News/notes after the jump...
Redd's return. He's back...again. After a miserable three-game comeback around Thanksgiving, Mike Redd will be back in uniform against the Blazers, one week after returning to practice and seven games after his last appearance in the Bucks' 108-90 in Oklahoma City. Charles Gardner reports:
"Great day," Redd said after the Bucks' practice session at the Cousins Center on Friday. "I'm going to try it again.
"I'm a lot more prepared. I went through a couple practices. I had more time to train and my leg is stronger. I feel good. The explosion is all better."
We've talked a fair bit about how Redd might fit into the Bucks plans, and I think most of the same principles apply. On the positive side, Redd is still the team's only credible threat to draw fouls, an area where the Bucks continue to struggle mightily (he won't help the Bucks foul less, but that's another issue). Some have suggested Redd needs to embrace more of a spot-up shooter role given the emergence of Jennings and Bogut as the team's new core, but to be honest I'm not sure that's the best use of him either. He's been more of a scorer than a shooter for years now, and Jennings thus far has looked like more of a facilitator than a shot creator for teammates--he's willing to move the ball and can get into the paint, but he's not Chris Paul or Steve Nash as a passer.
While Redd is hopefully putting his patella injuries behind him, there's a great post over at Blazer's Edge (for my money the best NBA blog in existence) on patella-related injuries. Wish we would have had that around when Redd went down a month ago....
Blazers M*A*S*H*. While the Bucks are getting healthier, the same cannot be said for the Blazers. Losing Greg Oden (broken patella) for the year understandably made the headlines a week ago, but he's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Blazers' rotation players missing extended periods. Super-sub Travis Outlaw has been out since November with a broken foot, Rudy Fernandez is out until the New Year following back surgery, and Nicolas Batum has been out all year following shoulder surgery. Moreover, rookies Patty Mills (broken foot) and Jeff Pendergraph (hip) have yet to suit up due to injuries suffered during the summer.
Not even the Blazers' coaching staff has been immune: head coach Nate McMillian ruptured his Achilles' tendon helping out in practice and is missing the current road trip altogether. All told, the Blazers suited up just nine guys in their Wednesday win in Indiana and Friday loss in Cleveland.
Energy. While the Blazers are coming off a close loss in Cleveland, the Bucks have had two days to rest, so do the math. There's little excuse for the Blazers to come out with more energy, but you can't argue with the talent still on the roster. Roy and Aldridge form a potent perimeter/post combo, though Aldridge is much for of face-up, mid-range type guy than a post bruiser. Against Ilyasova I'd guess he'll try to be a little more physical and get deeper position, but I'm guessing that's what Blazer fans want him to do more regardless of his opponent.
Bigs...or lack thereof. The Blazers are among the league's best rebounding teams, ranking fourth in offensive rebound rate and seventh in defensive rebound rate. You don't have to tell the Bucks--they saw the Blazers' rebounding prowess up close last year when Portland murdered them 58-30 on the glass at the Rose Garden. Youch.
However, the Blazers' numbers will likely decline a bit without Oden, who was fourth in the league in offensive rebound rate (16.0%) and third in total rebound rate (21.2%) when he went down. Fortunately for the Blazers, Joel Przybilla is one of the two guys who has been even better than Oden on the glass--some dude named Dwight being the other. However, Portland is dangerously thin up front behind Przybilla and Aldridge, with Juwan Howard being the only guy taller than 6'8" on the bench. So expect plenty of small lineups.
Blake. Steve Blake would appear an obvious weak link in the Blazers' starting lineup, especially with Andre Miller coming off the bench. But as poorly as Blake is shooting the ball this year, never underestimate his ability to torment his old friends in Milwaukee. Blake dropped 21 points (including 6/10 triples) in his visit to Milwaukee a year ago (he missed the game in Portland) and averaged 20 ppg and 5.5 apg in two games against the Bucks the year before. Blake was certainly not well received during his abbreviated stay in Milwaukee in 2006, and apparently hell hath no fury like a Steve Blake scorned.