INDIANAPOLIS — Before being hired by the Milwaukee Bucks in February, Doc Rivers had a request. 

“Taking a job when you’re about to go on the toughest road trip of the season is not the smartest decision,” Rivers, who will be coaching the Eastern Conference team in Sunday’s All-Star Game, said Saturday during the NBA’s All-Star Media Day. “I even told them that: ‘Can we wait ‘til All-Star break?’ You know, it would have been a lot nicer.”

The Bucks instead hired Rivers on Jan. 26 to replace Joe Prunty, who was named interim head coach after the Bucks fired Adrian Griffin on Jan. 23. Rivers coached his first game in Denver on Jan. 29. The Bucks remained on the road for four games after that before returning to Milwaukee on Feb. 8. 

They’ve gone 3-7 with Rivers at the helm. 

“The end game is what we’re playing for,” Rivers added. “And the organization felt strongly that a change needed to be made defensively and things like that, and that’s what we’re doing. The problem is, while you’re doing that, you’re in the middle of the season on the toughest trip.”

“I’ve been in Milwaukee [for] four days,” he added. “I’ve had the job for three weeks.” 

The Bucks were 30-13 when they fired Griffin, but they were allowing 116.8 points per 100 possessions, the 10th-worst mark in the league. The Bucks’ defense has improved under Rivers — they’re holding opponents to 113.6 points per 100 possessions. 

The offense, however, has cratered. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard have both put together All-Star campaigns, but the duo has failed to generate the sort of chemistry the Bucks envisioned when they traded for Lillard in the offseason. 

The Bucks have scored just 111.9 points per 100 possessions in the 10 games with Rivers at the helm. That mark was 120.6 under Griffin. 

The Bucks entered the All-Star break in third place in the Eastern Conference and just 4.5 games ahead of the seventh-place Miami Heat. They dropped their final two games before the All-Star break, including a 113-110 loss Thursday to an injury-ridden, lottery-bound Memphis Grizzlies team. 

Rivers was critical of his team’s effort after the game, telling reporters, “We had some guys here, we had some guys in Cabo.”

“It’s been probably more difficult than I thought,” Rivers said Saturday of the Bucks’ job. 

Rivers wasn’t the only member of the Bucks organization on Saturday to acknowledge how trying a year it’s been for the organization since a stunning first round defeat to the Heat in the first round of last year’s playoffs. That loss led to the firing of Mike Bundenzholer in May.

“It’s hard. This is my fourth coach in the span of six months, from Coach Bud, Coach Griff, Coach Joe and then Doc,” Antetokounmpo told reporters. “Different philosophy, different game plan. It’s hard. It’s draining.”

But Antetokounmpo also made it clear that he believes in Rivers due to his track record as a coach. Griffin, on the other hand, was a first-year head coach whose decisions and tactics were often questioned by Antetokounmpo and other Bucks players. 

In early November, multiple veterans asked Griffin to change his defensive scheme. In late November, Antetokounmpo was visibly angry with Griffin after being removed from a game against the Boston Celtics. And in December, Bleacher Report reported that Bucks big man Bobby Portis “passionately challenged” Griffin in the locker room after the Bucks were eliminated from the In-Season Tournament. 

“I love working with Coach Doc. He’s been very, very successful,” Antetokounmpo said Saturday. “We can talk all day about things he’s accomplished around the league. He’s won, I think, 1,100 NBA games. Some people have never played 1,100 games. Yeah, he brings that level of — how can I say? A championship level to the team. He won. He’s coached a lot of successful teams in the past.”

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports and the author of Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports. Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.


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