According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Charles Gardner, Larry Sanders underwent surgery on his injured right thumb Monday afternoon and is expected to miss about six weeks. Sanders' injury had been described in varying degrees from sprain to bruise, but recent tests revealed a torn ligament that required surgery to fix.
Initial reports from both Sanders and the team suggested he hurt the thumb during the Bucks' November 2nd game versus the Toronto Raptors. However, the team has since confirmed that the injury occurred during an altercation at a Milwaukee nightclub following the game.
Sanders had struggled in his first few games this season, yielding significant playing time to Zaza Pachulia. Pachulia has filled in admirably, averaging 11.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in 5 games, but make no mistake: a return to form for Larry Sanders is crucial to the Bucks' long-term success. That Sanders was involved in a nightclub brawl is a major issue in itself; this injury is yet another setback for a team that has seen more than its share already.
Sanders' injury will likely keep Pachulia entrenched in the starting lineup for the duration of his absence, while John Henson may also see increased time at the 5. Ekpe Udoh could also see his role increase, a surprising turn for a player frequently viewed as the odd-man-out in Milwaukee's big man rotation.
Despite Sanders' missed time and on-court lapses, Milwaukee boasted the 15th-ranked defense in the NBA, largely thanks to their top ten ranking in forcing turnovers and opponent shooting percentage. The latter will be difficult to maintain with Sanders on the shelf. If the Bucks' poor rebounding and hyperactive fouling catches up to them, the defense could go south in a hurry.
Few teams have experienced the sort of injury misfortune the Bucks are facing just five games into the year, and with a difficult stretch of games approaching, Milwaukee could find itself in a deep hole just a few weeks into the season. Opinions on that possibility are sure to be mixed, but anything that steers the Bucks toward a more comprehensive rebuilding effort (and keeps them away from the buyer's market around the trade deadline) is likely to have some support.