Bucks face Suns after firing Kidd
MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Bucks were already set to face the Phoenix Suns without star Giannis Antetokounmpo and now they will take the court without head coach Jason Kidd on the sidelines.
Less than four hours before the opening tip of Monday's game, the Bucks announced they fired Kidd and replaced him with assistant coach Joe Prunty on an interim basis. Kidd joined the Bucks following a messy divorce after one season coaching the Brooklyn Nets to 44 wins and a playoff appearance in 2013-14.
Kidd took over a 67-loss team and, in his three and a half seasons, the former point guard posted a 139-152 record and reached the first round of the NBA playoffs in 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons.
"We appreciate everything that Jason has done for the Bucks organization, but we have decided to make a coaching change," Bucks general manager Jon Horst said in a statement released by the team. "We believe that a fresh approach and a change in leadership are needed to continue elevating our talented team toward the next level, bringing us closer to our goal of competing for championships.
"Jason led a historic turnaround during his first season and would guide our team to two playoff appearances. He also played a meaningful role in helping to keep the Bucks in Milwaukee. We thank him for all of his contributions and wish him the best."
Prunty, who was an assistant with Kidd in Brooklyn, will coach a team that is 23-22 and in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee has lost four of five and seven of 10, including Saturday's 116-94 loss at Philadelphia when Antetokounmpo did not play.
Antetokounmpo is being held out as a precautionary measure as the Bucks try to manage their young superstar's workload after suffering a knee injury during the offseason that forced him to withdraw from competition with the Greek national team.
The team knew they would need to monitor the situation carefully and because of that rested Antetokounmpo -- the league leader in minutes per game this season with 37.4 -- on Nov. 22 at Phoenix, Dec. 23 at Charlotte and Saturday night when Milwaukee visited Philadelphia.
"Hopefully, after missing these two games, he doesn't have to miss any more," Kidd said before the Bucks shot 40.2 percent in his final game.
Milwaukee also played without point guard Malcolm Brogdon in Saturday The team announced that he was attending to a family situation, but he's expected to be back in Milwaukee on Monday night.
That's good news for the Bucks, who struggled without their leading scorer and top option off the bench.
Without Antetokounmpo, the Bucks beat the Suns 113-107 in overtime the last time they met. The Suns arrive in Milwaukee looking to build momentum after snapping a three-game losing streak Saturday night at Denver.
Devin Booker scored 30 points in that game. He's averaging 36.5 points in his last two games and leads the team with 24.9 points per game this season, with 27.6 per game coming on the road.
"He's the type of person that nothing really fazes him," interim coach Jay Triano said. "A raucous crowd cheering against him or having the ability to make them 'ooh' and 'aah' with some of the things that he does on the road is something that he relishes. It seems like he's been on the road a lot when he gets on those rolls where he becomes unstoppable."
The 21-year-old saved some of his best performances for some of the league's brightest stages, too. His 43-point game came at Portland, he dropped in 46 at Philadelphia and last season dropped 70 against the Celtics in Boston.
"I really don't try to focus on the crowd," Booker said. "I like high intensity games, playing in arenas like Oracle (Arena in Oakland, home of the Warriors) or in Portland because they have a real good crowd that will heckle you. Games like that are fun to me."
The teams wrap up their season series on the 50th anniversary of the day the league established the two franchises in 1968. They met for the first time on Nov. 23 of that season, with the Bucks winning 115-112.
Phoenix leads the all-time series 70-69 and has won 40 of the last 54 meetings, but Milwaukee has won five in a row and is going for a third consecutive season sweep.
Updated January 22, 2018