Thanasis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Montrezl Harrell Involved In Postgame Altercation

Having made just 4-of-15 free throw attempts in an eight-point loss in Philadelphia on Friday night, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo came back out onto the Wells Fargo Center court after the game, hoping to make 10 shots in a row from the foul line before calling it a night.

However, as detailed in reports from Tim Bontemps of ESPN, Joe Vardon of The Athletic, and Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, after Antetokounmpo had made seven consecutive free throws, Sixers big man Montrezl Harrell came and took the ball away on Giannis’ eighth attempt. Harrell and Sixers player development coach Jason Love refused to give the ball back to Antetokounmpo, who wanted to finish his shooting routine and reportedly told Harrell that there was room for both players to shoot.

“This isn’t f—ing Milwaukee,” Harrell shouted at Antetokounmpo, according to The Athletic. “Get that s–t out of there.”

Unable to get the ball back from Harrell and Love, Antetokounmpo left the court and returned with two new balls to continue shooting free throws. By that point, however, Sixers arena workers had positioned a large ladder in front of the basket Giannis had been using. When the staffers refused to move the ladder out of the way, Antetokounmpo tried to shove it aside and ended up knocking it over, as captured in a Twitter video.

Antetokounmpo ultimately did finish his foul shooting while Harrell worked out at the other end of the court and continued to shout at him. Once Giannis left the court for good, his brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo came out and spoke to Harrell, according to Vardon, who says Harrell told Thanasis, “I’ll beat your a–“ and “You better send that s–t back to the locker room.”

Harrell, believed to be upset that Giannis was preventing him from doing his own on-court postgame work on the 76ers’ home court, left without speaking to reporters. Giannis – described by both Vardon and Owczarski as “agitated” – discussed the incident at length.

“Obviously I had a very bad night from the free throw line,” Antetokounmpo said, per Owczarksi. “Now, I take pride in getting better every single day. After the game I decided to go try and make some free throws. My goal, every time I step on the line is to make 10 in a row and I was shooting free throws. I was at seven, I think. A player, I don’t want to mention names, and a coach, basically told me to leave the court, while behind me there was another space to do their routine.

“I respect every player. I know some players don’t play now, they want to get some extra work, want to work on their skills and stuff, and I said, obviously we can shoot together. They told me no, this is their court, I should leave. I was like, ‘I have three more free throws, I was at seven, I want to try to make 10 in a row.’ I shot my eighth one. Came and took the ball away from me and I was very surprised. I feel like it’s very unprofessional. I would never take the ball away from a professional athlete when he’s trying to do his job.”

Harrell did post a tweet late on Friday night, briefly explaining his side of the interaction: “Aye make sure you get the complete story I ask the man can he get off the court so I can workout they had to change the court over he ignore me so hey that’s what you get! Respect is respect! GOODNIGHT!”

As for the video that showed him pushing down the ladder that arena staffers had put in front of the basket, Giannis said he wasn’t trying to disrespect anyone.

“Did I meant to push the ladder all the way down? I totally did not. I think I pushed it and it got caught and fell,” Antetokounmpo said. “But people are going to make it look the way they want it to look. I know what happened.

“I don’t know if I should apologize because I don’t feel like I did anything wrong, except the ladder just fell. I feel like it’s my right for me to work on my skills after a horrible night from the free throw line. I think anybody in my position that had a night like me would go out and work on his free throws. And if they didn’t, they don’t really care about their game.”

It’s unclear at this point whether or not any of the players involved in the postgame incident will be fined by the NBA.

Bucks Notes: Middleton, Giannis, Lopez, Injuries

Khris Middleton wants to be on the court when the Bucks open their season Thursday at Philadelphia, but the decision will likely be made for him by the team’s medical staff, writes Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Middleton was knocked out of the playoffs by a sprained MCL in his left knee, but it was a torn scapholunate ligament in his left wrist that he suffered late in the season that forced him to have surgery.

Middleton said his legs feel rested after his first full offseason since 2019, but he’s not sure if he’ll get medical clearance to play in the opener.

“I would like to, but I’ve learned in the past to trust my training staff and doctors,” he said. “They know what they’re doing. This is my first time going through this and they’ve been through it many a times and they’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. So I’ve learned just listen to ‘em. I mean, you can push yourself, but don’t really.”

Middleton is starting his 10th season in Milwaukee, and his future with the organization is going to become an important topic at some point. He hasn’t decided what to do with his $40.4MM player option for next season, although he admits that staying with the Bucks is his first choice.

“I think everybody knows that,” he said. “Even though I know you’re really not supposed to say it for all the reasons out there, but I think everybody knows deep down that I want to stay. But also, you know it’s a business. Things change, things happen. You just never know. For sure I would love to stay. If everything works out … Of course if they give me whatever I want I’m there! I’m there.”

There’s more on the Bucks:

  • Coach Mike Budenholzer dismissed any concerns about the team’s 0-5 preseason, but Giannis Antetokounmpo said it shows there are areas that need improvement, Owczarski adds in a separate story“Right now, I feel like we’re not vocal enough,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’re not urgent enough. We’re not hungry enough. But at the end of the day, it’s the preseason. We have the whole regular season to find ourselves.”
  • The preseason struggles might be a result of a new defensive scheme that Budenholzer is implementing, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic. The Bucks are placing a greater emphasis on trying to prevent opponents from taking three-point shots. “I think it’s about finding that balance,” Brook Lopez said. “I don’t think it’s for lack of trying or anything like that. We’re figuring things out, and that’s what these preseason games are for, and I think we’re confident of the team we’re capable of being.”
  • The Bucks have some health concerns heading into the regular season, Nehm tweetsPat Connaughton is “going to be a little bit” due to a calf injury, Budenholzer said. Thanasis Antetokounmpo has been sidelined with a non-COVID illness, and the team hopes Wesley Matthews will be cleared to return Monday.

More Than 30 NBA Players On Track To Suit Up For EuroBasket

The first EuroBasket tournament in five years will tip off in two weeks and there are currently 34 NBA players on track to participate in the event, representing 17 different countries, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.net.

EuroBasket is a 24-team international basketball competition also known as the European Basketball Championship. It historically took place every two years, but that gap was recently adjusted to four years, emulating the FIBA World Cup schedule.

The last EuroBasket tournament was played in 2017 — the next one had been scheduled for 2021, but was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics. As a result, after being played every two years since 1947, it has now been five years since the last EuroBasket tournament, easily the longest layoff since World War II.

It’s possible that some NBA players will be cut from their teams’ rosters or will have to drop out due to injuries or personal reasons before the event begins on September 1, but in general enthusiasm to participate in the long-awaited event appears high.

Here’s the list of NBAers currently set to play in EuroBasket, per Eurohoops:

There are also multiple NBA free agents on EuroBasket rosters, including French swingman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and German guard Dennis Schröder.

A number of young NBA players, such as 2022 draftees Jeremy Sochan and Nikola Jovic, have dropped out to focus on getting ready for the 2022/23 season, while others, including Bogdan Bogdanovic (Serbia) and Frank Ntilikina (France), were ruled out due to injuries.

Round robin play will begin on September 1, with each team facing the other five clubs in its group once. The top four teams in each group will advance to a 16-team bracket that begins on September 10. The final will take place on September 18, just over a week before NBA training camps get underway.

International Notes: Jokic, Antetokounmpo, Yurtseven, Pokusevski, Jovic

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic is looking forward to representing Serbia on the basketball court for the first time in three years, writes Johnny Askounis of EuroHoops. The two-time MVP will join the national team for a pair of 2023 FIBA World Cup qualifying games, hosting Greece August 25 and traveling to Turkey August 28.

“I feel great, similar to every time I reunite with these guys. I just met some of them,” Jokic said in advance of the Serbian team’s training camp. “We are preparing, we just started and we will see how far we can go. Up first are the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers and the goal of helping Serbia qualify to the World Cup.”

Jokic also plans to participate in EuroBasket next month, and he could return for both the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics if Serbia qualifies. Jokic cited a special pride in being able to play for his home nation.

“It means a lot, I talked with my family, it’s a totally different feeling when you play for the national team,” Jokic said. “I felt different when I came here than when I go to Denver.”

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • Another MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and his brother and Bucks teammate, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, are in Athens waiting to join the Greek team for training camp, per Aris Barkas of EuroHoops. An agreement limits NBA players to 28 days of preparation before major FIBA tournaments and 14 days before the Olympics. The other Antetokounmpo brothers, Alex and Kostas, are already training with Greece. New Mavericks signee Tyler Dorsey is under the same restrictions as Giannis and Thanasis and can’t start training until Thursday.
  • Heat center Omer Yurtseven elected not to join the Turkish national team’s training camp in Italy, but he didn’t inform team officials of his decision or seek permission in advance, according to a EuroHoops report. The decision was made by Yurtseven rather than the Heat, the story adds, as the rookie center chose to stay in Miami and focus on preparing for training camp. The report notes that Yurtseven was suspended for eight games in 2018 for skipping national team activities without providing notice.
  • Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski and Heat rookie Nikola Jovic were denied permission by their respective teams to join Serbia for EuroBasket and the World Cup qualifiers, Askounis states in a separate story. Hawks forward Bogdan Bogdanovic is also unavailable because he’s recovering from knee surgery.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo Exercises Player Option

Bucks forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo has exercised his $1.88MM player option for next season, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype tweets.

Giannis Antetokounmpo‘ brother, who turns 30 this summer, saw action in 48 regular season games last season, including six starts. He averaged 3.6 PPG and 2.1 RPG in 9.9 MPG. He also saw spot action in eight postseason games after playing in 13 playoff contests during the Bucks’ championship run in 2020/21.

As Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets, if Thanasis had declined the option and signed a new minimum-salary contract, it would’ve saved Milwaukee a small amount of money on next season’s cap and tax bill. However, he was always a good bet to get a contract with the Bucks for next season, one way or another.

Thanasis played two games with the Knicks back in 2015/16 and has been on the Milwaukee roster for three seasons. He signed a two-year deal worth approximately $3.6MM last August.

Prior to the 2019/20 season, the 6’6″ forward had played for a handful of international and G League teams.

And-Ones: Antetokounmpo, Hill, Blakeney, Ukraine

Managerial members of the Greek national team are expected to meet this week with the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thanasis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee to discuss their participation in this summer’s EuroBasket, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.net. Both have a history of playing for the national team.

Greece will participate in 2022 EuroBasket this September.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Team USA managing director Grant Hill doesn’t expect star players to make multi-year commitments to USA Basketball, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Hill said it’s unrealistic to expect current players to give up two consecutive summers to play for the team. Team USA, under Hill, also won’t hold a training camp this summer, another break from tradition. “There’s the notion that we (should) demand or expect two-year commitment from guys, but I’m not sure that necessarily works in this day and age,” Hill said. “People’s willingness and commitment to give two consecutive years to Team USA has changed, so we have to be able to adapt to the times. There’s been a considerable amount of interest from players who have already been a part of this, players who have already won gold medals in recent cycles, and then obviously, young players who want to be a part of this. I’m confident we’ll get the job done.”
  • Former Bulls guard Antonio Blakeney has signed with Hapoel Be’er Sheva in Israel, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors relays (Twitter link). Blakeney played 76 games with Chicago from 2017-19. He began this season in Bahrain.
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may force western sports leagues to reconsider their overseas partnerships, according to Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic. Just as athletes and leagues became more involved in social justice issues in recent years, there may be more of a consideration regarding human rights in choosing which countries they will market and operate their sports and products.

NBA Announces Slam Dunk, Three-Point, Skills Challenge Contestants

The NBA has announced a full list of the participants for its three-point, slam dunk and skills challenge competitions ahead of the upcoming 2022 All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.

Per the NBA (Twitter link), the following players will partake in the Mountain Dew Three-Point Contest, which appears to have outpaced the dunk contest as the premiere event for established stars at All-Star Weekend. Four 2022 All-Stars will compete:

According to the league (via Twitter), these are the contestants in the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest:

Below are the NBA’s announced players for the newly revamped Taco Bell Skills Challenge (Twitter link). This year, the Skills Challenge will be divvied up into three teams: Antetokounmpo brothers (“Antetokounmpos”), Cavaliers players (“Cavs”), and rookies (“Rooks”).

These three events will take place on All-Star Saturday on February 19.

COVID-19 Updates: Hachimura, Roby, Grizzlies, Bucks, Robsinon, Suns, Nance, Hawks

Wizards power forward Rui Hachimura has exited the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, though an exact timeline for his return to the court has yet to be determined, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Hachimura, 23, has missed the entirety of the Wizards’ 37-game 2021/22 NBA season thus far, due to a combination of an extended personal absence and subsequently his stint in the protocols. The 6’8″ big man is averaging 13.7 PPG and 5.8 RPG across his two seasons with Washington thus far.

Here are more protocol-related updates from across the league:

  • Young Thunder reserve center Isaiah Roby has entered the NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocols, per Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman (Twitter link).
  • Grizzlies wing Dillon Brooks and guard De’Anthony Melton have cleared the NBA’s coronavirus protocols but remain questionable ahead of tomorrow’s game against the Pistons as they continue to re-condition, while forward Kyle Anderson has also cleared protocols but will most likely not play due to back soreness, according to Memphis’s PR team (Twitter link).
  • Bucks forwards Jordan Nwora, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, and Semi Ojeleye have exited the league’s COVID-19 protocols and are available for a short-handed Milwaukee team tonight against the Raptors, per Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). We first mentioned earlier today that that triumvirate of Bucks players was nearing a return. Through the game’s first half, Nwora is the only one of the three that has played.
  • $90MM Heat shooting guard Duncan Robinson has exited the NBA’s coronavirus protocols and will reunite with the team in Portland ahead of its game against the Trail Blazers tonight, per Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The team has announced that Robinson will play (Twitter link).
  • Suns centers Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee, along with starting power forward Jae Crowder, have all cleared COVID-19 health and safety protocols but will remain sidelined for Thursday’s home contest against the Clippers as they work their way back into game shape, reports Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic.
  • Trail Blazers forward Larry Nance Jr. has cleared the league’s coronavirus protocols and will be available to play tonight against the Kings, per Aaron J. Fentress of the Oregonian (Twitter link). We had first noted earlier today that Nance had registered an inconclusive COVID-19 test and that a quick return was a possibility.
  • Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic and small forward Jalen Johnson have exited health and safety protocols, writes Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Spencer says the two players are expected to consult with Atlanta’s medical staff in Los Angeles ahead of the team’s games against the Lakers and Clippers on Friday and Sunday. Spencer adds that Johnson struggled a bit with the coronavirus and could need additional conditioning time.

COVID-19 Updates: Doncic, SGA, Robinson, Hawks, Nuggets, More

Mavericks star Luka Doncic has cleared the league’s health and safety protocols, sources tell Marc Stein (Twitter link). Doncic, who hasn’t played since December 10, missed a combined 10 games due to a left ankle injury and his time in the protocols. He’s expected to meet his teammates in Oklahoma City and may return to the court on Sunday.

Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber may also be able to exit the protocols in time for Sunday’s game, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Dallas, which has five other players still in protocols, managed to go 5-5 without Doncic and is holding onto eighth place in the Western Conference.

Here are more updates on players entering and exiting the protocols:

Central Notes: Pacers, Stanley, Green, T. Antetokounmpo, DeRozan

The Pacers are looking to add a third point guard after trading Aaron Holiday to the Wizards, according to J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star. They’ve been trying to move wing Jeremy Lamb and his expiring $10.5MM contract but have yet to find any takers.

Those factors contributed to the decision to pull a qualifying offer from two-way player Cassius Stanley. However, Stanley’s time in the organization isn’t necessarily over. He’s been offered a training camp invite, though it’s uncertain if he’ll accept it or attempt to hook on with another team.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Javonte Green‘s two-year, veteran’s minimum contract with the Bulls is fully guaranteed and doesn’t include any options, Keith Smith tweets. Green was acquired in March and entered the month as a restricted free agent after Chicago extended him a qualifying offer. The signing was made official on Wednesday.
  • Thanasis Antetokounmpo received a player option in the final year of his two-year contract with the Bucks, Ian Begley of SNY.TV tweets. He signed a two-year deal worth approximately $3.6MM.
  • DeMar DeRozan will make $26MM in the first season of his three-year contract, somewhat below what was initially reported, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. DeRozan, who was acquired by the Bulls in a sign-and-trade, will make $27.3MM and $28.6MM in the final two years, for a total of $81.9MM, according to Smith (Twitter link). The contract is fully guaranteed without any options or bonuses.