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July 13, 2021

Khris Middleton

Milwaukee Bucks

Practice Day

Q. There's different ways to build a contending team. You guys are a little bit different. The two best players are a second-round draft pick and a guy who was on the fringe of the lottery. Do you consider the good fortune? And maybe at what point in your career did you start to conceptualize that you could become an All-Star and a top player on a team?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: As far as building the team, I think you got to give credit to Jon Horst over the years. Adding in pieces that he felt that could be great building blocks for us going forward. It started five, six years ago. We have been in the conversation for about three, four years now with the pieces that he's brought in, the people brought in to allow us to help us keep working and growing our game.

Then for me being an All-Star, I think that's been a goal of mine since I came into the league, you could say. As a kid growing up, you always want to be an All-Star. You want to be a champion. I just worked for it over the last couple years. I always felt like I was close. I got the nod for it two times, so yeah.

Q. Given how cool and collected you play, at least it's the perception that people have watching you from the outside, what do you make of a guy like Bobby Portis, who plays so hot and so emotional? And do you marvel that he is able to sort of do the things he does or stay effective while being that wound up and demonstrative?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: I love it. I mean, it gives everybody energy. Sometimes you need a guy that's going to scream and yell to get you going sometimes. Bobby has been great all year. He's been incredible for us. He's always been ready whenever his number is called. There's been sometimes when he hasn't been playing and then he comes in and gives us the spark that we need, and then there's sometimes where he's the regular rotation guy for us and it's causing problems for other teams.

Q. You played against him before he became a teammate. Did you have questions about what this guy was like? He's very animated and got the crazy eyes and all that. Did you take awhile to get used to him?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: No, I've been around plenty of guys like that before. I mean, I don't understand why people think it's a bad thing to yell and scream or flex. Sometimes I feel like that on the inside; I just don't do it. Some guys have the courage and the confidence to do it. That's what we love about him: He's himself at all times.

Q. Just the idea of defending Chris Paul. He's going to be so good in a pick-and-roll. What have you guys kind of picked up in these three games about how to make it more difficult and kind of deal with that?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: Yeah, just not let him be as comfortable. I think the first two games at home he was able to walk to his spots so easily, get to his shots that he always gets. He's smart. He orchestrates his team where he wants guys to go and literally walks to his spots, or sometimes jogs to his spots off the dribble to get to his mid-range shots. I think Jrue has been doing a great job of making it a little bit harder on him, not allowing him just to walk down to those spots where he's so comfortable.

Q. You are someone that people say moves at a slower pace. Like, offensively you're going to do those same things. So what have you kind of learned about what people might do to you to make you uncomfortable when again it looks easy or it looks like you're moving at your own pace?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: Use screens, for one. That helps a little bit. Then knowing how to use your body and knowing how to use your defender's body against him, whether they're going to press up on you or give you space or try to angle you to certain situations. It's something I'm still working on, still trying to learn. But that's what I love about this game. There's always something to work on. There's always something that you can see in film.

Q. Giannis said the other day that it was probably your third year together that you guys moved beyond the practice and the day-to-day on-court competition to sort of that off-court bond and the friendship. Would you agree with that?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: Yeah, it just shows that we grew as players and as a team that we no longer have to beat each other up during practices to make each other better. Now it came to, okay, how do we win a game together? We were on separate teams back then, practicing, clawing against each other. Now we're on the same team because we need that chemistry to form so that we're able to go into a game and play together and co-exist out there at the same time.

Q. Is there still, though, that element of like -- he was just in here talking about trying to get better. You talked about adding things to your game. So when you get together again in a camp or something and maybe there's something he does a little better and you're like, wait a minute, I still want to be better, you know what I mean? I'm still pretty good I can still get over on you today?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: We're still confident players. He could be right here and I will tell you I'm better than him and he'll say the same thing. That's just who we are. That's why we love each other so much. But at the same time, we have two totally separate games. If he adds one thing to his game, I know I'm not going to be able to do it. Maybe he'll be able to do some of the things I can.

But it's not a competition thing with us. We just want to be better. We want to be the best players that we can.

Q. I know the focus is the Suns right now, but I was wondering if you have thought at all during this whole playoff run what the team's success means, not just to the city of Milwaukee at large but specifically the African-American community, because you guys have been so involved with the social justice front the last couple years and what you guys being able to break through might mean for that community?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: Yeah, I think it would be huge, especially for the city of Milwaukee, the African-Americans all over here. We have been active the last couple years in the communities trying to figure out ways to help them, how to bring their struggles to light. Figure out ways to empower them and lift them up. I think having the NBA Finals here, it's a huge piece for all of that above.

Q. You were talking earlier about just the competitiveness that you have experienced with Giannis. Giannis said, after hurting his knee, that he thought he was out for the year, and so he's grateful to be out there and has this in-the-moment mindset right now. Do you feel a difference in his mindset and how he's trying to approach each day during these Finals?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: For sure. I think he's at the point where he's not taking any day or any moment on this court for granted. Because like you said and he said, he thought it was taken away from him a couple weeks ago, where you start thinking about all the times you held back or you didn't play as hard, and now he's got a second chance to come out here and compete on the highest stage. You could tell he's giving it his all.

Q. Coach was just in here talking about how the connectivity on offense and defense helped lead to you guys winning Game 3. Did the extra day help, or is it just playing the Suns two or three times helped with that?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: Probably a little bit of both. When you play a team over and over, you get a feel for them. You watch film, you see the things they're great at, you see the things you have to adjust to. But, yeah, I think over the last couple days we had a lot of conversations between ourselves about what we wanted to do out there, how we wanted to cover certain things, certain actions and whatnot. It's just getting the feel for the other team and then figuring out what you can do best and how can you use the guys out there to your advantage.

Q. It seems like you're on this like maybe 10-foot string whenever Giannis is driving. You're always in his line of sight where he can make an easy pass to you. Just out of curiosity, how long did that take to develop, because his game is not something that you can say, oh, another guy plays like him. It's so unique. So how long did it take you guys to develop that on-floor chemistry?

KHRIS MIDDLETON: Not long. I mean, starting off my career I was mainly a shooter, so guys wouldn't help off me as much. Now teams don't help as much off me still to this day. So knowing that if I stay close to him or around him he's going to have a little bit extra feet or the help is going to be a little bit hesitant to go down and double team him or help off me, that's what it always is. He's knowing that I'm always in that area so if he gets stuck or he sees a guy come down there, he's got a guy he can throw it out to that can make a shot and keep the defense honest.

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