Damian Lillard

Bucks Notes: Coaching Staff Changes, Giannis, Lillard, Beverley

The Bucks have parted ways with assistant coaches DJ Bakker, Sidney Dobner, and Josh Oppenheimer, sources confirmed to Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report first broke the news.

All three coaches were assistants under Adrian Griffin who finished the season with the Bucks after Griffin was dismissed in January and replaced by Doc Rivers. As Nehm notes, Rivers brought in a few new assistants after his arrival in Milwaukee, resulting in a super-sized coaching staff, so it seemed likely that changes would be coming this offseason.

Following the changes, the Bucks now have seven assistants on their staff, per Nehm: Dave Joerger, Rex Kalamian, Joe Prunty, Patrick Mutombo, Vin Baker, Trevor Gleeson, and Pete Dominguez. With new head coaches filling their staffs around the NBA it’s possible Rivers’ staff will undergo more tweaks before the 2024/25 season tips off in the fall.

Here’s more on the Bucks:

  • Rivers said that he usually takes a bit of a break at the end of his team’s season, but that’s not the plan for his first offseason with the Bucks. The veteran head coach “can’t wait to get started” on preparations for 2024/25, as Ben Steele of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel relays. “This summer is a very important summer for us. I have a lot of work to do,” Rivers said. “I’m going to take a break at some point, but not right away. Right now, I have some work to do that I have to get things right to make sure we’re ready for next year.”
  • Last offseason, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez entered the summer as free agents and Damian Lillard wasn’t acquired by the Bucks until late September. This year, with all the team’s core players under contract, Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking forward to a greater level of stability, writes Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We’re not questioning and trying to figure out how it’s going to look moving forward. You know and now that you know, you just gotta work, strategize to the best of your abilities,” Antetokounmpo said. “Dame’s going to be here. Khris is going to be here. Brook (is) going to be here. Bobby (Portis is) going to be here. I hope I’m here. And then we go and try to find out what we have.”
  • Within the same Owczarski story, Antetokounmpo said he plans to visit Portland this offseason to spend some time with Lillard. “Go work out together, talk, sit down, just spend time,” Giannis said. “It doesn’t have to be basketball. Just spend time together. I’ve done it with Khris in 11 years. I’ve done it with Brook. It’s just what you gotta do.”
  • On the latest episode of his Pat Bev podcast, veteran guard Patrick Beverley said that before he repeatedly fired a basketball at Pacers fans in the last game of the Bucks’ season, he was called a word that he’d never been called before, per The Associated Press. However, Beverley acknowledged that his actions were “still inexcusable.” He was suspended for four games by the NBA. “That should have never happened,” he said of the incident. “Regardless of what was said, that should have never happened. Simple as that.”

Eastern Notes: Wade, Allen, J. Brown, Claxton, Bucks

Cavaliers forward Dean Wade, who continues to recover from a right knee injury, hasn’t played since March 8, but it’s possible he’ll return to action at some point in the Eastern Conference semifinals, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscription required). Sources tell Fedor that there’s hope Wade will be able to play later in the series, possibly as early as Game 3 or 4 in Cleveland.

Wade is ramping up his on-court activity, having conducted an individual workout on Monday and then doing some light shooting and conditioning work at Tuesday’s shootaround, according to Fedor. His availability later in the series will depend on how his knee responds to the increase in activity.

After averaging a modest 5.4 points per game in 54 regular season appearances, Wade likely won’t be a difference-maker in the series vs. Boston. However, as Fedor observes, the Cavs haven’t gotten much this postseason from Georges Niang, who has made just 6-of-29 (20.7%) shots in six games and has nearly as many fouls (15) as points (17). Having another frontcourt option available off the bench could come in handy for Cleveland.

The presence of another power forward in the rotation would be even more crucial if center Jarrett Allen remains sidelined. Allen, who missed the final three games of the Cavs’ first-round series vs. Orlando, is listed as questionable to play in Game 1 on Tuesday.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Celtics wing Jaylen Brown spoke back in the fall about wanting to take on more challenging defensive assignments and play at an All-Defensive level in 2023/24, and he has delivered on that promise, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, who says that Brown will likely “draw a heavy dose” of Donovan Mitchell in the second-round series vs. Cleveland. “He’s picking up point guards, he guards bigs,” teammate Derrick White said of Brown. “Just an athletic freak. He can guard so many different positions and he just really bought in this year. I think he was a good defender before the season but just taking it to that next level, just consistently night in, night out, and wanting those challenges. Taking on those challenges and stepping up big time.”
  • Within a look at the Nets‘ upcoming offseason, Lucas Kaplan of NetsDaily cites sources who say Brooklyn remains “very confident” in its ability to re-sign unrestricted free agent Nic Claxton, even if his price is in the neighborhood of $25MM per year.
  • Adding athleticism to their roster figures to be a priority for the Bucks ahead of the 2024/25 season, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic, who notes that the team will also benefit from many of its key pieces having their first full offseason together — Damian Lillard was acquired just ahead of training camp last fall, while Doc Rivers was hired in January. “I told Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and Dame I’m going to send them things all summer we’re working on for them to work on,” Rivers said. “And they both were very excited about that. I’m assuming Khris (Middleton) will like the same thing. That gives us an advantage.”

Central Notes: Giannis, Allen, Vucevic, Haliburton

The Bucks were hoping to extend their first-round series long enough for Giannis Antetokounmpo to return, but the two-time MVP was never close to being activated, according to Jamal Collier of ESPN. Antetokounmpo revealed on Friday that the left calf strain he suffered April 9 was still limiting him to the point where he could only run at about 30-40%.

“I tried my best to come back to help my teammates,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to see them being out there and not being able to help them, but I just couldn’t. I did all the tests I had to do, these protocols you have to follow and have to check the boxes. I wasn’t even close at checking the boxes.”

It’s the second straight season that an Antetokounmpo injury has contributed to a first-round exit for Milwaukee. Collier notes that injuries in general prevented the Bucks from establishing any kind of rhythm after Doc Rivers replaced Adrian Griffin as head coach in late January. Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton only played eight games together under Rivers.

Antetokounmpo pointed out that the team had to adjust quickly after the trade for Lillard was completed late in the offseason and then again after the coaching change. He plans to visit Lillard in Oregon this summer to start preparing for next season.

“Obviously, it doesn’t feel good. The wound, you know, it’s fresh. It’s open. You just lost in the first round,” Antetokounmpo said. “But I’m not a guy who makes excuses. Right now, I do believe that when me, Khris and Dame and Brook (Lopez) was on the floor and we’re healthy, we were one of the best offenses in the NBA. And you can go and check that.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The condition of Antetokounmpo’s calf will affect his decision to represent Greece this summer, Collier adds. Antetokounmpo has indicated that he would like to play in the Olympics, but he hasn’t made a firm commitment. The Greek team will have to win a qualifying tournament in early July to earn a spot in Paris.
  • After missing two straight games with a rib contusion, Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen is listed as questionable for Sunday’s Game 7, tweets Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Evan Mobley rolled his ankle Friday night, but he’s not on the team’s injury report, according to Fedor.
  • The Bulls plan to explore trade options involving starting center Nikola Vucevic, a source tells Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Vucevic, 33, is owed a total of about $41.5MM over the next two years. He was noticeably slower on defense this season, Cowley observes, and he dropped to 29.4% from three-point range.
  • Tyrese Haliburton is familiar with the playoff history between the Pacers and Knicks and he’s looking forward to being part of it (video link from The Indianapolis Star). He’s also eager for the matchup with Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart, whom he said are both close friends.

Bucks Notes: Giannis, Lillard, Grades, Offseason, Beverley

After entering the season with hopes of claiming their second title in four years, the Bucks were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the second consecutive season, with superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo missing the entire series due to a calf strain.

As Jamal Collier of ESPN writes, Milwaukee made plenty of changes to try to advance further in 2023/24, starting with firing Mike Budenholzer and trading for Damian Lillard. The Bucks also cut ties with Adrian Griffin, Budenholzer’s replacement, during the season, hiring longtime head coach Doc Rivers in Griffin’s place. Yet the end result was the same: Antetokounmpo injured and a first-round exit.

With the NBA’s second-oldest roster, the Bucks looked brittle throughout the season, particularly on the defensive end, according to Michael Pina of The Ringer. Khris Middleton, Lillard and Antetokounmpo only combined to play 42 games together, and while they went 28-14 in those contests, they’ve all had their share of injuries the past few seasons.

Pina wonders if either Antetokounmpo or the Bucks — or even both — will eventually decide its best for the two sides to part ways, particularly if Milwaukee slogs through another up-and-down season again in ’24/25. That could turn out to be the most prudent choice for both parties, Pina contends.

Here’s more on the Bucks:

  • Lillard, who missed Games 4 and 5 after aggravating an Achilles injury, returned for Thursday’s Game 6 loss. He finished with 28 points and four assists. While the team was obviously disappointed to be eliminated by Indiana, Middleton appreciated how much work Lillard put in to return on Thursday, per Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It meant a lot,” Middleton said. “He was going through a serious thing that had been bothering him for a while. He felt he was good enough to go out there and play tonight. I thought he gave it everything he had also. So it’s a lot of respect from me and I think from everyone inside that locker room that he went out there and played 35 minutes. We needed him tonight, but just couldn’t pull it out.”
  • Eric Nehm of The Athletic gives an “incomplete” grade regarding the fit of Lillard and Rivers due to Milwaukee’s injuries. However, it’s clear the Bucks need to improve their roster, particularly adding more wing defenders, which will be a tall order for a team facing luxury tax restrictions this offseason, Nehm adds.
  • Mark Deeks of HoopsHype provides his offseason preview for the Bucks.
  • At the end of Game 6, Patrick Beverley threw a ball in the stands behind Milwaukee’s bench two times, hitting a pair of Pacers fans. According to Lauren Merola, Shams Charania and Eric Nehm of The Athletic, one of the fans was directing obscenities at Beverley in the lead-up to the incident, which was apparently escalated when the fan said, “Cancun … Cancun on three” when the team was breaking a huddle. The NBA is looking into the incident, per The Athletic.
  • Beverley also refused to speak to a very well-regarded ESPN producer — Malinda Adams — who wasn’t subscribed to his podcast after the game. On Friday, Adams announced (via Twitter) that both Beverley and the Bucks reached out to her and apologized.

Bucks’ Damian Lillard Returns For Game 6, Giannis Out

All-Star Bucks point guard Damian Lillard is set to return for Milwaukee’s must-win Game 6 in their ongoing series against the Pacers on Thursday night, sources inform Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report (Twitter link).

Lillard had been dealing with right Achilles tendinitis, which has forced him to sit out the Bucks’ last two contests, which the club split. Indiana leads the series 3-2, so Milwaukee must win out to advance.

All-NBA Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, however, will miss his sixth straight contest of the series due to a left calf strain, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Lillard’s return will be imperative as he looks to give Milwaukee’s offense a major boost. During the three games he has played in the series, the star guard is averaging 32.3 PPG and 5.3 APG across 40.7 MPG.

According to the NBA’s latest injury report, starting combo guard Patrick Beverley (right oblique muscle strain) will be available to suit up, as will starting small forward Khris Middleton (right ankle sprain).

Pacers All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton is listed as questionable due to low back spasms, though there has been no indication that his availability for the game is in jeopardy.

Central Notes: Mobley, Garland, Pacers, Giannis, Lillard

Jarrett Allen‘s rib injury meant the Cavaliers needed a huge performance from Evan Mobley in Game 5, and he responded with 14 points, 13 rebounds and a game-saving block in the final seconds, writes Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Mobley switched onto Orlando’s Franz Wagner on a drive to the basket and tipped away a shot that would have tied the game.

“It was a big play,” Mobley said. “The game was on the line. I just went for it. I knew he was going to go for the layup. So, went for it, got a clean block and we got the rebound. So, got us to win. I’m just trying to make game-winning plays and winning plays as much as possible, especially on the stretch. And I feel like I did a good job this game.”

The win was vital for a Cavs team that had just come off two lopsided losses to the Magic and was hoping to avoid going to back to Orlando with a 3-2 deficit. Allen is considered day to day, and there’s no indication yet of whether he’ll be ready when the series resumes Friday night. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the team will continue to use a “committee” approach if his starting center isn’t available.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • After struggling to score for most of the series, Darius Garland provided an early spark for the Cavaliers in Game 5, Andrews adds. Garland, who had plus-minus ratings of minus-22 and minus-27 in the two losses at Orlando, poured in 17 points in the first quarter Tuesday. “Shoot. Shoot. Shoot,” Donovan Mitchell responded when asked about his advice for Garland. “I don’t give a damn. Shoot the ball. At the end of the day, go out swinging — and there’s a different spark we get when he’s like that. You see it. I’ve set the tones in Games 1 and 2, but there’s a different spark too when he’s also continuing to go. He’s a guy that’s [an] All-Star-level player, caliber player, and he’s just — shoot the ball, be you, be aggressive. And that’s what you see tonight.”
  • The Pacers feel like they squandered a golden opportunity to close out their series, losing by 23 points Tuesday to a Bucks team playing without Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, per Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Indiana players realize that they’ll have to match Milwaukee’s intensity in Game 6. “We gotta understand they’re a team on the brink of their season being done,” Tyrese Haliburton said. “They’re playing desperate, they’re playing hard as they should be. They out-competed us tonight. Dominated us in every facet of the game.”
  • The Bucks may continue to be short-handed as Antetokounmpo (left soleus strain) and Lillard (right Achilles tendinitis) are both listed as doubtful for Thursday’s contest, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Patrick Beverley (right oblique muscle strain) and Khris Middleton (right ankle sprain) are considered probable.

Central Notes: Portis, Giannis, Lillard, LaVine, Morris, Pistons

Bucks forward Bobby Portis, who was ejected in the first quarter of Sunday’s Game 4 loss in Indiana, apologized to his teammates prior to Game 5, then matched Khris Middleton‘s game-high 29 points in Milwaukee’s home win on Tuesday, writes Jamal Collier of ESPN.

“I’m an emotional player, I wear my heart on my sleeve, I give my all every night and take pride of being available for my team,” Portis said on Tuesday. “Game 4, little scuffle, maybe crossed the line. I let my team down by getting ejected and not being available for my team. I owed them an apology for sure.”

With Giannis Antetokounmpo (calf strain) and Damian Lillard (Achilles tendinitis) both unavailable for Game 5, the rest of the Bucks’ starters came up big to extend the team’s season. Portis (29 points, 10 rebounds), Middleton (29 points, 12 rebounds), and Patrick Beverley (13 points, 12 assists) each posted double-doubles, while Malik Beasley and Brook Lopez combined for 30 points.

The Bucks are still down 3-2 to the Pacers in the series, but forcing a Game 6 on Thursday gives Antetokounmpo and Lillard another chance to return to the court. Their availability remains up in the air, but head coach Doc Rivers expressed some optimism after Tuesday’s victory.

“I think they’re very, very, very close,” Rivers said of his two stars, per Collier.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Zach LaVine is “well ahead” of the four-to-six month recovery timeline the Bulls set after he underwent right foot surgery in February, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Johnson says LaVine’s goal remains to resume on-court work at around the three-month mark, in the hopes of having a “relatively normal” offseason. Both Johnson and Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times reiterate that trying to make a LaVine trade is the top priority for the Bulls this summer — that task should be less complicated if he’s healthy.
  • After joining the Cavaliers as a free agent in March, veteran forward Marcus Morris didn’t play a significant role down the stretch, averaging 15.0 minutes per game in 12 regular season appearances and sitting out the team’s first two playoff contests. But he was a key contributor off the bench in Tuesday’s Game 5 win, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic, scoring 12 points and grabbing three rebounds in 26 minutes of action. “We knew what he’s capable of,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of Morris, who was a +8 in the one-point victory. “He’s just a guy you trust. And he’s been through these battles before. He’s tough as nails. He’s not afraid of s–t.”
  • Within his latest mailbag for The Athletic, James L. Edwards III discusses whether Brandon Ingram is a realistic trade target for the Pistons and checks in on Detroit’s president of basketball operations search. Confirming reporting from Marc Stein, Edwards says Dennis Lindsey is a name to watch for the Pistons. Edwards also mentions Bulls general manager Marc Eversley and Timberwolves executive VP of basketball operations Sachin Gupta as possible candidates to keep an eye on.

Bucks’ Giannis, Lillard Out For Game 5

APRIL 30: Antetokounmpo and Lillard are both out for Tuesday’s Game 5, Rivers told reporters prior the game, Eric Nehm of The Athletic tweets.

APRIL 29: The Bucks are on the verge of elimination and it’s unlikely they’ll have their two best players available for Game 5 of their first-round series with the Pacers. The team is listing both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard as doubtful to play on Tuesday, The Athletic’s Eric Nehm tweets.

Antetokounmpo hasn’t played the entire series due to a left calf strain that he suffered late in the regular season. Damian Lillard missed the Bucks’ Game 4 loss on Sunday due to right Achilles tendinitis. Lillard averaged 32.3 points and 5.3 assists in 40.7 minutes per contest during the first three games of the series.

Prior to Game 4, Milwaukee coach Doc Rivers expressed optimism that Antetokounmpo could return to action after the superstar went through a rugged workout on Sunday morning. “I think there’s a chance for him to play in this series. I really do,” he said.

Patrick Beverley (right oblique muscle strain) and Khris Middleton (right ankle sprain) are listed as probable to play.

The Pacers’ top player isn’t a lock to suit up, either. Tyrese Haliburton is listed as questionable due to back spasms, Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star tweets.

Bucks Notes: Giannis, Lillard, Portis, Middleton, Horst

Trailing 3-1 in their series with Indiana, the Bucks‘ best hope for a comeback rests with the return of injured stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, writes Jim Owczarski of The Journal Sentinel. Both players sat out Sunday’s loss, but neither has been ruled out for the series, which resumes Tuesday night in Milwaukee.

Antetokounmpo, who has been sidelined since suffering a calf strain April 9, has been listed as doubtful for the first four games. However, there’s cause for optimism after the former MVP completed an intense workout Sunday morning.

“It went well,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He moved, he shot, he’s running now with no resistance. So those are all very good signs.” Rivers said he’s “optimistic” about Antetokounmpo’s chances to return at some point, adding, “Like I think there’s a chance for him to play in this series. I really do.”

Lillard aggravated his right Achilles tendon late in Game 3. He wore a walking boot for Saturday’s film session, but didn’t have it on as he sat on the bench for Sunday’s contest. He was officially listed as out with tendinitis in the Achilles tendon.

“Not shutting him down,” Rivers said. “That’s a fact. I can say that much for sure.”

There is “obviously pessimism” about the status of both players with a quick turnaround for Game 5, Shams Charania said this morning on Run It Back (video link).

There’s more on the Bucks:

  • Milwaukee lost an important part of its rotation on Sunday when Bobby Portis was ejected seven minutes into the game for an altercation with Andrew Nembhard (video link), notes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Although Nembhard pulled Portis’ arm, the officials determined during a video review that Portis’ push and open-handed strike were two separate hostile acts, meeting the standard for an ejection. “The emotions got the best of him,” Khris Middleton said. “I thought, for the most part of the year, he’s done a great job flirting with that line and not crossing over it. Tonight, it just crossed over at the worst time for us.”
  • Middleton played 40 minutes on Sunday despite pain in both ankles, Nehm adds. The veteran swingman was dealing with a sprained right ankle entering the game, and he hurt the left one when Myles Turner landed on it during a third quarter collision.
  • Sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer there’s a legitimate chance that general manager Jon Horst will leave the Bucks this summer to become head of basketball operations for the Pistons. Horst wasn’t on board with either of the team’s coaching hirings over the past year, according to O’Connor, as he preferred Nick Nurse when the organization opted for Adrian Griffin to please Antetokounmpo and he pushed for Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson when Rivers was brought in at midseason. O’Connor notes that Horst is a Michigan native who got his first front office job with the Pistons, and he might be more comfortable building a young team than refining Milwaukee’s aging roster.
  • Kelly Iko of The Athletic looks at the strategic adjustments made by Rivers and Indiana’s Rick Carlisle that have helped to shape the series.

Damian Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo Out For Game 4

As expected, Bucks stars Damian Lillard (right Achilles) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (left calf) have been ruled out Sunday’s Game 4 in Indiana, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Both players had previously been listed as doubtful.

Lillard has been dealing with pain in his Achilles tendon for a few weeks. Although he said he was feeling much better entering the playoffs, he aggravated the injury in Friday’s Game 3, which Milwaukee lost in overtime.

Antetokounmpo has been sidelined since April 9 due to a left soleus strain, which is one of the muscles in the calf. The two-time MVP had another incredible regular season in 2023/24, averaging 30.4 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.2 SPG and 1.1 BPG while shooting a career-high 61.1% from the field in 73 games (35.2 MPG), but has been injured in the playoffs for the second straight year.

As Nehm writes in a full story for The Athletic, the Bucks are approaching tonight’s Game 4 with a “next-man-up mentality.”

I think for us, it’s our competitive nature,” wing Pat Connaughton said. “We believe we have a locker room of great players and we have guys that can have a ‘next-man-up mentality’ and can play. We have guys who have been situations and obviously delivered in the past, especially in the postseason. So making sure we lean on them.

Just making sure that we don’t let those things mentally let us off the hook. It’s the playoffs. Everyone’s dealing with something, on our side, on their side, how do we fight through it? How do we find ways to win one game, win a battle? Overall, the series will be the war, but try to win a battle on Sunday and make sure we do it together and make sure we pick each other up with whatever it might be.”

Milwaukee currently trails the first-round series with Indiana 1-2.