Bucks Rumors: Rivers, Atkinson, Griffin, Lillard

Following the dismissal of Adrian Griffin just 43 games into his head coaching career, the Bucks have opened discussions with Doc Rivers to become the team’s new permanent head coach, league sources tell Shams Charania, Sam Amick, and Eric Nehm of The Athletic. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), however, hears that the two sides have yet to talk.

Either way, it sounds like Rivers is the leading candidate to supplant Griffin as the head coach in Milwaukee. Wojnarowski acknowledges that Rivers is a “top target” and says the team is expected to reach out soon to gauge his interest.

Rivers already has a connection to the Bucks, having informally served as a consultant for Griffin this season at the behest of the club, according to The Athletic’s report. League sources tell Charania, Amick, and Nehm that the Bucks reached out to Rivers in order to organize a meeting between him and Griffin at the in-season tournament in Las Vegas last month.

The hope was that Rivers would be able to offer some advice and guidance to the first-time head coach about how to navigate the pressure of leading a team with championship expectations, per The Athletic. Following the resignation of assistant Terry Stotts ahead of the regular season, Griffin didn’t have any veteran head coaches on his staff with that sort of experience.

If Rivers and the Bucks don’t end up agreeing to a deal, Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson is considered another strong candidate for the job, according to Charania, Amick, and Nehm. Atkinson was a runner-up to Griffin in Milwaukee’s head coaching search last spring.

Here’s more on the Bucks:

  • Bucks players began questioning Griffin’s strategies and schemes on both ends of the court earlier this season, and those questions grew louder in recent weeks as the team failed to show significant growth, according to The Athletic’s report. Milwaukee has gone just 6-5 in January and there were concerns about Griffin’s ability to communicate his vision to his players.
  • The Bucks’ declining effectiveness on the defensive end and the use of Damian Lillard on offense are among the factors that contributed to Griffin’s exit, per Charania, Amick, and Nehm. League sources tell The Athletic that Lillard – whose usage rate is at 27.9%, his lowest mark since 2014/15 – “has spent much of this season struggling with the way the Bucks function on the offensive end.”
  • There wasn’t one single reason why Stotts stepped down from his position before the season began, according to The Athletic’s reporters, who say he and Griffin were never exactly on the same page about the veteran assistant’s role and responsibilities. Their disagreements came to a head and resulted in a brief verbal confrontation during an October 17 shootaround in Oklahoma City, with Stotts feeling disrespected by how he was treated.
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