NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh reacted to the Greek Freak’s comments during a conversation with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Grant Liffmann on Wednesday afternoon. “That’s not what you want to hear if you’re the Golden State Warriors or any NBA team with any sort of hopes of prying Giannis out of Milwaukee,” he said. “However, I will remind people that Kevin Durant and LeBron James both said very nice things about Oklahoma City, Cleveland and Miami respectively before each of those players walked out the door. “Do not shut the door on Giannis leaving Milwaukee, but I would say it’s still a long shot for the Golden State Warriors.”
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“At least it’s not like Anthony Davis or Kawhi Leonard,” an Eastern Conference scout told HoopsHype. “I still don’t believe the Miami and Toronto rumors just yet.”
Multiple executives around the league echoed the sentiment, noting Antetokounmpo’s future is entirely up to him. The Bucks have only so much say in what comes next. “He could be on the Warriors in three months,” a former Western Conference executive said.
One former general manager views the Warriors as “the only leverage opportunity” for Milwaukee. “Time is on their side,” he said. “They would get a huge deal.”
It’s why, four years after the Durant coup, this Giannis to the Warriors noise remains at an incessant murmur, despite how truly impractical it is in reality. This is nothing like the Durant situation. Those dominoes lined up perfectly. These dominoes, linking Giannis and the aged, expensive Warriors, have lined up terribly. Context matters. Let’s look at the three large-scope reasons why the two circumstances are so different and why any longshot pursuit for Giannis is far more difficult.
Durant had turned 27 by the time he hosted his free-agency meetings in the Hamptons. Steph Curry, born five months after Durant, was 28. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson were 26. It was a young, established core pitching a peer of a similar age. Come to us and let’s all plow through the league during our collective primes. That’s what drew Durant. If Giannis hits the market next summer, he will be 26. Curry — a friendly acquaintance, considered by those in the know as the dominant reason Giannis’ eyes would even tilt in the Warriors’ direction — will be 33. Thompson, currently in the late stages of his ACL rehab, and Green, showing early signs of a physical decline, will both be 31.
In Durant’s first season with the Warriors, Curry was the 82nd highest-paid player in the NBA. It was the final year of that well-timed (or ill-timed, if you’re Curry) rookie extension signed back in 2012. He was on the books for only $12.1 million, slightly more than Nikola Peković, slightly less than Marvin Williams. It’s very beneficial when your best player is paid like a fringe starter. It’s also helpful when your second- and third-best players, both All-Stars, are under market value. Thompson earned $16.6 million that season. Green earned $15.3 million. Neither were among the 40 highest-paid players in the league. That (along with the cap spike, which we’ll discuss shortly) laid a pristine route for Durant’s $26.5 million contract to fit snugly under the cap restrictions.
Circumstances would be quite different if Giannis reached free agency and wanted to sign with the Warriors. In the first season of what will be Giannis’ next contract, Curry is set to make $45.8 million, an NBA record (breaking the record he’ll set the season prior). Thompson is on the books for $37.9 million. Green is on the books for $24 million. Combined between the three: $107.8 million. Add in Andrew Wiggins, making $31.6 million, and that’s $139.4 million combined between four players. The projected salary cap for that season, delivered before this financially-crushing pandemic hit, was $125 million. So, no, unlike Durant, there’s no way that Giannis (and his next max contract, projected to begin at $37.5 million) can sign with the Warriors outright.
According to a league source, the Warriors have been preparing for years to make a bid for Antetokounmpo. General manager Bob Myers knows that to chart a course for long-term greatness, a team must maintain flexibility — both in terms of its roster and future assets.
By orchestrating a complex sign-and-trade last summer with Brooklyn for guard D’Angelo Russell, the Warriors got younger while obtaining a key trade chip. In February, when negotiating the deal that sent Russell to the Timberwolves, Myers made sure that Minnesota included a lightly protected pick in what’s expected to be a loaded 2021 draft. This is the same type of advanced planning that helped the Warriors land Kevin Durant in free agency in July 2016.
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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?”
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.
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November 30, 2020 | 3:33 am EST Update
Well, with all seemingly quiet on the Harden front, Brian Lewis of the New York Post appeared on NBA TV to provide some clarity on the situation. To avoid spoiling the video, let’s just say that fans who are behind a trade for the former MVP will find themselves disappointed. “I wouldn’t necessarily say that they (the Nets) have moved on from the idea of adding Harden, and it’s not dead in the water,” said Lewis. “It’s more floating. In other words, Houston — from what I understand — is not in a rush to move him. I think they accept the fact that’s what going to end up happening. . . They would love to bring as many teams to the table as they can to get the best deal.”
According to an NBA source, the Cavaliers weren’t sold on Toppin’s defensive prowess. Cleveland instead took Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, considered the draft’s best wing defender. The Cavaliers have been the league’s worst defensive team for two straight seasons.
The New Orleans Pelicans have signed a deal with Ibotta to be their second-ever jersey patch partner. The deal means that the Denver-based cash-rewards program will be featured on all editions of the Pelicans’ game jerseys for the 2020-21 season. Ibotta, which launched in 2012, is a free-to-use, cash-back rewards program for customers making purchases in-store, on mobile apps or through websites. It has accumulated more than 400 million downloads and has more than 1,500 brands and retail partners nationwide.
Tony Parker: However, the Spurs were mistrustful of me. The first time that “Pop” saw me was in June of 2001 in Chicago. I got off the plane and immediately went to do my workout at the gym. I was tired and a little worn out from the trip. It didn’t go very well. Popovich didn’t like what I showed him at all and didn’t even want to see me again. Luckily, RC Buford, the San Antonio Spurs general manager, insisted.
Tony Parker: Before that second workout, it was make-or-break time. I was starting to get some buzz. Pop let himself be convinced and said okay to seeing me a second time. My second workout took place in San Antonio. At the end, Pop wasn’t singing the same tune: “We’ll never get him at 28. He’ll get drafted before that in the top 15.” San Antonio was in fifth place from the previous season and so their draft pick was at the end of the first round. He said to me, “If you’re still there in the 28th spot, we’re definitely grabbing you.”