- Reigning two-time Bucks MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has developed a strong on-court rapport with new reserve guard Bryn Forbes, highlighted by a flashy inverted pick-and-roll action, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “It’s a play that works,” Antetokounmpo said. “If you don’t stay in front of me, I’m going to try to go downhill and if somebody else comes, the corner is wide-open.”
- One silver lining of the Bucks‘ failed offseason attempt to sign-and-trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic – which cost them a future draft pick – is that the deal falling apart allowed the team to keep Donte DiVincenzo, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. As Amick notes, DiVincenzo is off to a nice start this season, averaging 12.3 PPG and 1.7 APG with a .556 3PT% so far.
After going undrafted in 2020 following his sophomore season with the Wildcats, Montgomery caught on with Milwaukee on a non-guaranteed camp deal, but was cut on December 16. While the Bucks may have, at one point, envisioned Montgomery as a potential G League affiliate player, the Wisconsin Herd opted out of the NBAGL’s bubble plan for 2020/21, opening the door for the 21-year-old to pursue another professional opportunity.
Speaking to Sam Amick of The Athletic about his recent experience in free agency, Bogdan Bogdanovic said he learned about the apparent sign-and-trade agreement between the Kings and Bucks (that would have sent him to Milwaukee) on Twitter, reading about it at the same time everyone else did.
“When the news came out, we were like, ‘What the f–k?'” Bogdanovic told Amick. “I didn’t know what was going on.”
As Bogdanovic explains, he had been told during the summer that the Kings wanted to keep him, so when word of the alleged sign-and-trade broke, he was caught off guard for two reasons: He hadn’t agreed to join the Bucks and he didn’t realize Sacramento was looking to trade him. The veteran swingman had been expecting to either negotiate with the Kings or to sign an offer sheet when free agency opened.
“I was like, ‘OK, we wait for the market,’ and I was ready for that,” Bogdanovic said. “Like, OK, wait for the market and let’s see what’s going to happen. In the end, (the Kings) decided to not tell me about nothing, about what was going on with Milwaukee. I really didn’t know nothing. Yes, I’m friends with Thanasis (Antetokounmpo) mostly — (Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s) brother — but we didn’t know what was going on. It was really on Twitter.
“Now, people are making stories off of it. … I was like, ‘What is going on?’ I didn’t know what was going on. And then, two days later, the NBA investigation (began), and no one called me from the Kings yet. I just got a text, like, ‘Thanks for being part of the team,’ and that’s it.”
Bogdanovic’s wide-ranging discussion with Amick goes into more detail on his reaction to learning of the reported agreement between the Kings and Bucks and what it meant for his impending free agency. However, the interview – which is worth checking out in full – also touches on several other topics, including his pivot to Atlanta, his new role with the Hawks, and testing positive for COVID-19.
Here are some of the highlights from the conversation:
On dealing with a positive coronavirus test at the same time as he navigated free agency:
“Yeah, I had it. I had it, and I recovered and I started working out back in Serbia and I was fine. I didn’t have any crazy symptoms or anything like that, but it was all stressful, you know? You’re thinking about coming back and being ready and in shape, you know? It was really stressful. That two, three weeks? Whoo.”
On having to find a new deal in restricted free agency after the Bucks-related drama:
“At that point, when free agency opens up, I was just focused on one thing, you know? And Atlanta called first. The Kings actually called me like 15 minutes after, and I liked what they (the Hawks) offered me. … I think, in the end, I was lucky and I end up being in the perfect situation in terms of contract and a team.”
On whether he thoughts the Kings would match his offer sheet with the Hawks:
“I was scared for that (because) at that point I wanted to leave. At that point, when they traded me already and they didn’t want to talk to me about it, I was like, ‘OK, they really want me out of here.’ So I was like, ‘OK.’
“We end up signing the offer sheet, so I was thinking like, ‘Damn, in the end, they’re going to match this.’ I was confused. It’s not really free agency, because you are not free. And yes, you’re restricted — you’re really restricted. It’s restricted agency. It’s not free agency.”
On how he feels about his new role coming off the bench in Atlanta:
“I feel fine. I feel fine about it. I think coach (Lloyd Pierce) is putting me in situations to kind of run the second unit, you know? And be like the sixth man of the unit. And when you play with Trae (Young), it’s so easy. He always draws so much attention on him, and that’s what gives me a lot of open shots. Not just me, but everyone else.
“… We are still figuring it out, and I think from this point we can just get better. It’s so much talent. And we have a lot of guys who can get off one night, so that’s a really good problem to have on a team. … I like it so far. We really have a pretty good group, a mix of young (players) and veterans — which is really nice; energy and experience. So it’s really nice to be here. It’s really fun.”
- The Bucks are striving to develop consistency after an offseason roster overhaul, according to Eric Woodyard of ESPN. The club is currently off to a bumpy 2-3 to start their 2020/21 season. “I can speak for my team and for myself: I really feel like us having this different variety of teams and games really helps us,” new starting point guard Jrue Holiday said. “Even just having a back-to-back in a playoff-type atmosphere, early, is very, very good for us.”
After fracturing his nose in a 130-110 loss against the Knicks on Sunday, Bucks swingman Torrey Craig went under the knife this week, undergoing surgery to repair the break, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Woj adds that the Bucks anticipate Craig will be able return to contact practices in two weeks.
Having spent his first three NBA seasons with the Nuggets, the 6’7″ Craig signed a one-year, $1.6MM veteran’s minimum deal with Milwaukee during the offseason.
Craig was added to the Bucks primarily to supply defensive wing depth and pull down offensive rebounds. He is not much of a scorer, holding a career average of 5.2 PPG on .451/.320/.660 shooting in 18.5 MPG.
The 30-year-old out of the University of South Carolina Upstate is averaging 6.5 MPG for the Bucks thus far this year.
During the offseason, before Giannis Antetokounmpo signed his super-max extension with the Bucks, he and Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard discussed the possibility of working out together, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports said on his Posted Up podcast (hat tip to NBC Sports).
The idea of two stars working out with one another during the offseason is hardly novel, but it would have been new for Giannis, who generally never works out with anybody who’s not on his team, per Haynes.
Sources tell Haynes that Antetokounmpo and Lillard also talked about what it would look like if they played together. While the idea of these two stars leaving for bigger markets has been a subject of speculation for years, both Lillard and Antetokounmpo have proven to be extremely loyal to their current clubs — and it doesn’t sound like this conversation was any exception.
“I believe Dame was trying to tell Giannis about what it would look like, him playing in Portland,” Haynes said, per NBC Sports. “And same vice versa, Giannis trying to tell him what it’d be like playing in Milwaukee.”
In other words, neither player expressed any interest in leaving his current team. And with Lillard locked up through at least 2024 and Antetokounmpo through 2025, it seems unlikely it will happen anytime soon.
Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:
- Despite a flurry of preseason extension agreements that took some top 2021 free agents off the board, there will still be plenty of talent available on the open market next summer, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who ranks his top 21 FAs for ’21. Kawhi Leonard, Victor Oladipo, and John Collins lead the way, while Talen Horton-Tucker sneaks onto the list at No. 21.
- Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype identifies the 10 players most likely to sign maximum-salary contracts in 2021. In addition to top free agents like Leonard, Oladipo, and Collins, Gozlan lists a handful of players who will be eligible for rookie scale extensions later in the year, including Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
- Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) took a look 18 months into the future and published their first mock draft for 2022. Big man Chet Holmgren is their early projected top pick, while a pair of Duke commits – Paolo Banchero and Adrian Griffin Jr. – are in the top four.
In his latest look at the James Harden situation, Brian Windhorst of ESPN lists the Sixers, Nets, Heat, Celtics, and Raptors among the teams that have at least placed “courtesy calls” to the Rockets about the former MVP.
And while the Bucks reportedly don’t have interest in pursuing Harden, they did have an internal conversation about the possibility and ran it by Giannis Antetokounmpo before coming to that decision, Windhorst notes.
The Harden trade talk that dominated NBA headlines during the preseason has died down to some extent now that the season is underway and the 31-year-old is suiting up for the Rockets, but Windhorst believes it’s just a matter of time before a team convinces itself that Harden is the missing piece for a championship and pulls the trigger on a deal, like Toronto did for Kawhi Leonard in 2018.
Here’s more on Harden:
- Although the Nuggets have been linked to Harden directly, they’re also interested in potentially getting involved in a multi-team trade involving the star guard even if they don’t end up with him, according to Windhorst.
- Sam Amick of The Athletic wonders if the loss of scoring depth caused by Spencer Dinwiddie‘s ACL injury may motivate the Nets to push harder to acquire Harden. Of course, as we discussed earlier this week, Dinwiddie’s injury also diminishes the value of a player who likely would be part of any package the Nets offer.
- Within that same Athletic article, Amick examines where things stand for the other teams linked to Harden, writing that the Sixers remain content to continue evaluating their current roster under Doc Rivers before making any major changes, while the Bucks don’t view Harden as a fit for their culture. Amick also evaluates the Heat, Nuggets, Trail Blazers, and Raptors, but doesn’t suggest that there’s traction on any front.
The Bucks fell short of the NBA Finals in each of the last two postseasons after putting up the NBA’s best regular season record in each of those two years. However, general manager Jon Horst tells Eric Nehm of The Athletic that he believes the club is “young in its evolution of championship contention,” and that the current Bucks roster is its strongest yet.
“I think that this is the best roster that we’ve had in the last three years,” Horst said. “I have a ton of confidence in the work that our coaches have spent on improving our offensive and defensive systems and our style of play and just the way that that they’re going to approach the season and the way that we’re going to work. And then the work that our players did.
“… If you really peel back, how do you get better? I think you get better coaching, player internal development, and from a front office perspective, you improve the roster. I think we’ve checked all those boxes, and I feel confident about those things. The work that’s been put into all those areas and the results in all those areas. That’s why I feel good about this team and that we’re better than last season.”
In his conversation with Nehm, Horst discussed a wide ranging of topics, including his thoughts on all the veteran players Milwaukee added to its roster in free agency or via trade this offseason.
The discussion is worth checking out in full if you’re an Athletic subscriber, but here are a few more notable comments from the Bucks’ GM:
On what Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s decision to sign an extension with the Bucks says about the organization:
“I think it shows mostly a lot about Giannis and his desire to win and to be part of a culture where winning is first and foremost, and where the resources are going to be provided to you to win and continue to push the envelope and be in a position, year in and year out, to compete at the highest level. But to do it in a family environment, in a healthy environment, where people want to come to work every day and enjoy what they do every day. And for us, the goal from day one has been to create that environment, create that culture, and not just do that, but also to win at a high level. And we haven’t reached the ultimate goal yet, but I think we constantly improve and get better and push toward being great.”
“We were fully cooperative with the NBA, very open and transparent. And a decision was made and we’re moving forward from that. We’re excited about the season. I think that at different points in your life or different points in your career, things happen and you’re only as good or as bad as how you respond. And we chose to be very cooperative, forthcoming, transparent and tried to work with the league to come up with the best result. The takeaway is that, be honest and helpful and deal with the result and move on and be better. … It’s not a lesson, but it’s a takeaway.”
On the Bucks’ decision not to sign a true backup center to replace Robin Lopez:
“It’s more a bet that we’re going to be more versatile and more equipped to play against teams that constantly go small. And so really our backup fives are Bobby (Portis), D.J. (Wilson), and Giannis, right? All of which also play the four very well. So we have options and versatility.
“… This season, I think we’re intentionally trying to push our money to the front and be a little bit riskier on the back end. And if we have to adjust and pivot, we’ll figure out a way to do it. Of course, we are always a little nervous, but I’ll tell you, I think our roster fits the NBA and the way teams are going to play us better this season than it ever has before.”
“I’m sure it’s a more interesting read to write the story that we don’t know what we’re doing… We know what we’re doing. Maybe (it’s) not as interesting to say a deal wasn’t done, (that) negotiations and discussions are still evolving. We’ve done some complex things in the last few years and got it done and figured it out. We were negotiating and trying to figure out a deal that would work for Pat and us.
“… Frankly, I was surprised by a lot of stuff that was written in the process of negotiating a deal with Pat. There’s not a better answer than that. Again, you’re just trying to figure it out, like you’re literally going through real time. If people want to report stuff in real time as fact and final, that’s fine.”
Bucks swingman Torrey Craig suffered a nasal fracture on Sunday against the Knicks and won’t play against the Heat on Tuesday, the team’s PR department tweets. Craig signed with Milwaukee last month after the Nuggets failed to extend a qualifying offer.
We have more injury and COVID-19 news:
- Heat star Jimmy Butler is doubtful to play against the Bucks on Tuesday, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. Butler sprained an ankle during the team’s game on Friday.
- Hawks rookie big man Onyeka Okongwu (left foot inflammation) and guard Tony Snell (right foot inflammation) have been cleared to progress to live contact workouts, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic tweets.
- Alex Caruso became the first Lakers player to miss a game due to COVID-19 protocols. Caruso sat out against Portland on Monday. Coach Frank Vogel said no other players or staff members were held out due to contact tracing, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony wasn’t with his team due to the same reason, as Casey Holdahl tweets.