There’s a multimillion-dollar question looming over the NBA that only Giannis Antetokounmpo has the answer to.
However, the Bucks superstar didn’t put to bed any speculation on his long-term future in Milwaukee on Wednesday, instead saying that he will put faith in his agent and the team’s front office to reach a potential supermax contract extension.
“I’m not focused on that,” Antetokounmpo said. “I know my agent, Alex [Saratsis], and [Bucks general manager] Jon Horst and the Bucks ownership are focusing on those discussions, but I’m just trying to focus on myself — how I can get better, how I can help my teammates get better, how can we be ready Saturday to play our first preseason game?”
Antetokounmpo has until Dec. 21 to sign a five-year, $228 million supermax extension.
On Wednesday, he wouldn’t go into the details of his process, though he admitted that “it’s probably one of the big decisions that I’m gonna make.” He could play out the season in Milwaukee and enter free agency as an unrestricted free agent next summer, or he could sign the same deal with the Bucks next offseason.
One thing is for sure: His communication with his agent will remain private.
“I think about everything,” he said. “I think about Milwaukee. I think about my teammates. I think about my family. I think about what’s the best decision for me, but that’s pretty much it. Then, after that, I realize that I’ve got so far because I’ve focused on how I can improve every single day.
“I love the city of Milwaukee. I love the organization. I love my family to death. I love winning, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t be in this situation if I wasn’t working hard, I wasn’t winning games, I wasn’t improving every day and I didn’t have this mentality.
“So I can’t change who I am, I cannot change this mentality, and I’m gonna focus on improving, and day by day, everything’s gonna take care of itself. You guys probably are gonna know what’s going on before I do. That’s what usually happens. You guys know more than me.”
On Sunday, Antetokounmpo celebrated his 26th birthday as the Bucks began group workouts, with teammates surprising him with pens — indirectly suggesting the decision they want him to reach.
“At first, I didn’t get it. Khris [Middleton] came in and gave me a pen, and I was like, ‘Whoa, what is this?’ I was looking at it and thinking about it, and then I realized that he wanted me to sign the contract,” said Antetokounmpo, who is coming off a season in which he joined Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players in league history to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season. “And it was just like, ‘OK.’ I laughed the first time, I laughed the second time, the third time, and then I got, like, 20 pens. So then it got a little bit old. I’ve got 20 pens in my locker room.”
Entering the 2019-20 season, Antetokounmpo also avoided all free-agency talk on Media Day, calling it “disrespectful toward my teammates talking about my free agency and what I’m going through.” His approach wasn’t much different Wednesday, as he said he’d rather keep all questions basketball-related moving forward because “the answer is still going to be the same.”
“I’m not trying to speed up the process. I’m not trying to be involved in that,” Antetokounmpo said. “Obviously, it’s something that stresses every player out, and it’s on my mind, but it’s not on my mind. I try to put it out of my mind.”
Despite having the NBA’s best regular-season record the past two years, Milwaukee has yet to reach the NBA Finals since the 1973-74 campaign. The Bucks added a new cast of players in recent weeks, acquiring former All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday via trade and adding Torrey Craig, D.J. Augustin, Bryn Forbes and Bobby Portis. They’re also bringing back all-NBA Defensive Second Team center Brook Lopez with guards Pat Connaughton and Donte DiVincenzo, who likely will be part of the starting five in his third season.
“All the guys we got, they can help the team,” Antetokounmpo said. “They can defend, but having Holiday on the team is big-time. He’s a great leader, he’s a great human being, he can defend, he can score the ball. He’s going to bring that edge on this team that we need.”
Milwaukee was eliminated by the Miami Heat in five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida. This season, Antetokounmpo won’t put any additional pressure on himself or the team.
“I don’t believe it’s a championship-or-bust situation,” Antetokounmpo said. “Obviously, everybody wants to win a championship. I want to win a championship. There’s nobody that wants to win a championship more than me — I can guarantee you that. But there’s steps to that. You’ve got to keep improving. You’ve got to keep getting better, and hopefully we can get there this year.”