Philadelphia 76ers reserve guard Shake Milton has hit a bit of a rough patch recently. Two weeks ago, the veteran guard rolled his ankle late in the game against the Sacramento Kings. In the past, Milton has suffered minor injuries but always made it back out onto the court to finish his progress.
This time around, though, a sprained ankle held Milton out for some time. For the next five games, Milton didn't suit up for the Sixers. Ever since his absence started, the bench unit has struggled to contribute on the offensive end as Milton's ability to pack on at least 13 points-per-game off the bench wasn't available to the team.
Fortunately, Milton is healthy and able to play again. The veteran guard returned to the Sixers on Sunday night against the Toronto Raptors. In 28 minutes of action, Milton produced nine points after shaking the rust off.
"It was tough to be out with an injury," Milton said on Tuesday ahead of the rematch against the Raptors. "But I'm glad to be back, get up and down [the court], and get my legs underneath me, so that was fun [on Sunday]."
Although Milton looked promising coming off the bench in the second quarter of Sunday's loss against the Raptors, the bench unit as a whole continued to struggle. Knowing he will be relied on by his teammates moving forward, Milton is looking forward to taking on a leadership role for the second-string unit.
"I'm excited," Milton said. "We got great guys who want to listen. Guys who want to learn to play hard, and I think that second unit, we can come in and bring a lot of energy and hopefully change the game. So for us, we're standing together and playing hard and being locked in."
As the first half of the regular season winds down and the second half rapidly moves closer, Milton knows what he has to do to help maximize the potential of Philly's bench. On Tuesday, the young guard laid out the plan moving forward.
"For me, personally, I have to keep being aggressive and looking for guys," Milton explained. "[I have to] continue to encourage them because guys like (Isaiah) Joe, Furkan (Korkmaz), it doesn't really take them much to get it going. For me, it's just getting into the paint and making plays for others. Then, being on guys and encouraging them to keep going. So, that's what I'm going to do."
The Sixers and the Raptors are set to play against each other once again on Tuesday night. Milton, whose ankle injury is no longer holding him out, looks forward to getting back on track.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_