Milwaukee Bucks fans have been (understandably) on-edge this offseason. Knowing that the supermax extension for Giannis Antetokounmpo looms over the future of the franchise, every single report, rumor, and opinion has been taken a little more seriously (even if they deserve far less than that). The fanbase was becoming more and more restless as training camp commenced, and Giannis had not been one of the players available to speak to the media...until today.
Of course, the media available on the Zoom call hosted by the Bucks (and streamed on their app!) was going to ask about the extension. But would Giannis say anything in his answers? After the major moves of the offseason were made and the general optimism surrounding Milwaukee retaining their superstar gave way to relative radio silence, each day passed without any news one way or the other regarding whether Giannis would commit to the franchise long-term by signing the Designated Veteran Player Extension before the December 21 deadline.
Today, it seems, is not the day where that news will break.
Giannis was asked several times about his contract extension, whether he would sign it or what he wants to see before he signs it or what he would ask from the team (6am custard, apparently) in order to sign it...and each time, Giannis answered the same way: I’m letting my agent handle that, and I’m focusing on basketball.
Giannis made his first public comments since arriving at Bucks training camp, noting he's "not focused" on the supermax offer he can either sign or not by December 21. Video here, with real-time reaction from @DarthAmin and @Chiney: pic.twitter.com/3AWe8ibqnJ— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) December 9, 2020
For what it’s worth, the December 21 deadline is the timeframe for the supermax extension, but as ESPN’s Bobby Marks points out, Giannis is still technically eligible for any extension through the duration of the regular season, just not the supermax. In any case, though, Bucks fans are taking the (lack of) news hard, because any sign of indecision or lack of confidence on Giannis’ part could be a death knell to Milwaukee’s hopes of retaining the two-time NBA MVP.
For my part, I choose to take his words at face value. Giannis hasn’t signed the supermax yet because his agent (Alex Saratsis, who has clearly been given control over the process) and Bucks general manager Jon Horst are still in discussions about it, and negotiating with each other to try and reach a conclusion that serves the best interest of everyone involved. For Horst, the supermax would allow the Bucks to lock Giannis in for the next six years (rather than the next one, since Giannis is an unrestricted free agent next offseason), tying up huge chunks of the salary cap in the process.
Is that in Giannis’ best interests? It’s possible that he (and by he, I mean Saratsis, not Antetokounmpo) might be better served by signing a shorter extension for less money, perhaps with a player option at the end of it) that allows the NBA to navigate past the financial “hardship” they’ve faced since the COVID-19 pandemic undermined the league’s economic projections. No matter what, these conversations are happening behind closed doors, and so far we haven’t gotten a whiff of what might be a part of those conversations.
So, for now, we will continue to wait.