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#pounditThursday, February 25, 2021

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo open to guarding Jimmy Butler

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Jimmy Butler erupted for 40 points in the Miami Heat’s win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night. Some wondered if Giannis Antetokounmpo should have been guarding Butler late in the fourth quarter, and Giannis was asked about that after the game.

He seems open to it.

A reporter asked Antetokounmpo after the game if he wanted to guard Butler in the fourth quarter. Giannis said he didn’t ask Mike Budenholzer to give him the assignment, but “The Greek Freak” is willing do whatever the Bucks coach asks of him.

Giannis is 6-foot-11 compared to Butler’s 6-foot-7. You can understand why Antetokounmpo would ideally be used elsewhere on defense for Milwaukee, but they can’t let Butler catch fire the way he did in Game 1. The Heat star abused the Bucks late in the game.

Butler was so good that even Joel Embiid appeared to take a shot at the Philadelphia 76ers over the performance. Unless the Bucks change something defensively, the Heat could pull off the big upset in the Eastern Conference semifinals series.

Video: Shaq tried to speak Greek to Giannis Antetokounmpo and left him so confused

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Shaq tried a little something extra to relate to Giannis Antetokounmpo on Tuesday, and it did not go well.

Antetokounmpo joined TNT to accept the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. Shaquille O’Neal tried to congratulate him by speaking in Greek, but his lack of command of the language left Giannis confused.

Take a look at the video of Giannis’ reaction to Shaq.

Even if Shaq’s Greek leaves a lot to be desired, he should still be praised for getting the Bucks star’s last name right.

Antetokounmpo won NBA MVP last year and this year won Defensive Player of the Year for the first time in his career. He looks likely to capture MVP for the second year in a row, too. Now he’s trying to lead his Milwaukee Bucks to the championship.

ESPN reporter explains controversial reason for voting LeBron MVP over Giannis

LeBron James

Many people view Giannis Antetokounmpo as worthy of winning his second straight NBA MVP award, but ESPN reporter Ramona Shelburne says she voted for LeBron James instead.

Why did Shelburne vote for James? She shared her reason during a Tuesday appearance on ESPN’s “The Jump.”

“I did not vote for [Giannis Antetokounmpo] for MVP. I voted for LeBron James because I tend to be more of a narrative-based voter. I feel like LeBron James took a Lakers team that had missed the playoffs six years in a row up to the stop spot in the West after all the dysfunction the summer before. So I think he gets credit for that as well,” Shelburne explained.

Shelburne’s explanation mostly centers around preferring the story of what James has done over the story of what Antetokounmpo has done.

That’s tough for many to accept when Antetokounmpo is ascending and averaging a career-high 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 1.4 three-pointers made per game. He’s also averaging 5.6 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game for Milwaukee, which maintains the best record in the NBA.

James is leading the league with 10.3 assists per game but trails Giannis in every other statistical category, including team record. One could also argue that Anthony Davis’ arrival is more responsible for the Lakers’ turnaround than anything else. Comparatively, the Bucks lost Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic and still have posted an even better winning percentage this season.

An unofficial tracker seems to show Antetokounmpo will win the MVP award for the second year in a row, with James finishing a distant second. Shelburne would be one of a few voters to rank James ahead of the Bucks star this year. Giannis is probably more focused on something else anyway.

Giannis Antetokounmpo receives one-game suspension for headbutt

Giannis Antetokounmpo headbutt

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s headbutt on Moe Wagner will ultimately cost him the final seeding game of the season.

Antetokounmpo will receive a one-game suspension for headbutting Wagner, as first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. That means he’ll sit out the Milwaukee Bucks’ game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday.

Antetokounmpo’s absence could impact the Western Conference playoff race. The Grizzlies will need to beat the Bucks in order to qualify for the play-in game as either the eighth or ninth seed. Antetokounmpo’s absence for Milwaukee could be significantly beneficial for the Grizzlies in that scenario.

The MVP candidate chalked his actions up to frustration after Tuesday’s game, which saw him ejected for the headbutt. It will cost him an extra game as well, but the good news for Antetokounmpo is it’s a functionally meaningless contest from Milwaukee’s point of view.

Wizards’ Rui Hachimura comes close to calling Giannis Antetokounmpo dirty

Giannis Antetokounmpo headbutt

Giannis Antetokounmpo was ejected from Tuesday night’s game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards, and one of his opponents did not seem surprised by the act that got “The Greek Freak” thrown out.

Antetokounmpo was called for a charge while driving into Washington’s Moe Wagner in the second quarter. The two began jawing back and forth, and Giannis then threw a hard headbutt at Wagner and was ejected. After the game, Wizards forward Rui Hachimura said Giannis is “good at those little things” and stopped just short of labeling him a dirty player.

Of course, Antetokounmpo said after the game that he lost his cool because he was tired of “dirty plays” from the Wizards. He also admitted that the headbutt was a “terrible” act and said he regrets it.

The only way to slow Giannis down is to be extremely physical with him, and that often results in tempers boiling over. We saw an example of that recently when he was restrained from going after an opponent, but the headbutt crossed the line.

Giannis Antetokounmpo explains his headbutt on Moe Wagner

Giannis Antetokounmpo headbutt

Giannis Antetokounmpo was ejected from Tuesday night’s Milwaukee Bucks-Washington Wizards game for headbutting an opponent, and he’s sharing his side of what happened.

Leading up to the headbutt, Antetokounmpo was called for a charge while driving into Washington’s Moe Wagner in the second quarter. He later walked up to Wagner and headbutted him hard. He was called for a flagrant 2 foul and ejected from the game.

So what was going through Antetokounmpo’s head? He said he was frustrated with all the punishment he had been taking, and it culminated with that blowup.

“I don’t think I was frustrated with Wagner. I think it was just the whole, like, buildup of dirty plays in my mind, you know, guys tripping me, guys falling in front of my feet, holding me, hitting me,” Antetokounmpo told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Matt Velazquez.

“It wasn’t just – I don’t have nothing against Wagner, it wasn’t just him. It was just, like, in my mind all these games I’ve played guys hitting me so I lost it for a second.”

Antetokounmpo’s frustration is understandable, but his reaction was unacceptable. He knows that, which is why he said it was a “terrible” action and something he wishes he could undo. The Bucks star ended up playing just 10 minutes and had 12 points and nine rebounds in the game. Milwaukee still won 126-113 playing without him for much of the contest.

Video: Giannis Antetokounmpo restrained from going after Donta Hall

The Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets squared off in a matinee game on Tuesday, but the early tip-off certainly did not result in a lack of enthusiasm from the players.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nets forward Donta Hall came very close to getting into a physical confrontation in the first half. Hall aggressively shoved Giannis to the floor while the two were fighting for rebounding position, and Antetokounmpo did not appreciate it. He sprung up and was about to go after Hall before being restrained by an official. You could clearly see the reigning NBA MVP tell the ref, “I’m gonna f— him up.”

That is not the first time we have seen Giannis go after an opponent over what he perceived to be excessive contact.

The Bucks went into halftime trailing against the Nets, who are playing without Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie and more. Perhaps that added to Antetokounmpo’s frustration.

James Harden has no interest in answering Giannis Antetokounmpo question

James Harden

The rivalry between James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo continues.

Harden’s Houston Rockets topped Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks 120-116 on Sunday in Orlando. Harden scored just 24 points on 5-for-14 shooting but had six steals in his team’s win. Giannis was a statistical monster in the loss, putting up 36 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists.

Harden was asked after the game about the difficulty in defending Antetokounmpo and had no interest in answering. Instead, he said “next question”.

So why wouldn’t Harden want to talk about how tough it is to defend Giannis? Probably because he doesn’t want to give the slightest bit of credit to the Bucks star.

Harden has been upset over Giannis winning NBA MVP over him last year. Giannis has since taken a shot at Harden, and then there was some beef between them during the All-Star Game earlier this year.

Expect this sort of thing to continue between them. Come to think of it, the Bucks and Rockets meeting in the NBA Finals would be fun to watch.

Marcus Smart thinks refs protected Giannis Antetokounmpo on controversial foul call

Marcus Smart

A foul call late in Friday night’s Milwaukee Bucks 119-112 win over the Boston Celtics helped swing the game, and Marcus Smart thinks he knows the reason for the call.

Smart got in front of a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo with 1:28 left in the game to take a charge, but he was called for a foul instead. Antetokounmpo’s layup counted, and he made a free throw, which turned the game from tied at 107 to putting Milwaukee up 110-107.

Milwaukee continued to expand their lead and ended up winning by seven.

After the game, Smart said the foul was called on him rather than on Giannis because the refs did not want to give Antetokounmpo his sixth foul of the game.

Antetokounmpo wasn’t offended by Smart’s theory. Instead, the MVP candidate praised the Celtics guard as a “great player.” Antetokounmpo praised Smart for playing hard and taking on tough assignments defensively.

Whether he was right or wrong about the reason, the foul call was a game-changer that worked significantly in Milwaukee’s favor. And once again, Smart has some issues with the refs.

5 NBA players who need to win the championship the most

Giannis Antetokounmpo

It almost feels like there’s even more at stake in this year’s NBA playoffs than usual. Due to the pause in NBA action, teams that will be involved in the playoffs have had extra time to think ahead and plan and consider the repercussions of what a bad playoff run could mean. Multiple superteams will feel that they don’t have an indefinite amount of time to win a championship. Players are inching closer to free agency. Some teams, as built, may not be able to continue to exist in their current form.

Which players really need to win a title sooner rather than later? These five could face serious consequences if things don’t go their way in the postseason.