Giannis Antetokounmpo

Lakers Notes: AD Trade, LeBron, Pelinka, More

When David Griffin arrived in New Orleans as the Pelicans‘ new head of basketball operations, he was faced with a predicament related to Anthony Davis, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. Sources confirm to McMenamin that there was some lingering resentment toward the Lakers within the Pelicans’ organization – all the way up to ownership – due to the way AD’s public trade request played out earlier in the year. However, Griffin also recognized that L.A. was the most logical trade partner for New Orleans.

“When I took over, there was some latent discontent, maybe with the way things had been handled,” Griffin said. “We just talked about the fact that, look, in all likelihood the best package is going to come from this team, because it’s the only team that AD’s willing to stay at.”

As McMenamin details, agent Rich Paul had signaled to the Celtics and other suitors that Davis wouldn’t re-sign with them in 2020, since the big man wanted to play in New York or Los Angeles.

“The last thing you want to do is put a GM in a situation where he trades away an asset and then the guy walks out the door,” Paul said. “Like, you can’t do business that way. So it’s not really a hard conversation to have. And I don’t think it stopped [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge from trying. It’s just that maybe he didn’t have the deal [he wanted]. He wasn’t willing to give up the young players, which I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t give them up either if the guy is not going to re-sign.”

The Pelicans’ big win on draft lottery night helped clear a path for the team to work something out with the Lakers for Davis, as Paul observed to McMenamin: “The fact that [the Pelicans] were going to get the first pick caused me to understand that it softened the blow of losing Anthony Davis because the organization could still have some momentum.”

McMenamin’s story at ESPN provides an in-depth look at several other aspects of the Lakers’ pursuit and acquisition of Davis, as well as the franchise’s adjustment to having him on the roster. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said that even on the day the Lakers and Pelicans reached a trade agreement, there were a couple times he was convinced a deal wouldn’t come together. But the front office persevered in part because they believed they owed it to LeBron James. “When a player of LeBron’s stature puts his trust in the organization,” Pelinka said, “I think there’s an implicit bilateral trust going back, saying: ‘We’re going to do everything we can to put you in a position to win more championships, because that’s what you’re about.'”
  • Pelinka, who added that he believes in treating his superstar players “like partners,” admitted that he has probably had hundreds of three-way calls with James and Davis since the trade as he has solicited their opinions on certain roster moves. “Every single decision. I [have] never been involved so much,” Davis said. “No matter who the player was, he wanted to make sure. It was on everything. And it was like, ‘Wow.’ To the point where I was like, ‘All right, Rob, stop calling me.'”
  • Kendrick Perkins, who was teammates with LeBron in Cleveland and AD in New Orleans, had a hand in bringing the two stars together. The veteran big man introduced Davis to Klutch Sports in 2018 when word got out that he was considering an agent change, writes McMenamin.
  • Rich Paul believes that Davis’ ability to make threes and pass the ball separates him from other stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo. AD’s agent offered the following spicy take: “If you put Anthony Davis on that Bucks team last year, they’d be playing in the Finals. He knows how to make guys better. That’s not a knock to Giannis, but that’s just what [I think].”
  • The NBA was willing to allow LeBron to give up his jersey number (23) to Davis despite the paperwork not being filed in time, but Nike nixed the idea, citing tens of millions of dollars in wasted inventory on James jerseys, sources tell McMenamin.

Central Notes: Giannis, Kennard, Henson, Hutchison

Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, last season’s MVP and one of the best basketball players in the world, still needs to improve his shooting ability after making an abysmal 30.2% of his jump shots last season. And as Eric Woodyard of ESPN writes, The Greek Freak is looking at new teammate Kyle Korver for some guidance.

“It’s really important [that] I always try to talk to him a little bit,” Antetokounmpo said of Korver. “And he’s a great guy. He’s not trying to get in your head or overstep and talk too much to you. Whenever he gives me tips, I always try to listen … one of the best shooters to ever play the game.”

Head coach Mike Budenholzer, who coached Korver in Atlanta, also thinks that Korver is going to be a huge addition to the Bucks’ roster.

“His professionalism, his work ethic and attention to detail is just gonna help all of us, including me as a coach. I always say that about Kyle: He makes me a better coach. Adding him to our group was a huge add this summer.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press advocates for Pistons guard Luke Kennard to be moved to a bench role this season. Head coach Dwane Casey seems to agree: “(Kennard) doesn’t fit well with the first unit, but he is one of our most talented players and so the job we have as a coaching staff is to fit him where he’s going to go.”
  • Coming off an injury-riddled 2018/19 season that saw him traded from Milwaukee to the Cavaliers, big man John Henson is ready to add an element of rim protection to help the Cavs’ defense improve this season. He’s also ready for whatever role the team has in store for him, admitting that he doesn’t yet know exactly where he fits in the rotation, writes Chris Fedor of cleveland.com. Henson is entering the final year of his contract.
  • Bulls head coach Jim Boylen says forward Chandler Hutchison will not return in the next two weeks and that opening night is in jeopardy, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Hutchison is still recovering from a hamstring strain he suffered in September.

Central Notes: Rose, Beilein, Giannis, Brogdon

Guard Derrick Rose signed with the Pistons because he feels the team can contend, Vince Ellis of the Free Press writes. Rose inked a two-year, $15MM deal with Detroit in free agency to lead its second unit. “I’ve had all the accolades in the past. I’m past that. Now I want to win,” he said. “The only thing on my résumé I’m missing is a championship and being here, seeing what happened last year with the Raptors in (the) East, you never know what can happen.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers are amazed by new coach John Beilein’s work ethic and the 66-year-old’s energy level, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “He has more energy than I do,” forward Larry Nance Jr. said. “He’s always going, always has something on his mind, always something he’s ready to talk about, teach and coach. It’s really exciting to see because as a player that’s what you want. You want somebody that is so eager to get started that they can’t even slow down.
  • The Bucks bet on continuity in their efforts to convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign a super-max extension next summer, Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes. They managed to re-sign Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and George Hill in free agency and only lost one starter, Malcolm Brogdon. “We brought back a big part of the group; we believe in continuity,” GM Jon Horst said. “We think that gives us an advantage to have continuity. … This group looks like they’re growing, looks like they’re getting better, looks like they fit and they make sense and that we can compete and sustain success for a long period of time with this group and that’s been the goal.”
  • Despite Brogdon’s departure, the Bucks have plenty of options at shooting guard and small forward, Ben Steele of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out. “I think the vision going forward is with the addition of Wes Matthews and Kyle Korver as wings that have proven that they are elite-level shooters and great defenders,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Got young guys like Donte (DiVincenzo), Pat (Connaughton) and Sterling (Brown) that are all proven to some degree.” Hill, who signed a three-year, $29MM deal, is another option for Budenholzer.

Giannis Not Interested In Addressing Contract Situation In 2019/20

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo can’t sign a super-max extension for another year, and can’t become a free agent until the summer of 2021, but that won’t stop NBA fans and observers from speculating about his long-term future. Speaking today to reporters, including ESPN’s Eric Woodyard, Antetokounmpo made it clear that he has no plans to entertain that speculation this season.

“I’m not gonna talk about it a lot this season, and I’m not going to try to address it,” Antetokounmpo said.

The Greek forward is still just 24 years old and is coming off his first MVP season, cementing his place among the NBA’s stars to watch over the next five or 10 years. Throw in the fact that he’s playing in one of the league’s smaller markets, and it’s no surprise that whispers about his next contract have already begun. For his part though, Antetokounmpo is focused on the season ahead.

“I feel like if you have a great team – and our goal is to win a championship and be the last team standing and get better each day – I think it’s disrespectful towards my teammates talking about my free agency and what I’m going through,” Antetokounmpo said. “So, when the time is right, we’re all gonna talk about it. I don’t think the time is right.”

Because he earned All-NBA honors and took home an MVP award this season, Antetokounmpo locked in his super-max eligibility, but he can’t actually sign that extension – which would start at 35% of the cap – until he has at least seven years of NBA experience. As soon as they’re permitted to, the Bucks plan on putting that offer on the table — in fact, general manager GM Jon Horst made that plan public and was fined $50K by the NBA for doing so.

Based on the league’s latest cap projections, a five-year super-max deal for Giannis that starts in the 2021/22 season would be worth just over $252MM.

Eastern Notes: Isaac, Giannis, Nets, Heat, Lowry

Magic forward Jonathan Isaac gets lead billing this year in Zach Lowe’s annual ESPN.com column on his six most intriguing players of the upcoming season. As Lowe details, Isaac has put on about 15-20 pounds this offseason as he looks to bulk up his thin frame a little, and the team has high hopes for him going forward, particularly on the defensive end.

According to Lowe, it’s “hard to overstate” how much Orlando loves Isaac. In fact, sources tell Lowe that the Magic have “batted away” any and all trade inquiries on the former No. 6 overall pick. The front office views Isaac as a standard-bearer for the culture that the team is trying to create, Lowe adds.

As we look forward to seeing whether a breakout year is coming for Isaac, here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • In an in-depth story for ESPN.com, Tim Bontemps examines the two possible long-term paths for the Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will be eligible for a super-max contract extension next summer. Antetokounmpo’s decision on whether to re-up with the Bucks or explore other options will have a massive impact not just on basketball in Milwaukee but on the entire NBA.
  • The role of Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson in the team’s successful foray into free agency this summer shouldn’t be overlooked, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post, who points out that both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant praised Atkinson in their initial comments to the media last week.
  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald offers a pair of hypothetical trade scenarios that could see the Heat add Chris Paul and Bradley Beal to their roster. Although Jackson’s suggestions would certainly appeal to Miami, there has been no indication that the Wizards will move Beal or that the Thunder will meet the Heat’s demands in a CP3 trade.
  • While Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, and Marc Gasol figure to be mainstays in the Raptors‘ starting lineups, head coach Nick Nurse may shuffle through players for the other two spots, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca tweets. Meanwhile, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca explores whether it makes sense for the Raptors and Lowry to work out an extension sooner rather than later.

Bucks Fined By NBA For Comments On Super-Max For Giannis

The Bucks have been hit with a $50K fine by the NBA, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who tweets that the club violated league rules related to the timing of player contract comments. According to Charania, the fine stems from the Bucks publicly discussing their plans to offer Giannis Antetokounmpo a super-max contract.

Antetokounmpo is not yet eligible for that five-year Designated Veteran Extension, so league rules prohibit the team from discussing it, as the NBA noted in a press release confirming the fine.

“Under NBA rules, teams cannot commit to offer a ‘super-max’ extension prior to the summer following a player’s seventh season in the NBA,” the NBA said in its statement.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors Glossary: Designated Veteran Extension]

The comments about a super-max deal for Giannis were made by Bucks general manager Jon Horst at a televised fan event earlier this month.

“The answer for now is that we can’t negotiate anything,” Horst said when asked about Antetokounmpo’s contract status.  “So Giannis, basically a year from now will be eligible for a super-max extension. At that time, of course, he will be offered a super-max extension.”

The Bucks technically violated the NBA’s circumvention rules when discussing the reigning MVP’s future, as Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights observes (via Twitter). Still, Horst’s comments are pretty innocuous. While the Bucks can’t exactly “tamper” with their own player, I wonder if the NBA is looking to draw a clear line on this sort of public statement in the wake of its introduction of new anti-tampering measures.

Bucks co-owner Wes Edens also recently told TMZ that the franchise wants to keep Antetokounmpo for “the rest of his basketball career,” but given the lack of specificity involved in that statement, it’s unlikely to run afoul of the league’s circumvention rules.

And-Ones: All-2020s Team, Tampering, Ball, Fertitta

With a new decade just a few months away, Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated identifies the players most likely to dominate the 2020s, with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo at the top of the list. Only 24 years old and coming off his first MVP award, Antetokounmpo is an obvious choice. Woo expects him to contend for the award for the rest of his prime years, and notes that he could upend the league when he hits free agency in 2021.

Woo’s other selections are Kawhi Leonard (age 28), Anthony Davis (26), Joel Embiid (25) and Luka Doncic (20). Doncic’s accomplishments at such a young age and his role as the cornerstone of the Mavericks‘ franchise place him ahead of more established stars, Woo adds.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • The NBA’s latest attempt to stop tampering will only be effective if the league follows through on enforcement, states Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Teams are likely to keep testing the limits of the new regulations to see what they can get away with. “Let’s see if they catch someone,” an unidentified league executive said. “Until then, teams will keep pushing the envelope. They didn’t enforce the old rules—why would anyone think they will do more with new ones?”
  • LaMelo Ball is exceeding expectations in the Australian NBL, according to Tommy Beer of Forbes. The youngest brother of Lonzo Ball has a chance to be a top-five pick in the 2020 draft, Beer adds. He is averaging 16.5 points, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game and impressing scouts with his passing as well as scoring.
  • Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta tells Ian Begley of SNY.tv that owners have an underrated role in the success of NBA teams. ” I think the owner has as much influence as any star player because it’s still the culture that you set,” Fertitta said. “And the culture that I’ve set with my team, the Houston Rockets, and to my management team is that we are going to do whatever it takes to put as good a team out there as you can. And we’re gonna try to set ourselves up every year to be one of the top five or six teams in the NBA.”

Warriors’ Potential Pursuit Of Giannis Doesn’t Concern Bucks

Because he’s a superstar in a smaller market, speculation about Giannis Antetokounmpo leaving Milwaukee figures to continue until the 2019 MVP inks a long-term extension with the Bucks.

Rumors about the Warriors looming as a threat to lure Antetokounmpo to the Bay Area popped up this week during a Ramona Shelburne appearance on ESPN’s Get Up (video link). That chatter has some within the NBA worried that Golden State will again shift the league’s landscape within the next couple years. However, it doesn’t appear that Milwaukee is worried about that scenario.

“Keeping Giannis, it’s a focus obviously,” a Bucks front-office source tells Sean Deveney of 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.”

Antetokounmpo, who can’t hit the free agent market until the summer of 2021, is eligible to sign an extension with Milwaukee next offseason. The Bucks plan on offering him a super-max deal as soon as they are able to.

As for the Warriors, they currently have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and D’Angelo Russell on maximum-salary contracts, with Draymond Green making close to the max. Those four players will earn a combined $137.8MM during the 2021/22 season, so as Deveney’s source notes, Golden State would have to make some serious roster changes to realistically make a play for Antetokounmpo.

Horst: Bucks Will Offer Giannis Antetokounmpo Super-Max

Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will be primed for a massive super-max extension next summer and the Bucks are already looking forward to locking him up long-term.

At a recent town hall, GM Jon Horst addressed one fan’s question about Antetokounmpo’s contractual status.

“The answer for now is that we can’t negotiate anything,” Horst said.  “So Giannis, basically a year from now will be eligible for a super-max extension. At that time, of course, he will be offered a super-max extension.”

Antetokounmpo, 24, is coming off an incredible 2018/19 campaign in which he averaged 27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG and 5.9 APG in 72 games for Milwaukee. As the reigning MVP, Antetokounmpo’s earning potential skyrockets and he would be in line for the largest contract in NBA history.

The Bucks could potentially offer the “Greek Freak” a five-year, $247MM extension next summer, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. While it remains to be seen if Antetokounmpo commits to Milwaukee long-term next summer, another strong year and extended playoff push could help persuade him.

Team USA, Others Secure Spots In 2020 Olympics

The second round of the 2019 FIBA World Cup has come to an end, with several more countries – including the USA – clinching spots in the 2020 Olympics as a result of their records in this year’s event.

Entering World Cup play, only host nation Japan was assured of a spot in the 12-team field for next year’s Olympics in Tokyo. Seven more teams will ultimately qualify via the World Cup — two from the Americas, two from Europe, one from Africa, one from Asia, and one from Oceania.

While the European spots are still up for grabs, the other five have been claimed. USA and Argentina (Americas) will play in the 2020 Olympics, along with Australia (Oceania), Iran (Asia), and Nigeria (Africa).

Once two more spots have been secured by the last two European teams still standing in the World Cup, there will be four final berths available for Tokyo. Those four teams will be determined in a series of pre-Olympic qualifying tournaments next summer.

Here’s more on the 2019 World Cup:

  • The matchups for the World Cup quarterfinals have been set. As Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets, Tuesday’s games are Argentina vs. Serbia and Spain vs. Poland, with USA vs. France and Australia vs. the Czech Republic to follow on Wednesday. As the single-elimination portion of the tournament gets underway, Team USA’s probable path to gold could feature showdowns against Serbia in the semifinals and Australia or Spain in the final (Twitter link).
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic has created a chart that helpfully breaks down the Olympic qualifying outlook. Lithuania, Italy, Greece, Brazil, Germany, Canada, and Turkey are among the many countries that have earned spots in the qualifying tournaments and will vie for one of the final four Olympic berths next summer.
  • Despite a win today, reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Greeks have been eliminated from World Cup medal contention. Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press has the details on a frustrating tournament for Giannis, who declined to speak to reporters for a second consecutive game.
  • Injured Celtics forward Jayson Tatum returned to practice but was held out of Monday’s game against Brazil. As Brian Windhorst of ESPN details, Tatum – who is recovering from an ankle sprain – hinted that he might be back on the court for Wednesday’s game vs. France.