As you surely know by now, the Milwaukee Bucks held a press conference Tuesday to formally announce Giannis Antetokounmpo’s new four-year, $100 million contract extension. Our staff provided their reactions this morning, and last night Frank Madden and I got together to record a podcast reacting to some of what we heard at the presser.
As mentioned in the podcast, I had the chance to join a media scrum after the press conference to chat with one of Giannis’ two agents, Alex Saratsis. Below, you will find some of our conversation transcribed.
What has impressed you most about Giannis from the time he was drafted to right now?
Just his growth as an individual. Coming in here as an 18-year old kid who didn’t speak English. I was driving up here helping him buy sheets and bedding. And when he was here before his family was here, it was a lot of driving up. I was in Chicago. I am from Greece, so we spent a lot of time talking together. His growth as a human being has been the most impressive thing. When his family finally came over, it was sort of a step above how he’d been growing. Seeing his development as a player, as a person. It’s been amazing. It’s been a really, really fun ride.
I’ll tell you this, still the most humble kid I’ve ever worked with. I don’t think anything has changed him. This morning, we were talking about signing the contract and he said, “Can we push it back? Because I need to work out in the morning.” That shows the kind of kid that he is. That’s been the most amazing thing. That will not change. That hasn’t changed and I think it will continue to be this way.
How will this contract change him? Will it change him?
Not at all. This is a kid, who two summers ago, we were in Taiwan with an NBA event, he said, “I don’t care about the money. I want to be one of the best players to ever play the game.” And that has been his approach the whole time he’s been here.
How about his development on the court? Did you see this coming? Did you know he could be this good?
I think anybody who sits here and tells you, “I could see this coming” would be lying. I mean, you bring a mold of clay — he came in as a mold of clay — a mold of clay can be changed into whatever it is that you want it to be and you have no idea. His growth on the court, I don’t think anyone expected and for it to be this fast.
And we still talk about, his rookie year, had there not been all the injuries, had people not been out, you never know how this turns out. But halfway through the season, this isn’t going the way we expected to, go ahead. Let’s give it a shot. And I think that’s what propelled him. And then Coach Kidd’s confidence to let him run the point. His development has been amazing.
I think you’re talking about a 21-year old kid who hasn’t even scratched the surface of what it is that he can do. And you talk to guys around the league and they say he’s one of the most difficult people to figure out. And once he adds different elements and starts feeling a little more comfortable - he’s a matchup nightmare as is, but it’ll continue to be that way.
Michael Redd was the highest paid Buck of all time with a six year, $91 million contract. Now, here’s this kid from Greece with a four year, $100 million contract. Does it make you shake your head a little?
Yeah. It’s an amazing thing. It’s an amazing thing. It’s all attributed to his hard work, to what he’s done, his perseverance. I mean, you have to think, this is a kid who came from where he came from and to come here and be successful, he deserves every penny.
For him, the most important thing is the Bucks treated him like family. They’ve helped his family. The owners have been great. There was no question, he didn’t want to go anywhere else. He’s told me and he’s said this — he wants to do what — not with Kevin Durant leaving now, but — he wants to do what Kevin Durant did for Oklahoma City. He wants to do what Kobe did. To be that player that was here from the first day and he finishes here. And leaves a lasting legacy on the organization.
There’s no fifth year in the deal. For some guys, being a max player or being a team’s single designated player is a big thing, was that a part of the conversation?
See, I think it’s interesting. This is where he is cut from a different cloth. And he said, “If this helps the team out, then I have no problem.” And from my standpoint, well, why not be a free agent a year earlier? It gives you a lot of opportunity. You can renegotiate a contract three years after the date it was signed. So, you look and say there are a lot of positives.
His thing, though, is — we were talking about it the other day — “I was selling pencils in the street six years ago.” Like, what are we talking about? An opportunity for him to be here? That was the most important thing for him. If I can help the team out and it gives me a chance to be here, I’m fine with it.
And as an agent, I can say we can do this or we can do this, but at the end of the day, I work for him. And if he says, this is what I want and I’m okay, then after that, it’s all conjecture.
Pretty easy process?
Yeah. Pretty easy process. Like John [Hammond] said, when you have two people willing to do a deal, it gets done. It gets done.
After the All-Star Break last season, our post-game interviews with Giannis became a lot more fun. He seemed to be more comfortable. It seemed like he realized, “I’m the guy for this team. I’m the one that needs to talk to the media after games. Could you feel that with him too?
See, for me, it was never “I’m the guy” on the team. It’s just that’s who he is. If I’m hanging out with him at his house, all he’s doing is cracking jokes and now he feels more comfortable to do that. I don’t think he’s ever been like, “This is my team. I’m going to do this.”
I kind of go back to that dinner in Taiwan. We were sitting there for three hours and he was just like, “I just want to win. Whether I get the credit or someone else gets the credit, I don’t care. As long as we win, that’s all that matters to me.” So, I don’t think there’s ever been that transition to “well, now I’m the guy” and I think even with this contract, I don’t think it’s going to be “well, now I’m the man”. It’s “Okay. What do I do to help my teammates win? What do I do to get better?” and you see that when he’s willing to say if this helps the team out, I’ll take a little bit less. And that shows the kind of kid that he is.
Yeah. And then maybe Jabari is still his teammate...
Yeah. You know when John [Hammond] brings it up, you say if you shave a little here, a little there...all of a sudden, you have $8 or 9 million in cap room and you can go get a Delly. You can go get somebody else. In this day and age, the cap is increasing, but you still want to have that flexibility.
And when Giannis is saying, “Yeah. That’s okay with me. And I’m willing to do that to help the team win.” As an agent, you say I gotta get the most money, I gotta get the most money, but in the human perspective and he’s saying, “Geez. That’s $100 million. That’s a lot of money. I didn’t have two pencils to rub together. I’m happy. This is great for me.”
Some guys change when they get a contract like this, but even on his rookie contract he was rich compared to how he was living in Greece...
Oh my gosh, yeah. I mean, we talked about it the other day. It took him three years to finally have his own apartment apart from his family. And he was already rich (on his rookie deal). I don’t think it’s going to change him at all because when you grow up the way he grew up and now you know your family is okay? Now, it’s about winning. And this was never about — even, the last three years, it was never about I gotta play better to get a new contract...I gotta play better because I want to be a better player.
Was there any significance to $100 million? It’s a nice round number...
Oh, it’s a beautiful round number. It’s a nice number, but it wasn’t even like, “We’ve gotta get this figure.” Because that was never it for him. He just said, “Listen. When you think it’s fair, bring it to me. Let me decide.” I said this is what it is. He said, “This is perfect. This is what I want.”
It’s escalating, right?
Yeah. So if we wanted to renegotiate and do the extension, it is off the highest number.
Per year? What does it start at?
Uhh...short of 23.
At its highest?
Just shy of 28.
So, it’s good for him too. So, it’s both sides.
It’s both sides. At the end of the day, he wanted to be here. You could drag this out for another month. You could drag this out over the next year, but he was like, “That’s not who I am. I’m not going to hold a gun to their head and say I need these extra, I believe, it’s five and change over the next four years. I want to be here. I want to be able to go into camp. Be happy. Be content. And kind of know what’s next.”
So, at the end of the day, as agents, yes, we try to get the best deal possible, but ultimately, we work for them. And I think a lot of people lose perspective of that because I have to show this or that...No. If (your client) says this is what I want and he’s happy, my job is to just do that.