Giannis: Wasn't nearing return before Bucks exit


MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo acknowledged that, despite trying to push himself to be available to the Bucks for the playoffs, he was “not close” to returning from his strained left calf, adding that he could run at about 30-40%.

“I tried my best to come back to help my teammates,” Antetokounmpo said Friday, a day after the Bucks dropped their first-round series to the Indiana Pacers. “It’s kind of hard to see them being out there and not being able to help them, but I just couldn’t.

“I did all the tests I had to do, these like protocols you have to follow and have to check the boxes. I wasn’t even close at checking the boxes.”

Antetokounmpo last played April 9. He ended up missing three weeks with his left calf strain, sitting out the final three regular-season games and the Bucks’ six-game postseason.

This was the second consecutive postseason when Antetokounmpo has missed games with an injury, with a back issue having sidelined him for multiple games of the 2023 playoffs. It left Antetokounmpo to consider whether he needs to change his approach heading into next season.

“I don’t know. Maybe I do follow a different pattern,” Antetokounmpo said. “Maybe try different things. I don’t like the word ‘rest.’ Like, if I can play, I will play. If I cannot play, I can’t play.

“I’m for sure going to sit down and think about it, of how my summer is going to look like and how next year is going to look like.”

One potential factor in Antetokounmpo’s summer schedule is the Paris Olympics. Antetokounmpo has previously expressed interest in playing in the Olympics but has not confirmed he would play. Greece also still has to earn a spot in the Games in a July qualification tournament.

Antetokounmpo said he would take about two to three more weeks to recover before deciding his next steps.

After sustaining the injury against the Boston Celtics on April 9, Antetokounmpo initially thought he would be able to return to the game that night. After some initial tests in the locker room that afternoon, he got off the trainers table but felt pain when he took his first step. Antetokounmpo wore a walking boot for the first week after the injury.

Before Game 4, he began jogging for the first time since the injury.

“Usually I heal pretty fast,” Antetokounmpo said. “Whatever happens to me, whatever they say [for a time frame], it’s half that. I think this time it might not be the case.”

Antetokounmpo is coming off one of his best seasons. He played 73 games in the regular season, his most since 2017-18, and averaged 30.4 points on 61.1% shooting, the first player in NBA history to score 30 points per game on 60% shooting.

Still, the Bucks fell in the first round for the second consecutive season. Despite the early exit, Antetokounmpo said he felt confident going forward about the Bucks’ ability to contend.

Especially considering how little time the Bucks’ best players spent on the floor together once Doc Rivers took over as coach. After Rivers’ first game Jan. 29, Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Damian Lillard played eight total games together.

“Obviously, it doesn’t feel good. The wound, you know, it’s fresh. It’s open. You just lost in the first round,” Antetokounmpo said. “But I’m not a guy who makes excuses. Right now, I do believe that when me, Khris and Dame and Brook [Lopez] was on the floor and we’re healthy, we were one of the best offenses in the NBA. And you can go and check that.”

To bounce back from a disappointing exit, Antetokounmpo said he was looking forward to having a full offseason. It would give him more time to learn from and work with Rivers as coach and to build chemistry with Lillard, whom he planned to visit in Oregon over the summer.

“It’s different when you have the whole summer and training camp, a year, to prepare for the end than to just have three months,” Antetokounmpo said. “It was a hard season. From many aspects, if you look at the changes: The coaches. The players changes. New assistants. New people, new staff. How you play … it was something draining. But this is why we do what we do; we don’t expect it to be perfect. Just got to keep moving forward and try to do your job and hope you can do it to the best of your ability.”



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