Despite the mostly negative perception of him, Doc Rivers just might be the right guy for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Yes, he is now known primarily for blowing several postseason series leads over his career, yet the respect that he earned as the head coach of the 2008 NBA champion Boston Celtics–a team that was filled with several colorful personalities–still seems to carry some weight, especially among players, to this day.
Rivers can command respect from a locker room which is something that Adrian Griffin, the man that he is replacing, seemed to struggle with during his half season run as Milwaukee’s head coach. This move to hire the well-regarded Rivers is clearly in reaction to what Griffin lacked and is likely to have been signed off by the Bucks’ stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard.
The 62-year-old is well known for his prowess as a defensive coach and having the 2020 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez at his disposal bodes well for his stint with the team. However, Rivers’ success ultimately hinges on his ability to figure out a way to get this team, particularly Lillard, going offensively.
Lillard, whose acquisition via trade during the offseason coincided with Griffin’s appointment, has yet to find his groove with the Bucks. This soured sentiment around Griffin over the past few months and Rivers will have to prioritize maximizing Lillard if he wants to outperform his predecessor.
While a mid season coaching change like this one is often a risky move, it is actually reasonable to consider this switch by Milwaukee as a safe one heading into the home stretch of this campaign.
Rivers has over two decades worth of sideline experience unlike Griffin who was in the midst of his first year as a head coach. He has dealt with larger-than-life players in their prime such as Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Joel Embiid which should give him more than enough experience to navigate his current situation with Antetokounmpo and Lillard.
All eyes are on Rivers and the Bucks now as they attempt to bring this team back to title contention. Winning the NBA championship would do wonders for Rivers’ image. It debunks the notion that he simply “got lucky” with the 2008 Celtics and also distracts from his growing list of playoff collapses.
On the player side, another title would solidify Antetokounmpo’s place as one of the best players in this generation. The one who would benefit the most from winning it all in June though is Lillard. He has yet to win a championship in his career and securing one now, especially since he is still in his prime, fills the only remaining gap in his resume. It would also put to rest the lingering doubts regarding how deserving he was of a spot in the NBA 75th Anniversary team.
Rivers seems like the perfect fit for Milwaukee at the moment, but these things never go as planned and it will be interesting to see how things play out for them over these next few weeks.