Derrick Favors drops in a layup vs. Toronto

Derrick Favors likely to return to action vs. Bucks

by Jim Eichenhofer

MILWAUKEE – There is considerable excitement among New Orleans players about the eventual return to the court by No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson – something Lonzo Ball addressed after practice Tuesday – but the Duke product isn’t the only sidelined Pelican the team has greatly missed. Starting center Derrick Favors’ interior defense, rebounding and experience are a few of the traits New Orleans (6-18) would’ve certainly benefited from during an active nine-game losing streak, a stretch that includes six single-digit losses. Favors did not participate in any of those defeats, having last played Nov. 16 due to back spasms and then for personal reasons, following the death of his mother.

However, it’s possible Favors will be on the floor Wednesday, when New Orleans visits Milwaukee (21-3) at 8:30 p.m. Central on ESPN. The 10-year veteran joined the Pelicans on the team bench during Monday’s game in the Smoothie King Center and practiced Tuesday with his teammates.

“I think he’s going to play,” fifth-year head coach Alvin Gentry said. “That’s the plan right now. He practiced today, but he seemed to be OK.”

New Orleans ranks 28th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, but Favors has only played in nine of the team’s 24 games. The Pelicans are also just 24th in rebounding percentage, having been without their leading board man (Favors averages 8.9 per game) for the past 3.5 weeks. The Pelicans have been consistently outrebounded on a game-by-game basis during that span.

“He can control our defense, he’s a good rim protector,” Gentry said of Favors’ impact when he returns to action. “Obviously, our rebounding will go up. The last (full) game he played, he had 20 points and 20 rebounds (vs. the Clippers on Nov. 14). We don’t expect him to have 20 points, 20 rebounds (every game), but he just gives us that veteran presence.”

New Orleans is also one of the younger teams in the NBA, with eight players under the age of 25. Favors has the third-most years of NBA experience on the roster as well, trailing only JJ Redick (14) and Jrue Holiday (11). New Orleans won two of the last three full games Favors played, with the only loss coming by six points vs. a very good Houston team.

“It definitely helps,” Ball said of Favors returning. “A big man in this league that knows what he’s doing. A great vet. He’s going to help us on defense for sure, being in the paint. On offense, we can throw it into him as well.”

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