While the NBA season may still be suspended, certain storylines don’t take a vacation. One of those, for better or worse, is Giannis Antetokounmpo’s impending free agency. Since generational talents like the Greek Freak rarely become available, virtually every NBA team is getting a pitch ready for the summer of 2021. Yes, that means the New York Knicks are going to take another shot at landing a marquee free agent.
Once again, however, it looks like the Knicks may have lost the race before ever leaving the starting line. In this case, one past decision may have ruined any potential future with Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s impending free agency
When he came to North America in 2013, Giannis Antetokounmpo seemed like a raw, if talented, NBA prospect. Since then, he’s developed into one of the game’s brightest stars and most coveted players.
During the summer of 2020, Giannis will be eligible for a designated veteran player extension, which would pay him handsomely to stay with the Bucks. If he doesn’t accept that offer, however, he’ll be free to test free agency once the 2020-21 season ends.
Based on that reality and his star status, rumors have already begun swirling. Some have suggested that Antetokounmpo won’t want to leave Milwaukee, as it’s the only North American city he’s ever known; others have posited that his international background might tilt the scales in Toronto’s favor. Teams like the Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks are also apparently circling, hoping to add the Greek Freak to their respective lineups.
The New York Knicks past might have ruined their future
Earlier this year, a theory emerged that the New York Knicks could hire Jason Kidd as their coach in an attempt to lure Giannis Antetokounmpo to the Big Apple. While there hasn’t been any movement on the coaching front, the club might have shot themselves in the foot years ago.
In a recent mailbag, Marc Berman of the New York Post was asked about Giannis’ potential interest in joining the Knicks. While Berman stated that it’s tough to know how the league’s current suspension could affect the Greek Freak’s plans, he might hold some ill will toward the franchise.
In 2014, the Knicks drafted Giannis’ brother, Thanasis, but sent him to the G-League. After one season in the minors, they signed the forward to a pro contract, only to waive him during the preseason; he would return to the Westchester Knicks, only earning one call-up to the big club and appearing in two NBA games.
While Giannis isn’t usually one for grand public statements, we do know that he was “disappointed” that the club hadn’t called his brother prior to a 2015 meeting between the Knicks and the Bucks.
Regardless of the past, the New York Knicks need to sell Giannis Antetokounmpo on the future
While we know that Giannis Antetokounmpo is close with his brothers, it seems a bit farfetched that he’d make a career-altering decision entirely based on such a minor slight. That doesn’t mean the Knicks are out of the woods, though.
Even if we put the Thanasis situation entirely to the side—there’s been significant personnel change since 2015, and the forward hasn’t exactly turned into a world-beater with the Bucks—the Knicks still have to sell Giannis on their future. The Greek Freak is already competing for titles in Milwaukee and will have his choice of teams in free agency; given those options, there’s no need to settle for the Knicks, who have been stuck in limbo for what feels like an eternity, simply based on the New York market.
When the NBA season resumes, Leon Rose will need to start getting his team back on track. While the Knicks will have plenty of cap space, it will be up to their new executive to use that money intelligently and get the franchise moving in the right direction.
If Giannis does decide to hit free agency, every club will have a year to prepare their pitches; even if the Knicks’ past hasn’t sunk them, it’s tough to imagine them selling Antetokounmpo on a bright future in the Big Apple.