After last Wednesday's season finale, many of the Bucks players participated in interviews with the local media on Thursday morning. Below you will find Giannis Antetokounmpo's full interview transcribed. After the interview, I've included a few thoughts of my own.
Reflecting on the change to point guard:
"It was a change after the All-Star Break going to point guard, but I won't say it was something new because we've tried it before in the past, my sophomore year against the Cavs. But yeah, it was something different. It was a change since I was used to playing the four spot and the three spot, so now being able to play the point guard spot is something new for me. I think I handled it really well. I know I have a lot of things I can do better in that spot. I think I helped a lot of my teammates step up and be better (from that spot)."
On watching film this summer:
"I will be watching a lot of point guards' film to learn the spot and see how it's played. I'll be watching the best: Chris Paul, Russell [Westbrook], old clips of J-Kidd (Jason Kidd)."
On his body holding up in the 82 game season:
"I played 79, I think. My body handled it pretty well. I'm young. 21 years old. I know that moving forward, I'm going to play more minutes, so I have to take care of my body, try to get stronger, and try to avoid injuries as much as possible."
On a Journal-Sentinel front page picture showing off his physique:
"I saw the picture. I'm a lot stronger than I was my rookie year. So, I was laughing. It was kind of funny. I was showing Rashad (Vaughn) pictures from my rookie year this morning. I was skinny. I'm skinny right now, but I'm a lot stronger than what I was."
On whether or not he'll be playing for Greece:
"Hopefully. I have to have a discussion with the team and my head coach obviously J-Kidd. Until then, I have to see what they'll tell me and try to decide. Hopefully, I'm on the team.
"Definitely going to be some discussions. I want to play. The Olympic Games are something amazing."
Is a summer with international play different than one spent just working out? Is one more beneficial for you than the other?
"I think spending more time working on my game helps me a lot. I think last year I was here in Milwaukee and was working on my game and traveling with the team to Las Vegas, I thought that was one of the things that boosted my game to the next level. But playing for the national team, you're playing games in the summer. So, that helps you a lot. Especially in the Olympic games, you play against the best players in the world. That helps you too."
On if he's focusing on shooting more threes in the summer:
"Definitely. That's the goal. I thought at the start of this year, I would be more comfortable shooting the three, but at the end of the year, I started to get more comfortable. So next year, I think I will be shooting the three without hesitating."
How do you get better at it? Are there specific exercises?
"Just shoot. Shoot all day. Try to make as many shots as you can. If you practice, they will go in. It can only get better."
How do you get more comfortable shooting threes?
"I think it's just putting in the work. If you work hard, you'll definitely feel more comfortable. Lately, I've been shooting together with J-Kidd, so he's always watching me and making me feel comfortable. My teammates, too. They know that I've put in a lot of work, so whenever I'm open, shoot."
Did teams cover you differently down the stretch?
"No. They were still three feet away from me. Maybe down the stretch, they were two feet away from me. I can knock down that 15-footer."
Can you be an All-Star next season?
"I don't want to think about it. I do think I will be better and I'll take it day-by-day. And I'll worry about how I can make this team better because winning solves everything."
What about your leadership?
"Definitely. It will be my fourth year. My role is going to be a lot bigger. It's time for me to step up and lead this team. I'll be 22, but I've got to lead this team. I don't want to think about it. I just have to take it step-by-step and do the little things, so my teammates can feel comfortable with me and trust that I can lead them. Trust that I will always be there for them. I think by doing the little things, everything will come."
Does being a leader come naturally for you?
"Definitely. Since I was younger, I was always leading. I was playing second division in Greece, but I was still a leader there. I think it comes natural. I've always been real competitive. I've always tried to lead, try to help my teammates, and be better."
Do you think about the types of threes you practice this summer? Pull-up? Catch-and-shoot?
"Going into the summer, I just think about easy shots. As many easy shots as I can get because I have time and space. They're not going to guard me out there yet. Even if I start knocking them down, they're still not going to guard me out there. So, easy shots. Time and space. Try to set my feet and just try to knock them down."
Will you be working out with anyone not on the team this season?
"Definitely. My brothers Thanasis and Kostas and God.
"We'll just be here in Milwaukee and we'll try to go back to Greece. Whatever we can schedule in to be together, that's what we'll try to do. We'll try to be together and try to work out."
You're eligible for a contract extension coming up. What are you expecting? By October, you could sign an extension with the Bucks.
"Hopefully. That was what everyone's been working for, for them to extend me. Hopefully, I stay here 20 years and I get my Greek Freak Day like Kobe [Bryant]."
Kobe said he shot 1m000 shots a day during the summer. Are you going to shoot 1,001?
"I'm not going to say, 'Oh. I'm going to take 2,000 shots', but I'll try to shoot as many as I can and try to get better."
When you think of your family and where you guys are now is it surreal for you?
"Yes. It's a great feeling to see my brothers grow up in Milwaukee. It's a great feeling. We started in Greece having nothing. And being here is an amazing feeling. Every day, I thank God and realize how blessed I am and how blessed my family is."
- It was interesting to hear Antetokounmpo say that he thought he was going to be more comfortable shooting threes early in the season. A month ago, his agent did an interview and suggested that Kidd wanted to play him at point guard in November, but Antetokounmpo didn't feel comfortable with the role at that time. His comment about threes should serve as a helpful reminder that though we often want the Bucks to give Antetokounmpo new roles and constantly ask him to do more, he does have to actually feel comfortable with the things he's being asked to do.
- Ruminating on that bullet a bit more...The Bucks don't actually have to make sure Antetokounmpo feels comfortable before asking him to do something new. They could have just have him do it and learn how to do something new through some struggles, but it appears as though the Bucks are taking a careful approach with Antetokounmpo's development.
- The easy shot comment was interesting. It seems like Antetokounmpo understands that teams are not in a hurry to come out and cover him by the three point line, so he likely won't be working on anything too difficult this offseason. Many players say it's important to practice shots with simulated game intensity, but this may be a tough thing for Antetokounmpo to do since opponents aren't very interested in closing him out.
- Antetokounmpo will earn $3 million next season in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, but it's no secret that he'll be in line for a massive raise in the 17/18 season. The Bucks can offer him an extension of up to five years starting in July, and based on this week's revised 17/18 cap projection of $107 million, Giannis could earn a first year max salary of up to $25 million. With max raises of 7.5% of the first year salary, a five-year deal from the Bucks could be worth approximately $144 million, thus locking in the Bucks' young star as early as July. Otherwise Giannis would become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2017, where the Bucks would have matching rights and other teams could offer up to four years, 4.5% raises and a total package of around $107 million.
- Barring a dramatic reversal of fortune next season, Antetokounmpo will have suitors lining up to offer him that kind of money next summer, so it's really only a matter of when, not if, he becomes a max player. Signing him this summer would send a strong message that he's the guy for the Bucks, locking him in now and removing the distraction of free agency heading into next season. Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard got their five-year max deals at the start of free agency last summer for that reason, while John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins were previously maxed out even before they became the superstars they are today.
- If the Bucks allow Giannis to become a restricted free agent in 2017, they'd insure themselves against disaster (such as Giannis suffering a career-threatening injury next season) while also retaining additional cap flexibility going into the summer of 2017. Because Antetokounmpo's qualifying offer is "only" $7.5 million in 2017, he'd count for roughly $17 million less against the cap next summer if he doesn't sign immediately. Depending on what kind of moves the Bucks make this summer, that may or may not provide significant ammunition in free agency next year. Kawhi Leonard didn't sign his max deal until he became a restricted free agent for that reason -- enabling the Spurs to sign LaMarcus Aldridge -- and the Pistons will similarly have more flexibility this summer after not signing Andre Drummond to a max extension last fall. Still, asking a young player on a rookie deal to defer a live-altering payday shouldn't be taken lightly.
- One more wrinkle: at any given time teams can only have one player they signed to a five-year rookie extension, so signing Giannis to a five-year extension this summer would preclude the Bucks from signing Jabari Parker to more than a four-year extension a year from now. However, if either guy hits restricted free agency they could be signed for the full five years. So they could wait and sign Giannis to a five-year max RFA deal and give Jabari a five-year extension at the same time in 2017, or they could give Giannis a five-year max this summer and sign Jabari to a five-year deal when he hits restricted free agency in 2018. They're not really in danger of losing either guy in either scenario, but it does matter from a risk and flexibility standpoint, both for the Bucks and the players themselves.