MILWAUKEE — It didn’t take long for Giannis Antetokounmpo to address the elephant in the interview room at Fiserv Forum.
“I’m not gonna talk about it a lot this season, and I’m not going to try to address it,” said Antetokounmpo, the NBA’s reigning MVP, of what could happen next summer.
Antetokounmpo, 24, is eligible to sign a five-year, $253.75 million supermax extension in the summer of 2020 with the Milwaukee Bucks, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, which would be the largest in NBA history.
This would apply even if Antetokounmpo fails to earn All-NBA honors this season, but his focus remains on team goals.
“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 teammates talking about my free agency and what I’m going through,” Antetokounmpo said. “So when the time is right, we’re all gonna talk about it. I don’t think the time is right.”
Antetokounmpo would leave behind more than $90 million if he signs elsewhere with a team that has cap space in 2021, which could only offer $161.3 million for up to four years.
Since the Bucks fell to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals last season, Antetokounmpo has made it clear that his goal is to lead Milwaukee to its first NBA Finals appearance since 1973-74.
He already made franchise history last season as the first Bucks player to hoist an MVP trophy since Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1974. Milwaukee finished with a league-best 60 wins in the process.
Although training camp won’t begin until Tuesday at the University of Wisconsin, head coach Mike Budenholzer has already noticed some differences in Antetokounmpo — notably from his FIBA World Cup experience.
“I think he’s working a lot on his leadership skills, to be honest with you,” Budenholzer said. “His ability to connect and communicate with his teammates, whether they’ve been with the team for a while or new guys that are coming in.
“I’ve been so impressed with how his leadership continues to grow and improve day-to-day, and you would think that doesn’t happen in the summer, but it does.”
The NBA recently fined Bucks general manager Jon Horst $50,000 for violating league rules by discussing Antetokounmpo’s supermax extension during a televised town hall event, so he stayed away from the topic Monday during media day. However, he showed up in a great mood while touching on a range of topics, notably managing outside expectations, alongside Budenholzer, with the ultimate goal of a title in mind.
What others say in the next 10 months surrounding Antetokounmpo is out of his control.
“Internal expectations are what matter to us, and we’ve been saying this for over a year now,” Horst said. “We believe it, we live it. We care about getting better every day. We want to improve on what we did last year.”