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New Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer: ‘I think I’m in the best place in the league’

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Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo will almost certainly finish fourth in Most Valuable Player voting this year, his age-23 season.

The last coach to take over a team with a player who already accomplished so much at such a young age – Del Harris (a familiar name in Milwaukee), who inherited reigning MVP Moses Malone with the Rockets in 1979. It’s just so rare for jobs coaching such a promising player top come open.

“I think I’m in the best place in the league,” new Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said at his introductory press conference today.

Budenholzer had his pick of Milwaukee and Toronto, another highly successful team, especially for one seeking a new coach. But the Bucks offer Antetokounmpo and more modest expectations.

Milwaukee hasn’t won a playoff series in 17 years. Budenholzer was asked today as much about delivering a division title as an NBA title.

Topping the Cavaliers, Pacers, Pistons and Bulls sounds much easier than surpassing the Warriors, Rockets, Celtics and 76ers in coming years.

Not that Budenholzer, who reached the conference finals with the Hawks, is completely ducking big talk.

“We’re lucky to have a Giannis, who will do anything to win, and a Khris Middleton that will do anything to win,” Budenholzer said. “When you have your best players that are true competitors and that are truly unselfish and care more about the team than they do themselves, those are a couple of big, foundational blocks to winning championships and doing things that are special.”

The Bucks held the press conference at their still-under-construction new arena, the media wearing hard hats and orange vests:

But this isn’t a complete rebuild for Budenholzer.

Milwaukee has made the playoffs the last two seasons, including winning 44 games this year. Antetokounmpo is a superstar. Middleton is a borderline All-Star. Eric Bledsoe is a solid starter. Restricted free agent-to-be Jabari Parker is talented. The rotation is somewhat deep.

The Bucks just underachieved under former coach Jason Kidd (and never capitalized before him for more than a decade for other reasons).

Citing the potential of current players, Budenholzer said Milwaukee could become “elite” defensively. The Bucks are full of long and athletic players, and Budenholzer coached sound defenses in Atlanta. There’s only one reason to doubt him: Milwaukee finished just 17th in points allowed per possession this season.

But that’s a feature of this job, not a bug. The Bucks aren’t stuck with an inevitably bad defenders. They just underperformed. Budenholzer can nudge them ahead – and is positioned to receive outsized credit if he does.

“Working with the entire with the entire roster, with the front office, with ownership,” Budenholzer said, “I can’t wait to take us to the next level in Milwaukee.”

That next level isn’t that high, which is why Budenholzer is right.

Milwaukee is a great place for a coach to be.

Report: Bucks hiring Mike Budenholzer

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The Bucks and Raptors were reportedly focused on former Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer in their searches.

Milwaukee got him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This is a strong hire for a team ready to reach the next level.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a superstar. Khris Middleton is a borderline All-Star. Eric Bledsoe is a solid starter.

Coaching was holding back Milwaukee.

That’s unlikely to be the case anymore.

Budenholzer brings a strong track record of a flowing offense, sound defense and player development.

The Celtics and 76ers are rightfully seen as the top Eastern Conference contenders once LeBron Jamesreign ends. But don’t exclude the Bucks from the conversation. They’re also a challenger.

More immediately, this hire will be felt in Toronto and Atlanta.

The Raptors must move onto another choice to guide their very good team. Maybe they’ll now hire one of their strong internal candidates – assistant coaches Nick Nurse and Rex Kalamian and minor-league coach Jerry Stackhouse. Stan Van Gundy, Steve Clifford and Monty Williams carry impressive head-coaching experience if Toronto wants someone more proven.

Unlike the Raptors, the Hawks are a winner in this. They will no longer have to pay Budenholzer his full salary.

Report: Raptors and Bucks focusing on Mike Budenholzer in coaching searches

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Two playoff teams – the Raptors and Bucks – are looking for coaches.

Apparently, both want former Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Toronto and Milwaukee will already known to be interested in Budenholzer. It sounds as if that interest has only intensified.

Budenholzer is a former Coach of the Year. In Atlanta, his offenses were sophisticated and varied, his defenses usually sound. He has a strong record of player development.

He’s exactly the type of coach good teams like the Raptors and Bucks should covet and can attract. If it comes to it, which would he choose?

Toronto has been so good in the regular season, and nearly its entire rotation – led by stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan – is locked up. Only sixth man Fred VanVleet will be a free agent (restricted), though luxury-tax concerns also loom.

Milwaukee has a young superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo and even lower expectations. The Bucks haven’t won a playoff series in 17 years. With Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe, it won’t be terrible difficult to produce the best season Milwaukee has seen in nearly two decades.

This all shapes up nicely for Budenholzer – and the Hawks. They agreed to pay his full remaining salary minus a portion of what he makes on his next job. A bidding war between the Raptors and Bucks would be a windfall for Atlanta.

Report: Bucks to interview Spurs assistant Becky Hammon for head coaching job

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Becky Hammon is about to break another barrier.

The first female assistant coach in the NBA, a member of Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio, is going to get to interview for the Milwaukee Bucks head coaching job, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. She is the first woman to get an NBA head coaching job interview.

Bucks management likes her — they interviewed her a year ago for the then-vacant GM job.

Good for both sides here. Hammon has been a well-respected coach in the San Antonio organization and there have been people in the league wondering when she would get a chance to interview somewhere.

The Bucks are casting a wide net with this search, including other Spurs assistants.

While the Bucks, like the Knicks, are going to talk to a lot of people they are expected to go with a veteran coach who knows how to install a defensive system and build a winning culture. Another former Spurs assistant turned head coach — Mike Budenholzer — is the name most mentioned around the league, especially now that the Knicks hired David Fizdale. There are a lot of coaches who want this job, with the team already having a top-five player in Giannis Antetokounmpo plus a solid supporting cast of guys such as Eric Bledsoe, Kris Middleton, and others.

Celtics run Drew Bledsoe video, fans chant ‘Who is Bledsoe?’ at Eric

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Milwaukee Bucks point guard Eric Bledsoe maintained that he didn’t know who Terry Rozier was through most of the first round matchup between the Bucks and Boston Celtics.

He certainly knows who he is now.

Rozier was stunning, helping to close Milwaukee on Saturday in Game 7 in Boston with a line of 26 points, nine assists, and six rebounds. Rozier outplayed Bledsoe all series long, and the Celtics weren’t super enthused with Bledsoe’s obvious disrespect.

Before Game 7, Boston ran a video on the board at TD Garden with another Bledsoe — former New England Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe. Addressing the crowd, Drew Bledsoe introduced himself as “The Original Bledsoe”.

Then, as time wound down in the first quarter, Celtics fans started chanting, “Who is Bledsoe?” toward the Bucks point guard.

Via Twitter:

Eric Bledsoe did finish the game with 23 points, three rebounds, and two assists, but his team took the loss and were bounced from the first round.