The Doc Rivers era hasn’t started off very well for the Milwaukee Bucks, but their star player has confidence that the team will right the ship.

Giannis Antetokounmpo shared with The Athletic that’s he happy with Rivers as the team’s head coach despite the 3-7 start to his tenure. He also explained that Rivers’ hiring brought “some peace of mind” following Adrian Griffin’s brief stint, in which the first-year head coach went 30-13 to start the season. 

“He’s tough. He’s Doc f—ing Rivers,” Antetokounmpo reportedly told The Athletic. “He knows his s—. Same thing for Coach Bud (Mike Budenholzer). Same with Joe Prunty, J-Kidd (Jason Kidd). And Coach Griff was a great coach, a great person to work with, but, at the end of the day, it was his first time.

“He was figuring things out, how to lead a group of guys, how to operate with star players and sometimes, that might be hard. I think everybody did a good job. His coaching staff did a good job too, helping him and making him adjust and I think he did a tremendous job leading us to a 30-13 record, but Coach Doc has won 1,100 games. So it’s totally different.”

[Read more: Rivers, Antetokounmpo keeping eyes on ‘end game’ despite Bucks’ struggles

As Antetokounmpo shared some compliments about Griffin, he made it clear that he feels like there’s less of a burden for him to take charge in certain matters. He told The Athletic he felt like he had to speak more during film sessions and “grab the f—ing board and write something down. He also helped teammates walk through drills and drew up plays in practice, according to The Athletic, saying he “had to be more vocal this year.”

Did the Bucks make a mistake hiring Doc Rivers?

Did the Bucks make a mistake hiring Doc Rivers?

“Now it’s almost like I don’t have to do that anymore,” Antetokounmpo said. “I just have to keep the guys together and try to go out there and try to win.

“Coach Doc, he’s a great guy, been in the league for a lot of years, won a lot of games. Like you go to bed, you sleep well at night. Win or lose, you know that the coaching staff is going to be prepared. And not just him, from Rex [Kalamian], from Dave Joerger, like come on, man, Joe Prunty, we have guys that are extremely smart and know the game of basketball. So, from that aspect, you don’t have to worry anymore.”

Despite the Bucks’ strong record with Griffin as head coach, there were documented issues with a team that has championship aspirations. The Bucks’ defensive ranking plummeted from the year prior, when Budenholzer was the head coach, dropping from fourth in defensive rating in 2022-23 to 21st with Griffin as head coach. It was actually worse in the weeks leading up to Griffin’s firing, with the Bucks ranking 28th in defensive rating in January.

The Bucks’ defense has improved with Rivers as head coach, ranking 12th in defensive rating (113.6) over the last 10 games. But there isn’t much else to write home about. The Bucks have dropped to third in the Eastern Conference standings, sitting at 35-21 as they trail the Boston Celtics by 8.5 games for the top spot.

Possibly the lowest point of the season for the Bucks came in their final game before the All-Star break, losing to a Memphis Grizzlies team that was starting two players who were either on a 10-day contract or a two-way contract. Rivers called out his team, saying “We had some guys in Cabo” after the game but also expressed that he wished he would’ve started his tenure as head coach after the All-Star break.

Antetokounmpo admitted to The Athletic that this season has “been hard because so many changes, so many injuries, so, so many things,” but he doesn’t want to feel bad for himself, either.

“I feel like I don’t want to look back and be like, ‘Damn, I had some great teams and I wasn’t able to get over the hump,'” Antetokounmpo told The Athletic. “We have to stop feeling bad about ourselves. I’m tired of this. We have to stop doing that. Things are not going to be given to us. We have to go and take it. Like I’ve played with guys that never felt bad about themselves. Came in, did their job, went home, did their job, went home, did their job. That’s what we have to do. We’re not doing it right now, but hopefully we can do it.”

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