Carlos Delfino is either very happy or wincing in pain. Maybe both. (Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports)
The Milwaukee Bucks brought back swingman Carlos Delfino this offseason for a number of reasons — to man the wing, add some veteran leadership and competitive fire to a perpetually-stuck-in-the-middle Bucks team, and serve as a secondary ball-handler alongside recently acquired point guards Brandon Knight, Luke Ridnour and Nate Wolters. Most of all, though, they returned him to Wisconsin to space the floor by hoisting copious amounts of 3-point shots. Unfortunately, however, new head coach Larry Drew and company will have to wait to see the 31-year-old Argentinian rise and fire (and then do it again, and again, and again).
Delfino showed up to the Bucks' Monday Media Day session with his right foot in a walking boot, and has reportedly been ruled out indefinitely as he recovers from an injury that apparently occurred earlier than most realized, according to Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Delfino fractured a bone in his right foot in Game 5 of the Rockets' first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City in May, when he dunked over Thunder star Kevin Durant. But Delfino said he played with a hairline fracture in the foot for more than a month at the end of the season.
"I had a fracture five months ago and I had surgery," Delfino said. "I had a little setback the last couple days.
Andrew Gruman of FOX Sports Wisconsin has more on the injury:
"I don't really like to talk about this injury because I was playing injured for a month," Delfino said. "Most of the injury was probably my fault because I tried to play five or six weeks with a fractured bone in my foot ... I tried to dunk and it just cracked."
Was the dunk worth it? You tell me:
Delfino said the Bucks "don't have a timeframe" for his return, that subsequent tests would give the team more information "in the next couple days," and that he "can't wait to get on the court." But wait he must, and if he's out for most of training camp — likely, according to Gruman — that will leave the Bucks a little thinner than they'd like on the wing heading into the season.
Milwaukee general manager John Hammond took a step toward addressing the team's need on the wing in late August by swinging a deal with the Phoenix Suns for veteran small forward and hometown hero Caron Butler, and the hard-nosed veteran certainly ought to help soften the blow of extended time without Delfino's services. That said, though, the 11-year veteran's days of logging heavy minutes appear to be well in the rear-view mirror at this point — after averaging more than 37 minutes of nightly burn for four straight seasons between 2006 and 2010, the 33-year-old Butler saw a career-low 24.1 minutes per game for the Los Angeles Clippers last season.
That could result in Drew reaching down the bench for young, unproven commodities like rising sophomore Khris Middleton (acquired in the trade that landed Knight in exchange for former starting point guard Brandon Jennings) or, most intriguingly, 18-year-old rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo. Hammond has said that the team's plan would be "to expose him, but not overexpose him," but that was before training camp and before Delfino's setback; should the veteran's injury prove a persistent problem, the raw but undeniably fascinating first-round pick out of Greece whom the Bucks have trumpeted as an integral part of their future could become a bigger part of the present than anyone anticipated. (I mean, jeez, look at all that frontcourt length.)
Drew could also look toward bigger frontcourt groupings featuring combinations of Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson, Ekpe Udoh and Zaza Pachulia; such lineups might be offensively awkward, especially if Ilyasova's floor-spacing shooting runs cold, but could be strong enough defensively and active enough in transition to work for stretches against big opposition. Likewise, guard-heavy lineups featuring multiple ball-handlers capable of sharing (if not always brilliantly executing) defensive responsibilities on several positions — the likes of Knight, Ridnour, and offseason additions O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal — could help ease the pressure while Milwaukee shakes out its wing rotations.
There are options, to be sure, but none quite so comfortable as having a known quantity available to split the load at the three spot, add playmaking to a team that might be in desperate need of it and has the kind of big-stage international experience that helps make him a confident late-game shot-taker on a team with relatively few of those. For a Bucks team looking to resume rolling the boulder back up the mountain toward a lower-tier Eastern Conference playoff seed, getting Delfino back in working order as soon as possible is a bigger deal than you might think.
Hat-tip to Eye on Basketball.
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