In an interview with ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, Bucks wing Khris Middleton says he wasn’t surprised to hear two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo openly discuss the possibility of leaving Milwaukee in the future if a better opportunity to win titles presents itself.
Eric Nehm of The Athletic previously wrote that the Bucks were well aware that Antetokounmpo’s foremost desire is to continue winning championships, which Middleton confirms.
“I think it’s kind of business as usual either way,” Middleton told ESPN. “It doesn’t affect me personally. I don’t think it affects us as a team. I think this is something he said almost every year he’s come up in contract extension talks.
“We always want him back for sure. Let’s be for sure and let everyone know that. We want this guy to come back because he’s one of the best players in the world. He’s one of the best players in franchise history. So when he says things like that, I think he just wants to challenge the team, the organization, to keep putting us in position to win championships.
“But I think it’s just something that he just wants to keep putting pressure on everybody. And that’s himself also. He’s not just pointing a finger at everybody else saying, ‘You guys have to do this for me.’ I think he’s putting that pressure on himself to be better, to come in and be great every year. So there’s no pressure on, there’s no added pressure when he says that to us as a team, or me as a person, that I have to be better.”
Here are a few more highlights from Bontemps’ interview with Middleton, which is worth reading in full:
- A three-time All-Star, Middleton re-signed with the Bucks this offseason on a three-year deal that could be worth up to $102MM, though the base value is $93MM. He admits he wasn’t sure if he would return after the East’s No. 1 seed lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2022/23. “I didn’t have a feel of what was going to happen,” Middleton said. “I was a free agent also, (and a player) that was coming off two injuries. I didn’t know if I was going to be the one that, you know, was going to move on, or a coach or another player. I think this time it just happened to be (former head coach Mike Budenholzer), which kind of caught us by surprise a little bit. But I think we kind of knew something was going to happen. Something was going to have to change for us to get to that next level as a team, as an organization.” The Bucks hired first-time head coach Adrian Griffin to replace Budenholzer.
- Bontemps brought up the team’s aging core, with Middleton (32), Jrue Holiday (33) and Brook Lopez (35) all well into their 30s. Like Middleton, Lopez re-signed with Milwaukee in free agency, inking a two-year, $48MM deal. Holiday, meanwhile, could be a free agent next summer if he declines his player option for ’24/25. Despite their advancing ages, Middleton thinks the team still has a runway to contend for titles. “I know Jrue’s a guy that he still has a lot left in the tank no matter his age. … I hope he’s excited to come back, to sign an extension and be with us for a couple more years. … I think we have a good amount of years left where we could play at a high level and be a contender. And that doesn’t happen unless we have Jrue back also.”
- After being limited to just 33 regular season games last season, Middleton said he’s glad to be healthy entering ’23/24. As Bontemps outlines, Middleton had wrist surgery in the 2022 offseason and dealt with a knee injury throughout ’22/23, which eventually required surgery. “This summer’s just been kind of about getting myself back together into being back to my old, natural self, as healthy as I can be, which I think I’m headed in that direction,” Middleton said.