Before Wednesday, it wouldn’t have been crazy to think that some Bucks fans were on the precipice of panic. Their star — Giannis Antetokounmpo — had publicly stated that he won’t sign an extension until he gets a title commitment from the front office. And their new co-owner — Jimmy Haslam, who is also the majority owner of the Cleveland Browns — had proven how incompetent he can be by giving one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL — Deshaun Watson — a $230 million guaranteed contract. And then, out of nowhere, Damian Lillard showed up in Milwaukee.
I guess something had to give.
As the sports world is being dominated by NFL headlines and the stupid people making stupid comments about what’s happening at Colorado in the world of college football, basketball’s return is quickly approaching. One of the bigger under-told stories of the offseason had been the potential roadblock Haslam could wind up being in Antetokounmpo’s ultimate decision, as Haslam appears to be everything Antetokounmpo wants to get away from.
“I would not be the best version of myself if I don’t know that everybody’s on the same page, everybody’s going for a championship, everybody’s going to sacrifice time away from their family like I do. And if I don’t feel that, I’m not signing,” he told the New York Times last month.
The Greek Freak is approaching a big decision as he’s about to enter the third season of a five-year, $228 million supermax extension. He has a player option after the 2024-25 season.
“At the end of the day, being a winner, it’s over that goal,” Antetokounmpo told the Times. “Winning a championship comes first. I don’t want to be 20 years on the same team and don’t win another championship.”
It felt like a transcendent star was getting frustrated with the stagnation of a small-market team and wanted more, on top of the fact that new ownership from the world of the NFL was going to have some say on how things turned out. And then a bomb was dropped when Lillard was traded to the Bucks in a three-team deal that saw Milwaukee lose Jrue Holiday and Grayson Allen — two starters.
“In sports, it’s coach, GM, you have to have somebody good on the business side like we do with Peter [Feigin], and then it’s a matter of getting the right players,” Haslam told The Athletic back in April. “The NFL is very specific — you gotta have a quarterback. The NBA, you’ve gotta have one really great player and two really good players. That’s what they’ve done a great job of here.”
Those words from five months ago almost seem prophetic, as Antetokounmpo now has Lillard, and Khris Middleton as his running mates. But, here’s the part where I remind you that Haslam’s mouth has also gotten him in trouble.
“And you can say, ‘Well that’s because he’s a star quarterback.’ Well, of course,” he said about why he signed Watson — a quarterback that needed 30 women to reach settlements with the Houston Texans from when he was accused of sexual misconduct — to the Browns. Haslam said the quiet part out loud about why he gave Watson the biggest guaranteed deal in NFL history — despite him missing an entire season largely due to all the egregious, toxic, and disgusting baggage that comes along with him. Because of that, some Browns fans followed Haslam’s lead and showed up at the stadium in “support” of Watson wearing T-shirts that read “BITCH GIVE ME A MASSAGE!,” as there appeared to be a father-and-son duo that had signs with a message, “FUCK THEM HOES” and “FREE WATSON.”
If you’re a Bucks fan, you don’t want any of that Browns energy coming your way.
Also, here’s a reminder of how bad Haslam’s $230 million investment is playing at the moment.
No matter whom the Milwaukee Bucks add to or subtract from their roster, how the season ends will play the largest role in Antetokounmpo’s decision, as it remains to be seen how all the pieces will fit together. And while we don’t know if Haslam had anything to do with the Lillard trade, we do know that he will have a say in the Bucks’ future. In the NFL, owners have all the power. In the NBA, the stars have the juice. Keep an eye out on the Milwaukee Bucks this is destined to get interesting.