Charles Gardner and Jim Paschke reported after today's practice that while Michael Redd will again be in street clothes tomorrow against Golden State, he is targeting a return sometime next week. The Bucks continue their homestand through next Friday with games on Monday against the Mavs, Wednesday against the Nets and Friday against Charlotte. Until then, Redd will continue to rehab the patella tendon in his left knee, which he strained in the Bucks' home opener against the Pistons on October 31. Via Gardner:
Redd indicated he was able to do some running and jumping but he had not yet gone through a practice session with teammates. "I'm doing a lot more dynamic movements, testing it and putting it in positions it would be if I was playing," the Bucks veteran said.
The elephant in the room: how will Redd's return impact a Bucks team that has started firing on all cylinders since he went down?
Let's start with the obvious. I had Bogut pegged as the Bucks' most important/valuable/irreplaceable player before the season started, and Jennings' incredible start has allowed him to leapfrog Redd in that category as well. Part of that stems from Jennings' and Bogut's ability to impact the game in multiple ways, and part of it is a positional thing--center and point guard are simply much more important positions than off guard.
That said, I certainly won't go so far as to say the Bucks are a better team without Redd. As much as people underestimated the Bucks' personnel coming into the season, this is still a team that lacks reliable scorers and all the numbers back that up: 26th in scoring efficiency, 25th in eFG%, and 29th in FT/FG. Redd's ability to create his own shot and get to the line is exactly the kind of thing that could help the team play at an even higher level, even if it means some sacrifice on the defensive end (where the Bucks still rank 1st in efficiency).
The challenge for Scott Skiles is in making sure that Redd's return doesn't starve Bogut and Jennings of their touches. It's probably less of a concern with Jennings, who will still be able to pick his spots as the guy who brings the ball up the court every possession. The bigger concern is whether Redd's return stifles Bogut's touches. The big man has had 14 or 15 fga in each of the the past four games and he's responded by averaging 19.5 ppg while converting at a 60% clip. Heck, he's even made nine straight free throws over the past two games. But beyond his high efficiency, Bogut is also the Bucks' only low post threat, and he's even been commanding double teams at times. That kind of thing makes the game easier for everyone--Redd and Jennings included. And while I certainly wouldn't blame Redd for Bogut's lack of scoring against Philly and Detroit, there's obviously a tradeoff involved between getting each guy his touches.
For some time, the consensus on Redd is that he'd probably be best as the third banana on a good team. The consensus has also been that we probably wouldn't see that happen in Milwaukee. Could it be changing? Quite possibly. It's tough to extrapolate the success of six games against mostly mediocre competition over a full 82-game season, especially given how many injuries the Bucks seem to sustain each year. But the third banana part seems pretty real right now.
You might reasonably even suggest that the Bucks bring Redd off the bench a la Manu Ginobili in an attempt to better balance the firepower between the first and second units. We could certainly see it as Redd works his way back from his injury--he also came off the bench in his first game following his ankle injury last November. But it's still a bit of a leap to see Skiles go that route on a permanent basis, even if Redd could still get 30-33 minutes in a super sixth man role.
There are of course other ways of making the situation work, and the pressure is on Skiles as much as anyone to figure out the best route. For one he can focus on staggering his starters' minutes throughout the game, so that you minimize the amount of time both Redd and Bogut are resting. We saw that in the first half of the opener, when Skiles gave Redd a short rest midway through the first and then brought him back when Bogut sat down with a minute left in the period. Against Denver the Bucks played a combined seven minutes where neither Bogut nor Jennings was on the court, and going forward it's those kinds of situations I'd prefer to avoid.
Skiles could also move Hakim Warrick back to the bench and let Ersan Ilyasova take over as the starting PF, which shouldn't ruffle too many feathers. Kurt Thomas is still around as well, but he seems to have fallen out of favor with Warrick and Ilyasova holding down the PF spot and Gadzuric playing effectively at backup center. Warrick has plenty of experience as a sixth man and was largely expected to be the second unit's offensive sparkplug before Redd's injury helped convince Skiles to bump him into the starting five. Warrick may not be an elite scorer by any stretch of the imagination, but he gets to the line and you can at least run plays for him. That alone makes him pretty unique on the current roster.