Giannis Antetokounmpo says he wasn't involved in decision to fire Adrian Griffin: 'It caught me by surprise'

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo went off on Wednesday night, finishing with 35 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists in the Milwaukee Bucks’ comfortable 126-116 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. It may have been the most irrelevant triple-double of his career. 

Post-game, all anyone wanted to know about was his thoughts on the decision to fire first-year head coach Adrian Griffin despite a 30-13 record that was good for second place in the Eastern Conference. And so Antetokounmpo sat and talked, answering every question sent his way in an extended media session that lasted nearly 20 minutes. 

Like most, he was not expecting the bold move, which he said “caught me by surprise.” He’s fully on board with the decision, though, and Jon Horst and Co. have his full confidence. 

“At the end of the day I trust the ownership decision, I trust the front office,” Antetokounmpo said. “They’ve never done me wrong in the past. They’ve always created a great atmosphere, a great culture, a winning culture and they always did whatever was the best for the team and for us to be in a position to win. We just gotta do the same thing here. We gotta trust that this is the best decision for me and the guys. We gotta go with it. It’s trust.”

While the Bucks’ record under Griffin was stellar, all was not right. They were often out of sorts, especially on the defensive end where they struggled to adapt to Griffin’s more aggressive schemes. At the time of his firing, they ranked 21st in the league on that side of the ball, allowing 116.8 points per 100 possessions. 

Antetokounmpo had been critical of Griffin at multiple points during his tenure. Most recently, during a lengthy rant following the team’s loss to the Houston Rockets on Jan. 6, which was part of a 1-4 skid, he said “we have to be coached better” and questioned the team’s defensive strategy

However, he was adamant that he had nothing to do with the decision. 

“I refuse to fall into a bubble of ‘oh, this is accurate, or this is not accurate,'” Antetokounmpo said. “Always there’s gonna be something out there about me, about the team. ‘Oh, he didn’t have a good relationship with Griff.’ False. I love the guy. I invited him to my wedding. I talked with him. I was coached by him and we did very, very well.

“At times, they make it seem like it’s players making the decisions like this guy got traded because he wanted him and — no. I have a job. My job is to be the best version that I can be and try to lead this team to win games. That’s why I get paid. I don’t get paid to change people’s lives and make people uncomfortable. I get paid to defend, block shots, and I try to stick to that as much as I can. I don’t like that aspect of it. There’s people that get paid a lot of money to make those decisions, and those decisions are hard. I gotta respect Jon because it’s hard. It’s not easy. But personally, I don’t want to be involved in that. I don’t like that.”

Horst, during his pre-game press conference, likewise stated that the players weren’t involved in the decision. While that may be accurate on a literal basis, it’s hard to believe that Antetokounmpo’s repeated public criticisms didn’t weight into the move. 

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