Terry Stotts

Damian Lillard Talks Adjustment To Milwaukee, Stotts, Giannis, More

Speaking to Chris Mannix of SI.com, Damian Lillard acknowledged that his first season in Milwaukee has been a “real transition” and remains a “work in progress.” While his – and the Bucks‘ – performance on the court has been the focus of that adjustment period, the eight-time All-Star guard noted that the personal aspect of the move has been challenging too.

“Being away from my kids is tough,” said Lillard, who filed for divorce in October. “In Portland, my life was set up. My mom was down the street; my brother was the other way down the street. My sister was down the street. My kids in school. Just my whole life was set up perfectly right there. It was a great situation. So just leaving that behind alone is a lot. And then you add the basketball side to it and that is what it is.”

After spending the first 11 years of his NBA career with the Trail Blazers, Lillard doesn’t have the same sort of life outside of basketball in Milwaukee that he did in Portland, he admitted when Mannix asked him about his routine.

“Bro, go to practice, go home, watch boxing, play video games,” Lillard said. “Man, I type in (boxing website) FightHype on YouTube 100 times and be praying for something new to be on there. Seriously, I don’t have much of a life. But that’s what comes with making a big boy decision. You got to be down for that and figure it out.”

Here are a few more highlights from Lillard’s conversation with Mannix, which was conducted just before the All-Star break (and before the Bucks’ recent three-game winning streak):

  • Lillard said that the season hasn’t gone quite as smoothly as he might’ve envisioned after he made his preseason debut back in October, but that he believes the ups and downs the Bucks have experienced will ultimately be good for the team. “I thought we were going to be how Boston is right now,” he told Mannix. “But I think what I’ve learned is that some things take time, especially stuff that has reward in the end. You can’t come into it and think that it’s just going to be all peaches and cream. … We’ve had adversity hit our team two or three different times and we’ve managed to still be a top-three team in the East with a lot of games to go and still being far away from reaching what we could be and what we should be. And since Doc (Rivers) has gotten here, we’ve kind of shuffled some things around and set kind of a new foundation of things that’s really encouraging.”
  • Having Terry Stotts on the Bucks’ coaching staff created a level of comfort and familiarity for Lillard that went away when the former Trail Blazers head coach resigned from his assistant position before the regular season began. “Now I’m like, O.K., what’s this play?’ I was kind of in the figuring out stage,” Lillard said of the period following Stotts’ exit. “So when you don’t really know stuff like the back of your hand, it is hard to direct traffic and be telling people, ‘I want you right here or there.’ Point guards, especially veteran point guards, man, we play the game differently than a young talented point guard. We are just manipulating everything. And that’s hard to do for the team and for yourself when you’re just trying to learn.”
  • Citing the Nuggets duo of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic as an aspirational example, Lillard said that he and Giannis Antetokounmpo have a strong relationship and want to continue to improve their on-court chemistry to reach that championship level. “(Murray and Jokic) played together for six or seven years. They don’t even think about it no more,” Lillard said. “But in the beginning, they struggled. Jokic would have his moments and then Jamal Murray would struggle and then he would have his moments and then it would take away from him. And then once they figured it out, they went out there and won it.”
  • Lillard “absolutely” believes that the Bucks are capable of winning a title this spring: “I’d be the first to tell you it’s been a challenging year, but the kind of person I am, when stuff like this start happening, I start thinking there’s a reward coming. That’s how I think because I do s–t the right way. I don’t change. I don’t mistreat people. I don’t cheat my process. I still go to the gym at night. I do my stuff, my body, I do everything. I did think we’d be rolling a lot sooner than this. But I know we can get there.”

Latest On Bucks’ Coaching Situation

The Bucks have reached out to Doc Rivers to discuss having him take over their head coaching job, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirms.

As reported earlier in the day, Rivers is the top choice to replace first-year coach Adrian Griffin, who was abruptly fired on Tuesday.

CNN Sports, as relayed by the NBA on TNT, reported on Tuesday night that Rivers had accepted the position (video link). However, that report has yet to be corroborated by other media outlets.

Rivers already has a connection to the Bucks, having informally served as a consultant for Griffin this season at the behest of the club.

Here’s more on the Bucks’ coaching situation:

  • Griffin offered a diplomatic answer to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report regarding his dismissal: “I appreciate the opportunity the Bucks gave me. You can’t control everything,” Griffin said in a phone interview. “I feel good about the job we did. I appreciate my coaching staff for all their hard work. I always wanted to be a head coach in this league. I couldn’t have asked for a better roster. I got to coach Giannis (Antetokounpo), Dame (Lillard), Khris (Middleton), Brook (Lopez). Dream come true. Hopefully, I get another shot at it, but overall, I’m just thankful.”
  • Bucks general manager Jon Horst and assistant GM Milt Newton began closely observing practices and shootarounds in the last 10 days or so, Haynes reports in the same story.  That began raising the eyebrows of the coaching staff and players. If they don’t land Rivers, the Bucks also have Jeff Van Gundy and Nate McMillan on their short list of candidates, Haynes adds.
  • Griffin met with his top four players after the team’s loss to Indiana during the in-season tournament last month and they all spoke about what was working, what wasn’t working and how they could best be utilized. Griffin told the players that sacrifices were required, but bickering in the locker room continued shortly thereafter.
  • Griffin was hired at the endorsement of Antetokounmpo, but that endorsement had more to do with whom the two-time MVP didn’t want as head coach, writes Marc Stein at SubstackNick Nurse was high on the Bucks’ list of candidates before he was hired by the Sixers, according to Stein, who says Antetokounmpo wanted the franchise to go in a different direction and chose to back Griffin. Moving on from Griffin now was a far easier move than finding a difference-making trade, given Milwaukee’s limited assets, Stein adds.
  • When Lillard’s former head coach, Terry Stotts, chose to resign from the Bucks’ staff just prior to the season opener, the reason was that Griffin felt that he was being undermined by Stotts, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Stotts was brought in to mentor Griffin but they clashed on scheme and philosophy.

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.

Bucks Notes: Middleton, Payne, Beauchamp, Stotts

Bucks forward Khris Middleton, who recently signed a lucrative new three-year contract to remain in Milwaukee, suited up for his lone game of the preseason against the Grizzlies on Friday. Eric Nehm of The Athletic takes a look at the three-time All-Star’s performance.

The 6’7″ vet played scored five points on 2-of-6 shooting across 12 minutes of play, though he did dish out five dimes.

“Felt like I was myself out there,” Middleton said. “Now I just gotta get used to different spots on the floor, the rhythm of the offense (and) the defensive side, too, moving my feet a little bit better. All in all, I thought it was a great night.”

There’s more out of Milwaukee:

  • New Bucks reserve point guard Cameron Payne exited Milwaukee’s preseason finale with a right thigh contusion, the club’s PR team has announced (Twitter link). Payne’s status for the team’s regular season opener is unclear.
  • Second-year Bucks forward MarJon Beauchamp is getting a rave review from one very important voice, writes Lori Nickel of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Two-time MVP power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo believes that the Yakima Valley College alum flashed plenty of two-way potential with the team. “Giannis just told me, you have to have that aggressive mentality every time,” Beauchamp said. “Especially on a good team like this … my confidence, it’s up and down. But I heard from the big dog now. I got to stay aggressive. I got to keep working.”
  • Former assistant coach Terry Stotts abruptly departed the Bucks bench just days ahead of the club’s season opener. Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com writes that Stotts, who served as the head coach for the Trail Blazers from 2012-21, was expected to be a major contributor to Milwaukee under first-time head coach Adrian Griffin. “It’s not like Boston dropping [Ime] Udoka last year and putting in [Joe] Mazzulla, but Stotts was supposed to have a big role with [the Bucks’] offense,” a source told Bulpett. “It seemed like he was having trouble adjusting to being an assistant again. He was out for two years, he doesn’t need the money. … Maybe it was just a thing where he just wasn’t feeling it.”

Central Notes: Stotts, Griffin, Cunningham, Bates, Allen, Nembhard

Terry Stotts isn’t retiring, even though the 65-year-old coach is exiting Adrian Griffin’s staff with the Bucks, Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Stotts wasn’t comfortable with his fit on Milwaukee’s staff. Griffin claimed they got along just fine.

“It caught all of us off guard, of course, but again, you just support him,” Griffin said. “He was a terrific guy. I learned a lot from him in a very short time. He was really good at what he does. He made a decision – a personal decision – and we just have to respect that.”

However, The Athletic’s Eric Nehm and Shams Charania report that Stotts and Griffin had a tenuous relationship. That included a shootaround incident in which Griffin yelled for Stotts to join the coaches’ huddle when Stotts was about to have a conversation with the team’s star players. That highlighted the potential difficulty of Stotts adapting to an assistant role under rookie head coach Griffin. Conversely, it also spoke about the treatment and level of respect that Griffin needed to show Stotts, considering his lengthy coaching career.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Pistons paid Monty Williams a lot of money to coach their team, and their star player, Cade Cunningham, has bought in to Williams’ hard-driving style, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. “I love the way he pushes us,” Cunningham said. “He calls things the way he sees them. I think that honesty and that bluntness towards us, that’s huge. Especially for a young team. The systems that he’s put in, the way that he’s made it around our abilities and the personnel we have has been great for us. It’ll continue to get better as he learns us and we learn him.”
  • Rookie second-round pick Emoni Bates has led the Cavaliers in scoring during the preseason. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff told Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com that he’s thrilled Bates dropped to the No. 49 overall pick. “I believe if Emoni had gone in the lottery he’d have been the type of player who’d have been in the Rookie of the Year conversation,” Bickerstaff said. “We are extremely fortunate that he’s here with us and we look forward to working with him.”
  • Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen is showing progress from the right ankle injury that has sidelined him during much of training camp. On Thursday afternoon, he went through post-practice shooting drills and then went through an individual workout, according to Fedor. He is set for re-evaluation this weekend and there’s hope he can return for Cleveland’s regular-season opener on Wednesday night.
  • Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard went through a full practice this week and is on track to play in the team’s preseason finale on Friday, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files tweets. Nembhard is working his way back from an ankle injury.

Terry Stotts Resigns From Bucks’ Coaching Staff

Terry Stotts won’t continue in his role as an assistant coach with the Bucks, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The former Trail Blazers head coach had been out of the league for two years before agreeing to join Adrian Griffin’s new staff in Milwaukee. The Bucks had been searching for an experienced assistant for Griffin, who is in his first year as a head coach.

The 65-year-old Stotts compiled a 402-318 record during his nine seasons as head coach in Portland. He took the Blazers to the playoffs eight times, including a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2019. Stotts was previously a head coach in Milwaukee, as well as Atlanta, and holds a career record of 517-486.

No explanation has been given on why Stotts decided to step down less than a week before the start of the regular season or if (and how) the team plans to fill the coaching vacancy.

More Notes On Bucks’ Trade For Damian Lillard

The Damian Lillard news that we’ve been waiting for all offseason finally broke on Wednesday afternoon, as the Bucks reached an agreement to acquire the star guard from Portland in a three-team deal that will send former No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton to the Trail Blazers.

Lillard and agent Aaron Goodwin made it clear shortly after Dame asked to be traded that the 33-year-old only wanted to be dealt to Miami. Instead, he’ll end up in Milwaukee, joining one of the Heat’s biggest Eastern Conference rivals. In his first public statement since news of the deal broke, Lillard said goodbye to Portland and seemingly put to rest any speculation that he would decline to report to his new team.

“The casuals won’t be addressed but the Trail Blazers fans and city of Portland that I love truly will be … and they will be addressed truthfully. Stay tuned,” Lillard wrote on Twitter. “Excited for my next chapter! @Bucks.”

Here’s more on the Lillard trade:

  • The Trail Blazers didn’t re-engage with the Heat prior to accepting the Bucks’ offer on Wednesday, a league source tells Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). According to Chiang, the communication between Miami and Portland this offseason was pretty limited, and the Heat only learned about the trade when Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news.
  • According to Chiang (Twitter link), Goodwin put out a statement today on the Heat‘s pursuit of his client: They did everything they could to acquire Dame. It takes two to get a deal done. I appreciate all that Pat (Riley), Andy (Elisburg) and Micky (Arison) did to try and make this happen.”
  • With Jrue Holiday expected to remain very available for trade after being sent to Portland, the Sixers will be among the teams with interest in acquiring him, reports Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports (Twitter link). If the 76ers were to land Holiday, I imagine it would be in a multi-team deal involving James Harden, though that’s just my speculation.
  • Holiday also seems to fit the mold of the type of player the Heat would covet, Chiang notes (via Twitter), though he acknowledges that the veteran guard’s market could be “robust.”
  • No longer having Deandre Ayton‘s long-term, maximum-salary contract on their books is considered a positive for the Suns, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link). Rankin adds that new Phoenix center Jusuf Nurkic is viewed as a good team player who buys into his role, is loved by teammates, and can help the Suns with his passing.
  • Shortly after the news of Lillard’s trade to Milwaukee broke, Heat star Jimmy Butler took to Instagram to send a message to the league, as ClutchPoints relays (Twitter video link). “Yo NBA, man, y’all need to look into the Bucks for tampering,” Butler said. “Y’all do. I’m just going to put that out there. Y’all didn’t hear it from me, but I heard it through somebody, y’all look at them for tampering.”
  • The Bucks‘ and Suns‘ championship betting odds both increased as a result of today’s trade news, per Alex Kennedy of BasketballNews.com (Twitter link). Kennedy says that one sportsbook has moved Milwaukee from +700 to +370 and Phoenix from +800 to +600.
  • As Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report observes (via Twitter), Lillard’s move to Milwaukee will reunite him with his former coach. The Bucks hired Terry Stotts this offseason as Adrian Griffin‘s lead assistant. Stotts was Portland’s head coach from 2012-21.

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!”

Terry Stotts To Join Bucks’ Coaching Staff

Former Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts is finalizing a contract to be part of Adrian Griffin‘s new coaching staff with the Bucks, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

A report on Friday indicated that Milwaukee was seeking an experienced assistant to pair with Griffin, who’s a first-time head coach. Stotts and James Borrego were both mentioned as candidates, but Borrego has since agreed to join the Pelicans as associate head coach.

Stotts, 65, has been out of the NBA since parting ways with the Trail Blazers in 2021 after running the team for nine seasons. He previously served as head coach of the Hawks and Bucks and has a career record of 402-318.

The Celtics reportedly considered hiring Stotts as an assistant when Joe Mazzulla took over the team last September following Ime Udoka’s suspension. The Mavericks were also rumored to have interest in adding him to Jason Kidd’s staff.

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.”