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When given the choice Deion Sanders Jersey Limited , the Milwaukee Bucks will always prefer to have Giannis Antetokounmpo on the court closing out tight games.
They’re still winning while the All-Star forward rests a sore right ankle, a good sign for a team jockeying for playoff seeding in the East.
Coach Joe Prunty said it was too early to determine Antetokounmpo’s status for the regular-season finale Wednesday at Philadelphia, though he liked what he saw at practice. The NBA’s fourth-leading scorer (27.1 points) has missed the last two games because of the ankle injury.
”The bottom line is that it’s progressing, that’s the positive,” Prunty said after practice Tuesday.
A win over the 76ers allows the Bucks to clinch the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. A loss means that they could fall as low as eighth, depending on how the Washington Wizards fare over their last two games.
Without Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee has beaten 50-loss teams in the New York Knicks and Orlando Magic. It’s a positive since the Bucks have been prone at times to playing down to the level of their opponents, especially those that can hit 3s.
Prunty’s team appears to be getting closer to full strength after winning three of their last four games, and five of their last seven. But the medical report has kept Prunty busy fielding questions about how much time injured players need to regain chemistry with the rest of the team.
Guard Malcolm Brogdon is working back into the rotation after the 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year followed a 30-game absence with a left quad injury. Brogdon appears to be fine after he played 14 minutes in his return his return Monday in the win over Orlando, Prunty said, and should play Wednesday.
Guard Matthew Dellavedova is also trying to come back from a sprained right ankle that has kept him out for two months.
”It does make it difficult Joe Thomas Jersey Elite , because you look at last night – Malcolm plays, but he’s not out there with Giannis, so that timing is going to be a little off,” Prunty said. ”But we are where are. We’ve got to find a way to make it work, and we will.”
Prunty does have other healthy proven scoring options in forwards Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker, along with point guard Eric Bledsoe. Parker is back to averaging about 30 minutes a night, two months after returning from a left knee injury.
Bledsoe is shooting about 50 percent from 3-point range over the last seven games, giving defenders the difficult decision of whether to play him more tightly at the perimeter at the risk of letting him blow past them on the dribble. Prunty especially likes the way that Bledsoe has been running the offense of late.
”We definitely know we can’t win the whole thing without (Antetokounmpo). But at the same time, we’ve got a lot of confident guys in the room,” Bledsoe said. ”We’re trying to get everybody on the same page because we’re going to need everybody.”
The value Saints coach Sean Payton sees in Benjamin Watson has little to do with the career-best receiving numbers the veteran tight end put up the last time he played for New Orleans in 2015.
Watson wasn’t a featured receiver then, and won’t likely be this season Jimmy Garoppolo Jersey , either.
Payton figures he can count on Watson being an exemplary leader in the locker room, a willing role player who’ll rarely blow an assignment – and someone who remains skilled enough at age 37 to help Drew Brees punish defenses that pay too much attention to star play-makers such as receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara.
Recalling a 2015 game in which Watson caught 10 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown against Atlanta, Payton said, ”I don’t know that the game plan called for that. It’s kind of just how it unfolded.”
”With Ben, you know he’s someone that has versatility and he’s a super teammate,” Payton said. ”He’s been a real dependable player. … You know exactly what you’re getting and there’s a value in that.”
Similarly, Watson said it would be too simplistic to view his 2015 receiving numbers – 74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns – as a main reason for his return to New Orleans after two years with Baltimore.
”I don’t know what to expect. Every year is different,” Watson said after a voluntary offseason practice on Thursday. ”Even when I was here the last time … I was here three years and my role was different every single year.
”You contribute in different ways. You’re healthy or not healthy. Another guy’s healthy or not healthy. You may be strong in one position and weaker in other positions,” Watson said. ”There’s just this mix that happens every single year and you really don’t know what it is, really, until the end of the year.”
While Watson joined the Ravens in 2016 Jimmy Garoppolo Jersey Youth , he missed that season because of a right Achilles tear. He came back last season, playing in all 16 games and catching 61 passes for 522 yards and four TDs.
”I proved last year that I can be dependable, that I can play the game and that I can contribute in a number of different ways,” said Watson, who signed a one-year, million free agent contract with the Saints in late March. ”That’s why you sign guys to your team.”
Watson has attended two of three voluntary practices open to media so far this offseason and doesn’t seem to have lost the chemistry he’d developed with quarterback Drew Brees, whom Watson calls ”No. 9.”
Watson does not describe himself as the type of dynamic play-maker who’ll be Brees’ No. 1 option on a lot of plays called, but added, ”When you got a guy like No. 9 who can identify mismatches and knows what the coverage is going to do before it does it, then you get the ball.”
Watson began his career with New England, which made him a late-first-round draft choice out of Georgia in 2004. He was a Super Bowl champion as a seldom-used rookie Clay Matthews Jersey Youth , but hasn’t won a ring since establishing himself as an NFL regular.
Watson views his return to New Orleans as a chance to join a contender, something the Saints weren’t when he last played for them in 2015.
Last season, boosted by a core of rookies and second-year players in prominent roles, the Saints came one play away from advancing to the NFC championship game.
”It’s about going places where not only do you have some familiarity – you enjoyed being there – but also giving yourself an opportunity to win,” Watson said. ”Winning is a big deal. It doesn’t happen for a lot of players over the course of their career.”
With the Saints, Watson said, ”You have the coaching staff, you have the front office, you have the fan base, you have the quarterback. … That’s definitely made coming to New Orleans very attractive.”
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