Milwaukee Bucks star-duo Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard discuss the recent hiring of head coach Doc Rivers
Back in October 2023, the Milwaukee Bucks acquired All-Star guard Damian Lillard in a blockbuster three-team trade involving the Phoenix Suns and the Portland Trail Blazers. Fast forward to January 2024, and the dynamic duo of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard are breaking their silence on the recent hiring of seasoned coach Doc Rivers.
Doc Rivers, with an extensive coaching career and notable success, has stepped into the challenging role of leading a team featuring two of the league’s biggest stars. The Bucks’ recent dominant win, led by Antetokounmpo’s impressive performance of 30 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists, seems to have set the tone for a promising collaboration between the team and their new head coach.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning Finals MVP and one of the league’s most dominant players, expressed his admiration for Rivers, acknowledging the toughness and resilience that comes with the job. “It speaks volumes,” Antetokounmpo remarked after the game. “You could tell what he’s built of. He’s tough. It’s hard to take this job.”
Antetokounmpo emphasized the immense pressure that comes with high expectations, stating, “You lose, it feels like the whole world is ending. You win by five, why didn’t you win by 20? It’s hard. Nothing is good enough. Only a championship is good enough. We’ve got to that point, which is crazy. But I’m embracing it.”
However, what seems to excite Antetokounmpo the most is Rivers’ experience and confidence in handling such pressure. He highlighted the importance of having a leader who understands the team’s ultimate goal of winning a championship and can guide the players through challenges. “Having somebody that can give you that guide, that lead, it’s always great to have him in your locker room. So, I’m excited that he understands that we’re trying to win a championship. I think everybody in this locker room understands that,” Antetokounmpo said.
Antetokounmpo also acknowledged the adjustment period that comes with a coaching change, recognizing the need for time as the team adapts to new routines and strategies. He commented, “Different coach, different routines for everybody, so it’s going to take time. But I think the most important thing that he emphasized is to come together as a team. The more we are together as a team, the faster we can get to where we want to get to.”
On the other side of the spectrum, Damian Lillard, known for his clutch performances and leadership skills, shared his perspective on the addition of Doc Rivers to the coaching staff. Lillard emphasized Rivers’ extensive experience in the league, both as a player and a coach, and how that wealth of knowledge could benefit the team.
“We all know what he brings,” Lillard said. “We’ve heard his voice, him coaching other teams. We know he’s had success. He played in this league. He went to school in this city. He’s been around a long time as a coach. He’s coached a lot of great players.”
Lillard pointed out Rivers’ ability to motivate and challenge players, stating, “He’s a strong voice. And he’s going to demand more from our team. He’s not going to be afraid to challenge myself. He’s not going to be afraid to challenge Giannis. He’s not going to be afraid to challenge Brook (Lopez) and Khris.”
The Blazers’ former star also drew parallels between Rivers’ coaching success and the high expectations faced during his time with the Boston Celtics. Lillard noted, “I think his most success as a coach is in a situation where there were extreme expectations in Boston.”
He continued, “Because of his experience — not just the high moments, but the low moments — of being criticized and people jumping on you for not succeeding, he’s felt it. And, I think, anytime you experience that in that way on both sides, you know how rewarding it can be when you come out on top. And, I think, looking at our team, he feels like we have a chance to do that.”
Both Antetokounmpo and Lillard echo the sentiment that Rivers’ leadership is crucial for a team filled with veteran players and high expectations. The combination of championship aspirations and a seasoned coach like Rivers has created an air of excitement within the Bucks’ locker room.
As the Bucks embark on the journey towards a championship, the integration of Doc Rivers as their head coach has become a focal point for fans and analysts alike. Only time will tell how this strategic move will impact the team’s dynamics and, ultimately, their quest for a title. The NBA landscape, once again, finds itself in the midst of a captivating storyline, and basketball enthusiasts will be eagerly watching the Bucks’ journey under the guidance of Coach Rivers and the dynamic duo of Antetokounmpo and Lillard.
(All Quotes per The Athletic’s Eric Nehm)