Adrian Griffin: A perceived “Slow Start” has to be owned by the New Coach
The 2023-2024 Bucks season simply has not started off as strong as the 2022-2023 Bucks season did. Last year Milwaukee had a perfect October, going 6-0. They did not lose until Nov.7th when they lost to Atlanta. They went 15-5 in their first 20 games. It certainly was a “hot” start.
That “hot start” feels elusive now. Could all of this be related to the Head Coaching Change? To decide to change up the style of play and the system?
In short, probably.
If there is one thing former Bucks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer proved it was that he could really win a lot of regular season games. Budenholzer went 484-371 (.604%) in the regular season as the Head Coach for both Atlanta and Milwaukee. In just his Bucks tenure Budenholzer went 271-120 (closest to winning 70% of his regular season games) However Budenholzer coached teams fared much worse in the playoffs with a 56-48 record, winning at just a 53% clip.
Fans can get really used to regular season success like that.
Bucks twitter really, really seems to want Griffin gone: already!
I did not expect a 2-2 start to be enough for Bucks Twitter to entirely turn on a new coach but I suppose I underestimated the online urge to gather pitchforks. It’s been a rough start, but didn’t we all agree we’d be okay with that as a new scheme is implemented like a week ago?
— Ti Windisch (@TiWindisch) November 2, 2023
Did you see anything you like so far in 4 games? 2 blowouts in 4 games is more than anyone could ask for especially if those 2 teams are not even top tier teams. Personally I haven't seen anything positive so far. I believe Griffin was a bad choice as a head coach 🤷
— Now What? (@madzkills789) November 2, 2023
But there are plenty of reasons to be patient with the new coach, aside from just being a hopeful fan. The NBA regular season can be quite long. And even then the tea leaves are there already, including the wonderfully magnificent Giannis Extension. Even if the aim of the coaching switch was to get Giannis to stay longer than well, it worked. Having him keeps you in every game you play.
Giannis wanted someone as a head coach with NBA playing experience
Budenholzer played professionally in Denmark for a season. Known as a pretty good scorer, he never played in the NBA. He comes from the “Popovich” coaching tree and had a tremendous amount of success under him as an assistant
Adrian Griffin comes from a different path. Griffin did have success as an NBA player. The left hander played in 477 career games. In fact, he averaged 16 minutes a game. Griffin also averaged 4 points per game and around 3 rebounds.
As the Bucks franchise goes, “what Giannis wants, Giannis gets”. And ultimately that is not so terrible considering he will go down as the greatest player the team has ever had. That is as of right now. If he can bring home a 2nd championship, well, then, he may go down as a top five all-time NBA player.
This is also not some unrealistic request. For a player to want a coach with similar experiences is akin to someone wanting to work with a boss who has done what they are being asked to do before. Makes sense to me! Griffin might end up being more of a “players coach”. That might be a good thing. He has made some defensive adjustments already and seems to be
The Bucks have still won a couple of fun games. (See below)
Will Dame’s Offense be more valuable than Holiday’s Defense?
In a recent interview the new Bucks Head Coach spoke to new superstar Damian Lillard’s defense. “I think his intentions are great,” Adrian Griffin said…. “But at the same time, you know, him shooting the ball is what we need. We need him to be aggressive. He’s done that at times, and I think at times you see that he’s a little hesitant, and he doesn’t — I mean, I don’t want to put words in his mouth — but he’s almost too unselfish at times. But we just need him to be Dame, you know? Be who you are. That’s good enough. That’s more than enough for us.” This is all per Dan Devine of Yahoo Sports.
Again, probably. When Bucks fans collectively slow down and ask themselves a simple question: “Would you rather have Damian Lillard or Jrue Holiday” the true answer reveals itself. You would much rather have Damian Lillard. Of course Holiday has a reputation as a defensive savant. But even that has slipped.
Last season in a game as the primary defender against Jalen Brunson Holiday gave up 44 to him. This season on Friday Lillard gave up 45. That all feels like a wash to me. What you would expect is that Dame time will continue to ramp up. We may even see a 50 point or 60 point effort here or there. It’ll be that moment, when Lillard is truly “unlocked” that this team will truly begin to develop an identity.
Under Griffin, a former player, that will happen organically and in time.
Adrian Griffin understands what any casual basketball fan understands: Giannis and Dame aren’t here to lose in the first round again. The time to peak is not now. Are they intentionally trying to lose?! Of course not. But they might not be unveiling certain defensive or offensive sets yet because it is still too early to even want to do that.
Really, what needs to happen ultimately will: Giannis and Lillard will combine for an awesome, deadly pick n roll combo. When they do, it really could be tough for anyone to stop this team.
So far this season, Lillard and Antetokounmpo have run 29 picks together, which ranks 61st among combos leaguewide. Seems underused!
— Louis Zatzman (@LouisZatzman) November 2, 2023
All of this takes time. The ultimate lesson here is that it still is the NBA regular season. Milwaukee currently sits as the third seed in the Eastern Conference. If you are in the top four seeds, what does it matter? You get home court advantage in the first round. And then you play on.
For the former NBA player and for the current Bucks Coach that might be a plan that gets the Milwaukee Bucks closer to their ultimate goal: the NBA Championship.
- Follow me on Twitter at @authorrudylb and check out my other writings at www.rudylb.com. Follow us at @WiSportsHeroics for all things Wisconsin sports. Also, check out our merch store for some amazing WSH merchandise!