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BUCKS BEAT: Drew facing daunting task

BUCKS BEAT: Drew facing daunting task


Larry Drew couldn’t have seen this coming.

Nobody could.

When Drew became the Milwaukee Bucks head coach in May, he fully realized his job wouldn’t be easy. After all, the Bucks were in the midst of a massive makeover.

By the time the Bucks played their regular-season opener Oct. 30 against the Knicks in New York, there were 11 new players on the roster — a league high.

If that wasn’t daunting enough, Drew had to deal with a rash of injuries. The Bucks resembled a M.A.S.H. unit. Now, 23 games into the season, they still do. Seldom, if ever, has there been a more injury-ravaged Bucks team.

Without a full complement of healthy players, Drew has been forced to use 12 different starting lineups. What’s more, Drew has had to use:

* four different starting point guards: Brandon Knight, Nate Wolters, Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal.

* four different starting centers: Larry Sanders, Zaza Pachulia, Ekpe Udoh and John Henson.

* four different starting power forwards: Ersan Ilyasova, Caron Butler, Henson and Udoh.

The only starter who has avoided the injury bug has been O.J. Mayo, who has started 22 of 23 games at shooting guard.

Unfortunately for Drew, the Bucks won’t be close to being at full strength for a while. Sanders is expected to be sidelined for a few more weeks (if he isn’t traded) because of a broken hand suffered in a nightclub brawl. Ilyasova has been plagued by bad ankles and said they aren’t getting better. Caron Butler has a swollen knee and will be out indefinitely, Zaza Pachulia has a fractured bone in his foot and will have his status reevaluated in four weeks, Gary Neal is battling plantar fasciitis, a malady he’s had since last season while playing for San Antonio and Luke Ridnour is coping with back and knee issues.

Is it any wonder why the Bucks have little on-court chemistry? Is it any wonder why they are one of the worst teams in the league?

Drew, who broke into the NBA as a rookie guard for the Detroit Pistons in 1980, claims he’s never seen a team decimated by injuries this early in the season.

“I have never seen anything like this,” Drew said. “We limped into this at the start of training camp and there’s been a snowball effect.”

As difficult as it has been for Drew, he has maintained an upbeat, positive outlook.

“I believe everything happens for a reason,” Drew said. “That’s my philosophy.”

Drew then paused, smiled and added, “We’ll see what this reason is.”

DELFINO UPDATE: Carlos Delfino hasn’t been with the team for a while and is in his homeland of Argentina, where he is expected to have surgery on his right foot today.

Delfino, who signed with the Bucks as a free agent over the summer, hurt during last season’s playoffs while playing for Houston, Sources said Delfino has a tiny bone in his foot that hasn’t properly healed since his first surgery last May.

CENTER OF ATTENTION: The Houston Rockets are shopping Omer Asik and several teams are quite interested in acquiring one of the league’s elite defensive centers.

With Sanders’ future in Milwaukee uncertain, some NBA officials believe Asik would be a good fit for the Bucks. What’s more, the Rockets have had more than a passing interest in Ilyasova, an outstanding perimeter shooter who would nicely complement Rockets center Dwight Howard.

The talk is Philadelphia is the front-runner in the Asik sweepstakes, with two of the Western Conference’s top teams — Oklahoma City and Portland — in the mix as well.

While Asik would certainly help a lot of teams, acquiring him wouldn’t come without a cost. He is due to be paid $15 million next season.

GRIZZLIES GETTING ANTSY?: The Memphis Grizzlies’ decision to not retain Lionel Hollins isn’t looking so good these days. The Grizzlies are 10-12 after going 56-26 under Hollins last season.

The Grizzlies may not be in a panic mode but they are gauging interest for veteran power forward Zach Randolph who, at 32, is still a beast, averaging 15.9 points and 9.2 rebounds.

The Bucks have shown interest in Randolph in the past but would they now?

A more likely destination for Randolph may be New Orleans. There is internal pressure on the Pelicans to make the playoffs this season and Randolph, paired rising star Anthony Davis, would give New Orleans one of the most potent frontcourts in the league.

SPECIAL TALENT: How good is Jabari Parker, Duke’s gifted freshman small forward?

An NBA player recently told me he played against Parker while the latter was a junior in high school in Chicago and felt Parker was talented enough then to start for several NBA teams.


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