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July 5, 2021

Khris Middleton

Milwaukee Bucks

Media Day

Q. After the Eastern Conference Finals were over, you said you couldn't quite process it yet. Now that you're sitting up there talking to us on a Finals media day, what does it moment feel like for you?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: It's great. Hopefully I'll have another, better moment in the next couple days or week or two. But it's been a great run so far. It's been a grind, but I think we all love it. We all appreciate it.

Q. Jrue Holiday said after that same game that he knows that they are prepared to ride on your shoulders kind of until the wheels fall off. How do you take that responsibility, process that responsibility? I know you're not one to think about pressure.

KHRIS MIDDLETON: No, I'm going to ride with them too. I think we're all having each other's back out there. Jrue has been fantastic. Giannis has when he's been out there. Brook, Bobby, Pat. I can go down the line. P.J. Tucker. We all use each other out there. We all need each other out there.

Q. Your career has been defined by this work behind the scenes. What drove you to that? Was it winning a championship or respect or job security? What kind of wired you to be that way, to work this way?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: Just be the best version of myself I can be, the best player. I think I've put a lot of work in, but every NBA player has. We wouldn't be here -- we wouldn't be professionals if we didn't. To be the best, you have to work like the best. I think we all believe in that.

Q. Is this just how you're wired? So if you were working wherever else in some other line of work this is how you would approach your job?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: For sure. I'm not going to try to waste my time by just half-assing it. I'm going to give it my all. I'm going to work to be the best I can. I may not be the greatest, but I feel like I can be the best version of myself.

Q. You and Devin Booker are kind of, I think, two of the more underappreciated stars in this league, and both playing for USA Basketball a little later. What do you think about that matchup? And do you think you guys kind of have a similar, it's cliché to say chip on the shoulder, but just a similar approach to the game because of maybe being overlooked a little?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: I guess you could say that. I really couldn't tell you or give you, I guess, what you want to hear. I think Book is a fantastic player. He's a younger player than myself. So he's worked on his game. He's missed the playoffs for however many years he's been in the league and he's here in The Finals, the first time in these playoffs, which I think is pretty cool and tough to do. So it tells you the type of person he is, how hard he works, how much he believes in his organization too.

Q. Do you expect Giannis to play tomorrow night?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: I couldn't tell you, man. I expected him to play the next game or come back the day he got injured. He still wasn't out there, so I couldn't tell you.

Q. For you, how do you try to support him through this? We all know how he's wired. He wanted to come back in that night. But how do you try to support him? Is it, Hey, we are here for you, whatever you need, or how do you try to do that?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: Just tell him to do what's best for himself and his family. Don't rush back in and put yourself at a greater risk for a greater injury. But he's a guy, like you know, he puts in so much time and effort into his body to be the best version of himself also. So, yeah.

Q. For you guys this postseason you've really leaned on switching a lot on defense. How do you think you guys have grown in that? I know against the Suns you did it a lot in crunch time in the regular season, but just how do you think you guys have kind of grown in that in the postseason?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: It's been great. I think the biggest guy that had to adjust the most is Brook. I mean, he's a guy that's 7 feet that sometimes has to switch onto point guards, shooting guards. They try to take advantage of him, but he does a great job of using his size, his length, to contest shots and keep guys in front of him.

Q. What do you think about Tuck and the way that he's kind of been able to help in that transition?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: He's a guy that has a lot of experience in that. In his whole career, he's been a guy that's guarded 1 through 5. So to have him on our team, to give us the confidence to go ahead and throw those different lineups out there and rely on him in a lot of different situations, it's been great.

Q. Can you explain what you have seen from your team without Giannis?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: Yeah, just a team that's trying to play unselfish, trying to do it as a committee. When Giannis is out there, a lot of times we can just give him the ball and let him go to work and let him orchestrate a lot of things out there. Without him, we have to do it by committee, moving the ball around, driving it a little bit more, playing just a little bit faster with a little bit of different flow. But I think guys have done a great job of adjusting with him out, with him not out there in two of the most important games of our season.

Q. You, Devin Booker and Chris Paul have made an art of the mid-range shot. How much of a weapon is that for you three players?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: I think it's huge. A lot of coaches' and teams' schemes, they want you to shoot threes and layups. That's what a lot of teams expect you to do. But when you stop sometimes, they just don't expect it. It gives you a clean look. So if you work on it, it almost seems like a layup or a three-point shot for myself.

Q. Going back to this idea that you're in The Finals. No player on this team has ever been to The Finals before, so what's it like being able to experience this together?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: It's cool. Everything is a first for us. Like, this is my first Media Day for something like this. So we're all trying to stay locked in as much as we can, not think about the outside influences of it being the NBA Finals. Just trying to take it one game at a time.

Q. Pat described you as calm, cool and collected. How has that approach helped you throughout your career?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: Just stay the course. Not try to think about too much except for what I need to do on the basketball court. Try to not get rattled when things aren't going my way. Don't get too cocky when things are going my way. Just staying the course and just working for it.

Q. What's the biggest challenge or challenges in guarding Devin Booker?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: Just a guy that hits tough shots, a guy that can score from the three, the mid-range and the paint, a guy that can get to the free throw line. He's a guy that really can score in every single way, which is tough to guard because you don't know when he's going to stop and shoot, when he's going to keep going, when he's going to look to create for others. It's just a great balance he has.

Q. I know the roster has changed quite a bit from last year. But for those of you who are back from last season, everything y'all went through in the bubble, from leading the protest for social justice to having your postseason end maybe a little earlier than you wanted, how did it kind of strengthen your bond and maybe toughen you for this postseason run, if at all?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: I think everything we have been through is just experience. You learn from it. The postseason failures we have had so far, we have found a way to use that as motivation and just use that and let it teach us how to be better, how to be better people, how to be better players.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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