MILWAUKEE • Anxiety in Milwaukee over Giannis Antetokounmpo staying with the Bucks beyond this season continues to rise.
The rumour mill has gone into overdrive as the “Greek Freak” faces an National Basketball Association-imposed deadline of Dec 21 to decide whether he will sign a “supermax” contract.
He can choose to remain with the team who hold the best regular-season record for the past two years but have failed to carry over that form into the play-offs.
He can also roll the dice and consider entering free agency after the 2020-21 season, with the Bucks – whose sole championship came 49 years ago – last reaching the Finals in 1974.
However, the NBA Most Valuable Player of the past two seasons said on Wednesday he had locked in on the upcoming season, and not his much-discussed future.
“Right now, I am not focused on that,” he said. “I am just trying to focus on myself.”
The Bucks can offer the forward a five-year, US$228.2 million (S$305.4 million) deal that would increase to US$243.7 million if the league salary cap returns to pre-Covid levels, but teams across the league, including last season’s finalists, the Miami Heat, are said to be keen on a trade.
His current, expiring deal was worth US$100 million for four years. But Antetokounmpo said he was leaving any contract talks to his agent, Alex Saratsis.
Before reporting to training camp last week, the 26-year-old told Greek TV that he was open to teaming up with another superstar – as LeBron James did with Anthony Davis last season – if it means winning the championship.
“This is a statement that I have never made before. If LeBron and Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis came to Milwaukee, I would have been good with that,” he said.
“I am not interested if I am the top, second or third name, okay? Because I want to win. I want to win because when I retire, that’s what people will remember. I don’t care if I am the top (player).”
Antetokounmpo could also find himself playing with James Harden. The Athletic reported yesterday that the Houston Rockets All-Star officially made a trade demand and he included the Bucks and the Miami Heat on a new list of destinations he would prefer.
Miami could offer a blend of young players and draft picks to entice Houston, but they could also hold their cash and assets for a chance to land Antetokounmpo.
Harden could fill a role as a volume scorer with either team. His style of play, however, may not be a precise fit for Jimmy Butler’s Miami, who have a swing offence predicated on ball movement and also thrive on defence.