At this point, Adrian Griffin can say that almost everything is a “first” for him. The new head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks has been training for his new job on an NBA sideline for more than a decade. However, he admits that his first games as a head coach in the Las Vegas Summer League over the past week have given him new experiences.
“As much as any assistant coach wants to think that they’re ready to be a head coach, it’s different,” he said Monday after a long practice. “There are a lot of different jobs to do. You have to make a lot of calls and choices on and off the court. I’ve had good luck with it. I think that the players did a good job.”
Griffin and every other head coach of a team that is trying to win the championship will be the first to figure out how to mix the newly announced in-season tournament with the steps that need to be taken to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June.
The league will start the NBA Cup with round-robin group play in November and December. This is similar to how European soccer leagues run multiple title races at the same time during the season. The quarterfinals are on Dec. 4 and 5. The semifinals will be on December 7, and the final will be on December 9 in Las Vegas. The winning team will not only claim a trophy but each player on the roster will earn an extra $500,000. The most important player and the all-tournament team will also be chosen.
The Bucks, New York, Miami, Washington, and Charlotte are all in the East Group B with the Bucks. The Bucks will play at home against the Knicks and Wizards and will go on the road to face the Heat and Hornets.
Griffin told the Journal Sentinel, “I haven’t really been able to get into it, but it’s been on the NBA’s plate the last couple of years and it’s great.” “Listen, you can complain about it or you can accept it. I always talk to the players about whether you can see something as adversity and a task or you can see something as a threat. I think it’s a great chance for us to get our players ready for the playoffs one more time. It will be a tournament with a lot of close games. So I believe it will be good for us.”
The Bucks’ full NBA Cup schedule will be released in August, but group play games will be played on Nov. 3, 10, 14, 17, 21, 24, and 28. The league said it would try to avoid arranging games on the second night of a back-to-back so that top players could still play.
“We can use it to our advantage,” Griffin said about the tournament. “We have some guys who may need to play in more playoff games. There may be some guys who need to know what it’s like to be in those kinds of places. It’ll be great for our (military) guys to be able to do that, too. So we just look at it as a big task and a good thing.”
The NBA Cup games and a possible two-game, four-day stopover in Las Vegas make it harder to manage a roster whose two best players (Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton) are coming back from knee surgeries and whose other two best players, Brook Lopez (35) and Jrue Holiday (33), are in their mid-30s.
Griffin told reporters at his first press conference in June that he would have to learn how to work with the team’s sports performance group.
“One thing you’ll learn about me is that I don’t have all the answers, and I believe in letting people do their jobs,” he said. “When I talk about how long I’ve been in the NBA, I often tell people what not to do. I really think it’s important to work together. Jon Horst, the general manager, and I have talked about this from the beginning. April, May, and June are important to us. We’ll work together to figure out the best minutes for each guy. The players want a lot more time than you do. They want a lot more minutes. We’ll find a happy middle.
“Performance in sports is a big part of our game, and we want to help you as much as we can. One thing you need to win and go far is for everyone to be healthy. So, we’re going to work hard to keep everyone on the court healthy, and I’m not worried about that because we have a great team and roster. When you have a team like ours, you have to think “Next man up.”