Since he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013, reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has never appeared in less than 72 games in a season. This tells you two things. First, Antetokounmpo has been able to stay largely healthy up to this point in his career. Second, the man dubbed as 'The Greek Freak' doesn't like to take nights off.
Even in an era where his peers are consistently given nights off for rest, or "load management," Antetokounmpo wants to play as much as possible in order to improve at his craft.
"I can't speak to what other teams or what other players do. I want to play," Antetokounmpo said. "If I don't get my work in, I don't feel good. Like Michael Jordan said, hard work eliminates fear. If you don't harvest your technique, you don't feel good. You're not getting a rhythm."
Antetokounmpo appeared in a career-low 72 games last season, and that was largely by design, but not his own. With the Bucks poised to make a deep playoff run, and Antetokounmpo shouldering such a large load for the team, head coach Mike Budenholzer and Milwaukee's front office thought it would be in the team's best interest to keep Antetokounmpo fresh by giving him some nights off to rest. Those same ideals hold true this season. Unsurprisingly, Antetokounmpo is resistant.
"I say I don't want to hear it," Antetokounmpo said. "I'm trying to get better. I try to talk [Budenholzer] out of it."
Though he still doesn't like it, Antetokounmpo has gotten better at accepting the idea that taking a night off every once in a while could help him and his team in the long-term, according to his head coach.
"Giannis is so competitive. He wants to be on the court all the time," Budenholzer said. "But I think after a year together and fairly early in the season last year, he started to appreciate just how important his body is and how important his health is. There's a big picture and we want to be playing deep into the playoffs and we need him to be fresh and healthy. For the most part, he's done a nice job at trusting the coaching staff and we'll hopefully put him in great positions to be great when he plays and give him a little bit of time off to take care of himself."
Antetokounmpo may not like it, but if taking the occasional night off during the regular season helps him to be fresher for postseason play, and potentially extends his career, then it makes sense.