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#pounditWednesday, October 5, 2022

Articles tagged: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Mike Budenholzer explains controversial Giannis Antetokounmpo strategy

Giannis Antetokounmpo warming up

Oct 23, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) warms up before the game against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer almost got too big-brained for his own good during Sunday’s playoff opener.

Budenholzer made the decision in Game 1 against the Chicago Bulls to sit star player Giannis Antetokounmpo for some key possessions late. While Antetokounmpo did have five fouls at the time, the unusual strategy sparked some controversy. Budenholzer pulled the two-time MVP from the contest with 1:24 left in the fourth quarter as the Bucks were about to play defense. Antetokounmpo spent four possessions on the bench before re-entering the game with 15.3 seconds remaining. Milwaukee held on to win 93-86 though.

After the game, Budenholzer explained his seemingly odd move.

“We were up three with a free throw and [had] just [kept] him in [to that point],” said Budenholzer, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “Had both my timeouts. If they scored, we probably call timeout. Just make sure [Giannis is] there to finish the play, finish an offensive possession. Bobby [Portis] had some good defensive possessions, so just taking away the option of going at [Giannis] and [him] trying to avoid his sixth [foul] to stay in the game. Bobby, those guys, got a great stop. A couple of them.”

The strategy ultimately paid off, and the Bucks did not allow a single point for the rest of the game after Budenholzer pulled Antetokounmpo. But many would argue that you go to war with your best player closing the game no matter what and just trust him not to pick up that sixth foul. While the foul trouble may have made Antetokounmpo more tentative on D, he is still an ex-Defensive Player of the Year that you want out there every single time.

With a 1-0 series lead now on Chicago, Milwaukee is starting their title defense on the right foot. But while Budenholzer’s gameplan worked on Sunday, he might not be so fortunate next time around, especially since other decisions of his have already gone wrong this season.

Isiah Thomas takes shot at Charles Oakley over recent comments

Isiah Thomas

Isiah Thomas never misses an opportunity to diss one of his old NBA rivals.

Speaking this week on NBATV, the retired Detroit Pistons legend reacted to the recent hot takes claiming Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo would not succeed in the old-school NBA. One such take came from Charles Oakley, who even took his shade for Antetokounmpo’s game a step further.

“Dude, Giannis going around Oakley,” said Thomas. “Giannis going around all them. He dunking on them. He bigger, he faster, he stronger. You can talk all that stuff ‘cause you don’t play no more. You can talk all that stuff ‘cause you got gray hair and sitting on the sidelines smoking cigars [talking] about what you used to do.

“That dude would dog you every single time you step on the court,” Thomas added. “Now, you may hit him hard. OK, alright, after you hit him hard you ain’t got no game. You ain’t got no game … You ain’t got nothing but a hit?”

Thomas is likely in the right here since the two-time MVP Antetokounmpo would almost assuredly dominate any era with his all-around skillset at 6-foot-11. But Thomas also probably relished the chance to clown his ex-rival Oakley, whom he battled with for many years in the Eastern Conference.

To his credit, Thomas is generally more gracious to the younger generation than many of his contemporaries. That said though, Thomas has a history of using praise for today’s players as a disguise for his personal agenda.

Photo: February 15, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; NBA former player Isiah Thomas during NBA All Star Saturday Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Another retired NBA star disses Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo warms up

Giannis Antetokounmpo can’t get any respect from the old heads these days.

Retired former NBA All-Star Charles Oakley made a recent appearance on SLAM’s “No Pump Fakes” podcast and gave a searing hot take about the Milwaukee Bucks star Antetokounmpo.

“He wouldn’t have been a force back in the day,” said Oakley. “He would have struggled because they would make him shoot jump shots. He wasn’t gonna be doing those Eurosteps to the basket like he be doing, Eurostep to the basket and just get a layup. No, somebody’s gonna knock his head off.

“I’m glad he doing what he doing now,” Oakley added. “But he may be coming off the bench back in the day.”

Oakley’s comments are similar to what another retired NBA star said about Antetokounmpo in a different podcast appearance earlier this month. But the take didn’t make sense then, and it still doesn’t make sense now.

Antetokounmpo is a two-time MVP and reigning Finals MVP who can post up, handle the ball, and jump straight out of the gym, all while being 6-foot-11. It is inaccurate to suggest that Antetokounmpo is only successful because he drives to the rim. He may have actually had an easier time dominating in Oakley’s era too since there were illegal defense rules that prevented teams from playing zone and forced defenders to match up one-on-one (though by the same token, opposing defenders also would have been able to hand-check Antetokounmpo during that era).

Antetokounmpo detractors, including some of his NBA rivals, used to wield the argument that The Greek Freak was simply long, tall, and unskilled. But that take is now antiquated after Antetokounmpo won back-to-back MVPs and an NBA championship. Leave it to Oakley to remain antiquated though.

Photo: Oct 23, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) warms up before the game against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Giannis Antetokounmpo explains why All-Star Game is ‘not built for me’

Giannis Antetokounmpo warms up

Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 30 points and 12 rebounds in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game, and he did so fairly casually. With a line like that, it might surprise you to hear him say that the game itself is not really something he feels great playing in.

Antetokounmpo admitted that the more casual and relaxed pace of the All-Star Game does not work for him, and that he’s so used to going all-out that the game can actually be something of a struggle.

“All-Star Games, they are not built for me,” Antetokounmpo said, via Joe Vardon of The Athletic. “Obviously, I come out here and try to enjoy the game as much as possible, but I don’t know how not to go hard. I kind of feel terrible when I’m walking around because I always try to go full speed no matter what I do because that’s how — what type of player I am.”

Perhaps that helps explain the strong line Giannis put together in the game. He may have inadvertently outworked some of his opponents as part of his performance.

If the Milwaukee Bucks star wants to do something on All-Star Weekend where his effort would be welcomed, he seems to have the answer already.

Photo: Oct 23, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) warms up before the game against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Giannis Antetokounmpo blames funny culprit for mediocre dunk contest

Giannis Antetokounmpo warms up

The consensus is that Saturday’s slam dunk contest will go down as one of the least memorable in recent memory. While Obi Toppin won, he story was missed dunks and underwhelming finishes.

Part of this was likely down to the contestants, but Giannis Antetokounmpo blamed someone who wasn’t even taking part. Cameras caught the Milwaukee Bucks star jokingly blaming Stephen Curry, remarking that the Warriors star was at fault because he “changed the game.”

Antetokounmpo is referring to the fact that thanks to Curry, the three-point shot has become the preference of many players. Even at youth level, more young players are focused on attempting threes than throwing down huge dunks.

Even today’s best dunkers are reluctant to do the dunk contest, though some have decent reasons for it. Maybe it is Curry’s fault a little bit, though. He’d probably be okay taking the blame.

Photo: Oct 23, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) warms up before the game against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Retired NBA great does not think Giannis Antetokounmpo would succeed in his era

Giannis Antetokounmpo warms up

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a two-time MVP and also the reigning Finals MVP. But he still has not won over a notable former NBA star.

Retired seven-time All-Star Tracy McGrady had a criticism of the Milwaukee Bucks star Antetokounmpo in an appearance this week on “The Big Podcast with Shaq.” McGrady said that Antetokounmpo would have had a difficult time playing in his era.

“I think he would have struggled because of how closed up the paint was,” said McGrady. “It was tough offensively because the defense was so great.”

“If you can’t shoot, it’s gonna be hard,” McGrady added. “And Giannis’ game is predicated on coming downhill. It would have been tough to be who he is today, back then.”

McGrady, who played from 1997 to 2013, does not make a very convincing argument. Antetokounmpo, who is admittedly a weak three-point shooter, has succeeded at the highest level in an era today where the three-point shot is more important than ever before. This season, NBA teams are attempting 35.3 threes per game as opposed to a measly 14.9 threes per game in 2003-04, one of the seasons in which McGrady won a scoring title. Thus, a three-pointer was not necessary to dominate in McGrady’s era.

Antetokounmpo also does so many other things well. At 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan but with elite ballhandling capabilities too, Antetokounmpo is a physical specimen unlike any that existed during McGrady’s time. On top of that, Antetokounmpo has developed an excellent midrange game to round out his dominance in the paint and is even a Defensive Player of the Year winner with upper-echelon play on that end of the floor.

Even some of McGrady’s peers have given Antetokounmpo some big props, so McGrady might be on an island here with this take on The Greek Freak.

Photo: Oct 23, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) warms up before the game against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Bobby Portis gets in Montrezl Harrell’s face after foul on Giannis

Bobby Portis in Montrezl Harrells face

Bobby Portis made it clear on Tuesday night that nobody messes with Milwaukee’s best player without hearing from him about it.

Montrezl Harrell committed a flagrant foul against Giannis Antetokounmpo during the fourth quarter of the Bucks’ 112-98 win over the Washington Wizards. Harrell swatted at Giannis’ arm as Antetokounmpo was slashing towards the basket for a likely dunk attempt. After Antetokounmpo fell hard, Portis ran over and got in Harrell’s face:

Here is another angle:

The foul was costly for Washington. The Bucks led 93-88 at the time of the foul. Antetokounmpo made two free throws to extend his team’s lead.

The Wizards did pull to within one, but Milwaukee ended up winning by more than double-digits.

After seeing this video, you can understand why Portis is such a fan-favorite in Milwaukee.

Giannis Antetokounmpo disses Heat over bubble run

Giannis Antetokounmpo warms up

Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t explicitly say that the Miami Heat won a Mickey Mouse conference title in 2020, but that seems to be what he thinks.

The Milwaukee Bucks star was interviewed this week by The Athletic’s Eric Nehm. In the interview, Antetokounmpo spoke on the 2020 Orlando bubble and dissed the Heat, who beat the Bucks in the second round that year.

“Year 7. Ended with Miami,” he said. “I don’t make excuses as an athlete, but it wasn’t a satisfying year for me because I felt like if it was a normal situation, it wouldn’t end up like that. But at the end of the day, I felt like Miami was built to be an NBA bubble team, you know?”

The Bucks lost to the Heat in five games during the bubble in what was a massive disappointment for Milwaukee. Miami then went on to win the East. The two teams met again during last year’s playoffs with the Bucks sweeping the Heat in the first round and eventually winning it all. This season, Miami is 28-16 while Milwaukee is not too far behind at 27-19.

Antetokounmpo can blame the bubble all he wants, but the Bucks were not championship material in 2020. They had a number of holes on their roster, which they were able to plug during the offseason. Milwaukee added players like Jrue Holiday, Bobby Portis, and PJ Tucker, all of whom ended up being massive contributors to their eventual 2021 title. They got their revenge on the Heat in the process, but Miami was hobbled by their extremely short offseason at the time.

This is not the first time the Heat have faced questions over the legitimacy of their Finals run, and they have offered a response to their doubters. Perhaps a rubber match against Milwaukee in this year’s playoffs would be the best way to settle the rivalry once and for all.

Photo: Oct 23, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) warms up before the game against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie Irving takes shot at Giannis Antetokounmpo over old injury incident

Kyrie Irving ankle injury

Kyrie Irving is resurrecting an issue from over seven months ago.

The Brooklyn Nets guard spoke with reporters following the team’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday and reflected on the adversity that the team has faced. Irving spoke about the ankle injury that he suffered in last year’s second-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks and said that Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot “just happened to be in the way,” per Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News.

Irving used finger quotes when he said it, which you can see in the video of his comments (at the 3:00 mark).

The seven-time All-Star Irving sprained his ankle in Game 4 of the series when he stepped on Antetokounmpo’s foot. Irving was going up for a shot and landed on Antetokounmpo, who had come up over to try to track the ball (video here). Irving did not play again for the rest of the series, which the Nets narrowly lost to the Bucks in overtime of the seventh game.

Virtually no one, other than perhaps Nets fans, thought that there was any intent on Antetokounmpo’s part. We have seen such unfortunate injuries happen countless times in the NBA. But Irving, even all these months later, obviously believes that Antetokounmpo purposefully injured him. The two players did have some history before the incident, so maybe that explains why Irving still won’t let the issue go.

Giannis Antetokounmpo gives Kevin Durant huge compliment

Giannis Antetokounmpo points

Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to think very highly of Kevin Durant.

Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks beat Durant’s Brooklyn Nets 121-109 on Friday night. Giannis was the high scorer in the game with 31 points, while Durant had 29 in a losing effort.

Perhaps being on the winning end allowed Giannis to be so complimentary of Durant after the game.

“KD’s the best player in the world. He’s showed in the past, he’s showing it right now. I’m just trying to get better,” Antetokounmpo said in his postgame interview with ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth.

If the line sounds familiar to you, that’s because it should. During last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals series between the Bucks and Nets, Giannis paid Durant the same compliment. His Bucks were trailing in the series 3-2 at the time and came back to win it before going on to win the title.

Maybe these compliments help Giannis build some nice karma.

Photo: Apr 29, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) warms up before the game against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports