Ersan Ilyasova was the Milwaukee Bucks’ best all-around player last season.
Over the summer, he was duly compensated, becoming one of the team’s highest-paid players.
Yet, that means little to Bucks coach Scott Skiles these days.
Skiles said Friday he has no intention of increasing Ilyasova’s playing time to last year’s level in an attempt to snap him out of his early-season funk
Ilaysova consistently played over 30 minutes a game the last couple of months last season and responded by having a breakout year. He averaged nearly a double-double with 13 points and 8.8 rebounds.
The Bucks brass then rewarded him a lucrative five-year, $40 million dollar deal, fully believing Ilyasova would be one of the cornerstones of their team.
But through the first 10 games this season, Ilyasova is averaging just 6.3 points and 4.7 rebounds. He is shooting a meager 31 percent from the field.
Ilyasova is also averaging just 22.5 minutes a game. That pales in comparison to the team’s starting backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, who are each averaging 36 minutes a game despite each shooting 40 percent from the field.
So far this season, Ilyasova has played more than 30 minutes on just one occasion this season. He has been on the court 17 and 16 minutes the last two games.
I asked Skiles after practice Friday if ramping up Ilyasova’s minutes could perhaps bring him out of his slump and get him back on track.
“It could, but I’m not going to do that at the expense of the team,” Skiles said. “I’ve got other players that are productive right now. I got to think about the whole team.
“He’s got to work himself out of it with the minutes he has and not use that as an excuse because that’s what it is: an excuse.”
Ilyasova, in an interview last week, emphasized he wasn’t making any excuses for his subpar play this season. Ilyasova said he needed to keep working and find “his rhythm.” He further noted that Skiles’ rotations were more definitive last season compared to this season when he has used various combinations.
But Skiles, who is in the last year of his contract, isn’t buying that and said the onus is on Ilyasova to produce no matter how minutes he’s allotted. Specifically, Skiles said Ilyasova needs to iron out the kinks in his shooting mechanics.
“He’s got to get his body set, get back to the fundamentals of how you shoot and stay with it,” Skiles said. “He’s fading (on his shot) quite a bit now, He’s taken some shots where he’s four steps back and his arm is down by his side before the ball is even half way to the rim. That ball’s not going to go in that way.”
While most observers are surprised by Ilyasova’s struggles, Skiles indicated he wasn’t.
“You have to look a guy’s total career, his career percentage versus a one-year percentage or a six-month percentage,” Skiles said of Ilyasova, a career 44 percent shooter from the field. “I don’t think his start is indicative of either one of them. It’s not indicative of what he’s done in the past or certainly not what he did last year.
“He’s got to work himself out of it,”
Off the mark
Jennings and Ellis haven’t shot the ball well either, especially from beyond the arc. In the last two games, both Bucks’ losses, Jennings and Ellis have combined to make just 3 of 22 3-pointers.
Monta Ellis went 2 for 10 in those games and Brandon Jennings was 1 for 12. For the season, Jennings is shooting 30 percent on 3s and Ellis is shooting 21 percent.
Skiles didn’t have any major concerns about their ineffective shooting.
“They’re taking pretty good shots,” said Skiles, whose team hosts his former team, the Chicago Bulls Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. “They haven’t taken the ill-advised, early-in-the-clock or when your-feet-aren’t set 3s. They just haven’t gone in.
“We have to make sure we get a fair amount of shots inside the line as well and yet the 3-point shot is a big weapon in today’s NBA. If you’re not making them, it is difficult to win. Our perimeter shooting in both of the last two games hasn’t been what it needs to be.”