MILWAUKEE — Bucks two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo said the firing of first-year coach Adrian Griffin caught him by surprise, but that he trusts Milwaukee’s decision-makers to give the team the best possible chance to win a championship.
«I’ve got to trust the front office, I’ve got to trust the ownership group that they consider the bigger picture,» Antetokounmpo said following the Bucks’ 126-116 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night. «My job is to be the best version of myself, to lead this team out there and help win games.
«Their job is to create the best team possible and the best atmosphere around the team possible that they believe gives us a better chance to win a championship. But yeah, I do think [firing coach Griffin] was a surprise.»
Griffin was dismissed on Tuesday despite a 30-13 record through his first 43 games, second in the Eastern Conference. He is the first coach since David Blatt was fired by the Cavs in 2015-16 to be dismissed with such a high winning percentage.
Sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Doc Rivers reached an agreement in principle Wednesday to become the Bucks’ next coach. General manager Jon Horst said he would not comment until a deal became official.
Before Wednesday’s game, Horst detailed his decision to fire Griffin, saying he wished to improve the group at a coaching level in order to maximize the team’s championship window this season. He also emphasized that this was a decision made by the team’s front office and ownership group, not one driven by player input.
Antetokounmpo has been vocal all season in his criticism of the Bucks’ performance despite their record. Even on Wednesday, he acknowledged the ways Milwaukee could improve when asked about Horst’s assessment that they had not played to their full potential.
«From our chemistry, to the way we practice, our level of focus when we go out there, there’s a lot of things that we could do better,» he said. «Two-man game with me and [Damian Lillard] more. Me and Khris [Middleton] to also connect more. To posting up Brook [Lopez]. There’s so many things … so I’ll probably assume that he’s referring to those things.»
Still, Antetokounmpo refuted the idea that he did not have a good relationship with Griffin or that he was involved with the decision.
«I loved the guy. I invited him to my wedding,» Antetokounmpo said. «I was coached by him and we did very, very, very well. When somebody is being hired, the GM might come and ask, ‘What do you think about that? What do you think about this?’ or whatever and not just me — players, people that he trusts their advice. But at times, they make it seem like it’s the players that are making the decision.»
In their first game since Griffin was fired, the Bucks never trailed against the Cavs, avenging a 40-point loss in Cleveland last week when Antetokounmpo did not play. On Wednesday, he posted 35 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists, his third triple-double in the past four games and seventh on the season, matching a season high (2020-21).
Lillard said he was also caught off guard by Griffin’s dismissal, but also agreed Milwaukee has not played to its full potential.
«There’s been a lot of expectations on our team,» Lillard said after Wednesday’s game. «Things have been expected to look a certain way. We’ve had a bumpy road to our success, which is sometimes a part of the process. I was surprised. But it’s part of the game. People get traded, people get waived, people get fired, and that’s never something you want to see.»