The 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup is officially underway, and the Milwaukee Bucks are not short of representation. With a strong international presence on the roster, the Bucks boast 5 members who are representing their countries in China. Here’s a quick look at how they’re doing:
Khris Middleton, USA
While the membership on Team USA saw members back out left and right leading up to the tourney, Middleton remained committed and ended up one of the team’s most well-known players.
Latest for @Bucks: Khris Middleton is set to play a key role in Team USA's at the @FIBAWC.— Kane Pitman (@KanePitman) August 31, 2019
One conversation with Gregg Popovich in Vegas during the Summer on 2018 assured him he belongs.https://t.co/DyUdm6xtct
Despite his standing with the squad, Middleton has remained consistent overseas with what he offered in Milwaukee; complementary contributions that go relatively unnoticed instead of dominating the contest. In the first official game against the Czech Republic, Middleton didn’t make the game recap despite a strong (for international play) output of 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists. In the exhibition games leading up to this, though, Middleton seemed to struggle, but this is unsurprising for a player who relies as much on rhythm as Middleton does. All in all, he seems happy to fill in the gaps that Gregg Popovich and Team USA needs filled, and enjoy the experience even if his play goes under the radar.
Brook Lopez, USA
Speaking of under the radar...wait, never mind, that’s not the style of a Lopez twin.
The fans wanted Brook Lopez in the game, so Coach Pop granted them their wish!— NBA TV (@NBATV) August 26, 2019
: NBA TV | @FIBAWC pic.twitter.com/lvIVeAyrBN
The Australian crowd just decided to embrace Brook Lopez like a rock star and I have no idea why it happened but I enjoyed the weirdness of it anyway.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) August 26, 2019
Lopez is a big personality, though his impact on Team USA’s play has been much smaller. Despite his three-point gunnery and the fact that the only other centers on the roster are Myles Turner and Mason Plumlee, Lopez hasn’t found a significant groove thus far...which also speaks to the relative ease Team USA has found up to this point. Brook is well-loved by the people but plays less in favor of the more-mobile Turner; he logged only 9 minutes and scored 2 points and a block against the Czech Republic, and it’s unclear how much he’ll be relied upon against the Americans’ next opponent...
Ersan Ilyasova, Turkey
Look out, USA. You’re staring down the barrel of Turkish Thunder himself on Tuesday morning.
Turkey won 86-67 in their First Round victory vs. Japan!— NBA (@NBA) September 1, 2019
Ersan Ilyasova: 19 PTS, 10 REB@cediosman: 12 PTS @FurkanKorkmaz: 10 PTS#TürkiyeGotGame #FIBAWC pic.twitter.com/YooJbxRv72
Ilyasova was Turkey’s most productive player against Japan, scoring 19 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and a block, including knocking down 5 three pointers. He’s a known quantity in the NBA, but with his midrange mastery and the (slightly) shorter three-point line in international play, Ersan’s stats go to a whole other level when playing for Turkey. He will likely have a harder time with the athleticism of USA’s wing defenders, and might even match up against Khris or Brook, letting the world get a glimpse of what Bucks practice might be like.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Greece
The “other” Antetokounmbro in Milwaukee, Thanasis has performed better than initially expected for Greece, at least based on the impression some Bucks fans have of him. Against Montenegro, Thanasis put in 8 points and a block (with 4 fouls...), and in the earlier friendlies he was showing off some significant shooting range and his elite-level athleticism.
⚡️ @Thanasis_ante43 CHASEDOWN!!#HellasGotGame | #FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/iCD4I3CyUY— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) August 16, 2019
Greece Serbia— Stefanos Marolachakis (@marolas30) August 18, 2019
@Thanasis_ante43 hits a 3-point shot and sends the game into overtime! Then, he celebrates with his brother!#FIBAWC #Hellas #MondialiTipo #HellasGotGame #GoBucks #NBA #antetokounmpo pic.twitter.com/ajZAqJQ4mp
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece
Back at it!!— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) August 18, 2019
@Giannis_An34#HellasGotGame | #FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/VSl12JYFW9
OH MY GOODNESS. pic.twitter.com/5oN10r4kzd— Kane Pitman (@KanePitman) September 1, 2019
Greece runs a Horns set here with Giannis popping. Forget the action. Giannis takes two dribbles here and scores. One of them is a rhythm dribble, the other is a crossover. He got to the rim off one crossover. pic.twitter.com/jQZScqARNW— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) September 1, 2019
In merely fifteen minutes in Greece’s first tournament game, Giannis logged 10 points, 8 boards, 2 steals, and a block, in addition to the aforementioned highlights.
Giannis is Giannis. He’s the (Greek) freakin’ NBA MVP. It would be newsworthy if he didn’t have a set of dominating highlight plays in any game, be it NBA, FIBA, pickup, 2K, or anything in between. He did sport a new Hellenic color way of his Zoom Freak 1s (which look great, of course), and aside from some consternation of missing the last exhibition game with knee soreness, Giannis is being himself and we’re all along for the ride. Now if only we could get past the pronunciation of his name...
Giannis 4/5 en route to 10 early points as Greece up 26-11 early. My only complaint: they somehow found the only announcer who still think it’s pronounced “Jee-yannis”— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) September 1, 2019