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MILWAUKEE — As Bobby Portis left the living room at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena Monday night, he wore a smile on his face as he weaved through teammates and Bucks employees to reach the narrow exit by the door. He knew he had to do a little campaigning.

Yahoo! Sportswriter Vincent Goodwill, whom Portis got to know well with the Chicago Bulls, mentioned the Sixth Man of the Year award, so Portis made his case. Once he got started, Portis was hard to stop.

But in the end the campaign ended. Portis then fielded a few questions from the assembled reporters about the right knee injury he suffered early in the fourth quarter that forced the Bucks to pull him out of the game.

“I don’t even know,” Portis said when asked what happened to his right leg. “I know someone just stepped on my leg. And that was it. I’ll be fine though.”

Although Portis was confident that he was not seriously injured immediately after the game, further examination revealed otherwise. Athletic Shams Charania reported that Portis will miss some time with a sprained right MCL. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has since reported it was a Grade 2 MCL sprain.

Following the injury report this morning, the Bucks released their medical update on Portis.

Portis’ recovery time depends entirely on the severity of the MCL sprain. Players tend to take four to six weeks to recover from a Grade 2 MCL sprain, but further details emerging in the coming days and weeks will help decipher just how long Portis will miss.

What are some comparable situations around the league?

It’s hard to get any kind of diagnosis based on video alone, but here was the play in the fourth quarter where the injury happened.

Portis suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain in October 2018 with the Bulls. He didn’t return to the floor again until Dec. 10, 47 days after the initial injury. There are different levels of severity even with different degrees of sprain, and every injury is different. But it’s notable that it took Portis nearly seven weeks to recover from his latest Grade 2 right MCL tear.

Nets forward Kevin Durant is the most famous player to be injured recently. Durant suffered a torn MCL in his right knee against the Heat on Jan. 8 when Jimmy Butler fell on his leg after a layup attempt. The Nets said they would re-evaluate Durant after two weeks, which they did on Monday, and now they are set to re-evaluate him in another two weeks, with Durant hoping to return before the 2023 NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 19. So Durant will almost certainly miss at least four weeks.

Bucks fans may recall that Khris Middleton suffered a torn left MCL last season when he tripped while attempting a spin move in the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the Bucks’ first-round opener against Chicago on April 20. One day after the injury. happened, the Bucks announced they would reevaluate Middleton’s injury in two weeks. On May 5, with the Bucks and Celtics tied 1-1 in their second-round series, the Bucks announced that Middleton “continues to make steady progress” in his injury recovery and that further updates would be provided as needed. However, another renewal never happened as the Bucks were eliminated from the playoffs on May 15 by the Celtics.

On May 16, Middleton spoke to reporters and revealed that the severity of his injury is “correct” at a Grade 2 sprain. While Middleton wanted to play in Games 6 and 7, he said the team’s medical staff felt it was too much of a risk for him to play. There’s no way to know when Middleton will play next, but missing the entire second-round series meant Middleton missed at least four weeks with a sprained MCL.

What does Portis give the Bucs?

Portis has been one of the Bucks’ most consistent performers this season.

He was one of two players to play in the Bucks’ first 47 games and averaged 14.4 points and 10.1 rebounds in 26.8 minutes per contest. Portis is one of 13 NBA players to average a double-double this season, and the only one to do so mostly off the bench (he’s started just 14 games).

On a nightly basis, coach Mike Budenholzer knew his 27-year-old center would always bring energy, physicality to the glass and scoring punch off the bench. Portis handled the Bucs’ backup minutes at both forward and center, allowing Bundholzer to use his preferred three-man rotation.

With Middleton missing all but eight games with wrist and knee injuries, Budenholzer also used Portis to create shots. Portis has always been able to create his own looks while on the block, but the Bucks asked him to create more shots for others, resulting in a career-high 1.9 assists per game. It may not have always led to beautiful, beautiful basketball sequences, but Portis’ isolation and post-up possessions helped the Bucks get enough good stuff to stay afloat offensively at times.

While Portis has been consistent, things haven’t been perfect for him this season. After being one of the NBA’s best players in his first two seasons with the Bucks, Portis hasn’t shot the ball very well from deep this season. Shooting 47.1 percent on 2.4 3-point attempts per game in 2020-21, his first season in Milwaukee, Portis nearly doubled his attempts per game (4.7) last season while still shooting 39.3 percent from deep. This season, however, without Middleton commanding defensive attention, Portis has shot just 34.1 percent on 3.6 attempts from 3 per game. Opponents have made it a priority to keep him outside the 3-point line, as the Celtics did last season in the playoffs, and force him to take different shots from the 3-point line.

How can the Bucks cover for Portis with players already on the roster?

Milwaukee will likely miss his size and all that goes with it.

This type of injury is why the Bucks re-signed Serge Ibaka in the offseason. After having to cycle through free agent big men last season when Brook Lopez was sidelined with a back injury, general manager Jon Horst didn’t want to face the same problem if either Portis or Lopez got hurt this season. Right now, though, Ibaka won’t be much help unless the Bucks can convince him to rejoin the team; he and Bucks recently agreed to find a new home for him through a trade.

If the Bucks don’t bring back Ibaka, they will have to move forward with smaller options. While Giannis Antetokounmpo and Budenholzer prefer to save a heavy small-ball diet for the postseason so Antetokounmpo doesn’t wear out, the Bucks could opt to play Antetokounmpo more at center and introduce Joe Ingles or Pat Connaughton at power forward. compositions.

“I’ve still found ways to play bigger than I am and I think coach Budd does a great job of using me in different areas,” Connaughton said after Wednesday’s shootaround when asked about playing outside of Portis. about the possibility. “Playing the four is nothing new to me, and when you make a screen and you roll, Jrue (Holliday) and I, Giannis and I, we all have some continuity when I screen now, it’s not just about catching up. edge and finish, it’s about being a playmaker and I think that’s where I can be the most dangerous. You cut guys, you got shooters around me.”

Lopez and I always joke about it,” Connaughton continued. “I’m probably the shortest guy that rolls (in the pick-and-roll), but causes the most damage to the defense when I get out in the pick-and-roll. It’s nice to be in that situation and it’s a situation where no matter where I play, I’ll try to make the most impact.”

Like Connaughton, Ingles is no stranger to playing power forward. Positional evaluations based on data from Cleaning the Glass show that Eagles has spent nearly half of his time at power forward in his last three seasons with the Jazz, but only 41 percent of his time with the Bucks thus far.

Total minutes % time in PF










2022-23 (Bucks)

321 year


With Portis back, the Bucks could give Ingles more opportunities at small forward or any lineup configurations they want to try before the postseason.

If the Bucks don’t want to use smaller lineups, they could give two-way player Sandro Mamukelashvili more trial. The 23-year-old out of Seton Hall is playing more forward than center in his second season with the Bucks, but Budenholzer used him at the 5 last season as the team struggled to stay afloat without Lopez (back injury ) and may repeat the same to cover minutes over the next few weeks.

In a sense, Middleton could be the player who most closely fills the void left by Portis, even if their positions don’t overlap. Without Middleton, the Bucks relied on Portis to score every night and used Portis’ offensive prowess to lead backup units when Antetokounmpo was rested. Without Portis, Middleton should be able to take over those scoring duties as he is used to playing more minutes.

Should they try to trade for help?

While the Bucks likely have an idea of ​​how much time Portis will miss, they don’t share the severity of his MCL sprain, which makes it difficult to gauge what they really need to survive his absence. With Portis out for just a few weeks, the Bucks can probably survive without adding backup big men to their list of potential trade deadline targets.

But if it takes longer than that, as can be expected with a Grade 2 rash, Horst could look to add a big man via trade.

The Bucks currently have a full roster, so they can’t currently sign a free agent center if they want to continue trying to fill Portis’ spot. If they can’t convince Ibaka to return to the team, maybe Horst will move him to another team that also has a disgruntled big man. Or, with the value of big men dwindling around the league, maybe the Bucks could find a suitable backup big man to take a few weeks of playing time in exchange for a second-round pick.

There’s also the possibility of completing a Jae Crowder-like trade, even if he’s not a traditional big man. The Bucks have been linked to Crowder by our Shams Charania since the start of this season, when the Suns agreed to let Crowder stay away from the team as they tried to find a suitable deal for the 32-year-old forward. In October, we ironed out potential transaction complications that involved overlap with Ingles and Connaughton. Without Portis on the floor for a few weeks, however, some of those complications dissipate as the Bucs can use another body and then choose to play smaller units for Portis.

(Bobby Portis photo by Benny Siu/USA Today)



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