For a team like the Bucks, still trying to forge some sort of identity, losing a star player like Michael Redd could deal a serious blow to any sort of playoff hopes.
Redd was lost for the remainder of the season after tearing cartilage in his left knee Saturday night against Sacramento. While head coach Scott Skiles will have to piece-meal his roster to fill the gap left by the shooting guard -- who was averaging a team-best 21.2 points per game this season -- he's been down this road before.
Redd missed 14 games early in the season thanks to a badly-sprained ankle. That experience will go a long way in helping the Bucks stay on course in the second half of the season.
"Maybe it's possible that Michael (missing) those 14 games will benefit us right now," Skiles said Monday night before the Bucks took on Minnesota. "We've at least experienced it this year. The fact that we're in the playoff hunt and all that and played without him one other time, it may soften the blow a little bit."
Milwaukee played fairly well during that early stretch, going 5-9. Reserve players were able to see an increase in minutes and get a chance to show the coach, as well as general manager John Hammond, what they're capable of doing if given the opportunity.
"Things like this can give us a real good handle on our team," Hammond said. "They can give us a handle on the players that we've inherited and the players that we've brought in and decide which players we can move forward with."
Ramon Sessions, a former second-round draft pick that saw his minutes grow late last season, may have benefitted the most from Redd's absence. With Charlie Bell also sidelined with a nagging ankle injury, Sessions found himself in the regular rotation and made the most of his opportunity.
Skiles paired sessions with Luke Ridnour in the backcourt, even though both were capable of playing the point. Normally that would cause a matchup problem, as point guards are traditionally smaller players, but Sessions' size allowed Skiles to improvise.
"Ramon's not small. He did a nice job off the ball," Skiles said. "He did a nice job when he had the ball in his hands."
Starting Monday night against Minnesota, Sessions led the Bucks with 18 points in a 90-83 loss.
No matter who takes Redd's place, there will be big shoes to fill. Redd started all but one of the 33 games he appeared in this season.
It'll be up to the rest of the team now to pick up the slack offensively. Attention -- especially for opposing defenses -- will likely shift to Richard Jefferson. The veteran forward, acquired in a draft day trade last summer, is second to Redd with 17.3 points per game.
"We definitely have options," Skiles said. "We need to be flexible. We may start this way for a little bit and we may change, depending on the games. We may need a little more size back there at some point."
As strange as it may sound, losing Redd for the season may be easier to handle than having him out for a couple of weeks. While it's never a good thing to lose one of the game's leading scorers, it's easier to plan long-term on how to handle the situation when there is a sense of certainty.
If a player is out two to four weeks, it's difficult to establish a player in a new role, and then have to send him back to the bench when the regular returns.
"What's the old saying? ‘The best answer is always yes and the second-best answer is a definite no,'" Hammond said. "The worst thing you can have is ‘well, maybe.'
"There's no maybe here. This is a definite no. We're not going to have him back. I think, to a certain extent, you can move forward with this."
In moving forward, Hammond doesn't expect to make a blockbuster trade to fill Redd's spot on the roster. As a max-contract player, adding on extra salary would be difficult, considering the Bucks' salary-cap position. In addition, most NBA trades are made with close to even salaries on both ends of a deal; it's unlikely the Bucks can put together a package that pricey.
Redd had also been the subject of frequent trade rumors, but trades involving injured players -- especially with Redd's salary -- just don't happen in the NBA. Hammond, though, plans to keep an open ear.
"It's not that easy (to make a trade)," Hammond said. "Our plans do not change with the Michael Redd injury. We continue to explore everything we possibly can to make our team better. If something presents itself, we'll do that. If not, we'll stand pat."
Bogut close to return: Andrew Bogut missed Monday night's game against Minnesota as he continues to recover from a series of back spasms. He worked out a little bit during the Bucks' Monday-morning shoot around and Skiles is hopeful that he may be ready to go Wednesday night in Indiana.
"He'll sleep on it tonight and see how it feels tomorrow," Skiles said. "If he feels like it, he'll we'll have a practice tomorrow and for the first time, he'll be able to bang some bodies. I doubt he'll go through the whole practice, but he'll do some of that, see how he weathers it and we'll shoot for Wednesday."