings could provide that foundation after their surprising 46-win season in 2010, but almost two years later we still don't know whether Bogut and Jennings are long-term building blocks or simply placeholders marketed as such.
Bogut's injuries have clearly been a huge challenge to figuring out what the Bucks really have to work with, while the sparkle of Jennings' breakout December/January has faded with his struggles in February. Either way, one thing that is clear: the Bucks have no untouchables right now. Bogut's injury will make him an unlikely trading chip until the offseason at the earliest, while a deal involving Jennings would also seem unlikely until the summer. Since Hammond has arrived, the Bucks have done almost all of their major wheeling and dealing around the time of the draft, with the most notable exception being their acquisition of John Salmons at the trade deadline in 2010. Moreover, if the Bucks do hit the reset button on Bogut and/or Jennings, it would only make sense to wait until closer to draft night, when drafting positions have been determined and prospects have been more closely evaluated.
So what happens in the short term? Given their position in the standings, a major win-now move ahead of the March 15 deadline would seem both less likely and more futile than in previous years, so the better question is probably whether the Bucks will entertain selling off assets like Ersan Ilyasova if they don't turn things around in the coming weeks. Bogut's possible return could also be an issue in this regard; Hammond and company might be tempted to hold off on becoming a seller at the deadline if they think Bogut could return for the final month of the season. Unfortunately, uncertainty all too often breeds complacency, something the Bucks might not have the luxury of affording much longer.