Back in June, during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks, Giannis Antetokounmpo suffered a severe hyperextension of his left knee. Somehow, he avoided serious injury and returned in the Finals to lead the Bucks past the Suns for their first title in 50 years.
Giannis put on an incredible display in the Finals, including 50 points in the title-clinching Game 6. He would never trade that for anything, nor should he. But playing through the injury did come with a cost. Now months later, Giannis' knee still isn't 100 percent.
During a recent interview with a television station in Greece, Giannis admitted, "I shouldn't have played in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. I was in a lot of pain. I'm still hurting. But I'll be okay." During Bucks media day on Monday, he expounded on the state of his knee, and his plan heading into the season.
"I feel good. Obviously I gotta do my treatment like always, take care of my body and just manage it. There's no rush for me here. I'm good to go, but if I feel pain again or whatever the case might be, I have to listen to my body. When you feel pain, it's your body telling you. It's protecting you. You can't go anymore. I've played through pain. I don't think now is the time to risk that. It's too early in the season, but at the end of the day, I feel good physically, mentally. I'll do whatever I have to do to be 100 percent."
Thus far there has been nothing from Giannis nor the Bucks to indicate that he will not be ready for opening night on Oct. 19 against the Brooklyn Nets. However, any time your star player is still dealing with pain from an injury they suffered months prior, it's worth taking note of.
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And for what it's worth, Giannis did not participate when the Bucks went five-on-five during practice on Tuesday, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Judging by his comments at media day, it seems like his activity level will vary from day to day, at least for the early portion of camp.
"I'll go five-on-five today if I have to. But yeah, I don't know about tomorrow. Tomorrow is tomorrow. If I wake up and my body feels good enough to leave this media day and I go back to the gym and my body still feels good, I'm able to work out, then yeah, I'll go five-on-five. But we'll see. We'll see how I wake up tomorrow. We'll see how my body feels."
Because of their long playoff run, and a condensed offseason to get the league back on its normal schedule, the Bucks had just a 71-day offseason. Getting less rest and recovery time than usual is difficult for everyone, but especially for Giannis given his injury. If he had a normal offseason then perhaps this would not be an issue. Unfortunately, that's not the case.
As the Bucks begin their title defense, Giannis' health will be something they'll have to manage. That might mean fewer minutes or more nights off than usual -- something he probably would not be thrilled about given his competitiveness. But for the longterm future of both him and the team, it will be best to take the cautious route, at least for the early portion of the season.