Giannis Antetokounmpo unfollowed hundreds on Instagram, including all his Milwaukee Bucks teammates, capping it with a surprise meeting with ownership.
It’s hard to imagine a week beginning and ending worse for the Milwaukee Bucks than this one has. After suffering a humiliating five-game loss to the Miami Heat in which head coach Mike Budenholzer was exposed once and for all on the playoff stage and Giannis Antetokounmpo spraining an ankle, one might think there would be time for the Bucks to lick their wounds before figuring out what’s next.
One might think this, but one might be wrong.
Saturday began with the discovery that Giannis had unfollowed all his Bucks teammates on Instagram, along with hundreds of others. That alone doesn’t mean much, but Saturday night things got a whole lot worse when Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports revealed that Giannis had met with Bucks ownership to discuss the team’s future.
One without the other could be shrugged off with a nervous laugh, but the two combine to form a concerning equation.
He has one year left on his contract but is eligible this offseason to sign a supermax contract worth $254 million over five years, but he could demand a trade if he decides he doesn’t want to stay in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo told reporters after the Bucks were eliminated that he would not request a trade, but it wouldn’t be the first time a player has told the media one thing but later decided that it would be in his best interest to move on.
Players don’t owe the media honesty, whether fans demand it or not. They especially don’t owe that honesty in the heat of the moment, in the aftermath of elimination. While players like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and others have indicated an intention to stay with their teams but then later decided to move on, time will tell whether Giannis Antetokounmpo is of a stronger resolve.
A couple of things are certain in these early hours after his meeting with ownership. For starters, the Bucks won’t move him of their own volition, and they may even opt to try and get him to stick around if he does ask for a trade. Second, there’s no package of equal value out there for him. As the defending (and likely repeat) MVP of the NBA, the Bucks will suffer a massive competitive deficit in any deal.
A year ago, Bucks ownership decided it was in their best interests to allow restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon to depart via sign-and-trade rather than pay up to retain him. In a series against the Heat where the Bucks simply did not have enough effective scoring, Brogdon could have been a huge benefit, and Antetokounmpo will remember this.
Do the owners of the Milwaukee Bucks have the intestinal fortitude to do what it takes to make sure Giannis Antetokounmpo has a winning roster around him, or are they hoping to win a championship and retain their young superstar by piecemeal with one bargain after another?
At this point, it does not appear they’ve got what it takes, and in a league where ownership is the biggest asset, those very owners could be the franchise’s crippling Achilles heel.
We may never know specifically what came of this meeting, but the future may be sealed already based on what the owners of the Milwaukee Bucks could or could not assure him of.