Giannis Antetokounmpo: Is his injury absence a cause for concern?

The Milwaukee Bucks are running through their second half of the season gauntlet at the moment.

The Bucks were riding high on their west coast swing before taking collapsing and falling to the Golden State Warriors late Tuesday night in a 122-121 defeat. It also marked as the second straight game where the Bucks were without their superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo stood as something of a late scratch due to left knee soreness, despite having been listed as probable on the injury report leading up to the Bucks’ clash against Golden State.

Before the game, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer was non-committal over whether there was a larger level of concern over Antetokounmpo’s knee, especially considering the reigning MVP has now missed four of the Bucks’ last nine games.

The fact that Antetokounmpo’s night was shut down before the game started certainly mirrored the Zapruder-like film we saw of Antetokounmpo bothered by his knee before his marvelous 47-point performance in the Bucks’ win over the Portland Trail Blazers last Friday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has been bothered by knee ailments throughout his career.

While having stayed healthy throughout his eight-year career, this isn’t Antetokounmpo’s first go-around with being bothered by balky knee issues. Just before the season shutdown last year, Antetokounmpo had suffered a minor joint capsule sprain in his left knee in the Bucks’ high-profile clash against the Los Angeles Lakers in March of 2020.

Antetokounmpo’s knee troubles even date back before the Mike Budenholzer era where the Greek superstar had developed right anterior knee pain in the 2017 offseason, which led to the implementation of rest nights for Antetokounmpo under Jason Kidd.

Despite these instances, the Bucks and Antetokounmpo have been fortunate in the superstar’s durability over the years and this season has largely been no different. However, the context of how this season is being held could add to how the Bucks’ medical staff will oversee Antetokounmpo’s eventual return to the court.

The Bucks have 22 games remaining over the next 40 days before their playoff run starts in earnest. Considering the source of Antetokounmpo’s knee issues flared up in the first place came as a result of overuse, this is certainly not an ideal regiment for Antetokounmpo as he looks to return to full health regarding his knee.

Furthermore, Antetokounmpo is playing more minutes considerably than his first two seasons under Budenholzer, which was something of a priority for him going into this season. While it’s helped build up Antetokounmpo’s overall durability and wind playing extensive minutes, it does intersect with the long-standing concerns over Antetokounmpo’s heavy workload and the lasting effects that come with it.

While the need to fight for the top seed in the East should be a goal of all Bucks players and coaches during this six-week stretch, Antetokounmpo’s knee struggles serve as a stark reminder of the ramifications of playing such a grueling schedule just to get to the finish line this regular season.

With that in mind, there’s no question that Antetokounmpo’s knee injury and ongoing recovery will be a recurring topic and issue for the Bucks in what remains of their season. Just as has been the case of the last few years now.

While Antetokounmpo will surely make his return to the floor very soon, how he goes about managing his knee and maintaining his high level play will dictate how the rest of the season will go for him and the Bucks as a whole.