Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo missing EuroBasket isn’t a positive for Bucks

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 27: Giannis Antetokounmpo
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 27: Giannis Antetokounmpo /

The news that Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss EuroBasket with Greece this summer certainly shouldn’t be perceived as a win for the Milwaukee Bucks, or anyone else for that matter.

As news broke that Giannis Antetokounmpo would miss out on the upcoming EuroBasket with the Greek national team over the next month, for many with interest on both sides of the debate it triggered various extreme reactions.

From the Greek perspective, that feeling was voiced by the basketball federation, perhaps even eliminating the need for fans to establish their own theories.

In a press release that surfaced after Giannis had announced via social media that he wouldn’t be participating, the Greek Federation laid out a conspiracy in which this news comes as the inevitable end point of some kind of grand collusion between the Milwaukee Bucks and the NBA.

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The key elements of the statement, shared by EuroHoops, read as follows:

"“The simultaneous briefing by the manager of the Milwaukee Bucks and by Giannis Antetokounmpo himself via phone and social media from faraway China – and not in the proper formal form – for his inability to play for the Greek national team, brought us sadness due to this great loss, but unfortunately it does not surprise us.Since Giannis arrived in Greece and the national team training camp started, a series of indications which were particularly worrying had created the conviction of an organized and well-staged plan by the NBA franchise in which Giannis has signed. Everything was in full knowledge of the NBA, if not encouraged by the NBA, and the athlete was put in a very difficult position. He ultimately was obliged today to announce that he can’t be a member of the national team.”"

Although the Greek federation made an effort to mention that their theory would have seen Giannis “put in a very difficult position”, it’s also impossible to make a statement along those lines without also leaving some strands of a subtext about the player in question.

Ultimately, if Giannis wanted and felt able to play for Greece, the Bucks could have tried to talk him out of it, but the decision would have rested with the player.

Giannis has made no secret of his love for Greece and his pride in representing his country over the years. As recently as last month, the Greek Freak even spoke of his desire to bring success to the national team.

"“I want to bring success with this team. I will be there for the team for the next 15 years. I am not thinking about the end of the road, but the journey to get there. We have to go step by step, prepare the best way we can and aim for the biggest possible goal.”"

As such, anything other than taking Antetokounmpo at his word when he describes being forced to miss EuroBasket as “the biggest disappointment” in his career to date, isn’t just questioning the intentions of the Bucks and the NBA, but also Giannis’ commitment to his national team.

Beyond that, for any sort of theory regarding a concerted effort from the Bucks to keep their player out of action to make sense, that outcome would have to be seen as an obvious win for Milwaukee.

Many Bucks fans with no interest in seeing Giannis suit up for any team other than Milwaukee had long held out hope that their star wouldn’t play this summer, but why?

The most obvious answer would be to avoid the risk of injury and get some further rest under his belt ahead of the new season, but as this news may have ironically proven, it doesn’t necessarily take competitive international games to lead to injury.

Khris Middleton missed over half of last season in Milwaukee after slipping on a wet spot in practice. There’s no need to overcomplicate this, as injury can strike at any time in professional sport. Of course, that doesn’t mean cumulative fatigue can’t make such an occurrence more likely, but it also doesn’t make it a guarantee.

For example, early in LeBron James‘ career, the now 32-year-old played for Team USA in international competition in four out of five offseasons between 2004 and 2008. In the four regular season campaigns that followed, LeBron only missed 16 of a possible 328 games.

Even more recently, LeBron is currently in the middle of a streak of seven straight Finals appearances, which included a trip to the 2012 Olympics in between winning Championships in 2012 and 2013.

For as much as the importance of EuroBasket may not seem as apparent to American audiences for whom their can be no obvious rooting interest, it’s incredibly important for smaller European countries like Greece.

Behemoths like Serbia and Spain have even found it difficult to break the American stranglehold on the FIBA World Championships and Olympics in recent years, and the result is that EuroBasket offers a rare chance for success and the kind of springboard that leads to more competitive teams at those events in future.

In spite of having missed out on Olympic qualifying last summer, Greece with Giannis would have entered EuroBasket among the tournament’s favorites.

If, at 22 years old, Giannis could have led his country to pick up an international trophy, there’s no knowing what that could have done for his confidence. There’s also the element of how a taste of silverware can often drive the best players even harder to win again. An all-conquering EuroBasket showing would have put Giannis in the perfect state of mind to carry that momentum over to the new NBA season.

Instead, the Bucks will not only have to do without any extra international confidence boost for their star, but also now have to worry themselves with remedying a niggling knee injury so he can be ready to perform at his best come October.

For the Greek federation and those that remain entirely skeptical as to the veracity of Antetokounmpo’s injury, there’s another important consideration to make too.

With the wider NBA already doing everything in its power to push a narrative of a doomsday countdown until Giannis leaves the Bucks when he hits free agency in four years time, were the Bucks ever likely to stand in the way of Giannis’ wishes and risk any further resentment in future?

Taking Giannis at his word, it seems clear he wanted to not only play for his country, but also compete for the EuroBasket title. Believing that, while also imagining a scenario where the Bucks would risk their positive relationship with the best player the franchise has had in over 40 years doesn’t really seem like an application of logic.

So, as everyone gets ready to face the reality of Giannis being forced to watch EuroBasket at home from his couch, there’s one thing that needs to be made clear.

Greece loses out by not having their best player available. The Bucks miss out on an opportunity for further growth for their star and now also have to deal with an injury. The player is embroiled in a controversy not of his own making, and is unable to set things right on the court.

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There are no winners in this situation.