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Giannis Withdraws from EuroBasket due to Injury

Greece responded to the news with strong implications of foul play

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Philadelphia 76ers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Giannis Antetokounmpo has long been a strong advocate for playing on his Greek National Team and he had been practicing with them in preparation for EuroBasket 2017. Even after the announcement of a minor knee injury, he remained with the team and was trying to work through the pain. Yesterday though, he announced via his Instagram (the post is now deleted) that he wouldn’t be able to participate in the tournament this year due to said injury. For those curious what it said, Eric Nehm was able to snag a translation in time:

Giannis had been in China serving as an NBA ambassador and the plan was for him to join back up with the Greek National Team before the August 31 start date of EuroBasket. He managed to suit up for just one of their warm up games due to his lingering knee issues and Giannis indicates the pain hasn’t necessarily subsided. Milwaukee, obviously fearful of their prized possession being ready to start the season, administered a physical in China and the decision was made for Giannis to withdraw from competition. This in itself isn’t irregular given most teams would prefer if their international players would avoid furthering a potential injury in a competition that isn’t directly related to their team.

What is irregular was the impending response to this announcement by the Greek Basketball Federation. Their strongly worded statement seemed to illustrate foul play on the part of not just the Milwaukee Bucks, but the NBA at large. Here’s the full transcript, courtesy once again of the ever-vigilant Eric Nehm:

Now this is of course a translation so it’s possible to misinterpret bits and pieces, but they certainly didn’t mask their own beliefs. Perhaps the most interesting part is how they implicate not just the Bucks organization for their Machiavellian plot to withhold Giannis from playing ever since his arrival, but they insinuate the NBA actually endorsed this plan. That is a serious allegation and one that the NBA responded to yesterday with their own:

“The NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks have followed all appropriate protocol under the NBA-FIBA agreement. Giannis has an injury that has been confirmed through multiple examinations and any suggestion to the contrary is false.”

Now, I tend to side with the NBA and the Bucks on this one, particularly given the fact Giannis has complained of knee pain for some time. Personally, I also think this seems like the right move on the part of both the Bucks and Giannis. With his new contract kicking in, there’s even more reason not to lose any of his potential productivity to a competition that impacts Giannis more personally than financially.

Giannis has been incredibly durable during his time with the Bucks too, having not played in only 10 games with Milwaukee, most of those either coming from a coach’s decision, illness or player suspension. Testing the impressiveness of that streak is not something Milwaukee should tamper with, particularly given how much they’ll need to rely on Giannis to stay on the floor for both his defensive and offensive prowess. Obviously it’s unfortunate Giannis can’t play with his home country, and you can sense his disappointment in that message, but this seems like the right move for all parties involved.

As for the Greek National Team lobbing shade at the NBA and Milwaukee, they indicated they will release all the behind the scenes details of this “extremely interesting” story when the time is right. I guess we’ll hear their side of the story then, but I can’t say I’m particularly inclined to believe or side with them. Giannis is too vital to mess around with, so I’m cool with him enjoying a few gyros from the stands instead.