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Atlanta — Not long after the Milwaukee Bucks lost Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Saturday night, Andrew Bogut made his way through a Philips Arena hallway of well-wishers.
"Tough break," they said.
"Get well soon," they said.
Thing is, Bogut was there to accept the sympathetic gestures. He is with the team for the best-of-seven series. He can't play because his elbow was broken in a nasty fall a couple of weeks ago, but he has returned to the bench in street clothes because he said he wants to apply some of the leadership that was naturally flowing when he was blocking shots, pulling rebounds and scoring 15-plus points a game.
Of course, this would be a different series with Bogut. But at some point you've got stop dwelling on who's not available to the Bucks, even if Bogut is here in a show of solidarity to this teammates.
Michael Redd suffered an awful break, too. But Redd isn't here, and hasn't been around much since blowing out his knee for a second time very early in the season. Redd also won't be in Milwaukee for the playoffs, general manager John Hammond said.
That makes Redd, one of the franchise's longest-tenured players who is being paid $17 million this season and a player-option $18.3 million the next, quite conspicuous by his continued absence now that postseason has begun.
I'm not saying Redd should be here. In fairness, his bad leg probably makes it tough to travel. For a variety of reasons, he's clearly more comfortable at home in Columbus, Ohio. He also stayed away to rehab last season. And, really, what good would his sudden presence do for either party?
Meanwhile, there's an awkward stalemate. The Bucks have not required him to return and, frankly, don't believe they should be put in a position where they have to pick up the phone to ask him to be around the team.
Mostly, his absence is symbolic and possibly foretelling. Although he has that massive option for next season, my guess is he'll never play for the Bucks again. Even if he successfully rehabs from a second major knee surgery at age 31, it's possible he could continue to stay away by mutual unspoken consent until the Bucks try to unload what might become a desirable salary slot at the next trading deadline in February. With the Tracy McGrady case, there is precedence.
That's one scenario made possible by the fact that the Bucks have clearly moved on. They're quietly negotiating a contract extension to make John Salmons their shooting guard for the next two or three seasons. If Salmons stays, Redd, who was once the face of the franchise, would be put in the awkward spot of returning as an $18 million backup.
That's because it has become abundantly clear that the Bucks, as paradoxical as it might sound, are a better team without their 20-point scorer. One trademark of the surprising 2009-'10 Bucks is that the ball has found a variety of scorers. The ball has moved better without Redd on the floor, and that is to say nothing of the record with and without Redd these last two years.
This isn't to denigrate Redd, but it's doubtful if the Bucks would've won 46 games or set a franchise record for fewest points allowed had he played most of the season. They've become a much different team since the days when Redd had to score because few others could. Simply put, he's no longer a good fit for the type of team to which the Bucks are evolving.
Because Redd is one of the all-time good guys, I hope he is able to eventually get back on the floor for somebody. The continued absence and changed circumstances hints it just might not be with the Bucks.