Milwaukee Bucks Owner Wes Edens obviously isn’t afraid of commitment … because he just told our cameras he’s ready to make a lifelong pact with his star, Giannis Antetokounmpo. “We want to be a part of his life for the rest of his basketball career.”
This week, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne mentioned it on the network. But not much of that chatter is coming from Milwaukee. “Keeping Giannis, it’s a focus obviously,” one Bucks front-office source told Heavy.com. “But fighting the Warriors is not a focus. The Warriors are not the concern in the least. They’d have a long way to go to get him to Golden State, they’d have to give away a lot. He has never given any indication that he wants to leave Milwaukee. So a lot of that stuff, it is more chatter than anything.”
The luring of Durant is cited as evidence that the Warriors can make just about anything happen but that was a much different scenario. Golden State had the benefit of a spike in the salary cap in the summer of 2016, which gave them the room to get Durant without giving up core pieces. And, the source mentioned, “What happened with Durant works both ways.” Durant won two championships with the Warriors. But he wasn’t very happy in his time there and wound up leaving for Brooklyn this summer. No doubt Antetokounmpo, who has expressed how happy he is in Milwaukee, has taken note of how things went for Durant when he made the move.
95.7 The Game: “The Warriors have always been the big threat to go after Giannis.” @ramonashelburne on the possibility of the #Warriors landing the Greek Freak in 2021.
Ramona Shelburne: "It would be a difficult construction to make happen, but that is the one looming threat. And it comes down to what kind of guy is Giannis. What does he want his legacy to be? Is he the guy who stays with one team his entire career and tries to bring a championship to Milwaukee or does he pull a Kevin Durant and go join a group of super friends?"
If the Knicks whiff on Durant and Leonard, they will use their cap space for one- and two-year deals, pending the player, according to sources. That is partly to keep cap flexibility for 2021 when Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes a free agent. Rozier would have to fall in the two-year contract category.
Antetokounmpo has consistently made public proclamations of his love for Milwaukee, as he grew up and became acclimated to American culture in Cream City after moving from Greece. Antetokounmpo adores the Bucks medical staff. His mother moved to Milwaukee. But he is all about winning. In more concrete terms, a source close to Antetokounmpo said that getting to the NBA Finals is not just an ambition, it could tip the scales as he weighs his contractual future.
It is just speculation right now, but one person asked me if I knew why Kidd was there and as I guessed at his relationship with LeBron James or his ability to tutor Lonzo Ball, the person familiar with the Lakers process said something else: that Kidd was brought to Los Angeles to attract Giannis Antetokounmpo to the Lakers when he becomes a free agent in two years when the Bucks star could become an unrestricted free agent.
Down the road, more obstacles loom. Antetokounmpo’s contract is up after 2020–21; “We think about it strategically every day,” says Horst. Other franchises can promise brighter glares, glitzier supporting casts. Horst hopes that by building a basketball culture akin to the Spurs’ and the Warriors’—inclusive, personal and “laser-focused on excellence”—the Bucks can re-sign him. (So far, Giannis has said he loves Milwaukee and shows little interest in, as Bud puts it, “all that bulls--- and fame.”)
Yet it’s likewise undeniably true that Steph and Giannis are buddies who are both represented by the same agency (Octagon) and share a mutual admiration that has resulted in Curry and Antetokounmpo selecting each other first overall with the No. 1 overall picks as captains in the first two All-Star drafts. I can promise you, furthermore, that the Warriors have internally mused about a run at Giannis — however futile it may prove to be — in the event they can’t convince Kevin Durant to re-sign this summer. Trying to sign the most attractive free agent available is on the first page of the Golden State owner Joe Lacob’s playbook.
If you watched the All-Star Game on Sunday, you saw it. Couldn’t miss it. And since these things start happening years out, through careful planning, it’s safe to start thinking about this now. Because you know the Warriors are thinking about this now. Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021.
But when the Mavericks pulled the trigger and took Antetokounmpo, it didn’t take long for many NBA officials to figure out the Mavs’ rationale. “They’re looking down the road,’’ an NBA executive said a few days after the draft. “They (the Mavs) know Giannis will be a free agent in a couple of years and this was a way to interest him in Dallas.’’ When another NBA executive was queried earlier this season whether he believed the Mavericks drafted Kostas with Giannis in mind, he didn’t hesitate in responding. “Of course, they did,’’ he said succinctly.
The aforementioned official then claimed that Dallas’ decision to pick Antetokounmpo was driven by Mark Cuban, the Mavericks’ owner, and not the Mavs’ scouting department. “I actually thought it was a great move on Cuban’s part,’’ the source said. “With the last pick, they had nothing to lose, so why not take a flyer on (Kostas) and see if he can develop into a player and make an impression on Giannis.’’
In a report earlier this season by Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, he quoted a former GM as saying, “There’s no way in hell that Giannis Antetokounmp is staying in Milwaukee for his second deal. I would bet everything that I own that Giannis leaves Milwaukee.’’ In that same report by Kennedy, two agents also strongly suggested Antetokounmpo will bolt Milwaukee at the end of his contract. An NBA official and an acquaintance of Antetokounmpo both told me in the last six months that they fully expect Antetokounmpo to eventually leave the Bucks and that several teams have already had preliminary internal discussions on how to land the Greek Freak. Both sources felt the Los Angeles Lakers would likely be Antetokoumpo’s likely landing spot.
While rival GMs speculate about Antetokounmpo's future and the pressure on the Bucks to keep him happy, Horst stays stubbornly fixated on the present. After all, Antetokounmpo is signed through 2021. "The truth is, it really isn't the biggest thing on our mind," Horst says. "The biggest thing on our mind is how do we take a step from last year to this year and continue to improve? And if we do all the right things along the way, and we take the appropriate steps … it will take care of itself."
Former GM: “The teams that try to get multiple max slots are in big markets like New York or Los Angeles. There’s no way in hell that Giannis Antetokounmpo is staying in Milwaukee for his second deal. I would bet everything I own that Giannis leaves Milwaukee.” Two of the agents interviewed for this article also predicted that Antetokounmpo would leave for a different market when it comes time for his next max-level deal.
Evan Flood: Giannis Antetokounmpo was asked on @TheHerd if he'd ever leave Milwaukee should the Lakers come calling: "Honestly, no way. My goal is to win in Milwaukee, bring a championship to the city. I would never leave for LA."
Is that roster good enough to keep up with Philly and Boston? Despite Kidd's revelation (via ESPN's Ramona Shelburne) that Antetokounmpo offered to try to save his job, Kidd's firing will cause no lingering rift between the Bucks and their star, sources close to him say. Nudging up against a hard ceiling every spring might.
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 17, 2022 | 4:40 pm EDT Update
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