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July 5, 2021

Mike Budenholzer

Milwaukee Bucks

Media Day

Q. Are you expecting Giannis to play in Game 1?

MIKE BUDENHOLZER: No, we'll continue to update it. He's had a good day. He's making good progress. But I don't have expectations either way.

Q. What does a good day entail? What has he done? Where is at physically? What has he done today?

MIKE BUDENHOLZER: Yeah, he's done court work again today. He's making progress and we'll continue to update.

Q. Is he going to practice?

MIKE BUDENHOLZER: I think he may walk through a few things, but we'll kind of determine that when we get out there.

Q. Booker and Paul are such a big part of their offense. What do you want your guys to focus on against them?

MIKE BUDENHOLZER: They're very special players. They're gifted, talented. We have to do our best to make everything hard on them. Limit their easy looks. Limit their good looks. Keep them off the free throw line. I feel like we have a lot of guys we can throw at them, but they test you and challenge you like great players do.

Q. You don't have anyone on the roster with Finals experience. This is your first Finals as a head coach. What was it like walking in and seeing The Finals logo everywhere, and what do you have to do to keep your guys in the right mindset?

MIKE BUDENHOLZER: Just dig into our routines, dig into our preparation while at the same time keeping it clean, keeping it simple and getting ready to go play a basketball game. You certainly understand that you're one of the last two teams standing and this a special place to get to, but at the end of the day, there's more work to be done and you just focus on that work.

Q. Could you expand on with Giannis? Is it shooting? Is it cutting? Is he getting that explosiveness back? What is he actually doing and is it more than what he was doing the last time he was on the court?

MIKE BUDENHOLZER: I'm just going to leave it. He did court work. So he's making progress and we're pleased that he's making progress.

Q. Being somebody who kind of started your career overseas and worked your way up, how much can you relate to somebody's journey like P.J. Tucker, who has really grinded to get to this point?

MIKE BUDENHOLZER: Yeah, I wouldn't equate my journey at all, or at least the fact that -- but I love that he started and played in Europe. Those guys, whether they be American players or international players, that kind of start and grow in that environment and find a way to make it to the NBA and have a huge impact on winning. Wherever P.J. Tucker goes, he's been a winner.

I think in a film session the other day we were joking -- I don't know, I think Germany and Russia and here and there, and it builds his character. He was already tough. But, yeah, I love his background and how he's gotten to where he is today.

Q. How early after that March trade did you see what he could bring to this team? I mean, I'm sure that you knew what he could bring, but you saw it with the pieces that you already had.

MIKE BUDENHOLZER: I don't remember -- one of the early games. Until you're around somebody you don't really know, but the versatility of him as a defender, his ability to guard lots of different types of players was really impressive, in one of the first or second games he was with us. I would say just ability to guard wings and more perimeter-oriented guys. I think there was a real vision of his physicality on the block, his physicality in the paint, his ability to do that, but then to guard different types of players really stood out very, very early.

Q. You guys have dropped Game 1s in the last two series. What is key to getting that first one in terms of focus, locking in and things of that sort?

MIKE BUDENHOLZER: I think everybody is locked in going into a Game 1. I think sometimes the team that's maybe more free and more competitive and more just playing basketball -- you know, it's players, coaches, we're all similar. You have time and you talk about things and you work on things, and the great debate is does that free you up to go compete or does that put you in a place where you're overthinking? Every coach that's ever been through this, and I guess to some degree players, that's the great -- you got to walk that line. And I think we want our guys to be free and to play and compete tomorrow.

Q. Didn't know if you had even reached out to Pop at all during this and getting to The Finals. If so, what kind of things have you asked him and what kind of advice has he given you?

MIKE BUDENHOLZER: I joked, he's kicked me out of -- eight years [since Budenholzer left San Antonio], he's, like, you have to figure it out on your own. I feel fortunate to have been through The Finals before as an assistant coach and watch great players and great coaches manage and work through it. But I'm just focused on our group and excited about what we're doing. We're trying to find our way, just myself, the team, the group. That's the challenge.

Q. A couple weeks ago you talked a little bit about Darvin Ham and Charles Lee specifically being ready to maybe advance. But as to your staff as a whole in this process, I don't know if you can run through everybody, but what have they meant to you, what have they done to help set you up on game days and maybe the players to get to this point?

MIKE BUDENHOLZER: Yeah, I've said it many, many times, that they are the key to, I think, the coaching that our players get, the coaching that happens. They do the lion's share of the film, the prep, the work, the player development, how the players grow and how the players will be ready to play. The assistant coaches are phenomenal, what they do in games. They're special. I'm a big believer in your coaching staff and how important they are. I couldn't be more proud of them and more grateful for them. They all are special. It's a lot of fun to do it with them. I think they do a good job of bringing a little bit of fun factor to the process too. So, yeah, I love my guys. I love my staff. They're incredible.

Q. This organization and your players have been through a ton emotionally since the bubble and beyond. How valuable has it been having someone like Vin Baker, who has as good a perspective on life as anyone? Have you seen that be a factor for you guys in your culture and in your organization?

MIKE BUDENHOLZER: Yeah, I think Vin has been incredibly important to us and unique. I think there's a big part of the staff that has been together for a significant amount of time, and Vin has been a little bit of that new blood. But he's also been here for three years and he's been in Milwaukee for a long time and had an amazing career. The respect that the players have for him, the appreciation, and his outlook on life is just -- every time I'm around Vin Baker, I want more. And he's good for me. He's good for our players. Yeah, it's hard to kind of [describe] unless you get to experience Vin on a day-to-day basis, but he's very special, very good. His perspective -- the words, the thought behind it, yeah, he's really good for the players, really good for all of us.

Q. How much do you know about the whole Milwaukee-Phoenix history, with them both expanding into the league at the same time, the Kareem coin flip? That you're playing in The Finals 53 years after all that happened?

MIKE BUDENHOLZER: I know about as much as what you just described. So I do know that those things happened, but to say it goes much further or much deeper than that ...

I do think there's just a ton of respect for the Bucks organization. You get to see and feel some of that history and appreciate where they started, how they have evolved, including those early five, six, ten years, whatever it was, and now to where we are today and all the things that an organization goes through. It's been great to have a little three-year window of it. It's 50-plus years. A lot of winning and a lot of success. I'm just happy to be a little small piece of the Bucks organization.

Q. Can you talk about the team's next man up mentality since Giannis went down and how close this team is?

MIKE BUDENHOLZER: I think it's one of those sports clichés. There's a reason for those clichés, because you see it happen time and time again in different sports, in the playoffs and what the group was able to do without Giannis in Game 5 and Game 6. Bobby Portis, obviously, shouldered a lot of that, but I think what Pat Connaughton was able to do, Jeff Teague, Bryn Forbes, Brook taking on a more significant role, how Jrue and Khris led and P.J. Tucker, everything he does that's about winning. So I think the whole group, I guess next man up is the phrase, but it's really each man taking a little share of that load, and the guys did that well. We may have to do that going into Game 1 and until Giannis hopefully is able to return.

Q. With Giannis's uncertain situation, does it make it extra difficult for you and your staff in very short period of rest time?

MIKE BUDENHOLZER: The playoffs, they always have a little bit of things that are complicated and hard. I'm sure Phoenix, they may be asking Phoenix the same question, is it harder not knowing. You just got to take things as they come. Again, try to keep things clean for the players. Just allow them to go out and play. I think the fact that we had a Game 5 and a Game 6 and understand what we need to do regardless of who we're playing is helpful, dealing with the circumstances that we have.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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