Giannis Antetokoumpo Rumors

In their old Athens neighborhood of Sepolia Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo played once again a pick up basketball game in the open gym of Triton, where they learned the sport. Dozens of local residents gathered around them and also had the chance to play with them, like their old friends and teammates Sokratis Psaropoulos and Kanelos Garbis. After the game which was announced by the brothers themselves via social media, Giannis said: “I want to thank every one and all the kids who came to see us. We will try to do it every year in order to have fun with out friends and remember old times. I will always miss my neighborhood. Two days after the playoffs I am back here. That says everything”.
Perhaps the best example is from the Bucks’ 92-85 win over the Celtics in Milwaukee on Nov. 30. Antetokounmpo sprinted downcourt to block a Jordan Crawford layup at one end, then sprinted back to the other end, caught a pass and threw down a huge slam, sending the Bradley Center crowd into hysterics. “I enjoy it,” Antetokounmpo said. “I love the people who love me, the people in Milwaukee who love me, the fans. I thank them because they give me confidence whenever I go out there, and it’s a very nice feeling when you feel like the guys want you here and love you here and cheer for you.”
But Antetokounmpo wasn’t done. After teammate Zaza Pachulia grabbed the loose ball and outletted it to Luke Ridnour racing up the left side, Antetokounmpo sprinted down the court and, after taking a lob feed from Ridnour near the free-throw line, delivered a ferocious one-hand flush. The crowd erupted again. “Not many players in our league have those type of attributes as far as length, speed and the skills to handle the basketball like him,” Bucks point guard Brandon Knight said. “It’s very rare that you come across a basketball player his size who can do all those things. “He can block a shot and then get out and get a dunk on the other end, all on one play, because of his God-given abilities and physical stature. Not a lot of us have been blessed like that. There are few players in the NBA who can do that.”
The interest from NBA personnel departments helped the brothers earn spots on the Greek National Team. An issue had to be resolved, however. In order to travel they needed passports. To have a passport, they needed citizenship. Giannis, Thanasis, Kostas and Alex (the four children) were all born in Greece, but as children of Nigerian immigrants they were never recognized as Greeks. Nothing was ever steady, certain. They faced evictions, moved from place to place. They had survived together as a family, the boys selling sunglasses, hats and bags on the street. (Mother) Veronica babysat, (Father) Charles worked as a handyman. Once Giannis and Thanasis picked up basketball, they shared the same shoes. “For 20 years they were illegal,” he continued. “It’s very hard to live for 20 years without papers. Very, very hard. You have children and you have to go out and work without papers. At any moment, the cops can stop you and say come over here and let me send you back to your country. For me, my parents, they are heroes.”
Coach Larry Drew is not ready to commit to putting the 6-foot-9 youngster into the playing rotation when the regular season begins next week. The Bucks may want to be cautious when it comes to a player they value so highly. “I think he’s made the most of his minutes in the preseason,” Drew said after a workout Tuesday at Attack Athletics on Chicago’s west side. “Still there’s a lot he has to learn. “He has to learn the pace and the speed at this level. We’re still trying to work with him from the language side of it, making sure he understands our terminology. I can see at times he’s still lost out there, but that’s going to be part of it with an 18-year-old kid coming from a different country. “He has definitely shown some flashes. But we just have to continue to work with him and hopefully he can get to the point where we can get him out there.”
Otherwise, the Bucks are beginning to suspect they may have caught lightning in a bottle with this very raw but potentially explosive talent. “He is capable of grabbing the rebound and taking it the length of the court,” Van Exel said. “He has to get to the point where he is comfortable doing that here. I tell him all the time, ‘Look, sometimes when you get that ball off the rebound, don’t be afraid to make a play.’ “What he’s doing now is dribbling it across half-court and just passing it to the guards. We want to see him make plays because he has that capability. If he’s able to do that, it strengthens our ballclub.”
Antetokounmpo’s success has heartened many Greeks desperate for their country to become an incubator of dreams instead of a dead zone of joblessness. His parents, Charles and Veronica, moved from Lagos, Nigeria, to Athens in 1991. They left their young son, Francis, with his grandparents. Charles says there were no opportunities in the Nigerian economy. “It was very hard to get a job,” he says. People felt opportunity slipping away. “That’s why we decided to leave, too.”
Larry Drew traveled half the world in order not only to see live Giannis Antetokounmpo on the court, but also to meet him for the first time and get to know him as a person. The Greek national team is still unbeaten after six games in the European U20 championship and Antetokounmpo has already demonstrated some impressive all around skills. Coach Drew was sitting in the stands during the last two games and saw what Antetokounmpo can be: A real point forward who can contribute points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. The upside of the player is huge, however at this point he is still a project. That’s why the number 15 pick of the 2013 draft has a lot of work to do in order to reach his full potential.