It may be the middle of a pandemic, but there are apparently different rules about traveling when you're the back-to-back NBA MVP. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been all over Europe this offseason, and most recently made his way to Sweden, as documented on his Instagram account.
While there, he happened to give an exclusive interview to Swedish outlet Aftonbladet, a daily newspaper based in Stockholm. Of course, he was asked about his future with the Milwaukee Bucks, and had this to say (hat tip to Swedish journalist Alexander Nilsson):
Giannis: "There are a lot of rumors. Everyone has opinions. But at the end of the day, I will do what is best for my family. I do not see why I could not be in Milwaukee for several years. As long as Milwaukee and I are on the same page when it comes to being one of the best teams in the league and winning championships, that's fine. When it changes, it will not be good. It's easy, I want to be a winner. I do not care about the money. My family is fine and I can take care of my children and grandchildren so that's not the most important thing right now, it's winning. As long as we can win and create a winning culture, it will be good."
Aftonbladet: So your plan is to stay in Milwaukee next year and then maybe sign an extension?
Giannis: "I do not know what the plan is. It depends on what decisions they make. If they make the right decision, I'll be there for many years. If they do not, we'll see. The NBA is business and we take it day by day. Hopefully we can succeed together."
In general, this is the same thing we've been hearing from Giannis for a while now. He's made it clear that he won't be requesting a trade from the Bucks this offseason, and if he believes they're the team best positioned to get him a title, he'll re-sign. If not, he'll look elsewhere. What's more interesting from this interview are his comments about the money, and the explicit demand that the Bucks make the right moves around him.
Giannis is eligible for a super-max extension this offseason, worth around $221 million over five years. If he turned that down and left for a new team in free agency next summer, the most he could sign for would be $140 million over four years. That's $80 million more in guaranteed money, and nearly $10 million more per year by the end of the deal.
The supermax was set up that way in order to help teams keep their stars, but it apparently isn't doing much good for the Bucks. Now, only Giannis knows if the extra money really doesn't matter, or if he's just trying to project a certain image for himself, but he wouldn't be the first player to spurn the supermax in favor of winning. From a more league-wide point of view, it will be interesting to see if that issue gets addressed during the next CBA negotiations.
In addition, this is the most explicit Giannis has been about wanting the Bucks to put the right pieces around him. He's talked generally about getting better as a team, building a winning culture, etc. And there's been reports about the Bucks promising him they'll make the right moves. But those are more "read between the lines" sort of things, whereas this message is clear: make the right moves if you want me to stay.
After crashing out in the second round of the playoffs in the bubble, it's clear they have to make some changes in Milwaukee this offseason, and with no cap space that means attacking the trade market. Various reports indicate they've had discussions about Bogdan Bogdanovic, Victor Oladipo and Chris Paul as they try to improve their playmaking, though the latter seems unlikely.
We'll obviously have to wait and see exactly what the Bucks do, but the pressure is now officially on, if it wasn't already.