Giannis Antetokounmpo

Eastern Notes: Magic, Keefe, Giannis, Embiid, Dinwiddie, Wizards

The Magic intend on targeting veterans once free agency begins this week, president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said, as relayed by Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

Orlando currently has a roster filled with younger players — including Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs, Jonathan Isaac and Wendell Carter Jr. — making it imperative that the team also has some veterans by the time next season starts.

“Our goal would be to add experience to the roster,” Weltman said. “But it has to come in the right form and fashion. It has to be guys that we feel will help move our team forward, help our young guys navigate the early stages of their careers and can also help us on the court and show what hard work and preparation leads to.”

One veteran who spent time with Orlando the past two seasons, James Ennis, is set to reach the open market, though he recently told Hoops Rumors that his top priority will be finding a winning situation. The Magic finished with just a 21-51 record last season.

Here are some other notes from the East tonight:

  • The Nets are hiring Brian Keefe as an assistant coach, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Keefe, a veteran NBA assistant, was a finalist for the Thunder’s head coaching job one year ago, Wojnarowski notes. Keefe will replace Mike D’Antoni on Steve Nash‘s staff.
  • Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t need surgery on the knee he hyperextended during the playoffs, according to general manager Jon Horst“He’s fine,” Horst said, as relayed by The Associated Press. “I can’t explain it, but he’s fine.”
  • The Sixers are refusing to address questions about Joel Embiid‘s lingering knee injury, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Embiid sustained the injury in Game 4 of the team’s first-round series against the Wizards, though he still went on to average 28.1 points and 10.5 rebounds in 32.5 minutes per game during the postseason.
  • A potential sign-and-trade for Spencer Dinwiddie won’t be easy to figure out for the Wizards, as detailed by Fred Katz of The Athletic. Washington is operating over the salary cap, meaning Dinwiddie could only join the team via a sign-and-trade, and the Nets won’t be eager to take on any significant salary for a player they don’t love. Dinwiddie missed most of last season after suffering a partially torn ACL. He averaged a career-high 20.6 points and 6.8 assists per game the season before, however, shooting 41.5% from the field.

Bucks Notes: Giannis, Holiday, Budenholzer

As recently as last fall, there was major uncertainty about whether Giannis Antetokounmpo would remain with the Bucks for the long term, as his second contract with the team was nearing an end and he was weighing whether or not to sign a super-max extension.

Antetokounmpo, of course, eventually accepted that super-max offer last December, a decision that paid off in a major way on Tuesday, when the Bucks secured their first championship in 50 years. After the Game 6 victory, Giannis expressed satisfaction that he opted to stick with Milwaukee rather than joining forces with other stars elsewhere.

“I could go to a super-team and just do my part and win a championship,” he said on Tuesday, according to Steve Megargee of The Associated Press. “But this is the hard way to do it and this is the way to do it. And we did it.”

As Megargee writes, Antetokounmpo spent much of his post-game press conference thanking the people who helped him get to this point, including the current and former Bucks officials who had a hand in his development. He also reiterated his love for the city of Milwaukee.

“This is my city,” Giannis said. “They trust me. They believe in me. They believe in us.”

Here’s more on the new NBA champions:

  • Kevin Durant, whose Nets nearly got by the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals said after Team USA practice in Tokyo on Wednesday that he wasn’t dwelling on “what-ifs,” per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Durant also referred to the Bucks as “somewhat of a dynasty,” as Joe Vardon of The Athletic relays. “I know it’s the first chip and a lot of people call you a dynasty after a few,” Durant said. “But the continuity of that team is something that’s impressive and how they continue to build and add and now they’re champions, and you can appreciate that.” Durant will be seeking a gold medal alongside Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton at the Olympics.
  • Sam Amick and Eric Nehm of The Athletic take a deep dive into the road the Bucks took to the 2021 championship. The in-depth report includes several interesting tidbits, including that Antetokounmpo required fluid IV treatment after Game 5 due to dehydration and that Holiday was “ecstatic” last offseason to be traded to the Bucks, who were on his list of preferred destinations.
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) examines what’s on tap for the Bucks this summer and how they can keep their championship roster intact. The first step the team takes this offseason may be to reward head coach Mike Budenholzer – who is entering a contract year – with an extension, Marks notes.
  • In case you missed it, Holiday earned a $1MM bonus as a result of the Bucks’ title. Milwaukee will now be a taxpayer this season for the first time since 2003, and it’s safe to assume team ownership is just fine with that.

Bucks Win 2021 NBA Title, Giannis Named Finals MVP

The Bucks closed out the Suns on Tuesday night, winning the 2021 NBA Finals by a 4-2 margin and earning the franchise’s first championship in 50 years. Milwaukee last won a title in 1971, led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and hadn’t earned a spot in the Finals since 1974 before this year.

Two-time Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks, improbably earning NBA Finals MVP honors in a unanimous vote just three weeks after suffering what initially looked like it might be a season-ending knee injury.

Antetokounmpo’s knee hyperextension caused him to miss the last two games of the Eastern Conference Finals against Atlanta, but Milwaukee advanced to the Finals without him and he was able to get back on the court for Game 1 vs. Phoenix. The 26-year-old subsequently showed no ill effects from the injury, averaging an incredible 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game on 61.8% shooting in the six-game series.

Antetokounmpo’s performance on Tuesday was especially remarkable, as he became the first player in postseason history to register at least 50 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks in a single game, per Justin Kubatko (Twitter link). Giannis’ 50 points tied the record for most points in an NBA Finals closeout game, according to ESPN Stats and Info (Twitter link).

Antetokounmpo becomes the third player in NBA history to win an MVP award, a Finals MVP award, and a Defensive Player of the Year award over the course of his career, joining Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

The Bucks’ championship victory is especially meaningful not just for Antetokounmpo but also for head coach Mike Budenholzer, whose job would have been in jeopardy if Milwaukee had been eliminated earlier in the playoffs, and for general manager Jon Horst, who took a big swing by giving up several first-round picks and swaps for Jrue Holiday during the 2020 offseason.

Although Holiday’s offensive production was up and down during the series, his defense on Suns guards Chris Paul and Devin Booker was a crucial part of the Bucks’ success and ensured that Horst’s gamble paid off.

While the Bucks will have some roster issues to address in free agency, especially if Bobby Portis and Bryn Forbes opt out, the team has its entire starting lineup under contract for next season, with Antetokounmpo, Holiday, and Khris Middleton all locked up for multiple years. The Suns will be in a similar position if Paul returns to Phoenix.

The NBA offseason is now officially underway.

Bucks Notes: Holiday, Giannis, Thanasis, Team Building

The Bucks paid a high price to get Jrue Holiday last November, but he has silenced any doubts about whether he was worth it, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Holiday delivered 27 points and 13 assists Saturday night and had a game-changing steal in the final minute as Milwaukee closed in on its first NBA title in 50 years.

Holiday said he was “in the right place at the right time” as he took the ball away from Devin Booker on a play where Phoenix had a chance to take the lead. Holiday pushed the ball up court and delivered an alley-oop pass to Giannis Antetokounmpo that virtually sealed the victory.

“I saw it in Portland, when he was in New Orleans and we got swept in the first round,” Pat Connaughton said. “Just the way he defends on a nightly basis and the way that he’s able to do it in different ways. He’s physical, he’s quick, he’s strong. He’s got a lot of things to him. And he’s got quick hands. First-team All-Defense play. It was a Defensive Player of the Year (play). It just kind of shows we’re built on defense.”

There’s more on the Bucks:

  • Antetokounmpo was dehydrated after the game and had to be treated for cramping before he could conduct his post-game interviews, according to Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press. Giannis played more than 40 minutes and posted 32 points, nine rebounds, and six assists.
  • Antetokounmpo said it was hard for him to play without his brother, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who missed Saturday’s game after being placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per Marc Berman of The New York Post. “It was extremely difficult for him not to be here to cheer for the team,’’ Giannis said. “He gives the team a lot of energy and the team feels it. As much as it hurts, we still got to do our job and I Facetimed him after the game.’’ Berman pointed out that Giannis hugged his brother for about 15 seconds before the start of Game 4, but his COVID-19 tests have presumably been fine.
  • The Bucks’ success is erasing the “super-team” narrative that has surrounded most of the NBA champions of the last decade, notes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Rather than relying on free agency, Milwaukee slowly built a contender around Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, who have been with the franchise since 2013.

Central Notes: Doumbouya, Middleton, Antetokoumpo, Simonovic

While fielding a number of questions about the Pistons’ No. 1 pick, Keith Langlois of also addressed the future of 2019 draft pick Sekou Doumbouya. Langlois anticipates Doumbouya, who wasn’t drafted by current general manager Troy Weaver, will play in the summer league where he can show greater consistency and effectiveness. The Pistons must decide this offseason whether to pick up the forward’s fourth-year option at $5.5MM for the 2022/23 season.

We have more on the Central Division:

  • Bucks forward Khris Middleton is focused on the Finals but he’s also a minority owner with the Brisbane Bullets in Australia’s NBL. Middleton told Marc Spears of The Undefeated many players are looking into similar ventures. “Being a part of an ownership group is something I wanted to do, for sure,” Middleton said. “As a player it could be tough. But I realize the responsibilities I had wasn’t going to really affect my basketball career right now. But it’s something I think a lot of players are starting to trend towards is finding ways to invest their money, finding things to do with their money that can grow, and it’s something I’m interested in.”
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo and Middleton are the two main building blocks that made the Bucks a championship-level team. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today examines the lengthy partnership between the two teammates. Middleton was acquired in 2013 from Detroit in the same year the two-time MVP was drafted. “At first, friendly competition, a guy like him from Detroit and I just got drafted,” Antetokounmpo said. “We just tried to get on the floor, going at one another in practices. But throughout the time, there was a lot of times that he proved that he’s going to do whatever it takes to help the team win. That’s the type of guy that you want next to you.”
  • Draft-and-stash prospect Marko Simonovic is expected to sign with the Bulls this summer and from what K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago hears, he can be a rotation player at least. Simonovic was a second-round pick so the team’s fans should set their expectations for the 6’11” big man accordingly, Johnson adds.

Central Notes: Pistons, Antetokounmpo, Tucker, Taylor

With the number one pick in the draft and a promising, newly re-made young core, this is a pivotal offseason for the Pistons, writes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic in a mailbag.

Within the piece, Edwards discusses the likelihood of the Pistons selecting Cade Cunningham (very likely), the fit between Cunningham and last year’s top selection (French point guard Killian Hayes), 2021 free agency plans, what the Pistons are likely to do with restricted free agent Hamidou Diallo, Isaiah Stewart‘s status as a starting center, Jerami Grant, and much more.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • David Aldridge of The Athletic profiles Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s dramatic return from injury and resumption of his regular season dominance. He talks to two-time NBA champion Isiah Thomas, among others, about what Antetokounmpo has done in the three games since his return. “He’s been the most inspiring player during these playoffs, while (Chris) Paul has been the sentimental player we all root for and want his career to end with a ring,” Thomas said in a text to Aldridge.
  • Tim MacMahon and Tim Bontemps of ESPN examine the journey Bucks forward P.J. Tucker has taken from the Ukrainian SuperLeague to the NBA Finals. One of the keys to Tucker’s resilience and fortitude, write MacMahon and Bontemps, was his ability to form connections in the locker room. “We had a team with an old Serbian guy who didn’t speak particularly good English, and P.J. made a connection with him and had a great friendship with him,” said former coach Chris Fleming. “The U.S. players, the young German players, he had an ability to reach everybody.”
  • The Bulls worked out Terry Taylor on Monday, tweets Hoops Rumors’ JD Shaw. The 6’5″ guard averaged over 20 PPG and 11 RPG over his final two seasons at Austin Peay State University.

Community Shootaround: Antetokounmpo’s Finals Run

When Giannis Antetokounmpo went down with a hyperextended knee in Game 4 of the Bucks‘ Eastern Conference Finals series against the Hawks, it was unclear what it would mean for the his chances at playing in the NBA Finals. His medical status was up in the air until just moments before tip-off in Game 1 against the Suns, but he ultimately was able to suit up.

Even with the Bucks losing the opening game and getting a relatively pedestrian 20-point performance from the two-time MVP, it was clear that Giannis was back. From his 17 rebounds to his work in the post, he found his footing after some early hesitancy.

Antetokounmpo’s following two games were nothing short of spectacular. The Greek Freak joined Shaquille O’Neal as the only two players in Finals history to post back-to-back 40-point, 10-rebound games as the Bucks split Games 2 and 3 with the Suns.

With Game 4 looming on Wednesday on the Bucks’ home court, Antetokounmpo currently has the 12th-highest scoring rate in NBA Finals history at 34.3 PPG, the fifth-highest rebound rate at 14 RPG, and the third-highest free throw rate at 15.7 FTA. Only two points per game separate Antetokounmpo’s scoring rate with the sixth-highest output in Finals history, O’Neal’s 36.3 PPG in the 2000 Finals.

Antetokounmpo’s co-stars, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, have struggled to contribute at the highest level all series, though Holiday managed to free himself for 21 points in Game 3. If those two players continue to struggle, the Bucks will need Antetokounmpo to continue his Herculean efforts if they want any chance to bring home the coveted Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.

If the Bucks are to complete the comeback from a 2-0 deficit for the second time this postseason, it will likely be on the back of an all-time, legacy-making Finals performance from Antetokounmpo.

Which leads to the question of the day: Can Antetokounmpo enshrine his name in the pantheon of the all-time Finals performances? Can he lead the Bucks to their first championship since 1971?

Head to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

Bucks Notes: Middleton, Giannis, Team Building, Portis

The Bucks may be in a difficult situation, trailing Phoenix 2-0 in the NBA Finals, but the mood was relaxed at today’s media session, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Giannis Antetokounmpo joked with reporters as he answered questions, explaining that the team has chosen this approach rather than being dragged down by the must-win game Sunday night.

Khris Middleton noted that Milwaukee was in the same predicament in the second round against the Nets. The Bucks were able to regroup and take that series after two lopsided losses in Brooklyn.

“A lot of people thought our season was done,” he said. “We still believed in ourselves. We came back and had an ugly grind-it-out game that we found a way to win. Sometimes it’s not going to be pretty. Sometimes it’s going to be ugly. We just got to find a way to win one game at a time from here on out.”

There’s more from Milwaukee:

  • An impassioned speech that Antetokounmpo delivered late in the first half of Game 2 shows how much he has grown in a leadership role, observes Sam Amick of The Athletic. Although he prefers to avoid the spotlight, Giannis has become the team’s on-court leader, a status he cemented when he agreed to a contract extension in December. “He’s grown as a leader vocally. He always had that, you know, workman-type attitude and he always put as much time in the gym as anybody,” Pat Connaughton said. “But even when he got hurt (in the East finals), he was vocal. He was with us. He was present. He was in the locker room. He was on the bench during games. He was pulling people aside individually. He was pulling the team aside collectively and I think he’s done a phenomenal job in his growth as a leader vocally.”
  • It took eight years for the Bucks to build a Finals team around Antetokounmpo and Middleton, who have been with the team since 2013, and Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN looks back at nine significant events in that process.
  • In an article for The Players’ Tribune, Bobby Portis talks about the challenge facing the Bucks and how it relates to his own journey to become an NBA player.

Eastern Notes: Holiday, LaVine, Hawks, Magic

The trade that brought Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee helped the Bucks reach the Finals. Holiday has struggled in the first two games of the series but Giannis Antetokounmpo is confident his teammate turn things around as the series shifts to Milwaukee, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes.

“No matter what’s going on, you’ve got to stay aggressive and you cannot get in your feelings. It’s hard not to,” Antetokounmpo said. “You know, NBA Finals, 20,000 people booing you and all that, it’s kind of hard. … If there’s a game that you’re 3-for-12 or whatever the case might be and you can rebound the ball or get a steal or do something else to help the team win, that’s what it’s all about right now. I think he understands that. I know he’s going to be there when we need him the most and I don’t worry about it.”

Holiday shot 11-for-35 from the field during the two games in Phoenix.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Zach LaVine will discuss a contract extension with the Bulls soon and he anticipates a positive outcome, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times tweets. LaVine will make $19.5MM next season and then is due to become an unrestricted free agent. LaVine is currently with Team USA training for the Olympics.
  • On the surface, Jamahl Mosley won’t have a lot of pressure as the new head coach of the rebuilding Magic — provided that he finalizes an agreement — but he’ll face some obstacles, Josh Robbins of The Athletic writes. The current roster doesn’t have a clear No. 1 offensive option and that could create some chemistry issues. In the same piece, Robbins reveals that president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond are expected to receive contract extensions. Both have one year remaining on their deals and the length of their new contracts will likely coincide with Mosley’s deal.
  • Now that he’s had the interim tag removed, Hawks coach Nate McMillan knows that expectations will ramp up for a team that reached the conference finals, Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal Constitution writes. “Things just for whatever reason went right, and we had a lot of success,” he said. “We know that expectations are going to be higher for us next season. But the one thing we’ve tried to keep this team locked in on is just us. Not the outside noise and what people are saying we should be or shouldn’t be because at the beginning of the season, they weren’t saying what they’re saying now about us. So you can’t focus on that.”

Bucks Notes: Giannis, Budenholzer, Holiday, Free Throws

Giannis Antetokounmpo gave an encouraging answer when asked how his knee felt the day after Game 1 of the NBA Finals, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

“I feel good,” he told reporters at today’s media session. “I was out there, so I felt good. I tried to help my team in any way possible.” When someone asked again about the knee, he responded, “I feel good. I feel good … my body feels good.”

The Bucks‘ star was originally listed as doubtful for Tuesday’s opener with a hyperextended left knee, but he was upgraded to questionable after a morning workout, then was cleared to play following pregame warmups. He wound up logging 35 minutes with 20 points and 17 rebounds. He isn’t listed on Milwaukee’s injury report for Game 2, Nehm adds (via Twitter).

There’s more on the Bucks:

  • Head coach Mike Budenholzer is optimistic about Antetokounmpo’s prospects for the rest of the Finals, Nehm writes in a full story. Budenholzer was happy about what Giannis was able to contribute Tuesday night and said he’s likely to get better as the series moves on. “I think it usually takes him playing — he’s a rhythm guy,” Budenholzer said. “So, I’m excited about how he’ll improve from Game 1 to Game 2. We’ll see how he feels. But I think play-wise, he always gets better when he plays.”
  • Milwaukee will need a bigger contribution from Jrue Holiday to have a chance at the title, Nehm adds. Holiday has upgraded the Bucks’ offense after being acquired in an offseason trade, but his shot was off in Game 1 as he hit just 4-of-14 from the field and missed all four of his 3-point attempts. “I think I had a bad shooting night,” Holiday said. “I had a lot of opportunities to make layups and shots, and they weren’t falling. Again, I think I do a little bit more than scoring, just getting people plays and 3s and driving to the basket, but me personally, I didn’t shoot well tonight.”
  • Budenholzer didn’t directly blame the officials for the free throw disparity in Game 1, but he said his team needs to do a better job of keeping Phoenix off the foul line, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. The Suns made 25-of-26 free throws in the 13-point victory, while the Bucks were 9-of-16.“I can’t remember the last time a team got 25 free throws in a game against the Bucks,” Budenholzer said. “And then conversely, the way Giannis attacks, the way Khris (Middleton) attacks, as many opportunities as Khris has with the ball … it’s frustrating, but it’s part of the sport. It’s part of the game.”