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Milwaukee Bucks Media Day: A New Era Begins

The season is getting closer and closer

Damian Lillard MIlwaukee Bucks Pep Rally Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

Boy, talk about an off-season of change. The Bucks have had it all. From a coaching change to new players in the draft to arguably the biggest trade in Wisconsin sports history, the team officially kicked off the 2023-24 campaign at Media Day on Monday.

With that being said, I’ll dive into the standout questions that were asked along with the responses. Let’s get started!

First, Wes Edens took the floor and represented the Bucks ownership group:

On the decision to move on from Mike Budenholzer:

“Well, it was a very hard decision because Bud is a great coach, very credentialed. We won a championship together. Won more games in the last five years than any other team in the league. It’s not an obvious thing to make a change at that point, but we just felt like our organization needed a new voice and as great as Bud has been for us, we thought it was the right time to do it. So, that’s really what it was.”

There was a new CBA. Here are Edens’ thoughts:

“Well, the overriding principle that you’re trying to solve for in a CBA is to create as much competitive balance in the league as possible. What creates the most interest in the league in a season and obviously the playoffs is you want that competitive balance. There’s been five different teams in the league that have won the five last championships, which I think might be a record, so that’s an extraordinary thing in the league. The focus is really the future to try and present the best possibility of everyone competing and winning. The relationship with the players is the best I think it’s ever been. I’ve been in the league for now nine, going on ten years. There’s a lot of I think — I view the partnership with the players as really important and the rules were put in were really put in to keep as much competitive balance as we can. now we’re one of the highest spending team in the league so it impacts us but I’m very supportive of competition. We want to have a chance to compete and win every year and I think that’s the goal for the league.”

On Giannis’ comments from the off-season:

“Well, I think that Giannis and ownership are in exactly the same position — that we’re all very focused on winning. So if you relate his comments, which I think in the context in which they were offered, had everything to do with trying to be in the best position to compete for championships while he’s an active player at the peak of his skills and of course, we couldn’t be any more supportive of that. So I feel like we’re 100% aligned on this and we’ve done everything we can to have the best chance for the team to compete and win. The coaching change was made because we thought it was the right thing for the organization. The change to trade two, very very good basketball players for Damian Lillard — that was a very big decision. We’re just trying to do what we think we can to give ourselves the best chance to win championships and I feel really good about that.”

On Giannis’ contract:

“Yeah, we don’t comment specifically on that. Obviously, Giannis is eligible for a maximum contract extension and he’s deserving of it. I think he’s the best player in the world so we couldn’t be more than happy about that. We went through a similar situation a few years ago and his contract and we got to the right place with it and I feel like at the end of the day, he’s committed to being here and committed to being a part of a winning team and we’re committed to Giannis. We’ll see how it all plays out.”

On the process of hiring Adrian Griffin:

“Yeah, I’ve known of Adrian for a long time. He’s coached on some of the best coaching staffs in the league. He’s never been a head coach. But he might well have been the most credentialed guy to not be a head coach. We got down to a relatively small group of people who were finalists. I had a meeting with him, he came to my office in New York and we spent some time together. I just thought as a coach, he’s very accomplished. Difficult to be a head coach now, because he’ll be the guy making decisions and whatnot, so it’ll be a big adjustment for him and a big opportunity. But his energy and his passion and his commitment to winning were so strong and I thought he would have a great connection with the players, being a former player himself. He played at a very high level. He’s got that kind of tough mentality we thought was a good change. In the end, I thought it was a pretty easy decision. It seems like a big decision to move on from Bud and independent from that, we interviewed all these different folks. I think he represents the league and he represents what hard work, showing up every day is. I’m very, very happy with the decision.”

On the unfolding process regarding Bally and streaming:

“I think that in sports, if your first ten questions aren’t about media, you don’t really understand the financials of sports. I think we’re in this very interesting inflection point between linear programming and streaming. There’s still a lot of unanswered questions about the economics of the over-the-air, the streaming you get to run your own broadcast if you choose to do it that way, you get to connect more directly with consumers. So, that’s something we’re deeply interested in and of course independent of that, the whole Bally situation, they’re in a re-structuring right now. There’s a lot of uncertainty about how that’s going to turn out but I think that sooner rather than later, streaming will play a bigger and role in sports media and we’re now all trying to figure out how to marry up the linear programming that’s very, very important, the backbone to the economics frankly of the league — our league and others with getting access to consumers. It’s a pretty fluid situation and one that we’re obviously paying lots of attention to.”

Following Edens, Jon Horst and Adrian Griffin took the stage. We’ll start with Horst’s answers. Here are his thoughts on Giannis’ comments:

“What Giannis has said and what he believes is completely aligned with what we believe and what we say and more importantly, what we do. Contrary to some of the headlines, he hasn’t said anything unique or different or new than what he’s ever said. We’re completely focused on winning. We’ve invested in winning at a high level from ownership from Wes and Jimmy and Dee and Mike and Jamie. The financial resources, the support, the thought that goes into big moves like we’ve made recently, the draft capital that can’t play today but the players that can, we’re completely aligned and focused at winning at the highest level. None of what he said is unique or new or confrontational. It’s completely aligned with who we are, and what we’ve done and we’ll continue to do.”

Here’s what Adrian Griffin had to say on having confidence of being the right guy for this situation despite him being a first-time head coach:

“I think first, we have a great supporting staff. Jon and I, again, our communication is excellent. But I’ve been in the NBA for 25 years. You’re talking to a guy who went un-drafted. I had to fight and claw. Pressure is good. It makes you who you are. You got to embrace these opportunities. These opportunities don’t come along. I’ve always been a guy who had to fight for his career. I’m relishing in the opportunity because you get two of the greatest players to play this game, so I look at it as an opportunity. There’s no time to look at it any other way. These are fun times. I can’t wait to get started at training camp. I have an awesome staff. We’ve been working hard and diligently all summer. And again, it’s not all about one person. I’m smart enough to know that I don’t know all the answers but collectively and together, the answer will be here. We just need everybody pulling in the right direction. Again, my job is to control the message and our message to the players is that we’re stronger together. We got a lot of individual talent and it doesn’t take rocket science for a coaches to put our guys in a position on the court to succeed and then we let the hard work talk for itself.”

Now, onto Damian Lillard. Here are some of his responses:

Here are his comments on more basketball-related things:

“I’m always gonna be myself. Being myself doesn’t always mean that I gotta be out front or everything has to be about me. I think that who I am as a person, the way that I prepare myself, the way that I approach the game, I’m going to find a way to have an impact. Like I said, playing with somebody like Giannis, the kind of attention he’s gonna get is going to make the game simpler and more easy for me. I think that because of the way that I impose myself when I do play and how I attack games, he’s going to have a kind of opportunity that I think he hasn’t had. I mean, the best thing I can tell you is how exciting it’s going to be — how excited I am — and that I’m prepared for it. I don’t go into any situation expecting for things to be about me. I know the player that he is, I know the player I am, and I know how to make my presence felt regardless of the role.”

On the pick-and-roll opportunities with Giannis:

“Obviously, I’m a pick-and-roll player. I’ve played a lot of pick-and-roll in my career. When I think about playing with him, I just try to figure out how do you defend it. I haven’t played against a lot of coverages where teams aren’t at the level of a screen, whether it’s showing, trapping, or just being there to where I gotta get a ball up. I can’t imagine them wanting him to have the ball at the free throw line coming downhill with an advantage and Khris on the wing and Brook, you know you got really good players out there. I’ve definitely thought about it and I just don’t know how you handle that and I think it’s going to be something that teams have to put up with and try to figure out. But I’m excited. I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunity for me out there because of who he is and vice versa.”

Next, Giannis took the stage. He had plenty to discuss as well, beginning with his off-season comments:

“It’s something I say every year. I think I’ve been saying that from the moment I became leader of this team. I’ve been saying the same thing. At the end of the day, I want to win games.”

On his intent of signing the extension where things stand:

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t make sense for me to sign right now. I always need to look for what’s best for me and my family — for my situation. At the end of the day, I want to be a Milwaukee Buck for the rest of my career — as long as we’re winning. It’s as simple as that.”

Other players spoke as well following Giannis. Here are some highlights:

  • First, both Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez were asked if they’d play in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris if asked. Both said yes. Lopez even said that he told Steve Kerr he didn’t have anything this upcoming summer as he subbed into a game.
  • Some perspective into Brook’s off-season decision:
  • Pat Connaughton and Lillard were teammates back in Portland:
  • Robin Lopez is back and so are the vibes:
  • Your new Big Three (with Coach):
  • Cam Payne didn’t have a media availability with us, but he did have a message:
  • Another year with the Giannis and Thanasis:
  • Last, this season is going to be fun: