Doc Rivers’ exit interview quote about Bucks’ off-season needs salt in the wound

The Milwaukee Bucks had their 2023-24 season come to a much-earlier than they hoped for close after falling to the Indiana Pacers in six games.

Milwaukee Bucks v Indiana Pacers - Game Three
Milwaukee Bucks v Indiana Pacers – Game Three / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

Recently, Doc Rivers did his exit interview with the media, talking about a handful of issues that hurt his team and where they go from here. One particularly interesting quote came when Rivers was asked about what the Bucks need to do this off-season as they look to add talent to the roster.

“Every year, you make changes. It’s too early for me to tell you what those changes are going to be. But clearly, athleticism is probably one of the things at the top. We don’t need track athletes; we can go get those from anywhere, from the track. We need skilled athletes, and I think that’s going to be a very high focus for us.”

Doc Rivers’ exit interview quote about Bucks’ off-season needs rubs salt in the wound

The Milwaukee Bucks could certainly use an infusion of youth and athleticism this off-season, but the problem with this quote from Rivers is that Milwaukee did already have some of that this season, and he didn’t utilize it. Rookie wing Andre Jackson Jr. may have been the most athletic player on the team outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo, and he had the skill to not just be a “track athlete.”

Whenever Jackson did get on the court, which was typically rare, he oftentimes stole the show, making a highlight reel play in the form of a dunk, pretty pass or show-stopping block.

With one of the oldest rosters in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks struggled against opposing teams with athleticism and who pushed the pace. This issue was apparent all season, which had fans of the Bucks pleading all year for the coach, whether it was Adrian Griffin or Doc Rivers, to give one or two of the younger players an opportunity, especially Jackson.

Like all rookies, Jackson made mistakes. He was a bit prone to foul, and there were times when one would have liked to see him be more aggressive. Yet, with opposing teams blowing by the Bucks on fast breaks and Milwaukee defenders providing little resistance on the perimeter, it was clear that a player with Jackson’s defensive instincts, build and athleticism could help this team.

Jackson’s potential importance became much more amplified when it was announced that the Bucks would officially meet the Indiana Pacers in the first-round of the NBA Playoffs. Indiana played with the second-fastest pace in the regular season, which would pose a problem for the Bucks, especially as Giannis Antetokounmpo was set to miss time with injury.

It was the perfect time for Jackson to get some time, but Rivers still scarcely utilized him. In Game 1, he played five minutes. In Games 2 and 3, he combined to play 42 minutes, and he made an impact by tallying nine rebounds, eight points, seven assists, four steals and a block. He did have eight fouls, but it was clear he made a positive impact in essentially every other regard.

It felt like Rivers had finally seen the light, but then Jackson went on to play just 12 minutes across the final two games of the series. The spark that Jackson provided with his extended minutes was gone, and the Milwaukee Bucks ultimately could not keep up with the younger and quicker Pacers.

Perhaps the most frustrating stat of them all is that Pacers players shot just 7-of-26 (26.9 percent) when defended by Jackson in the series. He made his mark against some of the other team’s lead scorers, limiting Tyrese Haliburton to 3-of-8 shooting with a turnover and T.J. McConnell to 0-of-4 shooting. He should have been guarding them more often.

It’s tough to hear Rivers call for more athleticism when he had a perfectly useable player on his bench who he saw provide that, among other things, consistently.

It felt like Rivers rolled more with his veterans due to their experience, as he didn’t have much time to focus on developing the young guys after coming in mid-season to start Milwaukee’s hardest stretch of the year. Rivers noted in his exit interview that he was giving AJ Green playing time without having seen him play much before, so that tracks. Now, he will have time to work with them more closely.

If Jackson is on the roster by the time the summer ends, he has a chance to be a legitimate rotation player for the Milwaukee Bucks from day one, especially if the team is going to hunt for athleticism. The Bucks very well may have found a steal in the second round of the 2023 NBA Draft, and finding time for him next season will be essential.

Let’s not forget about MarJon Beauchamp, who was a first-round pick in 2022, either. He was even more of an afterthought upon Rivers taking over, but the coach cited that Beauchamp being injured often played a significant part in that. If Beauchamp can get healthy, he has a lot of the same tools that Jackson has with length, athleticism and quickness, so he could certainly help out as well.

Losing in the postseason stings, but this quote from Rivers added some further pain knowing what the team had sitting on the bench. Hopefully he understands the importance of working with these young guys in the upcoming off-season to see what he has in them.

Stay tuned for more Milwaukee Bucks analysis.

Related Posts

Our Privacy policy - © 2024 News