Interior play has long been a source of frustration for the Milwaukee Bucks. Last season they made the decision to move on from the oft-injured Andrew Bogut as their centerpiece, opting to go with a youth movement inside that featured depth with Ersan Ilyasova, Ekpe Udoh, Larry Sanders and John Henson.
Bucks head coach Scott Skiles is still figuring out the rotation. As of right now Sanders and Udoh are his starters. Ilyasova originally was a starter after his breakout campaign last season, but he’s since been moved into a reserve role due to his early struggles.
“It is a little bit [tough],” Ilyasova said to HOOPSWORLD. “We got a lot of big guys in different spots. It’s hard to find room some times. It doesn’t really matter. Whenever I step out on the floor I just try to be myself and give 100 percent.”
After re-signing Ilyasova to a four-year, $45 million contract this offseason, the hope was that he would build on a career year from 2011-12. The expectations were high for him, but he’s not getting caught up in the fact that he’s coming up well short of them so far.
“I’m not even considering the pressure,” Ilyasova said. “The thing we is we do what we do everyday. We got a lot of new faces on the team and we just have to adjust to each other. We have a lot of games in front of us. We have to keep up the work.”
Things appear to be getting better for Ilyasova, who has scored 15, 17, and 21 respectively over the last week. Not coincidentally, the Bucks went 2-1 in those games, thanks partially to the much needed offensive boost from him.
“We have to share the ball more,” Ilyasova said. “Sometimes we really struggle to score the ball. We play good defense but at some point you have to score the ball to win the game. We struggle a little bit. We just have to share the ball more especially in the second half and down the stretch.”
While Ilyasova is starting to find himself, veteran center Samuel Dalembert is questioning the way he is being used. Dalembert, who is 31 years old and an expiring contract, hasn’t been seeing the kind of minutes he hoped for. He too has been moved from the starting lineup to the second unit. He’s playing just 16 minutes a night and providing six points, four rebounds and nearly two blocks during that time, but it’s not what he expected.
“It is not working,” Dalembert said. “It’s not quite, I thought my role would have been a little bit more. But, like I said it’s coaching and everybody is doing their best.
“Everybody just has to be ready when they call their name to produce. We have a lot of guys here and everybody is pretty much in the same place. We’re striving for minutes. When we get out there we support each other and the next teammate. We’re managing for the time being.”
The Bucks are Dalembert’s fourth team in as many seasons. With how much he’s moved around as of late, he acknowledges that another move before the end of this season is quite possible.
“It’s God’s will,” Dalembert said. “I just stay out there and maximize the time I get, make the best of it. With God’s will it will work out at some point.”
At 9-9 the Bucks are firmly in the hunt for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Their young talent and $15+ million in expiring contracts give them some assets to shop as the February trade deadline approaches. If their big men still aren’t playing off of each other well by then, changes could be made.