Udoh nears return for Bucks

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By Charles F. Gardner
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Tuesday, November 5, 2013

ST. FRANCIS--Ekpe Udoh figures he can help the Milwaukee Bucks’ front line.

The 6-foot-10 forward was back at practice Monday for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Oct. 11.

And it’s possible he could play Wednesday night when the Bucks return to action with a home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Conditioning is probably the most important aspect in the NBA game,” Udoh said. “Once I get there and I learn all these plays coach has put in, I think I’ll get back to that aggressiveness I showed during the first week of training camp.”

Bucks coach Larry Drew was highly impressed with Udoh during the opening week of camp, but the former Baylor player suffered his injury and surgery was required.

But Udoh’s recovery has been steady and he soon could be bidding for a rotation spot.

“I’ve just got to bring energy to the basketball team and muck it up a little bit,” Udoh said. “When I come in, just throw my body.

“Just go for it all. Don’t worry about getting foul calls, don’t worry about making friends. Just go out there and be nasty. Just go out and put it on the line every game this year.”

Udoh sized up the situation at practice Monday and decided to move his timetable up a bit. The Bucks were without power forward Ersan Ilyasova (ankle) and center Larry Sanders, who was not at practice because his wife was going into labor.

And point guards Brandon Knight (strained right hamstring) and Luke Ridnour (sore back) were limited to about 20 percent of drills due to their injuries and did not take part in the full-contact segment.

“I was shooting for Saturday vs. the Mavs, but with the players we didn’t have today, I just had to do it,” Udoh said. “I just had to will it.

“I didn’t even have my ankles taped. I wasn’t planning on doing it today. I will practice again (Tuesday) and get my wind back so I’m able to play.”

Udoh was acquired by the Bucks as part of the Monta Ellis-Andrew Bogut deal in March 2012. Ellis left the Bucks in free agency to sign with Dallas, but Udoh, the sixth overall pick by Golden State in the 2010 draft, remains in Milwaukee.

He played in 76 games last season, primarily off the bench, and averaged 4.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. He led the Bucks in blocked shots 17 times.

“He looked good,” Drew said of Udoh’s practice effort. “I know he got a little winded.

“All the things that I’m implementing, he has a great, great feel for. He picks things up. He has really good basketball instincts.

“When he’s on the floor he’s always talking. We missed that.”

Drew said he is not sure if Knight or Ridnour will be available Wednesday and if not, rookie Nate Wolters will remain the starter at point guard.

Wolters had seven points and 10 assists while making his first NBA start in the Bucks’ 97-90 loss to Toronto on Saturday night.

Knight said he was happy to be on the court “doing a couple things” even if he could not take part in the entire practice.

“It’s definitely a tricky thing,” he said of the hamstring injury. “A quick cut or something and you set yourself back. You want it to be controlled.

“Every game is possible. It’s all based on how I feel and making sure I can go out there and play a full game. I don’t want to be doubting myself, hesitating. I don’t think I will help the team doing that.”

Knight played less than 2 minutes in the opener Wednesday before suffering his injury and limping off the court at Madison Square Garden.

He said he has been impressed with the play of Wolters, the second-round pick from South Dakota State. Wolters ranks second among league rookies in minutes played (31.8 average) and assists (6.7) and fourth in points (10.0) over three games.

“He’s definitely a talented player, handling it as best he can,” Knight said. “I know he wasn’t expecting to be thrown into that situation.

“It came about unexpectedly and I’ve got to tip my hat to him for holding his composure and trying to do his best.”

Pachulia warned for flop

Bucks center Zaza Pachulia received a league warning for flopping on a play in the Bucks’ victory over Boston on Friday.

Pachulia fell backward to the floor while drawing an offensive foul against Boston forward Jared Sullinger, who bumped the Bucks player while heading downcourt.

The first offense is merely a warning, but a second offense would bring a $5,000 fine under the league’s flopping rules. Each succeeding offense during the season carries a heftier fine.

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