Win or else

The Bucks open the NBA playoffs with their first-round series against Miami starting Saturday at 1 p.m.

The Bucks were the Eastern Conference’s number one seed in 2019 and 2020. Both playoff runs ended before the Bucks even got to the NBA Finals.

And so, Mike Chiari writes:

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer reportedly needs a “deep playoff run” this season in order to save his job.

According to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic, it is believed that anything short of a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals will almost certainly result in Budenholzer’s firing.

Budenholzer, who is in the midst of his third season with the Bucks, owns a 154-63 record in Milwaukee, but the Bucks have been unable to break through with a trip to the NBA Finals.

Milwaukee finished with the best record in the NBA in each of the past two seasons, and it had the NBA MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo in each of those campaigns as well.

Even so, the Bucks fell to the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019 and to the eventual Eastern Conference finalist Miami Heat in the second round last season.

Budenholzer was seemingly on the hot seat earlier this season after the Bucks got off to an uneven start …

Charania and Amick also reported that the “team dynamics are very healthy,” but that doesn’t guarantee Budenholzer will be back for the final year of his contract in 2021-22.

Budenholzer is reportedly battling against the perception that he played a big role in the Bucks’ shortcomings last season, with Charania and Amick reporting that there was a “great deal of frustration” toward Budenholzer last season because of the belief that he didn’t adjust accordingly to beat Miami in the playoffs.

Budenholzer has a hugely talented team at his disposal, with Giannis leading a group that also includes Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, among others.

A trip to the Eastern Conference Finals or better is far from certain … but that is the expectation for Budenholzer given the team that has been put around him.

The Bucks slumped to third in the Eastern Conference, meaning assuming they put out the Heat they are likely to play second-seed Brooklyn in the conference semifinals without home-court advantage. Of course the Bucks had home court advantage the past two years and managed to not win their last series, and who knows how COVID restrictions will affect home-court advantage, but being at home is better than not.

Another playoff failure, though, might not only end Budenholzer’s job, but might speed along the departure of Giannis Antetokounmpo, because the NBA hates having superstars in small media markets. Note that Lebron James, who started his career in Cleveland, now plays in Los Angeles. And you remember where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar started and finished his career.

 

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