Bucks sign head coach Mike Budenholzer to contract extension

The Milwaukee Bucks have signed head coach Mike Budenholzer to a multi-year contract extension.

Per the Bucks: “What an incredible journey we’ve been on and winning the NBA Championship this season makes us appreciate how difficult it is to win and how grateful we are to have the best players and coaches in place to get the job done,” said Bucks owners Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan. “Mike’s strong leadership, coaching expertise, commitment to player development, and adaptability have been instrumental as we work together to compete for and win championships. We’re thrilled with the work Bud has done together with Jon Horst and Peter Feigin and are proud to sign him to this extension.”

“The appreciation I have for being a part of the Bucks organization is hard to express,” Budenholzer said. “And today, to realize that Marc and Wes and Jamie from our ownership group, along with Jon as our GM, have extended my contract to be the head coach is very special — thank you!

“The players make the success happen on and off the court. We have the best players and to them I am grateful. They’ve grown and we’ve grown together during the last three seasons. We’ve had success along the way, finishing with an NBA Championship this season! The assistant coaches’ efforts and contributions to our success has been so vital also. Each of them individually are so important to me, and collectively they make so much good happen for me and our players. We all can’t wait to get back to work and face the great challenge of competing again for an NBA Championship. Again, being a part of the Bucks organization is very special. Let’s keep getting better and building great teams and doing great work on and off the court. Let’s go Bucks!!!”

And per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Budenholzer was named the 2018-19 coach of the year after leading the Bucks to a regular-season-best 60-22 mark in his first year on the bench, but the Bucks surrendered a 2-0 Eastern Conference finals lead to Toronto and eventually lost in six games. The Bucks marched to a 56-17 regular-season mark last year before exiting the playoffs in the second round of the “bubble” against Miami.”

Game schedule for the 2021 NBA Finals

The game schedule for the 2021 NBA Finals, between the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks, is as follows:

Suns vs. Bucks NBA Finals Game Schedule:

Game 1: Tue July 6, Bucks at Suns, 9PM ET, ABC

Game 2: Thu July 8, Bucks at Suns, 9PM ET, ABC

Game 3: Sun July 11, Suns at Bucks, 9PM ET, ABC

Game 4: Wed July 14, Suns at Bucks, 9PM ET, ABC

Game 5: Sat July 17, Bucks at Suns, 9PM ET, ABC (if necessary)

Game 6: Tue July 20, Suns at Bucks, 9PM ET, ABC (if necessary)

Game 7: Thu July 22, Bucks at Suns, 9PM ET, ABC (if necessary)

Giannis Antetokounmpo sustains hyperextended left knee, listed as Doubtful to play Game 5 vs. Hawks

There is relatively news from the Milwaukee Bucks on superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Yesterday, he sustained a hyperextended left knee and will be listed as doubtful for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals tomorrow night at Fiserv Forum. The injury occurred in the third period of the Bucks’ Game 4 loss at Atlanta last night.

The injury could have been a lot worse. It was scary to watch.

Antetokounmpo, 26, underwent an MRI and subsequent examination today by team physician Dr. Carole Vetter of the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network. The MRI confirmed the earlier diagnosis. Further updates will be provided as appropriate.

In 15 playoff games (all starts), Antetokounmpo is averaging 28.2 points (10th in NBA playoffs), 12.7 rebounds (1st in NBA playoffs) and 5.2 assists (16th in NBA playoffs) in 37.4 minutes per game.

Nets’ James Harden upgraded to Doubtful for Game 5 against Bucks

Will the Nets have James Harden available tonight? The answer could change between now and tipoff. But here’s the latest, via the New York Post:

With Brooklyn facing a desperate Eastern Conference semifinal Game 5, injured James Harden has been upgraded from out to doubtful Tuesday vs. Milwaukee.

“I don’t know if (he’s out) or not. I might have to wait,” Nets coach Steve Nash had said Monday. “He’s working out, so I have no idea if that means he has a chance for (Game 5) or not. I think there’s a plan behind the scenes that I don’t totally know what the deal is and then they’ll give us an update. But he’s working out.”

Harden went down just 43 seconds into this second-round series with what has been deemed right hamstring tightness. The Nets won the first two games without him at Barclays Center, but proceeded to drop the next two in Milwaukee to see the Bucks level the series and steal the momentum.

Jrue Holiday wins 2020-21 NBA Sportsmanship Award

Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday has received the Joe Dumars Trophy as the winner of the 2020-21 NBA Sportsmanship Award.

The annual award is designed to honor a player who best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court.

Each NBA team nominated one of its players for the NBA Sportsmanship Award. From the list of 30 team nominees, a panel of league executives selected one finalist from each of the NBA’s six divisions. Current NBA players selected the winner from the list of six finalists, with nearly 350 players submitting their votes through confidential balloting conducted by the league office.

In addition to Holiday (Central Division), the finalists were Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (Southeast), Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes (Pacific), Minnesota Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie (Northwest), Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker (Atlantic) and San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (Southwest).

Holiday received 130 of 343 first-place votes and earned 2,752 total points in balloting of NBA players. Walker, a two-time winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award, finished in second place with 2,474 points. The six finalists were awarded 11 points for each first-place vote, nine points for each second-place vote, seven points for each third-place vote, five points for each fourth-place vote, three points for each fifth-place vote and one point for each sixth-place vote.

A 12-year NBA veteran, Holiday has won the NBA Sportsmanship Award for the first time. Last season, he won the 2019-20 Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award in recognition of his selfless play, on- and off-court leadership as a mentor and role model to other NBA players, and commitment and dedication to team.

Holiday, 30, was selected as an NBA All-Star in the 2012-13 season and named to the NBA All-Defensive Team in 2017-18 and 2018-19. This season, he averaged 17.7 points, 6.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds in 59 games for the Bucks, who acquired him from the New Orleans Pelicans as part of a four-team trade on Nov. 24, 2020. Holiday was a co-winner, along with Dallas Mavericks guard Josh Richardson, of the January NBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by Kaiser Permanente in recognition of his efforts to provide support for those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NBA Sportsmanship Award is named in honor of Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Joe Dumars, a six-time NBA All-Star and two-time NBA champion. Dumars played 14 NBA seasons and won the inaugural Sportsmanship Award in the 1995-96 season.

Heat must step up in a big way vs. Bucks in Game 3

The Heat are in some trouble. Against a Bucks team that so far looks fully able to raise their game to a playoff level. Via the Miami Herald:

Toward the end of the second-most lopsided playoff loss in Miami Heat history, the crowd of about 9,000 in attendance at Fiserv Forum made its prediction for the outcome of the first-round series between the Heat and Milwaukee Bucks.

“Bucks in four,” the fans chanted in the final minutes of Game 2.

That seemed like an obvious prediction to make at the time, with third-seeded Milwaukee on its way to a 34-point win on Monday to take a 2-0 series lead over six-seeded Miami. But the Heat will look to change the narrative and bounce back as the series moves to AmericanAirlines Arena for Games 3 and 4.

Game 3 is Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (Bally Sports Sun and TNT).

Heat and Bucks to face off in first round of playoffs

The Heat and Bucks faced each other in the playoffs last year, and will do so again this year. Via the Miami Herald:

This year, the sixth-seeded Heat (40-32) will take on the third-seeded Bucks (46-26) in the first round of the playoffs. The best-of-7 series will begin either Saturday or Sunday at Fiserv Forum, with the schedule yet to be released.

“They’re a really good team, obviously. They’re much different than last year,” Heat second-year guard Tyler Herro said of the Bucks. “They added a bunch of guys with Jrue [Holiday] and Bobby Portis and some guys off the bench. So it’s going to be a great series. I feel like two great teams in the Eastern Conference going at it.”

At the surface, the Bucks don’t seem as dominant as they were last season when they entered the playoffs with the NBA’s top record and net rating.

The Bucks enter the playoffs this season with the league’s seventh-best record and fourth-best net rating.

While the numbers might not be as overwhelming as last season’s, the Bucks’ roster seems better suited for the playoffs this season after adding Holiday, Portis and reserve guard Bryn Forbes in free agency last offseason and trading for veteran three-and-D specialist P.J. Tucker in March.

And the Sun Sentinel:

Familiar competition, with the Heat having defeated the Bucks 4-1 in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals.

But also dissimilar circumstances. Unlike like last year’s playoffs, there will not be the cocoon of the Disney World quarantine bubble, with Milwaukee this time receiving true homecourt advantage at Fiserv Forum. It also is a Bucks team bolstered by the offseason addition of Jrue Holiday. And this time, after a march to the 2020 NBA Finals, it is not a Heat team that will be taking anybody by surprise.

Rockets trade P.J. Tucker, Rodions Kurucs to Bucks for D.J. Augustin, D.J. Wilson, draft pick

The Houston Rockets have traded forwards P.J. Tucker and Rodions Kurucs to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for guard D.J. Augustin, forward D.J. Wilson, and the Bucks first round pick in 2023.

The Rockets also received the right to swap their 2021 second round pick for Milwaukee’s 2021 first round pick (Top 9 protected), while the Bucks re-acquired their 2022 first round pick which Houston obtained from Cleveland as part of a four-team trade earlier this season.

Augustin (6-0, 183) was originally the ninth overall pick by Charlotte in the 2008 NBA Draft following his sophomore season at Texas. In 901 career games with 326 starts, he has averaged 9.7 points, 4.0 assists and 1.9 rebounds while shooting 37.9% from 3-point range.

Over the past three seasons, Augustin was one of five players to have averaged at least 10.0 ppg and 4.0 apg while playing fewer than 26.0 minutes per game. Rockets head coach Stephen Silas was an assistant coach with Charlotte during Augustin’s final two seasons with the Bobcats from 2010-11 through 2011-12.

Wilson (6-10, 224) was originally the 17th overall pick by Milwaukee in the 2017 NBA Draft following his junior season at Michigan. He appeared in 119 career games for the Bucks while averaging 4.0 points and 2.9 rebounds in 11.9 minutes per game.

While on assignment in the G League the past three seasons, Wilson averaged 16.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.9 3-pointers made on 38.2% shooting. He was the recipient of Michigan’s Rudy Tomjanovich Most Improved Player Award in his final collegiate season.

Tucker spent the past three and a half seasons with the Rockets while averaging 6.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.18 steals in 268 games with 220 starts. Since the start of 2012-13, he has played the most games of any player in the league.

Kurucs was acquired by Houston from Brooklyn earlier this season as part of a four-team trade with Cleveland and Indiana. He appeared in 11 games as a Rocket.

Jrue Holiday and Josh Richardson win NBA Cares Community Assist Award for January, 2021

Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday and Dallas Mavericks guard Josh Richardson are co-winners of the January NBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by Kaiser Permanente in recognition of their efforts to immediately provide support for those impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in their new team markets, the NBA announced today. The award recognizes players each month who best reflect the passion that the league and NBA players share for giving back to their communities.

After joining the Bucks in November, Jrue and his wife, Lauren, partnered with the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation to identify small, women- and Black-owned businesses most in need of assistance. After reviewing grant requests, the Holiday family announced funding for seven local businesses in January – Amri Counseling Services, Carter’s Quality Care, Hands at Home, Jamaican Season Island Restaurant, Kid’s Kingdom, Legacy Home Health Services and The SW Retreat – that provide a variety of services in southeastern Wisconsin, including assisted living, home health, childcare, mental health and substance abuse services, hospitality and more.

Similarly, Richardson, who joined the Mavericks shortly before the start of the 2020-21 season, quickly sought to make an impact in the greater Dallas area, surprising dozens of frontline health care workers from UT Southwestern Medical Center with Reebok sneakers, team merchandise and a surprise video message thanking them for their ongoing efforts to keep the community safe. He also visited a Dallas Independent School District first grade class as a guest reader, surprising the students and encouraging them to embrace reading and education during the particular challenges of this school year.

The Chris Finch Timberwolves coaching era begins

The Timberwolves today named former Raptors assistant Chris Finch as their new head coach today. Via the Star Tribune:

The punching bag has been removed. That easy target after every blowout or close loss, the young coach who clearly was overmatched by the job and probably should have never been put in that position to begin with, knowing this experiment was doomed to fail. Because it always fails with this sad-sack organization.

The spotlight now shifts to a level higher in the organizational flowchart. This becomes Gersson Rosas’ mess entirely. He has his coach, his roster, his hand-picked front office, his philosophy on style of play, and his rear end on the line now that he has fired Ryan Saunders.

The clock is ticking. On Rosas. On Karl-Anthony Towns. On the whole operation. But especially Rosas, the Timberwolves president of basketball operations whose brief tenure has been nothing short of chaotic.

Teams sometimes tend to rally when a new coach is brought on. At least for a few games. But real judgment on how a new coach is doing is best started after, say, a month or two at earliest.