Giannis Antetokounmpo met with Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry Saturday to discuss the team’s future, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Earlier Saturday, Antetokounmpo unfollowed the team and his teammates on Twitter and Instagram, after the Bucks were eliminated from the postseason by the underdog Miami Heat in five games earlier this week. With Antetokoumnpo only a year removed from free agency, the meeting will surely spur rumors about him leaving the small-market Bucks, but he has made it clear that, at this point, that isn’t his intention.
Antetokounmpo vehemently denied that he would force a trade after Game 5. “It’s not happening. That’s not happening,” Antetokounmpo told Haynes at the time. “Some see a wall and go in [another direction]. I plow through it. We just have to get better as a team, individually and get right back at it next season.”
That echoes the sentiment of his post-game press conference. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to learn from everything that goes on in your life and in your career and hopefully we can learn from this and get better as a team and come back and hopefully we can build a culture in Milwaukee for many years that we can come out here and compete every single year for a championship,” he told reporters after Milwaukee’s Game 5 loss.
The Bucks will be able to offer Antetokounmpo a five-year, supermax contract in the neighborhood of $221 million this offseason, and even if he declines, reports have stated that Milwaukee would not consider trading him. Their history suggests that that is the right course of action. The Bucks traded Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975 and haven’t been back to the NBA Finals since. Antetokounmpo is the closest thing they’ve had to Kareem in the nearly five decades since he left, and players of his caliber are so rare that it’s no guarantee that Milwaukee will find another one even within the next 45 years. Merely having Giannis, aside from all of Milwaukee’s other flaws, makes the Bucks championship contenders.
The meeting, in light of Antetokounmpo’s previous quotes, was likely centered on how the Bucks can use this offseason to take the leap from contender to champion. They will likely have to if they plan to keep Giannis for the long haul. The honeymoon period is over. He may not be ready to leave quite yet, but if the Bucks can’t convince him that they’re prepared to do what it takes to surround him with a winner, he may not stick around for much longer.
By Sam Quinn