As Malcolm Brogdon thrives in his first season for the division-rival Pacers, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo admitted on Thursday that he’d like to still be teammates with the former Rookie of the Year, writes Eric Nehm of The Athletic.
“Definitely wish he was still here,” Antetokounmpo said. “One of my friends, one of the guys that I always teased every day when I see him – call him ugly, we’re just going back and forth. I’m going to miss that, but at the end of the day, you got to do what’s best for you. I wish him the best, I wish his team the best and I’m excited to play against him.”
Antetokounmpo’s comments are noteworthy because Brogdon’s departure from Milwaukee has been a hot topic for the last several months. The 26-year-old guard was a restricted free agent, so the Bucks could have kept him if they’d wanted to. However, there were questions about how re-signing Brogdon would impact the team’s ability to keep other key free agents, and whether or not Bucks ownership was willing to pay a big tax bill.
Of course, with Antetokounmpo eligible for a super-max extension in 2020 or free agency in 2021, the Bucks will be looking to do all they can to keep the reigning MVP happy and convince him to stick around long-term. Which is why Giannis’ follow-up comment on Brogdon, relayed by Nehm, is perhaps even more interesting.
“Can you imagine this team with also Malcolm?” Antetokounmpo said after the Bucks improved their record to 8-3 on Thursday. “But hey, man, everybody takes their decision. His decision was to go to Indiana and build a team over there. I think that was best for him.”
As Nehm points out, Giannis’ framing of his teammate’s departure as a decision made by Brogdon rather than by the Bucks seems to suggest he doesn’t blame the team for the move, even though Milwaukee essentially controlled the process. Nehm notes that Brogdon used similar language recently when discussing his move with Scott Agness of The Athletic (podcast link).
“I had to figure out what my options were,” Brogdon told Agness. “I had two or three teams in the mix that we were really considering, but Indiana was by far the best. It was the team I was really pushing for and my agents made it work.”
Brogdon’s comments indicate he may have been more interested in landing with the Pacers than in re-upping with the Bucks, which is perhaps one key reason why Milwaukee was willing to negotiate a sign-and-trade. The Bucks netted multiple draft picks, including a lottery-protected first-rounder, in the deal and still insist they’ll be willing to pay the tax when it becomes necessary.
Meanwhile, Brogdon – like Antetokounmpo – is looking forward to the first Bucks/Pacers game of the season on Saturday in Indiana, but is downplaying its significance, per J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star.
“It’s just another game for me,” Brogdon said. “Looking forward to seeing those guys. Competing against them. I had a lot of good games in there, a lot of good memories in there. That’s all I got to say about it.”