Adrian Griffin

Bucks Notes: Giannis, Middleton, Roster, Griffin, Beasley

Over the past couple months, Bucks superstar and franchise legend Giannis Antetokounmpo has dropped hints that he might leave Milwaukee if a better winning situation presented itself. In a recent mailbag, The Athletic’s Eric Nehm tackled that topic. Nehm writes that he believes Antetokounmpo’s comments aren’t news to the organization, and that it’s something they expected when he signed a super-max contract in 2020.

The Bucks know Antetokounmpo’s No. 1 priority is winning, Nehm writes, and they’ll continue to try building a contender around him. It makes sense that Giannis would be noncommittal about signing an extension with the Bucks because it would add just two years to his deal, limiting his ability to put pressure on the organization to win now.

If Antetokounmpo signs such an extension, he wouldn’t have the ability to threaten to hit free agency, and he wouldn’t make more money in the long run, as opposed to continuing to sign super-max extensions.

Additionally, Nehm doesn’t think Antetokounmpo was taking shots at his teammates when he said he wanted to make sure “everybody’s on the same page, everybody’s going for a championship, everybody’s going to sacrifice time away from their family like I do. Nehm says that his comments seemed to just be an explanation of his approach to the game rather than a shot at anyone in the organization.

According to Nehm, two years without a championship (the Bucks won in 2021) is two years too long for their superstar.

I thought we were going to win a championship, and it was going to be like a fairy tale and it’s done and we’re all going to be enjoying it,” Antetokounmpo told The Athletic, per Nehm. “We’re going to be partying for 15 years straight, but you win one and you’re like, ‘What’s next?’

We have more from the Bucks:

  • Bucks wing Khris Middleton has been a massive part of Milwaukee’s success since joining the team in 2013/14. Appearing on an episode of J.J. Redick‘s Old Man and The Three podcast (YouTube link), Middleton discussed the dynamics of the Bucks roster as an All-Star caliber player starting next to Antetokounmpo. “There’s never been a struggle about who is one and who is two [on the roster] between us,” Middleton said.
  • Addressing more questions in his mailbag, Nehm takes a look at the Bucks’ roster situation, focusing on an apparent lack of depth at the point guard spot. The Bucks have utilized their two-way contracts to address the position, with Lindell Wigginton and TyTy Washington Jr. among options to take on some rotational minutes. However, Milwaukee could look to simply have Antetokounmpo or Middleton bring the ball up the court, or even Andre Jackson Jr, according to Nehm. The Bucks would be in a bad position if starting point guard Jrue Holiday went down, though, and a trade to bring in a more reliable backup could be on the horizon.
  • While new head coach Adrian Griffin was with the Raptors, Toronto forced turnovers on 17.2% of their opponent’s offensive possessions, according to Nehm, which is an important factor to consider when looking to Milwaukee’s defense this year. This may affect Brook Lopez, the backbone of Milwaukee’s defense, with the Bucks potentially shifting to a more perimeter-oriented defensive style while Lopez acts as more of a traditional rim-protecting center.
  • Malik Beasley is going to be on his fifth team heading into his eighth NBA season. According to Nehm, while Beasley’s shooting and scoring numbers look great on paper, teams generally have concerns about his defense, leading to his current journeyman status.

Griffin Embraces Giannis’ Comments, Doesn’t Feel Added Pressure

New Bucks heaed coach Adrian Griffin is unfazed by recent comments made by superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo regarding his future, according to Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Antetokounmpo revealed in a New York Times interview that he wouldn’t sign an extension this offseason and only wanted to stay in Milwaukee long-term if he felt the franchise could compete for championships on a regular basis.

The real question’s not going to be this year — numbers-wise it doesn’t make sense,” Antetokounmpo said. “But next year, next summer it would make more sense for both parties. Even then, I don’t know. … I would not be the best version of myself if I don’t know that everybody’s on the same page, everybody’s going for a championship, everybody’s going to sacrifice time away from their family like I do. And if I don’t feel that, I’m not signing.”

Griffin indicated he’s on the same page with the two-time MVP.

“He wants to win and I want to win and it’s that simple,” Griffin said. “So I respect him. I respect what he’s accomplished in this league and we’re here together to win. So I have no problem with that. I think it’s a great partnership. We’re going to lead the team together. When he leads, the others will follow, so I think it’s great.”

Griffin doesn’t believe Antetokounmpo’s comments will add any extra pressure on him or the organization.

“Absolutely not. We’re here. We’re aligned. We’re here to win,” Griffin said. “And the one thing I talked to my team and our staff about is just embracing expectations. I have a really good roster. Instead of running from it, we want to embrace it. It just takes one day at a time though. Yes, we want to go far and deep into April, May and June but it’s about just one step at a time and taking care of our controllables and it starts with practice.”

Griffin has been in frequent contact with his top player, who underwent an offseason procedure on his knee. The new coach anticipates that Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, who also underwent offseason knee surgery, will be ready to go by the start of camp.

“That’s the plan,” he said. “They’ve been working their butts off, getting in the gym every day and just grinding.”

Bulls Notes: Vucevic, Ball, Carter, Hometown Players

Lonzo Ball‘s status was a distraction for the Bulls for much of last season, Nikola Vucevic admits in an interview with Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. After being acquired during the 2021 offseason, Ball led Chicago to the top of the Eastern Conference in his first two months with the team, but he hasn’t played since because of a knee injury that has required three surgeries. Vucevic said the organization was counting on Ball’s return early last season, but complications kept pushing that back.

“It was kind of like, ‘Oh, when he comes back, it’s going to be fixed.’ Early on, it was, ‘Oh, six weeks,’ then, ‘Now it’s eight weeks,’ and then, ‘January’ and ‘Maybe playoffs.’ For us, it was tricky, because we kept waiting for him,” Vucevic recalled. “And now, at least we know he’s not there. We’ve got some new teammates, some good signings that will help us. And so now it’s on us as players to figure it out and find a way to have a better year.”

Ball and team officials have already stated that he won’t be available for the upcoming season after undergoing cartilage transplant surgery in March. Vucevic said he empathizes with his teammate as he tries to work his way back from the injury and handles the negative reaction from the public and the media.

“You feel for the guy. He’s such a good player. And to have to deal with all that, it’s very difficult,” Vucevic said. “I mean, he’s been very positive about it. He keeps trying to find ways to get back on the floor. There’s a lot of stuff people can’t see. You can’t see him do rehab. You can’t see all the stuff that he does to get back on the court.”

There’s more on the Bulls:

  • Vucevic is excited about Chicago’s roster additions, believing Torrey Craig and Jevon Carter will bring much-needed toughness on defense, Fischer adds. “Just guys that like to do the dirty work that doesn’t necessarily show up in the stat sheet, but is very important to the team,” Vucevic said. “We need those things badly.” 
  • Carter is the latest Chicago-area native to play for the Bulls, joining a list that includes Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Beverley, observes Jamal Collier of ESPN. Carter was a popular player at Bulls Fest, as fans were eager to interact with a player who grew up in the city. “When we can go out and get kids who can check a lot of boxes on the court, it’s definitely a bonus when they’re from Chicago,” general manager Marc Eversley said. “There’s just a certain pride that I think those kids wear on their chest. Anytime you can have a Chicago kid playing for the Chicago Bulls, (it) is a really, really special thing.”
  • Bucks writer Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel appeared on the latest edition of Bulls Talk to discuss Carter’s role with the team and the challenge that former Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin faces as the new head coach in Milwaukee.

Bucks’ Bobby Portis Talks Team USA, Contract, Griffin

Bucks big man Bobby Portis is one of 12 players suiting up for the USA Basketball team that will compete in the 2023 World Cup that tips off next week.

Speaking to Sam Yip of HoopsHype, Portis said that it has been “pretty great” representing his country in international competition so far and that the team is still focused on building chemistry and adjusting to the FIBA rules as it gears up for group play.

In his conversation with Yip, Portis also addressed his role as Team USA’s de facto veteran leader, the Bucks’ new head coach, and a handful of other topics. Here are a few highlights:

On what’s expected of him as Team USA’s elder statesman at age 28:

“Man, I just come in every day and be Bobby Portis. That’s all I know how to be, since day one, in my time in the league, man. I’ve never changed who I am, stay true to myself, work on my game each and every year and get better. And try to be a leader working on my leadership qualities over the last three, four years in the league, especially when I got to the Bucks being around great savvy vets like Giannis [Antetokounmpo], Brook Lopez, Jrue [Holiday], Khris [Middleton], all my guys. The core group of guys, those guys, let me kind of be myself. Let me have a voice. And it’s been cool, man. So, my role on this team is to be Bobby, man. It’s all I know how to be.”

On whether signing a four-year, $48.6MM contract in 2022 gave him a sense of validation:

“I mean, yeah, but every year is a prove-it year, man. Just because you got a deal doesn’t mean you got to stop working and keep building brick by brick. Keep chopping wood and carrying water, that’s the motto. Can’t get complacent, can’t get comfortable in the league.

“There are 40, 50, 60 guys that want to have a guaranteed spot every year on a new team. And there’s gonna be 40, 50, 60 guys that are going to get pushed out. So gotta keep getting better each and every year. Can’t be satisfied with whatever you need to be. Whether it is $20 million, $100 million, $200 million. Gotta keep going. Gotta keep chopping wood and getting better.”

On what he hopes new head coach Adrian Griffin brings to Milwaukee:

“I don’t like to compare the past and the future, but I just hope he lets us be us, and be the player-driven team. We have a lot of guys on our team that’s done this before, so we kind of know what it takes to get to that next level. Our biggest thing on the Bucks is just staying healthy. No matter who it is that’s coaching whatever it is, we got to be healthy.”

Scotto’s Latest: Beasley, Bucks, Plumlee, Spurs, McDaniels, McLemore

Before he agreed to join the Bucks on a minimum-salary deal, free agent swingman Malik Beasley received interest from several teams, including the Mavericks, writes Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. According to Scotto, Dallas considered the possibility of acquiring Beasley from the Lakers via sign-and-trade, but it didn’t work out.

New Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin was a factor in getting Beasley to Milwaukee, having spoken to the veteran wing during the team’s recruiting pitch, sources tell Scotto.

The Bucks currently have 12 players pencil in for standard contracts in 2023/24. Scotto hears that Thanasis Antetokounmpo and No. 36 pick Andre Jackson are candidates to end up on the 15-man roster. The team also needs to decide what type of contract No. 58 pick Chris Livingston will sign, Scotto notes. Currently, Lindell Wigginton and Omari Moore are on two-way contracts with Milwaukee, leaving one open two-way slot.

Here’s more from Scotto:

  • Veteran center Mason Plumlee drew interest in free agency from a number of playoff teams, including the Warriors and Hawks, before deciding to remain with the Clippers, league sources tell Scotto.
  • The Spurs, having already agreed to get involved in deals that will land them Cedi Osman, Lamar Stevens, and Reggie Bullock, remain open to taking on unwanted contracts in order to add more draft assets, reports Scotto.
  • Before signing forward Jalen McDaniels as a free agent, the Raptors tried to trade for him multiple times, including at the 2023 deadline, according to Scotto, who says Toronto has been closely monitoring McDaniels since he was at San Diego State.
  • Veteran guard Ben McLemore, who was out of the NBA last season, will work out for multiple NBA teams during the Las Vegas Summer League, per Scotto. McLemore played in China last season after averaging 10.2 PPG in 64 games for Portland in 2021/22.
  • In case you missed it, we also rounded up several Knicks-related rumors from Scotto.

Central Notes: Cunningham, Rupert, Griffin, Rubio

Cade Cunningham continues to make progress in his recovery from surgery for a stress fracture in his left shin, Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press writes in a subscriber-only mailbag column. The Pistons haven’t given a recent indication of Cunningham’s status, but Sankofa states that he’s made numerous checks with people in the organization and the response Friday was that “he’s doing very well.”

Cunningham told reporters in April that he was pleased with his progress four months after the operation. He said he was running and taking jump shots and was hoping to start change-of-direction work soon. Sankofa is optimistic that Cunningham will be fully ready for the start of next season.

The 21-year-old guard will be an important part of Detroit’s plans to move into contention for a play-in spot. The top pick in the 2021 draft averaged 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists as a rookie, but was limited to 12 games last season before opting for surgery.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Searching for versatile players to help improve their 29th-ranked defense, the Pacers hosted international prospects Rayan Rupert and Mojave King at a workout Saturday, according to Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Both could still be available when Indiana makes its second pick of the first round at No. 26. “I love being switchable defensively with my wingspan,” said Rupert, who played in the Australian League this season. “Just bringing a lot of energy to my teammates. If I want to get minutes in the NBA next year and have a good career, it’s going to be because of my defense.”
  • At his introductory press conference this week, new Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin said he’s thrilled to have a veteran like Terry Stotts on his staff, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Griffin indicated that he plans to rely heavily on advice from the former Trail Blazers head coach. “To get a guy like Terry is a home run,” Griffin said. “He brings unbelievable experience. Yes, he’s a mastermind on the offensive end, but he’s well versed. He brings a wealth of experience. He’s coached elite players in (Damian) Lillard and (CJ) McCollum. I don’t just see him as an offensive coach; he’s gonna be someone that I lean on.”
  • In a TV interview during the Spanish ACB semifinals, Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio was asked about recent comments that he hopes to finish his career in Europe, according to a Eurohoops report. “The idea when I left Europe to play in the NBA was to come back at some point,” said Rubio, who’s expected to represent Spain in the FIBA World Cup this summer. “I don’t know where I will be mentally and physically and if I will continue to play, but yes, my NBA days are coming to an end!”

Bucks Notes: Griffin, Dragic, Draft

Adrian Griffin said that he’s honored to be taking over a Bucks team that won the championship two years ago, Steve Megargee of The Associated Press writes.

“Let’s be real,” he said. “What first-time head coach gets to coach the Milwaukee Bucks, with all the special talent on this team? I’m extremely humbled.”

Griffin was assistant with the Raptors the past five seasons. All other recent coaching vacancies around the league have been filled by former head coaches.

“(Assistant GM) Milt Newton said throughout this process after we met with Adrian, ‘Adrian’s a head coach. He just hasn’t gotten the opportunity yet,’” GM Jon Horst said.

We have more on the Bucks:

  • Griffin got the job after making a strong impression on everyone he met in the organization, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “…We interview him, and he blew us away in the interview. And then we bring him back for a second interview, and we get to the chalk talk and get on the board and watch the film, and he blows us away again,” Horst said. “Then he meets with our staff: the front-office staff, the medical staff and the business side. Players. Ownership. And he blows them away again. And then he’s in the big moment. You’re the guy that needs to go for the final interview with the owners. Like, don’t mess it up, right? And he did it again.”
  • Goran Dragic, who is headed into free agency, doesn’t plan to play for the Slovenian national team this summer in the FIBA World Cup, Sportando relays. Dragic, 37, could be contemplating retirement. “I’ll be at home (laughs). I’m not going to play, it was enough, 16 years, plus the NBA and everything else,” he told MozzartSport. “Maybe I will go to Japan to support the national team, but I will hardly play.”
  • The last pick of this year’s draft belongs to the Bucks (No. 58 overall). JR Radcliffe of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel takes a look at nine prospects they might consider at that spot.

Bucks Hire Adrian Griffin As Head Coach

JUNE 5: Griffin has officially been named the Bucks’ head coach, according to a team press release.

“Adrian is a widely-respected coach and former player, who brings great leadership and experience to our team,” general manager Jon Horst said in a statement. “His championship-level coaching pedigree, character, basketball acumen and ability to connect with and develop players make him the ideal choice to lead our team. He has earned this opportunity.”

MAY 27: The Bucks intend to hire Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin as their next head coach, reports Adrian Wonjarowski of ESPN (Twitter links). According to Wojnarowski, the two sides are in the process of finalizing a contract agreement.

Griffin, one of three reported finalists for the open coaching position in Milwaukee, was the only one without any previous head coaching experience.

Kenny Atkinson and Nick Nurse were also said to be in the running, though Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets that the Bucks ultimately decided between Griffin and Atkinson after Nurse pulled out of the process.

An NBA player from 1999-2008, Griffin transitioned to coaching after his retirement and has been an assistant on NBA staffs for the last 15 years. He actually began his coaching career with the Bucks from 2008-10 before moving on to Chicago (2010-15), Orlando (2015-16), and Oklahoma City (2016-18). He has spent the last five years as an assistant on Nurse’s staff in Toronto.

Griffin has received head coaching consideration from multiple clubs in recent years, including the Pistons, Raptors, and Rockets this spring. He filled in as Toronto’s head coach on an interim basis in February while Nurse was away from the team for family reasons and spoke about how the experience was “good practice” for his goal of eventually getting his own team.

Griffin was accused of domestic abuse by his ex-wife on social media in 2020, but vehemently denied those allegations and never faced criminal charges. He later filed a defamation suit in response.

Milwaukee launched a head coaching search after dismissing Mike Budenholzer in early May. Budenholzer earned Coach of the Year honors in 2019, won a championship in 2021, and led the team to an NBA-best 58-24 record in 2022/23. However, the top-seeded Bucks were quickly eliminated from the playoffs in embarrassing fashion by the No. 8 Heat, resulting in Budenholzer’s ouster.

The Bucks reportedly interviewed at least a dozen candidates before narrowing their focus to their three finalists. According to Charania, the second round of their search included meetings with star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was previously said to be “intrigued” by Griffin and endorsed the hiring.

The finalists met with Antetokounmpo on Tuesday, then with Bucks ownership on Wednesday, per Charania. On Thursday, general manager Jon Horst held a meeting to discussion the decision — that meeting included ownership, and Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton were invited to attend, a league source tells The Athletic.

Nurse’s withdrawal from the process is an interesting subplot. He’s believed to be very much in the running for the head coaching vacancies in Philadelphia and Phoenix, so it’s possible he’s focused on landing one of those jobs. A report this week indicated Nurse had “strong support” from some members of the Bucks’ organization, but that support wasn’t unanimous.

The Suns, Sixers, Raptors, and Pistons remain in the market for new head coaches, with the Bucks joining the Rockets as teams that have completed coaching searches so far this spring.

Bucks Rumors: Griffin, Borrego, Stotts, Assistants

Although he has yet to officially put pen to paper, new head coach Adrian Griffin has already been with the Bucks for the past week as they prepare for the draft and offseason, according to Eric Nehm and Shams Charania of The Athletic, who report that Griffin will receive a multiyear deal worth about $4MM annually.

As Nehm and Charania write, Griffin holds experience as a player and was an assistant for 15 seasons, but he’s a first-time head coach. That means assistant coaches with head coaching experience might be prioritized.

Former Hornets head coach James Borrego and former Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts are a couple of names to watch, per Nehm and Charania. The Athletic’s duo notes that Griffin had defensive game plan responsibilities with Toronto, so it would make sense to complement him with offensive coaches.

Borrego, who was actually expected to interview for Milwaukee’s job, interviewed for the coaching vacancy in Houston and was reportedly a finalist before the Rockets decided to hire Ime Udoka. He has also been linked to assistant jobs in Brooklyn and Dallas.

Stotts, who was with Portland for nine years (2012-21), has interviewed for head coaching jobs since he was fired and has been rumored to be a candidate for other teams as an assistant, including the Mavs.

As Nehm and Charania detail, a few Bucks assistant coaches have already announced they’re leaving the organization following Mike Budenholzer‘s dismissal, but the fates of several others remain up in the air even though they’re currently employed. According to The Athletic, GM Jon Horst acknowledged that the coaching staff was in flux last month, with more assistants possibly finding opportunities elsewhere.

I have a ton of respect for all of this group,” Horst said. “I think we have one of the best supporting coaching groups in the NBA and I would hope if they’re still with us when we make the next hire, that they’ll get consideration from that hire. That’ll be part of that process.

I also expect a number of these guys will have other opportunities across the league. And if they do, I have great relationships with everyone, we’ll have an open line of communication as we already do and I’ll support them in that way too.”

Central Notes: M. Williams, Pistons, Bucks, Pacers

If Monty Williams hadn’t accepted an extremely lucrative offer to become the Pistons‘ new head coach, the team likely would’ve ended up deciding between Kevin Ollie and Charles Lee. According to reporting from Shams Charania and James L. Edwards III of The Athletic and Omari Sankofa of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required), the Pistons met again with Ollie last Thursday and Lee on Friday before convening on Saturday to discuss their options.

Team sources who spoke to The Athletic said that both Ollie and Lee impressed the franchise “in different ways,” but the Pistons decided to circle back to Williams once more after he had rebuffed their initial advances.

Following Saturday’s meeting between Pistons ownership and management, team owner Tom Gores sent a private plane to pick up Williams in Phoenix on Sunday and flew him to Gores’ home in California. One day later, on Memorial Day, the Pistons made a formal offer to Williams, who agreed to the “fundamentals of the terms” but took a couple more days to weigh his decision before deciding on Wednesday to accept Detroit’s offer.

Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic takes a look at what the Pistons are getting in Williams, writing that the veteran coach will demand accountability in Detroit and is capable of building and nurturing a positive culture like he did in Phoenix.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • There’s plenty to like about the Bucks‘ decision to hire Adrian Griffin as their new head coach, according to Lori Nickel of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who views Griffin’s extensive and varied experience as both a player and a coach as a good sign that he’ll be able to connect with players of all skill levels and backgrounds.
  • In a mailbag for The Athletic, Eric Nehm considers the Bucks‘ next moves with Khris Middleton (player option for 2023/24) and Brook Lopez (UFA). As Nehm points out, Milwaukee’s cap situation would make it difficult to find suitable replacements for Middleton and/or Lopez if they’re not brought back, but the team may still have some leverage in contract talks with the duo if cap-room teams don’t prioritize the Bucks’ vets.
  • Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star breaks down the pros and cons of some of the players who could be available for the Pacers with the No. 7 overall pick, including Cam Whitmore, Ausar Thompson, Taylor Hendricks, and Anthony Black.
  • After wrapping up his college career at Iowa this spring, Connor McCaffery – the son of Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery – is taking what he refers to as an “entry-level” job with the Pacers, per Chad Leistikow of The Des Moines Register. “I’ll play dummy defense, run the scout team, help coaches on film stuff, help on video projects if they need, scouting reports if they need,” the 24-year-old said. “It’s kind of all-hands on deck, whatever you’re asked to do, be ready to do it.”