Milwaukee Bucks star and NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo does not want to discuss free agency as it is "disrespectful" towards his team-mates.

Antetokounmpo, who was named the NBA's most valuable player last season, is contracted with the Bucks until 2020-21 and his future plans have already sparked speculation around the league.

"I'm not gonna talk about it a lot this season, and I'm not going to try to address it," Antetokounmpo told reporters on Monday. 

Antetokounmpo is eligible to sign a five-year, $253.75million supermax extension next offseason, according to ESPN.

It would be the biggest in NBA history, but the "Greek Freak" would instead like to focus on the upcoming season.

Milwaukee made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, where the Bucks lost in six games to eventual NBA champions the Toronto Raptors.

"I feel like if you have a great team, and our goal is to win a championship and be the last team standing and get better each day, I think it's disrespectful towards my team-mates talking about my free agency and what I'm going through," Antetokounmpo added.

"So when the time is right, we're all gonna talk about it. I don't think the time is right."

The Bucks open their season against the Houston Rockets on October 24.

The Milwaukee Bucks have been fined $50,000 after Jon Horst promised Giannis Antetokounmpo would be offered a supermax deal next year, the NBA has confirmed.

Bucks general manager Horst said NBA MVP Antetokounmpo would be offered a five-year, $250million deal following the 2019-20 season.

Horst publicly discussed Milwaukee's plans for the Greek's contract at a fan town hall meeting in a violation of the league's ruled governing the timing of discussing player deals.

"Under NBA rules, teams cannot commit to offer a 'supermax' extension before the summer following a player's seventh season in the NBA," the league said in a statement announcing the fine.

Antetokounmpo, who turns 25 in December, will be a free agent in 2021 if he does not sign the contract extension in 2020, making him one of the most coveted players on the market.

The Bucks superstar is playing on a four-year, $100m deal he signed before the 2017-18 season.

In 72 games last season, his sixth in the NBA, Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points with 12.5 rebound and 5.9 assists, collected the MVP award and earned his third All-Star selection.

The quarter-final draw for the FIBA World Cup was completed on Monday with the United States to face France in perhaps the pick of the games.

Team USA defeated Brazil to send their opponents crashing out, with Czech Republic instead advancing having held Greece to only a narrow victory earlier in the day.

Australia edged France in Group L to avoid a last-eight meeting with defending champions USA, who will instead face the second-placed side.

Lithuania bowed out with a victory in the same pool, beating Dominican Republic 74-55.

In the classification round, Montenegro, New Zealand, Jordan and Germany achieved wins against Japan, Turkey, Senegal and Canada respectively.

New Zealand and Germany each finished top of their groups.
 

PAIN FOR GREECE AND GIANNIS

Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo could not lead Greece to World Cup glory as he fouled out for the second time in the tournament in their 84-77 win over Czech Republic.

Only a 12-point margin of victory would have been enough to keep Greece's hopes of progression alive but they could not hold on after leading 65-53 in the fourth quarter.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis' brother and Milwaukee Bucks team-mate, said: "Our first objective was to win, and then to win by 12. We paid for the game against Brazil in the first round.

"But this is basketball. Sometimes you are on top, sometimes you're on the other side."
 

USA DENY BRAZIL PROGRESSION

Czech Republic still had to wait on the final result of the day, where they needed USA to beat Brazil in order to join the American side in the next stage.

Their progression was sealed, dumping Brazil out, as Kemba Walker and Myles Turner starred with 16 points apiece in the United States' 89-73 success.

Walker also supplied five assists and Turner eight rebounds, despite the latter playing just 20 minutes and 41 seconds for Gregg Popovich's side in Shenzhen.
 

BOOMERS SCORE BIG TO BEAT FRANCE

It is Australia who will play Czech Republic next after booking a place on the opposite side of the draw to USA by handing France a narrow defeat.

A final scoreline of 100-98 represented the first time France have ever given up a century of points in a World Cup game, with Evan Fournier's 31 not enough to rescue a result.

This was the first match at the tournament with two players scoring at least 30 points, while Australia became the first to have three on 20 or more, as Patty Mills managed exactly 30, with Joe Ingles on 23 and Aron Baynes – who converted five of his six three-point attempts - on 21.

Team-mate Jock Landale said of Baynes: "He's huge. That's what he does for us. He's a stretched five, who shoots the ball really well. He is going to keep doing it for us and we are going to keep letting him shoot."

NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo fouled out as Greece were eliminated from the FIBA World Cup despite an 84-77 win over Czech Republic.

Greece needed a 12-point margin of victory to keep alive their hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals, but their star man was unable to lead the way.

The Czechs led at half-time and, despite a strong third quarter from Greece, their hopes were dashed in the final reckoning as Antetokounmpo was forced out of the game after being pinged for a contentious charge.

The Milwaukee Bucks talisman had made consecutive double-doubles in his past two games, including against the United States, but he was not as impressive on Monday.

Antetokounmpo, who fouled out with five and half minutes remaining, ended with 12 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for the 24-year-old and his team, who were 65-53 up when he came back into the game during the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Czech Republic needed the USA to beat Brazil to ensure they make the knockout phase.

NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out Greece's final FIBA World Cup warm-up match against Venezuela on Tuesday.

The Milwaukee Bucks forward is set to be his country's main man at the tournament in China after an outstanding season in the United States in which he was named MVP.

But Antetokounmpo was not available to face Venezuela after complaining of irritation in his knee and opted not to take the risk with the World Cup beginning on Saturday.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis' brother, had been dealing with a foot problem but was included in the team.

Greece begin their World Cup campaign against Montenegro on Sunday, with further group stage games against Brazil and New Zealand following next week.

James Harden believes a media narrative was behind Giannis Antetokounmpo beating him to being named NBA MVP for 2018-19.

Houston Rockets guard and 2018 MVP Harden averaged 36.1 points in the regular season – the most since Michael Jordan tallied 37.1 in 1986-87 – and went on a stunning run of 32 30-point games in succession.

However, Antetokounmpo was the best player for the Milwaukee Bucks, who finished the regular season with the best record of any team. He averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.

"[It was] one for the books. Even when I'm gone, they're going to talk about it," Harden said to 97.9 The Box of his season, before offering his thoughts on how the MVP race unfolded.

"It's out of my control. Once the media, they create a narrative about somebody from the beginning of the year, I think they just take that narrative and just run with it the entire year.

"I don't want to get into details. All I can do is control what I can do, and I went out there and did what I was supposed to do at a high level. There's only a few other seasons that anybody has ever done that before.

"People were tuned in to how many points I was going to score the next game. It was a thing. But I can't control that. The only thing I can control is coming back next year and being better than I was, and winning a championship."

The Rockets dealt Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder to add 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook to their roster for 2019-20 and Harden is eager to get going.

"I'm excited. Obviously, Chris did an unbelievable job the two years that he was here. He's helped our organisation and team a tremendous amount. But we have most of the same core guys coming back, and then we add Russ," he said.

"We all know how Russ plays, and he's even a greater guy off the court. It's difficult playing against him, just because he plays with that aggression. He plays with that anger. But it's going to be better to have him on our team now.

"Now we've got him and PJ [Tucker] … crazy together. We've got a lot of guys who are return and then you add Russ, it's something special."

On potential opponents in next year's playoffs, Harden added: "It don't even matter because we focus on ourselves. We've got so much talent in that locker room, and our organisation is so great.

"We don't pay attention to other teams. We just focus on what we control, our team, and being the best we can be. Whoever we face, let's get it on."

Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez wished their MVP-winning Milwaukee Bucks team-mate Giannis Antetokounmpo the best with Greece at the FIBA World Cup, just not against the United States.

Middleton and Lopez watched as Antetokounmpo dominated in the NBA last season after he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists while helping the Bucks clinch in the number one seed and an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Bucks pair heaped praise on Antetokounmpo, even if they are set to be his rivals at the upcoming World Cup in China.

"There are just so many possessions, so many dunks, but the vision, the unselfishness that he has, it's just so impressive for a superstar of his talent," Lopez told reporters on Wednesday. "And his work ethic is just what amazes me the most, it’s really second to none."

"Every night he steps on that court, you know he's going to give it his all," Middleton added. "You know he's due for one of those big plays."

Middleton and Lopez will not be Antetokounmpo's team-mates at the World Cup, which gets underway in China on August 31.

Antetokounmpo will lead Greece, who have been drawn in Group F alongside New Zealand, Brazil and Montenegro.

Reigning champions Team USA, meanwhile, will face Turkey, Czech Republic and Japan in Group E.

"We've spent hours in practice against each other and it will definitely be fun to get it in a real game," Middleton said. "That's my team-mate, my brother and wish him the best but hopefully not too good against us."

There is no guarantee Middleton will get a chance to match up with Antetokounmpo, but it is not out of the realm of possibility, either.

If both teams finish in the top two of their pools, they could get a chance to face off down the line.

It is something Lopez said USA are not planning for yet but admitted it would be a difficult task on defense, just like it was for every NBA team this past season.

"It would be a total team job," Lopez said. "All five guys have to be on the same page all doing our job."

After Giannis Antetokounmpo's 2018-19 season was capped off with a first – winning the MVP award – the Milwaukee Bucks star completed yet another first in a completely different sport.

Antetokounmpo had never before touched a baseball, but that changed at Yankee Stadium on Monday.

The forward towered over the Yankees' players as he got to see the field and also take a few swings in the batting cage.

It took a few tries at first. Antetokounmpo swung and missed and barely made contact on his next few attempts, but then he finally hit the ball off the tee, which caused the players who were watching to cheer.

Antetokounmpo, who was in town with his brothers promoting his new signature shoe, also watched the team's batting practice as New York prepared to host Tampa Bay.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said he is yet to reach his full potential, despite an NBA MVP-winning season.

Antetokounmpo capped off his sixth season in the league with MVP honours after edging James Harden and Paul George.

The 'Greek Freak' led the Bucks to the Eastern Conference Finals before Milwaukee fell to eventual champions the Toronto Raptors.

"There's a lot of things I can improve on," Antetokounmpo told ESPN. "First of all, [I have to] look at myself before I look at anybody else. Try to self-improve as much as possible. There are a lot of things that I got to work on in my game.

"A lot of people say, 'You are the MVP, you are one of the best players in the league, you are so dominant. But I think I can get better. I think I am at 60 percent of my potential, as good as I can be. I just want to be better. If I am in the same situation again [in the conference finals], react better, play the game better, play better, execute better."

Despite the disappointing playoff exit to the Raptors, Antetokounmpo made a strong case for himself when he helped Milwaukee to the NBA's best record at 60-22.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game.

He shot 57.8 per cent from the field but just 25.6 per cent from behind the arc in the regular season.

Antetokounmpo nearly bested his regular-season averages in the playoffs, recording 25.5 points and 12.3 rebounds throughout the postseason for the Bucks. But he struggled at times as Toronto zeroed in on him during the conference finals.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo has called the roster changes around the NBA "insane" after a stunning series of trades and free agency signings.

Star names Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook and Paul George have been on the move in a sensational off-season.

"A lot of star players have a lot of power right now. This is the league we live in," Antetokounmpo told ESPN. "Like people ask for a trade and a trade happens. Players ask for a trade, 'I want to get traded there', and players go there. It's insane."

Leonard opted to join the Los Angeles Clippers in free agency, shaking up the Eastern Conference after he had led the Toronto Raptors to their first title in the franchise's history.

"For me personally, I would love for Kawhi to stay in the East and stay in Toronto because I would love to go through the series [with them] again," Antetokounmpo added.

"But unfortunately, this is the NBA we are talking about. Moves happen. People change teams. But we [have] got an opportunity right now. We [have] got to take advantage of it, and hopefully we can seize the opportunity and make big things happen.

"You can see a lot of stars all over the place. Clippers, Lakers, Brooklyn, Sixers, Boston ... it's good."

Despite the number of moves throughout the league, Antetokounmpo, entering his seventh season with Milwaukee, believes he can stay with the Bucks and win a championship.

"I want to be a part of a winning team," Antetokounmpo continued. "As long as we have the same mindset and same approach to the game, there's no reason for me to move and not be like Steph [Curry], not like be like Dirk [Nowitzki] or Kobe [Bryant] or Tim Duncan.

"I think it's good to control your own destiny and your own career."

The balance of power continues to shift in the NBA, as Kawhi Leonard's decision to join the Los Angeles Clippers makes the league a lot more interesting.

At the beginning of 2018-19, many seemed to believe the road to the NBA Finals ran through the Boston Celtics. Then the Milwaukee Bucks posted the best record in the league just a year removed from finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference. 

But it was the Toronto Raptors who dethroned the
Golden State Warriors in the end, and now they will have a new look without their superstar. Plenty of other teams are hungry for glory and now is the perfect time to strike.

Here are three teams that could now take over the Eastern Conference:

 

Milwaukee Bucks

The Eastern Conference is now wide open, but the Bucks are ahead of the pack. After all, they retained two All-Stars — one being reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee underwent a serious transformation under Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer last season. Antetokounmpo has put up historically strong numbers in the paint, but the Bucks were also among the league leaders in three-point attempts.

Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez will likely be constants, but it remains to be seen how the chemistry will be after losing Malcolm Brogdon.

Milwaukee simply have the centrepiece every other team wish they had in Antetokounmpo, so there is no reason to count them out just yet.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers may have lost an All-Star-calibre player in Jimmy Butler this offseason, but they will be just fine.

Philadelphia were one circus buzzer-beater away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals last season and are bringing back plenty of talent in 2019-20. The 76ers flipped Butler to the Miami Heat in exchange for Josh Richardson and lured Al Horford away from the Celtics, giving them what might be the best defensive line-up in basketball.

Small Ball? Philadelphia have never heard of it, as the shortest wingspan on their current roster is 6-10. 

The 76ers' starting group will likely feature Richardson, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, Al Horford and Joel Embiid. And then there is second-year guard Zhaire Smith, who was voted the most athletic player in the 2018 NBA Draft by his peers but missed most of last season due to an unfortunate allergic reaction.

Philadelphia have size, playmaking, strong defense and four players that could get legitimate All-Star consideration in the coming season. Embiid's questionable health could be a facto but getting a versatile big like Horford that can fill in if he goes down will definitely keep the 76ers in contender conversations.

Brooklyn Nets

Even if Kevin Durant cannot play until 2020, the Nets should be better this season. They lost D'Angelo Russell to the Warriors, but Kyrie Irving can be a considerable upgrade if the pieces come together just right.

Both Russell and Irving are high-usage guards, but Irving is more efficient and poses the kind of threat that makes every player on the opposing team watch him when the ball is in his hands. 

Brooklyn added veterans in DeAndre Jordan and Garrett Temple that should pair nicely with returning pieces like Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris, who was one of the most prolific three-point shooters in 2018-19 — converting 47.4 per cent from beyond the arc.

But the wild card is Caris LeVert, who arguably was the Nets' best player before a leg injury sidelined him last November. The 24-year-old guard was establishing himself as Brooklyn's go-to guy and now he has had a whole offseason to recover after showing flashes of his potential in the 2018-19 playoffs.

Adding Durant to a group like this could prove to be lethal and would certainly make the Nets a force to be reckoned with.

Nikola Mirotic has left the NBA to sign with Euroleague club Barcelona, the team confirmed on Saturday.

Mirotic, formerly a Real Madrid player, had been expected to be one of the top NBA free agents on the market this week after leaving the Milwaukee Bucks, with the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks linked.

It was reported he would have received offers of more than $45million had he stayed in the league, but it was also speculated he wanted a bigger role than would be on the table.

Former Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Pelicans forward Mirotic has instead signed a deal to keep him at Barca until 2022, with the option of a fourth season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was overcome with emotion as he delivered a heartfelt speech after being crowned the NBA's Most Valuable Player.

Milwaukee Bucks star Antetokounmpo was named the 2018-19 MVP ahead of James Harden and Paul George at the NBA awards in Los Angeles on Monday.

Antetokounmpo joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the second Bucks player to win the MVP, capping a stellar season for the 24-year-old Greek sensation in Milwaukee.

"Obviously my dad is not here with me..." Antetokounmpo said as the crowd encouraged him with applause.

"Two years ago, I had to go in my head that I'm going to be the best player in the league, that I'm going to do whatever it takes to help my team win and that I'm going to win the MVP and every day that I step on the floor I always think about my dad.

"That motivates me and pushes me to play hard and move forward even when my body's sore, even when I don't feel like playing I always go show up."

Antetokounmpo, who finished his sixth season with the Bucks, was a favourite heading into the night, along with 2017-18 recipient and Houston Rockets star Harden.

He made a strong case for himself when he helped Milwaukee to the NBA's best record at 60-22 before a run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Antetokounmpo's efforts — 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game — saw him honoured as the league's best player.

"MVP is not about stats and numbers. It is all about winning and all about making sure you go out there and do everything you can to win," Antetokounmpo – who became the youngest winner since Derrick Rose in 2010-11 – said. "I think that is what we did as a team."

Antetokounmpo added: "This is just the beginning. My goal is to win a championship, as my dad taught me. Always want more and never be greedy. My goal is to win a championship and I will do whatever it takes to make that happen."

Can any team stop the Golden State Warriors?

The reigning champions are the favourites to claim the NBA title for a third straight year. Considering they added DeMarcus Cousins to a roster that already included four All-Stars, it is not hard to see why.

But the start of the playoffs is a time for positive thinking, not pessimism. Of the 15 others still left standing at the regular season, some have higher hopes than others.

Here, we look at the leading contenders to dethrone the Warriors, ranking them in order of who may have the best chance of success against Steve Kerr's roster.

 

1. HOUSTON ROCKETS 
 
Season record: 53-29
 
Season record against the Warriors: 3-1 

The Rockets top these rankings despite being the fourth seed in the West. However, it should not be forgotten that a year ago they pushed the Warriors to a seven-game series in the Conference Finals, with an injury to Chris Paul hampering their attempt to end Golden State's reign. 

This season they have won three of their four meetings with the reigning NBA champions, having turned around a poor start - they were 11-14 early in December - thanks mainly to James Harden, who made the step-back three-pointer an art form as he took his game to a new level.  

Coach Mike D'Antoni has Houston launching from long range at an astonishing rate - they had a record 27 attempts in a win over the Phoenix Suns this month - but their playoff hopes will revolve around Harden. They can only hope his usage level in the regular season does not catch up with the MVP candidate down the stretch. 


2. TORONTO RAPTORS 

Season record: 58-24

Season record against the Warriors: 2-0 

Toronto made drastic changes with the aim of altering their playoff fortunes. They suffered at the hands of LeBron James in recent years, including being swept a year ago by his Cleveland Cavaliers in the East semi-finals, but that is a problem they do not have to worry about in 2019 (enjoy watching on, LeBron!). 

General manager Masai Ujiri appointed a new coach – Nick Nurse – and acquired a different leading man – Kawhi Leonard – with the aim of exorcising some of the postseason ghosts that haunt the Canadian franchise and their fans. Pascal Siakam's emergence, making him the leading contender to be named the league's most improved player, should help.

Leonard has won a title previously with the San Antonio Spurs and is in a select group who can genuinely have a chance when going toe to toe with Kevin Durant. It could be one and done for Kawhi (he has a player option for next year), though, so Ujiri has pushed all his chips into the centre of the table in the hope his hand is strong enough to hit the jackpot.

 

3. MILWAUKEE BUCKS 

Record: 60-22

Record against the Warriors: 1-1 

The Bucks posted the best record in the NBA. They have Giannis Antetokounmpo, a ridiculously gifted 24-year-old (Twenty. Four. Good luck for the next decade, rest of the NBA) who is battling Harden to be crowned the league's MVP. 

Yet while Antetokounmpo's continued rise to superstardom has helped take the franchise from seventh to first in the Eastern Conference, the appointment of coach Mike Budenholzer has also been crucial. His version of the Bucks have averaged more points and more attempts from beyond the arc than any other team – and that includes the shot-happy Warriors. 

Milwaukee failed to clear the first hurdle in the postseason last year, losing in seven to the Boston Celtics, but have greater depth this time around. They will need other contributors too, as opposing teams will focus on finding ways to stop, or at least slow down, the explosive Antetokounmpo. 

 

4. BOSTON CELTICS 

Season record: 49-33

Season record against the Warriors: 1-1

Will the real Celtics show up in the playoffs? Boston were tipped to top the East yet finished fourth after a see-saw campaign that saw plenty of indifferent performances and far too much talk from their players in the media. 

Still, underestimate them at your peril. In Kyrie Irving they have a proven performer at this stage of a campaign, someone who helped the Cleveland Cavaliers rally from 3-1 down to beat the Warriors in 2016, plus a supporting cast that allows coach Brad Stevens to adapt to both opposing teams and a hot hand. 

Marcus Smart's injury leaves them minus a key defensive cog in the early rounds, but the combative guard should be back if Boston makes it all the way to the NBA Finals. For the Celtics, it is all about the destination, rather than the uncomfortable journey they have been on in recent months. 

 

5. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS 

Season record: 51-31

Season secord against the Warriors: 1-1 

'The Process' paid off for the 76ers. They drafted Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons but raised the expectation levels this season by trading for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, giving them a strong starting five when you add in JJ Reddick. 

However, there are still concerns - particularly when it comes to facing Golden State. Simmons' shooting, or lack of – he had just six three-point attempts in the regular season, making none of them – is something the Warriors do not have to worry about, allowing them to focus elsewhere, potentially Embiid (who has injury issues to deal with at the start of the playoffs). 

The moves to add Butler and Harris have left the bench a little thin. Still, before they can contemplate about going up against the Warriors, they must work their way out of the East. 

 

6. DENVER NUGGETS 

Season record: 54-28

Season record against the Warriors: 1-3 

Denver defeated Golden State in their first meeting back in October but lost the remaining three regular season games, with the Warriors overtaking the early pacesetters to finish top of the West. 

Worryingly for the Nuggets, Nikola Jokic combined for 43 points in those three defeats. The gifted center is a focal point for Mike Malone's team, taking plenty of the playmaking responsibilities away from whichever combination of guards are out on the court alongside him. 

Yet this is uncharted territory for Jokic and his colleagues. The Nuggets excelled in the regular season, but the playoffs are different. Paul Millsap's experience will help a young roster, and they are also aided by not having to worry about the Warriors until the Conference Finals. Can they make it that far, though?

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