To the Bucks’ delight, “all” includes a trait that tantalizes team officials as much as his 60 percent shooting from the field so far, or anything else the league’s hottest individual force does with a basketball in his hands: Antetokounmpo unabashedly loves Milwaukee. It’s a city that, despite a string of successful teams in the 1980s and a squad that fell one win short of the N.B.A. finals in 2001, has never fully shed its “unfashionable” label, which was affixed when the best player in Bucks history — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — forced a trade to the perennially glamorous Los Angeles Lakers in 1975.
“I’m a low-profile guy,” he said. “I don’t like all these flashy cities like L.A. or Miami. I don’t know if I could be the same player if I played in those cities.”
Visitors to Milwaukee, however, quickly discover that it’s no exaggeration to describe Antetokounmpo’s future as the least of the Bucks’ concerns in their bid to become a credible contender for the first time in nearly two decades. It also doesn’t hurt that, by virtue of his speedy ascension to All-N.B.A. status and contention for other top individual honors, Antetokounmpo is on a course to be eligible for a so-called “supermax” contract extension from the Bucks via the league’s new Designated Player Exception during the 2020 off-season, which would put him in line for a new deal well in excess of $200 million.
Wojnarowski: It just shows how hard it is at that mid-size market. There are plenty of small-market owners and mid-size GMs who said, “We didn’t go far enough. I can’t keep guys.” Milwaukee is going to go through this with the Greek Freak. That day is coming, right?, where he’s going to look and say, “Where is this organization? What are they doing here?” You don’t think Giannis has been watching what went on there for the last several months, of what they allowed to go on with the front office? He’s watching it, and the clock has started. Everybody in the league is trying to figure out how they’re going to get him out of there. That has started.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: "Duncan and Kobe my role models. I see guys like Tim Duncan, Kobe, who’ve stayed in the same city and the same team for decades. I don’t like changes in my life. I believe that Milwaukee, as an organization but also as a city in general, can make you a better person as well as a better player. There’s not much to do there other than think about basketball and that’s what I need. I might go to the movies, out for a meal and that’s all. I always end up back in the arena again, where I like and love being. The closest place to my house is our coaching center. A two-minute drive. The best!"
Giannis Antetokounmpo: "I’m not interested in representing a bigger city, or a larger market, that for many people might be more important to the NBA. I want to achieve something similar to what – for example – Tim Duncan has done in San Antonio or Kobe in Los Angeles. To stay for many years, to succeed in Milwaukee and then for young guys that want to play with me to come here and all of us together to share the highest goals."
Q: You're eligible for a contract extension coming up. What are you expecting? By October, you could sign an extension with the Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo: "Hopefully. That was what everyone's been working for, for them to extend me. Hopefully, I stay here 20 years and I get my Greek Freak Day like Kobe [Bryant]."
Antetokounmpo will earn $3 million next season in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, but it's no secret that he'll be in line for a massive raise in the 17/18 season. The Bucks can offer him an extension of up to five years starting in July, and based on this week's revised 17/18 cap projection of $107 million, Giannis could earn a first year max salary of up to $25 million. With max raises of 7.5% of the first year salary, a five-year deal from the Bucks could be worth approximately $144 million, thus locking in the Bucks' young star as early as July. Otherwise Giannis would become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2017, where the Bucks would have matching rights and other teams could offer up to four years, 4.5% raises and a total package of around $107 million.
May 16, 2022 | 9:00 pm EDT Update
Kyrie Irving — who has a decision to make next month on whether to opt-in to the final year of his Brooklyn contract — sat down for the latest “I Am Athlete” episode. He lifted the lid on a host of topics, including saying the Cavaliers would’ve stayed together longer and won more if he’d been more mature. “If I was in the same maturity line and understanding of who I am, and I look back, we definitely, definitely would’ve won more championships, because there would’ve been a better man-to-man understanding about what I’m going through. I didn’t know how to share my emotions,” Irving said. “I didn’t know how to do that. So instead of sharing, I isolated myself.”
Kyrie Irving: “I just started pouring myself more into the game — I had one of my better seasons but I wasn’t connecting with everybody as much during the championship year. So 2017, it was a different year for us. We went against Golden State, we went against a great team. When you’re not a great team and not clicking on all cylinders and together, you’re easily defeated. You’re defeated before you can get to the arena.”
While Irving has a $36.5 million opt-in decision to make, he’s at a different place in his life than he was when he asked out of Cleveland at 24. In hindsight, he regrets not speaking to LeBron James beforehand. “We didn’t talk during that time,” Irving admitted. “When I look back on what I was going through at that time, I wish I did, because it would’ve been a good understanding of what the future will hold for both of us and we know how much power we both had together. Me and him in the league together running Cleveland, and then being able to put a better team together every single year would’ve definitely been worth it.”
“Frustrating from an organizational standpoint. but even more so from Ben’s,: said Marks. “I had a conversation with Ben. We all did. We saw how he wanted to get out there. To be honest, I’ve got to admire that. He tries to do 3-on-3, 5-on-5 and then you turn around and get an MRI, You see the disc herniation has gotten worse. and you think, well this guy is pushing through something that he shouldn’t be pushing through. Nobody wants to have surgery. It’s the last resort but it’s bygone now and we’ve got to move forward on this, we’ve got to support him and so forth.”
Asked for lessons learned from the Simmons off-again, on-again saga. Marks used the opportunity to critique the critics. “It’s a little bit of a testament that 1) he tried to get back out there and tried to help his teammates and secondly, we have to be careful not judge people. And if you’re outside that medical profession, when you’re chiming in from afar. You just have to be a bit careful of what you’re saying because you really don’t know,” said Marks.
Marks spoke as well about he and Steve Nash have had “honest conversations” both about last season and the upcoming one. He reiterated the need for “high character players” and said he “could see no reason why” both Joe Harris and Seth Curry won’t be back healthy and ready for camp. “The ultimate goal hasn’t changed, that’s to be the last team standing.”
Young LeBron James has been found. Marquis “Mookie” Cook, a high-ranking high school basketball player, has been cast as the NBA superstar in Shooting Stars, Universal and SpringHill Co.’s adaptation of the 2009 book by James and Buzz Bissinger.