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Bucks' Villanueva expects to play tonight despite stiff neck

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McClatchy-Tribune
October 17, 2008

Milwaukee Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva suffered a stiff neck in a collision with Golden State's Al Harrington in the opener of the NBA China Games on Wednesday in Guangzhou.


But Villanueva was able to practice today and said he thought he would be able to play when the teams meet again at the Olympic venue in Beijing. The game will air live on ESPN2 at 10:30 tonight (Milwaukee time), which is Saturday morning in Beijing.


"When it happened, it was a stinger and went down to my shoulders," Villanueva said of the injury, which occurred early in the third quarter. "It was very stiff, so we just shut it down. But I've iced it and put heat on it, and it's feeling better."


The Bucks (1-4) gained their first victory of the exhibition schedule on Wednesday as they rallied to beat the Warriors, 98-94.


"It was very good to get a victory," Villanueva said. "As we get closer to the regular season, the starters are playing more minutes, and that's something we need."


Forward Richard Jefferson scored 13 points in 43 minutes against the Warriors.


"For me, it's really about trying to get everything ready for the season," Jefferson said. "But (the victory) was more for the team and trying to get the mentality right."


A sellout crowd of more than 13,000 watched the first National Basketball Association game in Guangzhou, and news reports in China said courtside seats were selling for as much as 2800 yuan ($410 each).


"The fans have been great," Villanueva said. "When we had Yi (Jianlian), that gave us a lot of exposure in the Asian community. And even though Yi is no longer with us, we still have support."


Bucks forward Joe Alexander, who was born in Taiwan and later lived for nearly six years in Beijing, has proved to be a favorite with Chinese fans during the team's trip. The 6-foot-8 rookie scored 11 points and played a key role in the Bucks' rally in the tour opener.


The Bucks were the home team in Guangzhou. In Beijing, the roles will be reversed and Golden State will serve as the home team.


After the game, the Bucks will head to the airport and leave on a charter flight around 5 p.m. Beijing time. They will arrive in Milwaukee around 5 p.m. Saturday.



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