ST. FRANCIS – While John Henson stood on the sideline watching some of his Milwaukee Bucks teammates partake in a pickup game last Tuesday at the team’s practice facility, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
Bucks shooting guard Khris Middleton had just driven hard to the basket when he slipped on an apparent wet spot and crumbled to the floor, writhing in pain.
Henson realized something horrible had occurred.
“I knew it wasn’t good,” Henson said, shaking his head while recalling the incident.
No, it wasn’t. Middleton, arguably the Bucks’ best all-around player last season, had torn his left hamstring. At the team’s annual Media Day on Monday, Middleton revealed how severely he tore the hamstring.
“It tore completely off the bone,’’ Middleton said.
Middleton is expected to have surgery Wednesday in New York. It will be performed by Dr. David Altchek, the same surgeon who performed successful knee surgery on Bucks forward Jabari Parker on Jan. 5, 2015.
Bucks general manager John Hammond said Middleton will be sidelined approximately six months; Middleton wasn’t so sure about that.
“I’m going to listen to my doctors; I don’t want to rush back,’’ Middleton said.
Having surgery for a torn hamstring is rare. Several NBA officials said they didn’t know of any other NBA player who needed surgery for such an injury. In their estimation, Middleton is unlikely to play at all this season — and not return to action in March as the Bucks are speculating.
Middleton’s injury cast a pall over media day. The Bucks brass and Middleton’s teammates, while attempting to remain positive, readily acknowledged Middleton’s injury was a devastating blow for a team that hopes to make the playoffs after winning a mere 33 games last season.
“It sucks,’’ Parker said.
Middleton is coming off a breakout season in which he averaged a team-high 18.2 points, 4.2 assists and 1.7 steals. He was one of the Bucks’ legitimate 3-point shooting threats, having connected on 39.6 percent of his treys. He was also the Bucks’ best perimeter defender, usually asked to guard the opposition’s best wing player.
Point guard Giannis Antetokonmpo contends Middleton was poised to take his game to another level this season.
“He probably would have been an All-Star this year,’’ Antetokounmpo said.
So, where do the Bucks go from here?
Bucks coach Jason Kidd said Rashad Vaughn, who was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2015, would get the first crack at replacing Middleton in the starting lineup.
Kidd also added that Malcolm Brogdon, the team’s second-round draft pick in June, will also get some strong minutes. “It’s a great opportunity for Malcolm and for Vaughn,’’ Kidd said.
The Bucks also recently signed veteran free-agent Jason Terry, an outstanding long-range shooter who played well off the bench last season for the Houston Rockets.
Neither the 39-year-old Terry, Vaughn nor Brogdon appear capable of making the major impact the Bucks will need to be a playoff-caliber team. Furthermore, Hammond said there weren’t any quality free-agent wing players who could provide immediate relief.
Hammond said there is a possibility of acquiring a proven shooting guard via a trade. According to some league officials, the Bucks may look to deal veteran center Greg Monroe, and/or veteran guard Michael Carter-Williams, both of whom have long been rumored to be on the trading block. Another player who could be used as trade bait is Henson, who is a top-flight rim protector.
In the meantime, Middleton is bracing himself for the long road back to recovery.
“It was tough at first because I’ll be out for a couple of months,’’ Middleton said. “It could have been worse; it could have been a knee.
“Stuff like this happens. You got to stay mentally tough. I’ll be fine.’’
Kidd is usually tight-lipped about lineups, but he said that Monroe and Carter-Williams would be coming off the bench, at least for now. Monroe and Carter-Williams both opened last season as starters.
When asked his reaction to Kidd’s comments about coming off the bench, Monroe, who has been a starter for most of career, said, “That’s news to me.’’
Monroe later added, “When my number is called, I’ll be ready.’’
Terry said he didn’t want to publicly discuss whether he played any role in the team recently acquiring Michael Beasley, who has had a checkered career and who was his teammate late last season in Houston.
But then Terry, one of the most loquacious players in the NBA, fessed up and quipped, “I vouched for him.’’
The Bucks were a dismal defensive team last season and Kidd said he was part of the problem.
“Defensively, we took a step back and that falls on me,’’ Kidd said. “It starts with defense. We got to get stops this season.’’
The Bucks start training camp Tuesday in Madison and will stay there for about a week. Their first preseason game is Oct. 3 against the Bulls in Chicago. Their first regular-season game is Oct. 26 against Charlotte in Milwaukee.