So you'd forgive Bucks fans for holding their breath at the sight of Bogut's heir apparent Larry Sanders lying on the floor in severe pain, the victim of a mid-air collision with Nuggets' power forward Kenneth Faried on Tuesday night in Denver. While Sanders was due further evaluation on Wednesday, the initial news after the game was promising, or at least not as bad as it could have been. Charles Gardner reports Sanders was in pain but upbeat after the game, which saw the Bucks collapse down the stretch despite Samuel Dalembert's career-high 35 points:
"I landed more to the right side, on the back of the hip bone," Sanders said. "They did a couple X-rays. Nothing too severe. That's great news.
"It's pretty painful. I'll just get a couple more X-rays and take care of it so I can get back as fast as I can."
Sanders will be with the team tonight in Utah, but there's been no indication as of yet that he'll be able to suit up against the Jazz. Considering the amount of pain he appeared to be in immediately after the fall, you would assume the third-year center is unlikely to feature against the Jazz. Thankfully the Bucks will then have a couple days off before they host Detroit at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Saturday, but at this point Sanders' timetable for returning is unclear.
His absence would necessarily create a major vacuum in the middle for Milwaukee, which enters tonight's game in Utah seventh in the East--one game behind sixth seeded Atlanta, one game ahead of eighth seeded Boston, and four games ahead of ninth place Philadelphia. While Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis necessarily take most of the headlines (and shots), Sanders' massive defensive presence and improved finishing inside have made him the Bucks' most impactful player to date. It's also earned the third-year pro well-deserved buzz as a most improved player candidate and potential all-defensive team member. So while the Bucks' depth up front might blunt the impact of Sanders' absence, the reality is that there's simply no way to replace his disruptive defensive abilities.
Dalembert's recent re-emergence does give the Bucks palatable options up front should Sanders be out any period of time, with Ekpe Udoh and John Henson also available to fill Sanders' large shoes. Coach Jim Boylan would presumably feature Dalembert next to Ilyasova in the starting lineup with the recently marginalized Udoh and Henson providing relief off the bench, a combination the Bucks used with mixed results against the Bulls a week ago when Sanders was out with the flu.