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Middleton eager to shake off rust in season debut with Bucks

Gary Dineen / National Basketball Association / Getty

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton acknowledges he may need some time to adjust as the three-time All-Star gets ready to play his first NBA game in about 7 ½ months.

Middleton plans to make his 2022-23 debut Friday night when the Bucks host the Los Angeles Lakers. He's been recovering from offseason surgery on his left wrist, and the Bucks’ injury report lists him as probable.

“I feel fresh for the most part, but as far as rust, I know that’s still probably going to be there,” Middleton said after the morning shootaround. “So even though I’ll try to shake as much of that as you can off, it’s hard to simulate an NBA basketball game. The style’s just different. The tempo’s different. The rhythm, everything involved. Hopefully I adjust quickly. I’ll lean on my teammates a lot to help me through.”

Middleton, 31, hasn’t played since spraining the medial collateral ligament in his left knee April 20 in Game 2 of the Bucks’ first-round playoff series with the Chicago Bulls. That injury caused him to miss the entirety of the Bucks’ Eastern Conference semifinal with the Boston Celtics, a series Milwaukee lost in seven games.

The 6-foot-7 forward then had wrist surgery in the summer, having played through the injury late last season.

“I don’t think it was anything I shouldn’t have played through or tried to,” Middleton said. “It was just something I was going to have to deal with and get fixed at some time.”

The Bucks have gone 15-5 in Middleton’s absence and are second in the Eastern Conference standings, two games behind the Boston Celtics. He'll attempt to follow up on a 2021-22 season in which he averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists.

“Maybe a little bit longer than I expected, but things happen sometimes in life where you’ve just got to adjust and adapt and deal with it,” Middleton said. “I’m just glad that I am back tonight rather than a couple more weeks later.”

Middleton also had surgery on his left hamstring in fall 2016 and played just 29 games in the 2016-17 season.

Lakers coach Darvin Ham makes his return to Milwaukee on Friday, too. He was an assistant coach on Mike Budenholzer’s Bucks staff from 2018-22.


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