The Niigata Albirex BB will be without their leading scorer for a month. Center Paul Butorac sustained a broken bone on his pinkie finger at practice on Feb. 2, and he will be sidelined for four weeks, a team official confirmed on Monday.
Butorac did not play in Niigata’s series against the Saitama Broncos last weekend. The Albirex recorded a series split.
A former Eastern Washington University player, Butorac is averaging 17.2 points and 10 rebounds a game in 26 starts. He joined the team last season.
A high-energy, team-first player, Butorac’s absence on the court will be missed.
Niigata, meanwhile, will rely on its other players to pick up the slack while Butorac is recuperating from his injury.
Tyrone Levett (15.7 ppg), Antonio Burks (14.0), Akitomo Takeno (10.5) and Yuichi Ikeda (9.8) will handle most of scoring duties, with power forward Uche Echefu (9.1 points, 9.1 rebounds in 10 games) becoming more comfortable with his role on the team as the weeks progress.
Echefu had a 20-point, 21-rebound effort, season-high figures in both categories, against Saitama last Saturday.
The Albirex (14-14) play host to the Rizing Fukuoka (19-11) on Saturday and Sunday. Call it a playoff-type test for coach Masaya Hirose’s squad.
Weekend schedule: The Takamatsu Five Arrows (8-20) meet the visiting Tokyo Apache (8-18) on Friday and Saturday in Shikoku.
The other weekend series — Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (22-6) vs. Toyama Grouses (12-14), Shiga Lakestars (15-17) vs. Oita HeatDevils (13-17), Sendai 89ers (17-11) vs. Ryukyu Golden Kings (20-10) and Osaka Evessa (14-14) vs. Saitama (11-15) — begin on Saturday.
Weekly accolade: Toyama Grouses guard/forward Makoto Kato is the Circle K Sunkus Player of the Week.
Kato scored 24 points, including 4-for-6 from 3-point range, against the Kyoto Hannaryz in an 87-77 Grouses win on Saturday. He was 4-for-9 from beyond the arc and had a 20-point performance on Sunday in a two-point Toyama triumph.