Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova returns to the line-up on Thursday in London against the New York Knicks and has said that he will wear a protective face mask as he is still feeling the effects of a broken nose suffered on December 3 against Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Turkish international has had to battle injuries for the most of 2014. He missed the FIBA World Cup due to an ankle injury and after the game against Charlotte; he was sidelined due to a concussion.
Ilyasova though looked good in the lunchtime practice session. He was sharp, made quick decisions, had an accurate jumper from outside and was strong when used as the team’s post-up defender.
“I feel much better as I’ve practiced for a whole week,” he said. “I couldn’t practice before because of the concussion it’s one of those things where I’m getting headaches and stuff but I’m fine and this is my second practice where I’ve playing one-on-one but it’ll be tough tomorrow, as it’s my first game I will try to come out and see what I have.”
Despite being out and even unable to practice until just recently has not slowed the 27-year-old down though. The near 10-hour journey across to England has been phased out and the only thing on Ilyasova’s mind is court time tomorrow.
“Our schedule before this trip we were playing four games in five days, a lot of back-to-backs,” Ilyasova said. “But it’s good timing for me as we have a couple of days of practice so I can see myself and where I am, and so far, so good.”
The forward will however continue to wear the protective mask that he donned in his last game before the turn of the year. He rose to worldwide fame in 2010 for wearing the same mask, while playing for Turkey at the world championships.
He led the national side to a silver medal, averaging 13.4 points and 7.6 rebounds a game.
“It’s one of those things,” Ilyasova smiled. “I got hit right on the nose and the first thing I get in that Cleveland game in December and that’s why I had surgery so that I get my nose back together but yeah, I should wear the mask I guess.”
Ilyasova’s big game at those world championships was against neighbours Greece. Team-mate and Greek international Giannis Antetokounmpo was 15-years-old at the time and has fond memories of his own international experience at last summer’s FIBA World Cup. He believes that Ilyasova will be a welcome return to the fold.
“He brings everything,” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s an all-round player, his scoring ability is number one, he can score whenever he wants so that’s for sure and on the defensive end to be in the right spot, that’s what coach Jason Kidd and the coaching staff are doing. He just likes winning, likes competing. He’s just a great kid.”