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- Guard Gary Neal is playing his first game back in Milwaukee since being traded 3 1/2 weeks ago and saying some unkind things about his time with the Bucks. Among his comments were that he was back to playing “real basketball” as opposed to “whatever it is Milwaukee is attempting to do.” On Sunday morning Neal walked back those comments … a little bit. “I wasn’t saying anything against the Milwaukee Bucks,” Neal said. “I wasn’t saying anything against the players or the coaching staff. Basically, my comment was about me. I’m getting a chance to play, and as a basketball player that’s what you want. The opportunity to Charlotte came through for me and I came here and I’ve been able to play minutes. It wasn’t a disrespectful comment toward the Milwaukee Bucks organization or the coaching staff of the players, it was just a comment about me.” Neal’s brief time in Milwaukee also included a locker-room shouting match with Bucks center Larry Sanders in Phoenix Jan. 4. Bucks coach Larry Drew said he didn’t take any offense at Neal’s comment, and the two exchanged a greeting as Neal ran down the hallway for pregame warmup.
- Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova will not play as he remains hampered by a right ankle injury that dates back to the first preseason game. “I’m assuming that it is,” Drew said when asked if the ankle problem is still related to the injury in October. “I know he’s been nursing it. When you talk about those type of injuries, there are good days and bad days. Do they completely heal? I don’t know, because chances are that at some point you’ll tweak it again, or the constant pounding can cause things to linger on. That’s one of the last things you want when you’re dealing with that type of injury is for it to linger on for a long time. And apparently this is what’s happening.” John Henson will start in Ilyasova’s place.
- The Bucks are completing what is now an almost unheard of set of back-to-back games in today’s NBA — consecutive afternoon games. They played in a noon local start in New York on Saturday and today’s game is a noon start in Milwaukee. “I can’t even remember,” Drew said of the last time he was involved in consecutive noon games. “This is different. It’s a little easier after the first one. I’m also glad it was a road game and then a home game rather than the other way around.”
- The Bobcats are in the seventh spot in the East have been happy with the addition of Neal and Luke Ridnour. “They have been doing well,” coach Steve Clifford said. “They both are really professional guys, pick things up very quickly, fit in well in the locker room with the team and they have been getting better and better every game.” The Bucks acquired guard Ramon Sessions and forward Jeff Adrien in the deal, and Neal said he believes the trade has been good for both teams.
- It is now five weeks since Bucks center Larry Sanders had surgery on his fractured orbital. Drew still doesn’t know if Sanders will return at some point in the last few weeks of the season. “I think it’s too early to tell,” Drew said. “Right now I don’t have an update on where he is. I’m sure we’ll be talking about it in the next few days as far as will he return or won’t he return.”
– Rick Braun