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Giannis says he won’t sign extension with Bucks yet, fueling Warriors speculation

Giannis says he won’t sign extension with Bucks yet, fueling Warriors speculation

The Warriors fan base has spent years hoping — wishcasting and pining, really — for Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo to come to Golden State.

But while that move has felt extremely unlikely for years, it may feel a little more likely now.

In an expansive New York Times profile that mainly focuses on his business ventures, Antetokounmpo said he is not signing an extension with the Bucks this offseason, when he is eligible to add on three years to the deal. And while he said playing an entire career with one team is a goal of his, it is not his more important one.

“But at the end of the day, being a winner, it’s over that goal,” he said. “Winning a championship comes first. I don’t want to be 20 years on the same team and don’t win another championship.”

Those comments should only further fuel speculation about Antetokounmpo’s future with the Bucks — and let other NBA teams like the Warriors know that the two-time MVP and 2021 Finals MVP could try to force his way out of Milwaukee.

The Bucks finished 2022-23 with the best record in the NBA at 58-24, but were shockingly eliminated by the No. 8 seed Miami Heat in five games. Antetokounmpo exited Game 1 early, missed the next two games and returned but struggled from the free-throw line in the eliminating loss, missing 13 free throws in Game 5.

In the aftermath of that loss, the Bucks fired head coach Mike Budenholzer, later hiring former Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin to the role. Antetokounmpo cited the coaching change as a major reason why he isn’t signing an extension right now.

“You’ve got to see the dynamics,” he said. “How the coach is going to be, how we’re going to be together. At the end of the day, I feel like all my teammates know and the organization knows that I want to win a championship. As long as we’re on the same page with that and you show me and we go together to win a championship, I’m all for it. The moment I feel like, oh, yeah, we’re trying to rebuild —”

Antetokounmpo paused before adding, “There will never be hard feelings with the Milwaukee Bucks. I believe that we’ve had 10 unbelievable years, and there’s no doubt I gave everything for the city of Milwaukee. Everything. Every single night, even when I’m hurt. I am a Milwaukee Buck. I bleed green. I know this.”

Milwaukee has not made any major changes to the roster this offseason, electing to re-sign wing Khris Middleton and center Brook Lopez. Their roster will still be built around Antetokounmpo, Middleton and point guard Jrue Holiday.

Antetokounmpo is entering the third year of a five-year extension he signed in before the 2020-21 season, but the fifth year is a player option. He’s set to make $45.6 million in 2023-24 and $48.8 million in 2024-25 before making a decision to pick up the $51.9 million player option for 2025-26.

He’ll soon be eligible to sign a three-year extension with the Bucks, but Antetokounmpo said he isn’t sure he wants to sign one at all in Milwaukee.

“The real question’s not going to be this year — numbers-wise it doesn’t make sense,” Antetokounmpo said. “But next year, next summer it would make more sense for both parties. Even then, I don’t know.

“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.”

While Antetokounmpo is not directly requesting a trade, it’s a public declaration that will likely frighten those in Milwaukee and fuel massive speculation in every other NBA city. And perhaps no fan base will feed that speculation than the ones in the Bay Area.

Golden State fans have long pondered what a pairing Antetokounmpo and Stephen Curry could look like in the Bay Area, even going crazy over a doctored video from earlier this offseason. It’s hard to blame them, though – Curry and Antetokounmpo seem to be quite friendly and played beautiful basketball together in NBA All-Star games.

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The Warriors could have the pieces to make any move work, too. While Golden State traded potential young star Jordan Poole to the Wizards for Chris Paul, they still can package Andrew Wiggins and Jonathan Kuminga (and potentially Paul’s contact, which is nonguaranteed for 2024-25) along with a bevy of draft picks and swaps — the only future first round pick the Warriors don’t control is next year’s, meaning they could send up to six first rounders.

In the current dynasty era, the Warriors have already added a top league star to their core once before, signing Kevin Durant as a free agent in 2016. That move has allowed Warriors fans to think it could happen again, even if many thoughts weren’t likely.

But now, the star player Warriors fans want is helping fuel the fire himself.

That should add even more intrigue to an already fascinating Warriors season to come.