Posts Tagged ‘Giannis Antetokounmpo’

Giannis Antetokounmpo may not be the actual front-runner for Most Valuable Player, but he leads the race in his own mind.

The Milwaukee Bucks phenom was one of the early favorites to hoist the Maurice Podoloff Trophy at season’s end, as he was posting 37.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.5 blocks while shooting a glistening 60 percent through the first 10 games of the campaign.

While his numbers have fallen back to earth since then, he remains one of the best players in the game.

“I still am,” Antetokounmpo told Bleacher Report’s Will Gottlieb when asked if he’s the MVP favorite, and then hedged.

“I’m one of the best players in the league. We’re going to the playoffs. I’m still in the discussion. I might not be the favorite anymore, but I’m still in the discussion. That’s how I feel.”

The athletic forward, who has started in back-to-back All-Star Games, leads the Bucks with 27.3 points on 53.7 percent shooting, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. Ranking in the top 10 in points, rebounds, blocks, minutes, PER, win shares, VORP, and usage percentage, there’s no question The Greek Freak is one of the most impactful players in the league.

When Antetokounmpo is on the court, Milwaukee has a plus-4.6 net rating and when he sits, the figure drops to minus-8.4. That swing of 13 points per 100 possessions is one of the largest in the league, which helps his case, but hasn’t been enough to lift the Bucks to the upper echelon of the NBA.

The team sits eighth in the Eastern Conference with just seven regular-season games remaining. Their standing serves as a big reason why their superstar is getting less MVP love than someone like James Harden, who has led the Houston Rockets to the league’s top record and is widely considered the MVP front-runner.

So perhaps this isn’t Antetokounmpo’s year, and at 23 years old, that’s OK. He figures to be in the conversation for many more years to come.

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There’s a presumption – real or imagined – that NBA superstars prefer playing under the bright lights of big media markets. And no major market is glitzier than Los Angeles, as both home to Hollywood and the cradle of contemporary basketball.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo says he’s not that impressed at the idea of playing in L.A., however.

“I could never see myself being out there,” Antetokounmpo said after returning from All-Star weekend, according to the Journal Sentinel’s Matt Velazquez. “It’s great for two, three days but it’s a little bit – things are going a little bit crazy.”

The 23-year-old Athens, Greece, native apparently prefers the quieter Midwestern charm of Milwaukee.

“In Milwaukee – I love Milwaukee – it’s low-key. I can walk down the road, down the streets without anybody bugging me – nobody interrupts my conversation or anything. I love how quiet and calm Milwaukee is.”

While there’s little doubt big-money sponsors and TV networks would prefer the NBA’s biggest stars to play in metropolises like Los Angeles or New York, there’s not much they can do if a player wants to ply his trade in the nation’s 31st-largest city.

Antetokounmpo’s current contract with the Bucks runs through 2021.

Joel Embiid was even busier than we thought during All-Star weekend.

In addition to participating in the Rising Stars game, the Skills Challenge, and starting his first All-Star Game, the Philadelphia 76ers center also tried to squeeze in some tampering recruiting.

Milwaukee Bucks phenom Giannis Antetokounmpo revealed his Team Stephen teammate Embiid suggested he should join him on the 76ers.

“He told me I should trust the process and come play for Philly,” Antetokounmpo said with a chuckle, according to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Matt Velazquez.

It drew a laugh from the reporters.

“That was my reaction – I just laughed,” the superstar added.

Lovable, dominant frontcourt players are considered to be the future faces of the NBA. Embiid put up 19 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks in Team Stephen’s 148-145 loss to Team LeBron, while Antetokounmpo chipped in 16 points, seven boards, and two dimes in L.A.

Unfortunately for Embiid, Antetokounmpo recently went on record saying he’s not going anywhere as long as the Bucks continue moving in the right direction. Like Embiid, the Greek Freak also voiced his desire for a fellow All-Star to join his team, saying he wants Cleveland Cavaliers icon LeBron James to “come and play next year for the Bucks.”

Is the tamperee becoming the tamperer?

Giannis Antetokounmpo is doubling down on his lobbying for LeBron James to join the Milwaukee Bucks.

Asked again who he’d pick if he had the opportunity to draft an All-Star team, the Greek Freak told Eurohoops’ Nikos Varlas:

“I would pick LeBron. … I want to have a good relationship with him before his free agency. You get it? I want him to come and play next year for the Bucks. To come here in Milwaukee, in the cold.”

The Cleveland Cavaliers icon can become an unrestricted free agent after the season, and will have no shortage of suitors. Antetokounmpo hopes his Bucks can be in the mix, and explained why he thinks James is a “special player.”

“It’s easier for me to enter the game, score 25 points and get 10 rebounds, and consider that I have done my job. It’s more difficult to help my teammates. To help the whole team change level,” he said.

“That’s the thing that LeBron does for many years and that’s the difficult part. And I believe that’s the reason he should be even more respected. He doesn’t get in the court just to score the ball. … LeBron will score 30, he will also get 15 rebounds. He will also dish 15 assists and changes the level of the whole team.”

The Bucks phenom could be penalized for his comments, as the NBA prohibits players from enticing a player under contract with another team to join their team. The league recently fined the Los Angeles Lakers $50,000 for violating its anti-tampering rule based on comments team president Magic Johnson made about Antetokounmpo.

Both James and Antetokounmpo have been voted in as East All-Star starters, though they will represent different teams Sunday in Los Angeles. The leading vote-getter James is the captain of the aptly named Team LeBron, and chose Kevin Durant with the No. 1 pick, while Antetokounmpo was selected second overall on Team Stephen.

 

The Milwaukee Bucks will be able to keep their superstar … on one condition.

Giannis Antetokounmpo said he’ll stay put as long as the team continues moving in the right direction.

“As long as Milwaukee does the right moves and we’re a championship (contending) team, I’m not going nowhere,” he told ESPN’s Chris Haynes.

“This is my home. All I know is loyalty and this is an organization that (has preached that) since day one and hopefully I can help them bring joy to the fans and bring joy to the city in the future with a championship.”

The 23-year-old is averaging 27.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.8 assists – all team highs – this season for the Bucks, who currently sit sixth in the Eastern Conference and are just a game back of having home-court advantage.

It’s no surprise, then, that other clubs might be interested in his services. Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson recently received a $50,000 tampering fine for saying Antetokounmpo is going to put Milwaukee on the map and bring the city a championship one day. Last summer, it was speculated the Greek Freak could be lured to another organization, but he shot down the rumor by tweeting lyrics from a Kendrick Lamar song.

Milwaukee has the two-time All-Star contractually locked up through 2020-21.

Magic Johnson sees a lot of himself when he watches the Greek Freak, and that’s good news for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Much like Giannis Antetokounmpo today, Johnson’s rare combination of size and ball-handling skills allowed the point guard to thrive during the Showtime era of the 1980s, when he helped deliver five NBA championships to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, Johnson believes the 23-year-old has the potential to do for Milwaukee what Magic did for Los Angeles.

“Oh yeah,” Johnson recently told ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “With his ball-handling skills and his passing ability. He plays above the rim, I never could do that. But in his understanding of the game, his basketball IQ, his creativity of shots for his teammates. That’s where we (have the) same thing. Can bring it down, make a pass, make a play.

“I’m just happy he’s starting in the All-Star Game because he deserves that. And he’s going to be like an MVP, a champion, this dude he’s going to put Milwaukee on the map. And I think he’s going to bring them a championship one day.”

Currently ranked second in league scoring (his 28.4 points per game trail only James Harden‘s 30.9), Antetokounmpo’s all-around performance this season has even placed the Bucks superstar in the MVP conversation. According to Basketball Reference’s MVP tracker, Antetokounmpo is fifth with a 5.5 percent chance of earning the honor, trailing four-time winner LeBron James by just 0.3 percentage points (though they’re both well behind the favorite in Harden, who sits at 43.3 percent).

When told about Johnson’s flattering remarks, Anteokounmpo didn’t shy away from the spotlight, noting they simply reinforced what he had already believed.

“The craziest thing is that I believe that,” Antetokounmpo said. “But it’s even more believable when other guys see that, like Magic. Especially Magic seeing that, that’s big. Because it’s almost like, ‘OK, he sees that.’ So I’m on the right path, I’ve got to do what I’m doing.”

Under this year’s new All-Star Game format, the leading vote-getter in each conference will be made a captain, and the two will then draft their respective teams from the pool of remaining All-Star honorees.

After the first round of fan voting, Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has the inside track to earning Eastern Conference captain honors. There are still a ton of fan votes to be tallied before Antetokounmpo can start counting his chickens, but he already knows who he’d draft with the first pick. His choice won’t surprise you, but his reasoning might.

“If my teammates are available I’m going with my teammates,” Antetokounmpo told WISN’s Stephen Watson on Friday. “But if not, I gotta go with LeBron James, best player in the world, so we can have a good relationship for free agency.”

James, of course, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and has reportedly declined to commit to returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The popular consensus is that if he does ditch the Cavs it will be for a more glamorous market like Los Angeles. But in pure basketball terms, he couldn’t do much better for a new running mate than the transcendent, 23-year-old, 6-foot-11 unicorn who looks increasingly like his heir apparent.

“You never know,” Antetokounmpo said, “he might come play here.”