Giannis Antetokounmpo got bad press for his “scuffle in the bubble” with Donta Hall, but fans largely forgot it. In the Bucks’ August 11 game, however, he took things further. The reigning MVP isn’t afraid to get physical on the court. His headbutt against the Wizards’ Mo Wagner went too far.
It’ll be interesting to see how it affects Milwaukee as they enter the playoffs. The Greek Freak has been praised for his generosity and kindness off the court but an outburst in-game might spell doom for the Bucks.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s headbutt takes things too far
The occasional hard foul or even a shove is just part of the game. NBA players are some of the biggest and strongest men in the world. Tempers can certainly flare up during the game, especially as teams are fighting to clinch playoff seeds. But what Antetokounmpo chose to do on Tuesday night was far beyond anything reasonable.
In the second quarter, Wagner took a charge from Antetokounmpo that the MVP thought should’ve been called a blocking foul. However, before the referees could respond to Milwaukee’s challenge, Antetokounmpo followed Wagner to the other end of the floor and threw a headbutt.
Maybe he was having flashbacks to the “scuffle in the bubble” game where the Bucks lost in one of the biggest upsets ever. Or maybe he just wanted to show the Wizards who’s boss. It wasn’t incredibly forceful, but it was clearly a flagrant foul and an attack. Antetokounmpo was immediately thrown out of the game as the Bucks nervously waited to find out how many games the NBA would choose to suspend him.
What the suspension means for Milwaukee
Luckily for Bucks fans, the NBA handed down only a single-game suspension. And with the No. 1 seed already clinched, it was unlikely that Antetokounmpo would’ve seen a notable amount of playing time anyway. But the issues of his actions go beyond his court presence. His 2018-19 season was an MVP one, and 2019-20 may have been even better.
It’s likely that he’ll win the MVP award again, potentially along with the Defensive Player of the Year. But his points and rebounds and blocks are secondary to his responsibility to point the Bucks in the right direction. “If I could go back, turn back time and go back to that play,” Antetokounmpo told ESPN, “I wouldn’t do it.”
Looking at the series against Orlando
Nothing is guaranteed in playoff basketball. No. 8 seeds take No. 1 seeds to six or seven games all the time — sometimes to an upset. The Bucks were in incredible shape through the regular season. However, they looked to Antetokounmpo for guidance and leadership. Suddenly, he’s starting two fights in the span of a week.
To be fair, their first-round opponent doesn’t look particularly fierce. The Bucks are -10000 to win the series at most sportsbooks, meaning a bettor would need to wager $100 for each $1 they wanted to win.
But the Bucks’ game plan is tied up in Antetokounmpo. If he exits the series early, things get a lot more dangerous for Milwaukee. And Orlando is certainly no slouch. Their unfortunate salary cap issue means they’re paying a lot of money to players who haven’t delivered yet. But if those players decide to show up big in the first-round series, Milwaukee could be playing for their lives quite quickly.
In the NBA bubble, there’s no home-court advantage. The only thing the Bucks gained from the best record in the East is a “weak” opponent. But if the team can’t trust their MVP, or he gets himself thrown out of the game again, we could see the Magic pull off an upset. And the last thing Antetokounmpo wants is to prove his haters right.