Giannis Antetokounmpo Leaving Bucks For Heat Or Raptors?
The 2020 NBA Playoffs were supposed to be Giannis Antetokounmpo’s official coming out party. The 25-year-old had long been recognized as one of the league’s best players, but this postseason run was the one that would turn him into the face of the NBA.
When the Milwaukee Bucks ended the year with the best overall record, everything appeared to be in place.
Then it all fell apart.
The Bucks are now down 0-2 to the Miami Heat in their Eastern Conference semifinals series and it appears as though Antetokounmpo leaving Milwaukee for either the Heat or Toronto Raptors is all but a foregone conclusion.
“It’s no wonder many in league circles believe Miami and Toronto are the frontrunners in the Antetokounmpo sweepstakes,” Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports reported this week, describing it as “an open secret” in the bubble.
Antetokounmpo is going to be an unrestricted free agent next year. Up to this point he has said all the right things about not going anywhere, but his trajectory and mannerisms are becoming increasingly reminiscent of Kevin Durant’s.
NBA ratings noticeably declined after last week’s stoppage. https://t.co/DzvGJoEOjh
— Game 7 (@game7__) September 2, 2020
Durant too said all the right things when he was with Oklahoma City Thunder, but as the playoff failures increased in frequency his demeanor slowly changed.
The same is happening with Antetokounmpo. He appears more irritated in postgame interviews than he used to be. He is also more frustrated on the court, as though the pressures associated with being a reigning MVP are dragging him down.
All stars start off promising that they want to bring a championship home to whoever drafted them. Then things change.
After a largely mediocre Game 1 — where he was horrendous from the charity stripe — Antetokounmpo bounced back decently in Game 2. He recorded 29 points on 10 of 18 shooting and 14 rebounds. He also hit nine out of 13 free throws. It was a strong effort.
But it wasn’t enough.
Jimmy has never been one for biting his tongue. https://t.co/dxdiB4WV60
— Game 7 (@game7__) September 3, 2020
Despite Jimmy Butler having something of a quiet showing following his 40-point explosion in Game 1, his teammates picked up the slack.
Antetokounmpo’s teammates, meanwhile, have shown an inability to do the same.
Whereas Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra has come up with a perfect gameplan to maximize Butler and slow down Antetokounmpo, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer cannot crack the code.
Eventually, stars get tired of single-handedly being forced to carry the load.
That seems to be what is happening with the Bucks and Antetokounmpo.
“It’s about us,” he said after the game.
“It’s always going to be about us. You know, that’s why we practice. That’s why we go through our gameplan. That’s why we’ve got to come out and play harder. That’s why we’ve got to make more shots. It’s always going to be about us.
“You know, it’s not about what the other team is going to do. It might be the Miami Heat now. Next round it might be a different team. Next year might be a different team. It’s always going to be about us.”
Last year, the Raptors lost the first two games to the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals before coming back to win four straight outings. They went on to win the NBA title.
If Milwaukee can pull off a similar feat, Antetokounmpo will remain with the organization and all the questions being asked right now will be forgotten.
But if that doesn’t happen – Antetokounmpo leaving will go from being a remote possibility to the likeliest possible scenario.
Related: Why Nets Hired New Coach Steve Nash