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July 5, 2021

Pat Connaughton

Milwaukee Bucks

Media Day

Q. Organizationally, the Bucks have been through a lot over the last two seasons, in addition to obviously what happened in the bubble. I'm curious, how valuable has Vin Baker's perspective on things just in life and obviously his story, he's very open about it, how valuable has that perspective been to you, to the organization as a whole, kind of on this journey?

PAT CONNAUGHTON: Yeah, great question. I would say Vin is one of the many guys that kind of epitomizes what this organization is about. I say that, obviously, everyone knows Vin's success as a basketball player, so he's able to speak to the experiences and the things that you have to go through, the adversity and how to deal with both success and failure on the court, and then what I would say people don't see as much is the insight that he's been willing to provide from an off-the-court standpoint, the things that he's gone through in his life that he helps us learn from and hopefully helps us make decisions based off of his experiences that would put us in a position to have success off the floor.

I think his openness and willingness to do that is what has been one of the coolest things that I've seen in my entire career in the NBA because you don't necessarily know what you're getting into when you get into the NBA, both from a basketball standpoint, but also from an off-the-floor standpoint. So, the past players, and especially ones like Vin who had so much success on the floor, their willingness to be open and honest about things that they went through and try to help that next generation of players learn and make decisions based off that is truly incredible.

Q. How would you describe just his light, Vin’s light as a person? You know what I'm saying?

PAT CONNAUGHTON: For sure. He's just a guy that you enjoy being around. You can have conversations with him, like I said, about really anything. The stories he has from his playing days, the experiences that he's gone through, and more his just willingness to exude positivity and confidence into yourself is what's been most impressive for me.

After a minute and a half conversation during a timeout with him, you feel like you can go out there and dunk on somebody or make seven threes in a row, but having a conversation with him for 10 minutes off the floor after a game, you feel like you can go out and make a difference and have an impact in the community, which you could argue is more important than dunking on somebody during a game.

So, I think just that type of personality that he has and willingness to not just exude confidence, but to speak to the different things that you'll come in contact with and have to go through in the world kind of makes it such a family-like atmosphere, which is what I think the Bucks have done such a tremendous job at as an organization, and he's a really good example of it.

Q. You guys obviously switch a lot defensively, and I'm curious about the adjustment from defending Trae Young to going to defend Chris Paul and Devin Booker and maybe some of the similarities and differences in that task.

PAT CONNAUGHTON: Yeah, definitely. I think all three of them are tremendous players. Two of them are really great point guards. One of them's one of the best point guards of all time. I think some of the similarities are they're really crafty in utilizing their bodies and putting themselves in position to have success both from making shots and also from getting fouled. So, defending without fouling and making sure positionally you're in the right position to not get caught, whether it be via a ball fake, a rip through, an off-balance move, whatever it might be.

Then just understanding the differences in the three different players. Obviously, Devin Booker being more of a two guard, more of -- obviously, height. He's a little bit taller than the other two. They all have success in different ways on the floor. So, it's really just about understanding what their comfort zone, the one, two, three moves that they're trying to get to most often, trying to make it as tough for those two, three moves as you can, and try to put them in a position to have to go to the counter moves, four, five, whatever it might be, in order to try to put ourselves in the best position to have the most success.

Q. Congratulations for getting to the NBA Finals. My question for you, because you have been through two tough series against the Nets and the Hawks, how do you think that prepared you guys for the NBA Finals in a year that all your players are in the Finals for the first time?

PAT CONNAUGHTON: I'll tell you, it's just adversity, right? Overcoming adversity. I think, as an athlete in general, as a competitor, you're going to have success and failure, you're going to have to fight adversity at some time. I think not just this year, but going through it and seeing what it takes to win in the regular season versus the playoffs, to see how together you have to be, both on and off the court, to put yourself and your team in the best position to win. Then specifically this year, it hasn't been an easy journey, but we stuck together. We've had open, honest conversations. We're tried to make sure that we're putting ourselves in a position both on and off the floor to have success, and overcoming adversity throughout the playoffs is inevitable. It's inevitable over the first three rounds. It's going to be inevitable in the Finals.

Remaining together and sticking together, I think has been basically the start of what the culture of the Bucks has been built on, and it's going to be something we have to continue to exude in order to have success the Finals.

Q. In case you're going to play without Giannis, at least in the first couple of games in the NBA Finals, what would you like to maintain from the series against the Hawks, the last two games against the Hawks? And what are your advantages against the Suns?

PAT CONNAUGHTON: You can't replace a player the caliber of Giannis -- two-time MVP, the things he does on a nightly basis on both sides of the ball, you can't replace it. But I would say, as a human being, it's even more impressive what he does, and what he's done since he's been injured, continuing to be vocal, if not even more vocal, pulling players aside individually, addressing the team collectively, making sure he's still present and more than a big part of what we're doing has instilled confidence in both individual players as well as the team in general.

Obviously, you're talking about a guy that puts up 30 points a night. You're talking about a guy that rebounds the basketball, passes the basketball, defends as well, if not better, than anybody else. You're not going to necessarily replace that with one guy or with one thing.

The way we've tried to make sure we've put our best foot forward to have his back while he's out is doing it together. Obviously, Khris, Jrue, Bobby, there's been a bunch of guys that have stepped up in his absence, but it's been a collective group effort. It's been playing together. It's been sharing the basketball. It's been defending as a team and gang rebounding and doing all of the little things that it takes to win a basketball game so that we can try to put ourselves in this position to get to the Finals to give Giannis some more time to get healthy because, without him, we wouldn't be here. The things that he does off the court -- we all see what he does on the court, but the things he does off the court are, in my opinion, even more impressive.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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