Mike Budenholzer

Bucks Co-Owner Lasry Talks Budenholzer, Jrue, Tax, More

After watching the Bucks win a championship for the first time in 50 years during the 2020/21 season, co-owner Marc Lasry is confident that the team will remain in the mix for a title again in ’21/22. Lasry told Sam Amick and Anthony Slater of The Athletic that he views the Bucks and Nets as the top two teams in the East entering the fall.

Asked if the Heat – who eliminated the Bucks from the playoffs in 2020 – are in that top tier alongside Milwaukee and Brooklyn, Lasry praised Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, and P.J. Tucker, calling Miami a “really good” team. However, he said he believes the Bucks are better.

“Ultimately at the end of the day I’d rather have our team,” Lasry said. “… If we’re healthy, you know we should go pretty far.

“But I would say the same thing (about other teams). If the Nets are healthy, they should go pretty far. It’s who’s going to be the healthiest when you get there. And it’s been interesting trying to figure out (that part) because I bet you there’s going to be a lot of gaming of this… You want to be the No. 1 seed, but do you want to be the No. 1 seed, or do you want to make sure you’re the healthiest going into the playoffs?”

Lasry’s appearance on The Athletic’s Tampering podcast touched on several other topics of note. The discussion is worth checking out in full, but here are a few highlights from the Bucks’ co-owner, via Amick and Slater:

On head coach Mike Budenholzer getting a contract extension after being on the hot seat:

“Bud is really good. I mean, he is. He does have that quiet confidence, which is nice. So I think you go through all of this, and one of the things that I saw — and I told this to Bud — was I said, ‘Look, there was a huge amount of pressure on us, on him, on all of us, because everybody expects you to win.’ And what he showed us during that time is how well he handled the pressure, how well he prepared the team, and what a great job he did, so that after we won, we were like, ‘Look, it’s not like we want to reward you; we want to keep you.'”

On the 2020 acquisition of Jrue Holiday and how it influenced Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s decision to sign a long-term extension with the Bucks:

“(General manager) Jon Horst felt that (Holiday) was going to be the missing piece, and he was dead right. You know, I remember the first practice and Jrue is covering Giannis. And same thing — Giannis knew Jrue by reputation. After practice that day, Jon says to me, ‘Yeah, Giannis now knows how good he is. (Holiday’s) covering him. He’s good.’ It was actually great. It was. And I think 100 percent it was a huge factor in Giannis re-signing because he saw what we were willing to do.”

On the Bucks becoming a taxpayer in 2020/21 and going further into the tax in ’21/22:

“Look, (the tax) is a big part. I’m not going to tell you it’s not. I mean, it’s just — if you sign somebody for $5MM, you’re not signing him for $5MM, you’re signing him for $25MM, $20MM. You sort of look at that, and you’re trying to figure out, ‘Alright, look, if we’re going to do that, OK, there is a cost to it. Yeah, we want him, but that’s going to cost us $25MM or that’ll cost us $35MM.’ I mean, whatever the numbers are. And I think we’re very focused on that.

“Look, we’re a small-market team. It’s expensive. I mean, for us, this year we’re going to lose quite a bit of money. … But at the end of the day, the goal is that you want to keep winning a championship, so you’re going to spend the money.”

Bucks, Mike Budenholzer Agree To Three-Year Extension

The reigning champion Bucks and head coach Mike Budenholzer have agreed to a three-year extension, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Budenholzer, a two-time NBA Coach of the Year, helped lead the Bucks to their first championship in 50 years. After the 2020 playoffs, in which the Bucks were defeated in the second round by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Heat, there were questions about how Budenholzer’s regular-season success translated to postseason victories, which went as far back as his days with the Hawks.

But during this year’s run to the championship, Budenholzer showed more willingness to adapt and to lean on his stars for heavy minutes, playing all of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton 38+ minutes a night, a stark contrast to the 30.8 MPG he played Antetokounmpo in the 2020 playoffs.

Budenholzer had been on the final year of his deal, but this extension will keep him with the Bucks through the 2024/25 season.

Bucks Notes: Giannis, Holiday, Budenholzer

As recently as last fall, there was major uncertainty about whether Giannis Antetokounmpo would remain with the Bucks for the long term, as his second contract with the team was nearing an end and he was weighing whether or not to sign a super-max extension.

Antetokounmpo, of course, eventually accepted that super-max offer last December, a decision that paid off in a major way on Tuesday, when the Bucks secured their first championship in 50 years. After the Game 6 victory, Giannis expressed satisfaction that he opted to stick with Milwaukee rather than joining forces with other stars elsewhere.

“I could go to a super-team and just do my part and win a championship,” he said on Tuesday, according to Steve Megargee of The Associated Press. “But this is the hard way to do it and this is the way to do it. And we did it.”

As Megargee writes, Antetokounmpo spent much of his post-game press conference thanking the people who helped him get to this point, including the current and former Bucks officials who had a hand in his development. He also reiterated his love for the city of Milwaukee.

“This is my city,” Giannis said. “They trust me. They believe in me. They believe in us.”

Here’s more on the new NBA champions:

  • Kevin Durant, whose Nets nearly got by the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals said after Team USA practice in Tokyo on Wednesday that he wasn’t dwelling on “what-ifs,” per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Durant also referred to the Bucks as “somewhat of a dynasty,” as Joe Vardon of The Athletic relays. “I know it’s the first chip and a lot of people call you a dynasty after a few,” Durant said. “But the continuity of that team is something that’s impressive and how they continue to build and add and now they’re champions, and you can appreciate that.” Durant will be seeking a gold medal alongside Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton at the Olympics.
  • Sam Amick and Eric Nehm of The Athletic take a deep dive into the road the Bucks took to the 2021 championship. The in-depth report includes several interesting tidbits, including that Antetokounmpo required fluid IV treatment after Game 5 due to dehydration and that Holiday was “ecstatic” last offseason to be traded to the Bucks, who were on his list of preferred destinations.
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) examines what’s on tap for the Bucks this summer and how they can keep their championship roster intact. The first step the team takes this offseason may be to reward head coach Mike Budenholzer – who is entering a contract year – with an extension, Marks notes.
  • In case you missed it, Holiday earned a $1MM bonus as a result of the Bucks’ title. Milwaukee will now be a taxpayer this season for the first time since 2003, and it’s safe to assume team ownership is just fine with that.

Bucks Notes: Antetokounmpo, NBA Finals, Holiday, Budenholzer

After years of frustration as he tried to reach the NBA Finals, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo was stuck on the sidelines Saturday as his teammates took him there, writes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Many feared Milwaukee’s chances were over when Antetokounmpo suffered a hyperextended knee in Game 4, but the supporting cast stepped up and dispatched Atlanta without him.

Although Antetokounmpo was injured, he was standing through virtually all of Saturday’s game, cheering on his team and offering advice and encouragement.

“He’s halfway on the court talking to Bobby (Portis), talking to Brook (Lopez), talking to different players, to see that kind of connection, commitment, from a player who would be dying to be out there and playing,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think he appreciates, you know, what his teammates can do.”

There’s more on the Bucks:

  • Antetokoumpo’s status remains uncertain heading into the Finals, which will start Tuesday in Phoenix. There was reportedly optimism that he would try to play Monday if the Hawks series had gone to a seventh game. He did on-court work yesterday for the first time since suffering the injury, but little was revealed about that session. Budenholzer told reporters that he will evaluate Antetokounmpo on a day-to-day basis with help from general manager Jon Horst and the sports performance team, tweets Ben Golliver of The Washington Post.
  • Milwaukee paid a huge price for Jrue Holiday over the offseason, sending three first-round picks and two potential swaps to the Pelicans, but he’s showing he was worth it, observes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. With Antetokounmpo injured, Holiday averaged 26 points, 7.5 rebounds and 11 assists in Games 5 and 6. “Within the team, we just love playing with him,” Pat Connaughton said. “We love having him on board. We love the type of guy he is as a person. As a player, he always makes the right play. When he’s in attack mode he’s really hard to stop not just from a scoring standpoint but from getting other guys involved, getting guys easy shots, getting open shots, whatever it might be.”
  • Budenholzer has been maligned for playoff disappointments in Milwaukee and Atlanta, but he made an important decision after Game 4 that helped swing the series in the Bucks’ favor, Nehm adds. Budenholzer abandoned the team’s traditional drop coverage on the pick-and-roll and asked his big men to switch on ball screens. “He’s done more adjusting this year than he’s ever done before, schemes and some of the things that we’re doing, he’s getting a little more adventurous,” said P.J. Tucker. “And I think the personnel, that gives him a freedom to do that a lot more and that’s one of the reasons we’ve been so successful.”

Mavericks Notes: Carlisle, Doncic, Nelson, Forde, Finley, Green

There are quite a few head coaching jobs Rick Carlisle could pursue after parting ways with the Mavericks on Thursday. He may even wind up with a team that still has a head coach. There have been rumblings that if the Bucks fire Mike Budenholzer, Carlisle could be his replacement, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. The rumors about Carlisle taking over an Eastern Conference playoff contender and becoming Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s coach have been circulating for weeks, Stein adds.

We have more info on the Mavs:

  • Prior to the news of Carlisle’s departure, Luka Doncic addressed the organization’s decision this week to remove Donnie Nelson as president of basketball operations and expressed his disappointment, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News relays. “It was kind of tough to me,” Doncic said during a press conference in Slovenia. “I really like Donnie. [I’ve known] him since I was a kid and he was the one that drafted me. It was tough to me, seeing that, but I’m not the one making decisions there.” Doncic is practicing with his national team for the Olympic qualifying tournament later this month.
  • Despite Nelson’s dismissal, Doncic still intends to sign a super-max extension before next season, Tim Cato and Sam Amick of The Athletic hear. Doncic strongly hinted after the season he would sign his rookie scale extension, which would be worth a projected $201.5MM over five years after making the All-NBA team two straight years.
  • The Mavericks have hired Mike Forde’s Sportsology, a consulting firm frequently used by NBA teams, to assist in the search for a new head of basketball operations., Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. Nine NBA teams have either hired or promoted from within a new chief basketball executive in the past two seasons and three of those searches— Pelicans, Wizards, and Kings —were led by Forde, Yaron Weitzman of The Ringer noted earlier this year.
  • Former Mavericks All-Star Michael Finley, currently the team’s VP of basketball operations, has emerged as a candidate to replace Nelson, Stein tweets.
  • The team’s decision to take Josh Green over Saddiq Bey in last year’s draft frustrated a number of key executives and scouts., Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman tweets. Green was selected at No. 18 and the Pistons snapped up Bey, who was named to the All-Rookie First Team, with the next pick. The Mavs’ analytics team wanted Green and won the debate.

Coaching Rumors: Magic, Bucks, Pacers, McMillan, Borrego

Of all the active head coaching searches around the NBA, the Magic‘s appears to be the most fluid, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Kenny Atkinson, identified last week as a candidate for the job, has been the named most frequently linked to Orlando’s vacancy, says Fischer, but the search is expected to be wide-ranging.

Lakers assistant Jason Kidd has been connected more and more to the Magic’s opening, per Fischer, who notes that Kidd has a connection to Orlando general manager John Hammond — the two worked in Milwaukee together from 2014-17 after Hammond hired Kidd as the Bucks’ head coach.

Former Warriors assistant Jarron Collins has talked to the Magic, sources tell Bleacher Report. Fischer says Nets assistant Ime Udoka is another candidate league sources have “strongly linked” the Orlando job, though there’s a sense Udoka may have more interest in the Celtics‘ job. Sixers assistant Sam Cassell may also be on the Magic’s radar, according to Fischer, who says Cassell would be popular among Orlando’s returning players.

Here are several more coaching-related notes and rumors from Fischer’s latest report:

  • With the Bucks tied at 2-2 in their second-round series, Mike Budenholzer is in a better position now than he was a few days ago, but if Milwaukee falls short of the Finals, there’s an expectation the team may make a change, per Fischer. In that scenario, Bucks assistants Darvin Ham and Charles Lee could be candidates for a promotion, since the team may just want a change at the top rather than an overhaul of the entire coaching staff, Fischer notes.
  • If the Bucks make a change, Mike D’Antoni would likely have interest in the job, and Olimpia Milano coach Ettore Messina would be another name to keep an eye on, Fischer writes. Rick Carlisle could also receive interest from Milwaukee, Fischer adds, though Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has said Carlisle’s not going anywhere.
  • Among the teams seeking a new coach, the Pacers appear to be the club most focused on hiring someone with previous head coaching experience, Fischer reports. Given how badly the hire of first-time head coach Nate Bjorkgren worked out, that’s not a huge surprise.
  • All indications are that Nate McMillan will sign a new contract with the Hawks to become the team’s permanent head coach, but until that happens, he’ll likely receive interest from other teams with coaching openings, including the Celtics, says Fischer.
  • Sources tell Fischer that the Hornets and head coach James Borrego are expected to work out a contract extension this offseason.

Central Notes: Budenholzer, Pistons, Stewart, Karnisovas

Mike Budenholzer‘s job status with the Bucks could hinge on whether they advance past the Nets in the playoffs, Adrian Wojnarowski said on an ESPN broadcast (hat tip to the New York Times’ Adam Zagoria). Milwaukee’s early exit last season, plus the addition of Jrue Holiday, has put more pressure on Budenholzer to guide the franchise on a deep playoff run. Budenholzer is the third season of a four-year contract.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The major focus for the Pistons in the short run will be their lottery pick, but what GM Troy Weaver and his inner circle do after the draft will be even more telling, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Detroit won’t be anywhere near as active as it was last offseason, when Weaver did major roster reconstruction. The next major move after the draft, either in free agency or a trade, could be focused on making the roster more whole by improving the team’s 3-point shooting.
  • Pistons center Isaiah Stewart, who was selected No. 16 in last year’s draft, admits he keeps tabs on the players selected ahead of him as a motivation tool, he told James Edwards III of The Athletic“Throughout the entire season, I’ve kept track of my rookie peers and peers at my position, as well, to see what they’re doing and what the media said about them going into the draft, how they were all hyped up. … I don’t let it distract me in the wrong way. It adds fuel to my fire. I just take notes.”
  • Arturas Karnisovas, the Bulls’ executive VP of basketball operations, was Denver’s assistant GM when the Nuggets drafted this year’s MVP, Nikola Jokic, in the second round. That experience could help Karnišovas uncover another gem for the Bulls, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Karnisovas surrendered two lightly-protected first-round picks to acquire Nikola Vučević, placing an even greater premium on making savvy picks that the Bulls do possess in the future, Johnson adds.

Scotto’s Latest: Magic, Hartenstein, Allen, Ennis, Theis

Appearing on the HoopsHype podcast alongside Yossi Gozlan, Michael Scotto identified Nets assistant Ime Udoka and former Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson as potential candidates to watch for the Magic‘s open head coaching position.

Clippers assistant Dan Craig and Bucks assistant Darvin Ham are among the other names Scotto has heard linked to the job in Orlando. If the Bucks lose their second-round series to Brooklyn, it could be the end of the road in Milwaukee not just for Mike Budenholzer, but for several members of his staff, including Ham, Scotto notes.

Here’s more from the podcast:

  • Scotto says Cavaliers big man Isaiah Hartenstein plans to turn down his player option, after hinting as much last month. Hartenstein will be eligible for restricted free agency and is a good bet to remain in Cleveland, either on a multiyear contract or on his qualifying offer, according to Scotto.
  • Some executives around the NBA believe the Hornets and/or Mavericks could pursue Jarrett Allen, but Scotto expects the RFA center to ultimately remain with the Cavaliers, who gave up a first-round pick for him earlier this year.
  • James Ennis, who has played for seven teams since entering the NBA in 2014, will be seeking some stability as a free agent this offseason, per Scotto, who says Ennis is hoping for a deal that covers three years, or at least two. After knocking down 43.3% of his three-pointers in 2020/21, the veteran forward will be looking for a salary worth at least the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, Scotto adds.
  • Scotto has heard from people around the league that free agent center Daniel Theis could command a deal worth at least the mid-level exception. Theis would like to join a winning team, but also wants the opportunity to play regularly.

Pacers Rumors: Turner, Budenholzer, Shaw, Bjorkgren, More

Prior to the 2021 trade deadline, J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star reported that the Hornets, Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Pelicans were among the teams to express interest in Pacers big man Myles Turner. With Turner possibly available again this summer in trade talks, many of those teams could renew their interest in the NBA’s shot-blocking leader.

Exploring that possibility, Michael tweets that the Hornets and Timberwolves are the teams that seem to “really” want Turner. Michael speculates (via Twitter) that Charlotte would be the team most likely to make an aggressive trade offer for the 25-year-old if the Pacers are willing to move him.

Here’s more out of Indiana:

  • If the Bucks decide to move on from Mike Budenholzer after their season ends, he’d move to the top of the Pacers’ list of potential head coaching candidates, league sources tell J. Michael. Michael adds that G League Ignite coach Brian Shaw, formerly a Pacers assistant, is also expected to be a serious candidate for the job.
  • In a subscriber-only piece for The Indianapolis Star, Michael takes a look at the factors that led to Nate Bjorkgren‘s ouster after just one season. One league executive described Bjorkgren’s coaching style as “fake positivity,” according to Michael, who also provides details on Bjorkgren’s tendency to micro-manage and his failure to hold players accountable. Michael adds that the first-year coach “made sure those beneath him knew their place,” which lines up with a May report that stated Bjorkgren didn’t treat his assistants particularly well.
  • Although the Pacers haven’t ruled out blowing up their roster, team owner Herb Simon may be averse to that idea, according to Michael, who suggests the club seems likely to bring back Domantas Sabonis, Caris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon, and T.J. Warren.

Bjorkgren, Stotts, Budenholzer Among Coaches On Hot Seat

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Tuesday that Nate Bjorkgren‘s future as the Pacers‘ head coach is uncertain, and Shams Charania and Sam Amick echo that point in their latest report for The Athletic. According to The Athletic’s duo, Bjorkgren’s “abrasive” style and a tendency to be controlling with assistants and other staff members has been a cause for concern.

Sources tell Charania and Amick that multiple Pacers players have expressed dissatisfaction with Bjorkgren this season, with Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis among those who haven’t been on the same page with the first-year coach. Those same sources tell The Athletic that several Pacers players feel the analytical style Bjorkgren has employed doesn’t suit the team’s personnel.

The growing pains Bjorkgren has experienced in Indiana don’t necessarily mean that the Pacers will make a coaching change at season’s end, but the situation is worth keeping a close eye on, per Charania and Amick.

The two Athletic reporters also singled out a few other coaching situations worth watching around the NBA. Here are a few highlights from their report:

  • The Trail Blazers are increasingly likely to part ways with head coach Terry Stotts this offseason unless he can “pull a rabbit out of his hat” and make a deep playoff run, according to Charania and Amick. Sources tell The Athletic that Stotts has less player support this season than he has in past years. Charania and Amick identify Jason Kidd, Dave Joerger, Chauncey Billups, Brent Barry, and – if he becomes available – Nate McMillan as potential targets for Portland if the team makes a change.
  • There’s significant pressure on Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer entering the postseason, according to Charania and Amick, who say Budenholzer’s job will be in serious danger if the team is eliminated in the first two rounds. Budenholzer has one year left on his contract after 2020/21, per The Athletic’s duo.
  • Luke Walton of the Kings and Scott Brooks of the Wizards are other coaches whose job security isn’t exactly rock solid, but Charania and Amick point to financial considerations in Sacramento and a recent hot streak in D.C. as factors working in favor of Walton and Brooks keeping their jobs. Walton has a strong relationship with Kings GM Monte McNair, while Brooks is well-liked in Washington, note Charania and Amick. Still, the long-term future of Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard is also somewhat uncertain, which further clouds Brooks’ status.