On Saturday morning, Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo posted an important message on social media. In the post, which was written in Greek, he expressed his regret that he would not be able to play for the Greek national team in the upcoming EuroBasket 2017 (European championships), which begins on Aug. 31, due to a knee injury.
Antetokounmpo, who missed all but one of Greece’s warm-up games leading up to EuroBasket due to his ailing knee, failed a physical exam administered by the Bucks this week in China. He is in China as an NBA ambassador but not to play in a basketball tournament in Shanghai. He was expected to return to the Greek national team following his appearance.
The full text of Antetokounmpo’s message included him saying that being unable to play for the Greek national team this summer is “by far the biggest disappointment in my career.” The post can be read below:
The Greek basketball federation responded to this news with an accusation, alleging that Antetokounmpo’s announcement was part of a greater conspiracy by the Bucks and NBA to keep the 22-year-old star from participating in the EuroBasket.
“The simultaneous briefing by the manager of the Milwaukee Bucks and by Giannis Antetokounmpo himself via phone and social media from distant China — and not in the proper formal form — for his inability to play for the Greek national team, brought us sadness due to this great loss, but unfortunately it does not surprise us,” the federation said in a statement, according to a translation by Eurohoops.net.
“A series of clues by which we were particularly worried about since Giannis arrived in Greece and the national team training camp started, had created the conviction of an organized and well-staged plan by the NBA franchise in which Giannis has signed. Everything was in full knowledge of the NBA, if not encouraged by the NBA, and the athlete was put in a very difficult place and ultimately was obliged today to inform that he can’t be a member of the national team.”
According to an Associated Press story, the Greek basketball federation does not believe that Antetokounmpo is injured at all and will soon provide more details on the situation. Takis Tsagronis, the federation general secretary, did not mince words when discussing Antetokounmpo’s announcement, saying that scans showed nothing wrong with Antetokounmpo’s knee.
“This (the player’s absence) is bad but not unexpected news. All indications were that it would end up like that,” Tsagronis told state television network ERT.
“We, on our side, did everything not to give the Bucks an excuse. We took a magnetic scan of Giannis’ leg and it was clean. What the Bucks claim is not the reality; something else is happening.”
Antetokounmpo, one of the league’s fastest-rising stars and the centerpiece of the Bucks’ roster, is set to begin a four-year, $100 million contract extension this season.
During his first four seasons in the NBA, Antetokounmpo was notably durable. He missed just two games this season — one due to illness and the other for rest when Milwaukee’s playoff seed was secured — and has missed only 10 games total since being drafted in 2013.
His first six missed games came as the result of “coach’s decision,” with five coming in the first month of his rookie season and the sixth when he was inexplicably benched late in 2014-’15. Antetokounmpo then started the 2015-’16 season by serving a suspension for shoving Mike Dunleavy during the 2015 playoffs.
Later that season, on Dec. 20, 2015, Antetokounmpo missed his only game to date due to injury. The official explanation offered by the team was patellar tendinitis in his left knee. Milwaukee won that game at Phoenix and Antekounmpo returned for the next contest three days later and did not miss another game for the rest of the season.
Whether Antetokounmpo’s current injury is related to that patellar tendinitis from over a year ago — or whether it’s even the health of his left knee that’s in question — is unclear at this point. According to Antetokounmpo’s statement, though, the pain came on almost immediately during the recent test administered by the Bucks, rendering him unable to complete the tasks put in front of him.
“Last year I had the option to freeze the deal for my new contract,” Antetokounmpo wrote in his post. “This year I have no choice.
“I’m injured, the pains haven’t subsided, and I have to get better.”