July 19, 2021
Q. Giannis was talking the other night about how you have a team of guys who won't stop, down 2-0, down 15, whatever it is. As a coach, do you know you have those kind of guys before you get in trouble, or does it have to happen before you figure it out?
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: It's part of -- everybody talks about what the regular season is like and training camp and all that. You just get a feel for your team. They have been through kind of everything. We always talk about the resiliency, their character. Both teams, if you've made it to this point, you've got a ton of resiliency, a ton of character. They have shown it really from day one, and we need a lot of it going forward.
Q. Usually the game slows down in the Finals, but you guys are averaging like 17 points on the fast break, 21 in Game 6. Is that part of that just making a conscious effort of that or a part of that just how you guys play?
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: Both. It's very much how we play. It's an emphasis for us. We feel like it's one of the times in the game when we're kind of playing to our strengths. We want to do that, including tomorrow night and as much as we can first quarter, fourth quarter. We talk about it. We emphasize it. We feel like it's playing to our strength, and we got to continue to do that.
Q. How big of a key do you feel like that's been for you guys in this series?
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: I think any way you can find good looks and find good baskets, that's what you need to be working to do. As long as our guys are making good decisions, they're playing together, they're sharing it, trusting each other, that's what we want to do and continue to try to play fast.
Q. At this point you all know the opportunity that's ahead, but the guys continue to say the job is not done and stay focused. What ways has this group showed you just the ability to balance emotions this season, and how impressive is it that you have a group that can handle multiple things at once, if you feel like they can?
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: It's the maturity of the group, the intelligence of it. I think it comes through. They understand that we have to keep our focus. We have to be prepared. We have to do the things that go into winning, the competitiveness of those moments, those opportunities to compete. That's all that matters. Whether you're down, you're up, I think you go back to your competitive spirit. You draw on that. That's how this team is built, so they got to continue to do that.
Q. With Khris and Jrue committed for Team USA, I was wondering as they were deliberating on that decision to what extent were you part of those conversations, and if you were, what was kind of your overall message to them?
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: No, they both went rogue. They completely iced me out of the decision. Probably smart on their part. And I'm unfortunately serious (smiling). But any time you have a chance to represent your country and do something unique and special and be a part of a team, be a part of USA Basketball, I think those guys could figure it out on their own. Excited for them and their opportunity. Obviously, a little more interested that their focus is right here with us now, but they're built to handle all this.
Q. The other day Jrue was talking about defense and he said it's pretty simple: You don't like to get scored on, period. People don't like that. In the playoffs you guys have used two strategies, against Durant and here against Booker, where there is one guy that is doing a lot of the scoring but you guys are trying to limit those other things. How do you get guys to buy into that? That's a tough idea to say like, hey, we might be okay if this guy goes for 40 as long as we limit everybody else?
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: When you have guys that are about winning and all they care about is winning, I think you have got to go to that place. You got to figure out as a player, as a team, as coach, what gives us our best chance to win. It's so true: Those guys hate to be scored on. They hate it when anybody scores on them. And that helps us, I think, hopefully make things difficult on Booker and Paul.
I think it just goes back to how can we win. The guys just want to figure out a way to win. Lots of times it's them participating in the conversation, participating in what we think is best for us as a group. Then the execution, Jrue and P.J. Tucker in particular, but Khris, what those guys give us defensively sets the table for everything else.
Q. You talked a lot about your team's resiliency through the playoffs, but part of that is because you guys have been down a decent amount, especially early in the game. Obviously you would fix it if you knew exactly what it was, but is there any trendline as to what you've kind of noticed that's led to some of these slow starts that you've had?
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: The other night a couple things stand out to me. We didn't take care of the ball. The turnovers hurt us in the first quarter. I think that's maybe one of the biggest things. Sometimes our offense, we got to execute a little bit better. We got to screen better, cut harder, be prepared for whatever it is the defense is doing, kind of mentally and literally.
But if you look at the whole playoffs, I think we have done both. We have come out and crushed some first quarters and we have come out and been in a big hole after first quarters. The players, I think, did the same routine. We did the same routine when we crushed it and when we were down. So we tend to stick to our routines, trying to stick to our preparation and understand it's a long game. Even if you're up, you got to understand that. So we have seen a little bit of everything.
Q. What do you make of Giannis's vocal leadership? I feel like ever since he got the contract he's been more vocal. I don't mean the philosophical stuff; I mean actual in-game stuff. Maybe it helps you that you don't have to do all the coaching. And then the second part of that is has he picked up anything that's been really helpful in the Finals, either pointed out something on defense or offense that made a difference in game?
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: I think the vocal leadership that you're seeing that you're talking about has been growing. I can only speak for the last three years, but I think A, him just understanding how powerful and how impactful he is. Sometimes it's being vocal. It's maybe just helping teach or learn or grow in a moment. Sometimes it might be getting on somebody. All those things are hard when it's your teammate. It's not the degree to which I think teammates want to do those things, especially the hard ones, if you're getting on somebody.
But I think his understanding of what we want to do has grown. When you understand things better, then you can communicate better. He's got a high level of understanding of what we want to do both defensively and offensively. He's got great passion, he's got great commitment, he's got great relationships with the players. We have talked about him growing and building relationships. And sometimes he's just touching guys. That can be a form of communication.
So all that we see and feel, and it's grown. I think with each step we have taken, I think it's maybe even gotten better.
But there's other guys in the timeouts that are great too, whether it's Khris in his way, P.J. Tucker, Jrue, Brook, Pat, all of them. I think they understand what we want to do and they just help each other through those moments.
And a specific moment, I'm sure there are some and I tend to just not share those. I'm going to say I don't remember them.
Q. There hasn't been a champion or rarely been a champion that doesn't go through some level of playoff heartbreak before they get there. You guys have had your share over the past couple of years. Do you think that's been valuable for you as a learning experience? Have you seen examples of it developing toughness? How do you see that the last couple years leading you to where you are now?
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: Yeah, we have talked about it. Every team's journey is a little bit different. Every player's journey is a little bit different. I think what we have been through the last few years and where we are today, it's all part of it. It goes into making us who we are, and I think hopefully better prepared whether it's from a technical standpoint, from a mental standpoint, from a physical standpoint. Your experiences, they go into making you who you are.
At the end of the day it doesn't really matter. We got to go play a Game 6. We got to get ready to execute and play good basketball. But, yeah, those things have contributed to where we are today.
Q. Two different ones for you. A sign of the times the other day with Thanasis not being available. Is there any update in terms of the COVID protocol? And Josh Oppenheimer had been reported. In terms of just who is available, has anything changed on that front? And then you've talked about in the past of going on walks as a way to kind of de-stress. Without getting too much into your business, are you listening to music? Are you calling family and friends? How are you handling that time?
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: There's no update on the health and safety protocols, so that's an easy one. Not the easy or the light one.
But no, I'm absolutely not talking to anybody. I actually try to save my voice on my walks. I actually have been on a walk with my girlfriend and said we can't talk. We put our headphones in. I'm listening to music and just trying to literally not talk or say a word, and just check out for a little bit. The walks in Milwaukee are amazing, Lake Michigan and just around there. It's been good for me. I will get my walk in today and tomorrow, for sure.
Q. What do you listen to?
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: Yeah, I knew that was coming. I actually play a few different things. I don't know anything about music, so I'm the last person to ask.
Q. I'm just wondering, this time of year with guys off the bench, often their production might be inconsistent. Maybe they perform better at home than on the road. Pat's numbers these Finals are even better than they have been in the regular season. He's performing home and away. What is it about him that's allowed him to step up his game this time of the year?
MIKE BUDENHOLZER: He's playing with a lot of confidence right now. I think his teammates have a ton of confidence in him. The way the ball is moving, the unselfishness with which everybody is really playing with, I think that helps everybody play well, including Pat. I think the work and the preparation he has put in all throughout the year, even just watching him out there just a few minutes ago, there's just a real, I think, disciplined, focused preparation and commitment to his craft. That's really been building over the last couple years. When you pair that with his athleticism and just kind of everything he brings to the game and then a higher level of commitment to just his craft of shooting and the preparation, I think that's all allowed him to be ready for this moment.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports