The Milwaukee Bucks are in a familiar situation with Giannis Antetokounmpo. In multiple interviews over the last few weeks, the former league MVP has made clear that he will only sign an extension with the team if he believes they are still all-in on competing for a championship. He said something similar the last time he was up for an extension, and after the team traded for Jrue Holiday, he put pen to paper on a new deal and won his first title a few months later.
This time around, Milwaukee has a little bit of time before he can hit the open market, as Antetokounmpo is under contract each of the next two seasons before he has to make a decision on his player option in 2025. But there’s a whole lot of time between now and then, and in recent comments to Tim Bontemps of ESPN, one of his teammates made clear that he’s not too worried.
“I think it’s kind of business as usual either way,” Khris Middleton said. “It doesn’t affect me personally. I don’t think it affects us as a team. I think this is something he said almost every year he’s come up in contract extension talks.”
Middleton made it a point to say that everyone in Milwaukee wants Antetokounmpo, who he referred to as “one of the best players in the world,” to stick around. At the same time, he recognizes why he’s making it a point to challenge everyone within the Bucks organization — himself included — to do whatever it takes to be in a position to compete.
“But I think it’s just something that he just wants to keep putting pressure on everybody,” Middleton said. “And that’s himself also. He’s not just pointing a finger at everybody else saying, ‘You guys have to do this for me. I think he’s putting that pressure on himself to be better, to come in and be great every year. So there’s no pressure on, there’s no added pressure when he says that to us as a team, or me as a person, that I have to be better.”
Middleton, of course, was teammates with Antetokounmpo the last time he made clear what needed to happen for him to sign a new deal with the Bucks, so it makes sense why he’d take this approach. It certainly helps that Milwaukee is in a position to make a run at a championship this year, as the team will enter the 2023-24 campaign with the third-best odds to life the Larry O’Brien trophy.