The Greek national team faces an uphill battle to qualify for the Rio Olympics, but their odds of pulling it off just got a major boost.
Giannis Antetokounmpo announced via Instagram on Thursday that he would indeed be representing Greece at the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament in Italy, where the Greeks will battle the Italian hosts as well as Croatia, Mexico, Iran and Tunisia.
Three separate six-team tournaments will happen between July 4-10 -- the others in Serbia and the Philippines -- with the winners of each advancing to the Rio Olympic tournament that starts on August 6. Greece will start with two group games against Mexico and Iran, and the best two teams from each of the two groups will then advance into the semifinals. In other words, there's little room for error, and it's certainly possible Giannis will be done with his international obligations by mid-July. Giannis' older brother Thanasis has also been named to the preliminary Greek roster, adding an extra level of significance for both.
As for the Bucks, they had reportedly been hesitant to bless Giannis' adventures with the national team, and understandably so. Playing on other continents in July and August would necessarily limit his ability to work out with the Bucks' coaching staff over the summer, and any additional risk of wear and tear is obviously something teams want to avoid. Giannis suffering a major injury would of course be a disaster, and it's common knowledge that it's fundamentally harder to do skill development work while you're practicing and playing actual games. Would putting up a 1,000 shots a day and working on point guard fundamentals under the watchful eye of Jason Kidd be better for his career than trading elbows with Tunisians in Turin? Quite possibly, but it's also difficult to fault any player for wanting to represent their country at the highest level.
It's thus a difficult decision for both sides, especially with Antetokounmpo becoming the centerpiece of the franchise's rebuilding efforts and eligible for an extension worth up to $144 million over five years this summer. While I think it's in the Bucks' best interests to lock up Giannis this summer rather than waiting for restricted free agency next summer -- even if it costs them around $18 million in potential cap space -- I wouldn't be surprised if they wait until after Giannis has safely made it through the summer before putting pen to paper on what is almost certainly going to be the richest deal in Bucks history.
NBA Draft Workouts: Ellenson flying to Milwaukee for workout
With the NBA Draft now just two weeks away, the Milwaukee Bucks figure to get very busy very soon. Former Marquette star and Rice Lake standout Henry Ellenson told reporters after a workout in Denver on Thursday that he's heading to Milwaukee next.
Marquette's Henry Ellenson is headed to Milwaukee for an individual workout next.— Harrison Wind (@NBAWind) June 9, 2016
Justin Zanik officially announced as Bucks assistant GM | Bucks.com
Former Jazz assistant GM was unofficially hired a couple weeks ago and made his first appearance at the team's predraft workouts last week. Today, the team's official press release made it official:
Zanik joins Milwaukee following a three-year stint as the assistant general manager for the Utah Jazz, where he helped facilitate contract negotiations, managed the team’s salary cap and oversaw the scouting of international prospects, among other duties.
"We are thrilled to welcome Justin Zanik to our basketball operations department," Bucks General Manager John Hammond said. "He is a proven executive who brings a diverse background and wealth of basketball knowledge to the Bucks family. We look forward to his contributions to our organization."
Zanik has been involved in all aspects of athlete representation for the past 15 years, and has been a certified agent for the National Basketball Players Association since 2003. Prior to his experience with the Jazz, he served as Vice President of ASM Sports, where he oversaw all levels of career management for ASM’s basketball clients.
The 41-year-old was also Vice President of Basketball Operations for Priority Sports & Entertainment from 1998 through 2002, where he managed European player contract negotiations and assisted in the negotiation, research and recruitment of Priority’s NBA clients.
Zanik's decision to make a lateral move predictably stoked another round of "Whose line is it anyway?" speculation about the Bucks' braintrust, but in isolation it's difficult to find anything but good things to say about landing a guy of Zanik's pedigree. Yes, I understand why some people are worried about the Bucks having too many cooks at the Cousins Center, but that doesn't mean they'd have been better off hiring a busboy as an assistant GM.
I'm not sure anyone would confuse John Hammond for a cap nerd or Jason Kidd for a cutthroat negotiator, so on paper a guy with Zanik's background seems to make tons of sense. The fact that he's also worked at two of the biggest player agencies (ASM and Priority Sports rep a combined 89 NBA clients) also offers some competition for Jeff Schwartz/Excel Sports in terms of organizational influence; those three agencies rep around a third of the entire league, so the conspiracy theories are endless. Stock up on your aluminum foil deflector beanies, people!
Location was also likely a major draw for Zanik and his family, whose roots in the Midwest are significant. Prior to becoming Dennis Lindsey's right-hand man in Utah, Zanik spent nearly two decades in Chicago, and his wife Gina is a Madison native and UW graduate. That bond to Wisconsin took on even greater meaning in 2014, when their daughter was treated at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin after struggling for months with an undiagnosed illness. Gina has since become a major advocate for rare and undiagnosed illnesses, and the Bucks were among six teams to recognize Rare Disease Day last March.