We’re two years removed from Giannis Antetokounmpo declaring, “I want to play for the Milwaukee Bucks forever,” and two weeks removed from the Bucks forward touting his loyalty amid speculation the clock is ticking on his future in Milwaukee, so his turn of phrase when defending Kevin Durant’s decision to leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors raises an eyebrow.
During an appearance in Manila, Giannis took questions from the Filipino crowd, including one about Durant’s departure in relation to the Greek Freak’s own allegiance to the team that drafted him:
“A lot of people say they’re going to stay on the team, and they decide to move to a different city, but you guys have always got to remember that a guy might want to stay on a team, but the team doesn’t do the right thing or the right moves for the player to become great,” said Antetokounmpo. “KD, the only reason he wanted to stay in OKC was to win a championship, right? So, did they win the championship? That’s why he decided to leave. Did he win a championship in Golden State? So, sometimes it’s not only the player, because sometimes it’s not up to the player.”
That appears to be a slight twist on comments made in a blog he wrote for EuroHoops in 2015 — one that now allows for wiggle room between remaining loyal to a franchise and chasing a championship. By this logic, missteps by the Bucks front office could leave Antetokounmpo no choice but to leave.
— The Russillo Show (@RussilloShow) July 6, 2017
“Milwaukee is going to go through this with the Greek Freak,” said Wojnarowski. “That day is coming, right, where he’s going to look and say, ‘Where is this organization? What are they doing here?’ You don’t think Giannis has been watching what went on there for the last several months, of what they allowed to go on with the front office? He’s watching it, and the clock has started. Everybody in the league is trying to figure out how they’re going to get him out of there. That has started.
“So, Milwaukee, I don’t want to hear in three years or four years when they lose him, ‘Geez, we can’t.’ Utah did everything right, everything right from an organization. They lost their guy. And you look at a team like Milwaukee and say financially they’ll be able to do more. But you better have your organization in great shape, because then you have no chance with a guy like that.”
To which Antetokounmpo seemingly responded hours later on Twitter with a Kendrick Lamar lyric:
I got loyalty inside my DNA
— GiannisAntetokounmpo (@Giannis_An34) July 7, 2017
But Antetokounmpo and Wojnarowski have more in common than the bevy of vowels in their names.
The Bucks reportedly hired Justin Zanik as their GM-in-waiting in 2016, only to pass him over for 34-year-old “relative unknown” Jon Horst when John Hammond left the organization in May for the GM position with the Orlando Magic. Horst’s hiring sparked controversy in Milwaukee, since he wasn’t even among the team’s three finalists for the job in early June, and coach Jason Kidd and two of the team’s three owners endorsed Zanik for the job. Owner Wes Edens reportedly overruled everyone.
There’s a lot riding on the success of Horst, who signed a three-year deal with a below-market $500,000 starting salary, according to ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst. Hammond built a remarkable young core of Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker, and Horst began his reign by re-signing Tony Snell to a four-year, $46 million contract. The decisions will only get tougher, as Parker will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer.
Antetokounmpo’s four-year, $100 million contract extension doesn’t expire in 2021, when he will be approaching his 27th birthday — the same age Durant was when he decided to leave OKC for the bay. So, his latest comments in Manila, while nothing Earth-shattering, sure put some pressure on Horst’s plate to compete for a title, and they also make us look at his previous comments a little differently.
In 2015, when a 20-year-old Antetokounmpo wrote his EuroHoops blog and said, “I want to play for the Milwaukee Bucks,” the full quote has a different ring to it after he defended Durant’s Warriors move:
“From my side, I feel that I want to be playing in the Bucks. I’m not talking about my next contract. The way I feel now, I want to keep playing for the Milwaukee Bucks for the next 20 years!
“You never know how life turns out. Three years ago I was thinking that I might be playing for Filathlitikos forever! All of a sudden, the draft emerged, the NBA, the Bucks and everything that followed. I don’t know how I’ll be feeling and thinking in 2, 3 or more years. Right now I feel like I want to play for the Milwaukee Bucks forever.”
Two years later, Giannis continues to trumpet his loyalty, but there’s still a whole lot of time between “right now” and 2021, when he may want to stay in Milwaukee, but greatness calls him elsewhere.
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