Fans will get an opportunity to see Bucks stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard share the court as teammates for the first time on Sunday in the preseason, head coach Adrian Griffin said on a recent episode of NBA Today (YouTube link). Milwaukee brought in the 11-year Trail Blazer in a September blockbuster trade, and now he’ll suit up as a Buck for the first time against the Lakers.
The start of the Antetokounmpo-Lillard era in Milwaukee is significant not only for the duo’s star power, but because it also realizes the efforts of the Bucks to remain firmly in the title hunt going forward. Offseason comments from Antetokounmpo caused a vortex of rumors regarding his future with the Bucks. Appearing on the same episode of NBA Today, however, general manager Jon Horst dismissed the notion the organization made the blockbuster move because of them.
“Really not at all,” Horst said when asked if Antetokounmpo’s comments fueled their pursuit of Lillard. “I think we’ve done everything we can over the past few years to put the best product we can on the floor with Giannis, for Giannis, for our organization. There’s no doubt we are invested in him and this entire team and we felt like getting Damian Lillard was the best thing for the franchise now and going forward.”
The next move for Milwaukee is to secure Antetokounmpo, who has a player option for the 2025/26 season, to a long-term deal. The Bucks, who swung for the fences when they traded for Jrue Holiday in 2020 before winning that year’s championship, are hoping this trade pays off in a similar fashion.
“I think it’s important to understand that Giannis and what he says publicly and privately are very much aligned with what we believe as an organization,” Horst said. “It’s not just something recent. We’ve done everything we can every step of the way to put the best team on the floor each and every day, to constantly push the limits and try to compete at the highest level. … We think this trade is the most recent example of that.”
We have more from the Bucks:
- The environment around Bucks practices has been more physical and fired up than in previous years, Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Griffin is pushing to have a more aggressive tone and environment in practice, according to Owczarski. “The way we approach training camp and the way we approach practice so far has been incredible because we are literally changing our identity,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’re being a little bit more scrappy. We will help one another. Obviously, we’ve been one of the best defensive teams in the league the last five years, so it’s not that you gotta come here and you change a lot of things, but I feel like, you just got to sharpen the tool, you gotta add more edge to the team.“
- Last season, Bucks forward Jae Crowder began the year by sitting out as a member of the Suns, spending the first four months of the season away from the team before he was traded to Milwaukee at the deadline. This year, Crowder isn’t taking playing time lightly, Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes. Now, he’s trying to help set the aggressive tone of Milwaukee’s training camp with his mindset. “I’m taking this training camp very seriously this year,” Crowder said. “Obviously, knowing that I missed last year. Just trying to blow it out in the terms of both ends, conditioning and learning-wise. Just trying to learn as much as possible before the real games start. So I’m taking this training camp more seriously than I would in the past few years.“
- Lillard opened up about his first week as a Buck in an interview with Nehm. The seven-time All-Star is seeing plenty he likes with the organization so far. “The discipline that I’ve seen, it’s not just this guy or that guy; it’s like everybody is on top of their stuff,” Lillard said. “And I think collectively that just equals success. I don’t see how it doesn’t. Nobody is like, ‘Look at me.’ Or, ‘Oh, I gotta do this.’ Or, ‘I gotta do that.’ It’s just like everybody is on point with what they have to be doing and it’s like adults, professionalism and people that care about it and take it serious.“