Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova practice ahead of Sunday opener vs. Heat

Mike Ehrmann

With less than 24 hours to go before the Bucks open their Eastern Conference first round playoff series in Miami, the Bucks hope to have all their starters ready against LeBron James and the all-conquering Heat.

JS: Sanders and Ilyasova back in practice
Wait, good news? For the Bucks?

Apparently. Larry Sanders (back) and Ersan Ilyasova (sore wrist) are both expected to start on Sunday in Miami after completing practice on Saturday ahead of the Bucks' flight to Miami. Ilyasova will likely wear a wrap on his aching right wrist that he aggravated in Monday's home loss to Denver, but an MRI this week revealed no structural damage. Let's hope it doesn't throw off his jumper, eh?

Sanders practiced on Friday as well, commenting that his back was "OK, feeling a little bit better" just hours before showing off his other passion--art. James Carlton of Milwaukee Magazine has a piece on Sanders' first public art show, which opened Friday at the J. Nikolai Art Studio in the Third Ward. Not that Sanders is the first Buck to show off a creative side; you may recall Desmond Mason was also active in Milwaukee's art scene during his time with the team.

Paschketball: Bucks ready for playoff challenge
What's on the players' minds as they get ready to take on the Heat? Be sure to check out Jim Paschke's interview series over at Bucks.com, while Alex Boeder breaks down every player's playoff experience ahead of game one.

Woelfel: Henson enjoying playoff opportunity
No Bucks finished the season as strongly as John Henson, who averaged an eye-popping 15 points, 15 rebounds and nearly three blocks over the season's mostly-forgettable final five games. And while it's not clear how much Henson will play given the return of Sanders and Ilyasova, Gery Woelfel writes that the excitement of a playoff appearance isn't lost on the former North Carolina star.

"There will be plenty of opportunity for Ekpe and John to get out there," Boylan said. "We'd like to get John some experience, Ekpe and Larry. We've got a bunch of guys that this is their first time (in the playoffs).

"We want to get them out there and get them a feel for what the playoffs are like, so down the road it helps."

It's not like playing Henson qualifies as charity--though he has his share of teachable moments, especially defensively, the kid can play. But it's still interesting to hear Boylan acknowledging the "get the youngsters some playoff experience" angle when it's unlikely he'll be around to reap any potential benefits.

Stein: Coaching carousel begins
Speaking of Boylan's future, basic logic would suggest the Bucks will go in a new coaching direction this summer. Marc Stein's sources suggest the same:

Boylan's return has not been ruled out, with word circulating that no formal evaluation will be made until after the playoffs. But the Bucks are almost certainly headed for a dreaded first-round date with the Heat, so it's hard to picture how the playoffs are going to help any.

Perhaps they'll give Miami more resistance than the so-called experts expect, since the Heat have been troubled in the past by Milwaukee's frontcourt length and backcourt speed, but the Bucks' tension-filled finish prompted one source close to the situation to say he'd be "very surprised" if Boylan hangs on. Other coaching sources, meanwhile, continue to link Houston Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson to the job if it does become open.

Currently Kevin McHale's top assistant in Houston, Sampson is an obvious name to be connected with the Bucks' gig, though there will likely be competition for his services. Having already spent three seasons in Milwaukee as an assistant under Scott Skiles, Sampson was known for having a good rapport with players, especially Brandon Jennings, and he's generally considered one of the league's up-and-coming assistants.

ESPN: Heat not sweating Jennings' prediction
I didn't consider Jennings' recent "prediction" that the Bucks would win the series in six games as particularly noteworthy--heaven forbid one of the Bucks show a little bit of spunk about the impossible odds they're up against--and apparently the Heat didn't either. Great--now on with the games.

"Whatever their confidence or motivation is, that's for them to figure out," Heat forward LeBron James said. "We're only concentrated on what we're doing here."

Dwyane Wade understood Jennings' perspective, but doesn't think the Heat will use Jennings' comments for fuel.

"We've got enough motivation," Wade said. "We have a big goal in mind. We were put together to win a championship, not to just make the playoffs."

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