Giannis, Middleton have nowhere to shoot during NBA stoppage

It’s been more than three weeks since the Milwaukee Bucks last played a game. The loss to the Denver Nuggets came March 9 and the league shutdown two days later after the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. No one knows when the league will start back up but many players are trying to stay ready.

That’s proven a little bit difficult for members of the Bucks, including superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. With the NBA mandating team facilities be closed, he’s got nowhere to get up some shots.

“I don’t have access to a hoop,” Antetokounmpo said in a conference call Friday. “A lot of NBA players might have a court in their house or something, but I just get home workouts. Try to ride your bike, treadmill, lift weights and stay sharp that way. But, yeah, I don’t play basketball at all.”

Teammate Khris Middleton is facing a similar issue.

“If the practice facility is closed down, I don’t have any access to a basketball goal unless I go to one of my neighbors’ houses and shoot outside,” Middleton said “It’s really no basketball for me. Basically, like Giannis said, it’s treadmill, jump rope, some weights and that’s it. I have a couple basketballs I can dribble in my house or outside but not an actual goal to go shoot on.”

The uncertainty of when, or if, the season will start up again remains a constant on the minds of players, coaches and front office types alike. Earlier this week, GM Jon Horst and coach Mike Budenholzer said they were confident and optimistic that things would get going again, but it sounds as if Middleton is just taking it day-by-day.

“The NBA is going to do the best that they can to make sure not to put anybody at risk for all the reasons out there right now,” Middleton said. “If we play, we’ll be ready for that. If we don’t, we’ll definitely be disappointed, but I think everybody will understand that it’s bigger than basketball at this point.”

If the NBA cancels the playoffs, is that good for the Bucks?

Until the NBA season was suspended, one of the hottest debate topics in the league surrounded Giannis Antetokounmpo’s future in Milwaukee.

Will he sign the super-max contract with the Bucks? Will he test the free agency market and be wooed by a bigger market with brighter lights? And how, just how, do the Golden State Warriors fit into this equation?

Now that there are more important issues at hand, speculation surrounding the MVP’s future has subsided (for now).

Respected NBA analyst Amin El-Hassan made a recent appearance on Sirius XM NBA Radio and discussed how a worst case scenario of cancelling the NBA’s post-season may actually be a good thing for the Bucks chances of keeping Antetokounmpo home.

Meanwhile, during this hiatus, Antetokounmpo is getting a rare lengthy paternity leave for an NBA player, spending time with his newborn son, Liam, and playing “couple challenge” with girlfriend, Mariah.

Rewatch: Bucks vs. Lakers, Dec. 19, 2019

Do you miss basketball?

Specifically, how much do you miss watching Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, winners in 53 of their 65 games played during the 2019-20 season, dominating the competition in a majority of those matchups.

Some games have stuck out more than others. A 50-point lead against Oklahoma City, blowing out the Los Angeles Clippers with Kawhi Leonard on the floor, Khris Middleton scoring 50, the Greek Freak going for 50 without committing a single turnover, and of course their first marquee matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Courtesy of the NBA on TNT, Bucks fans can rewatch that game in its entirety right on Twitter.

The atmosphere inside Fiserv Forum, the surrounding bars and Deer District was electric before and after the game. Bucks fans, usually more of a humble bunch, were ready to start planning the parade and crown Antetokounmpo as league King.

After a rewatch of this game, there are some major takeaways. Couple good, some bad and a few ugly.

The Good

George Hill’s efficiency was a microcosm of how much a key he has been for Milwaukee this season.

The Lakers wanted Antetokounmpo to shoot 3’s, they left him relatively open to do so. His ability to connect on a few from long range showed a glimpse of what could be if he ever becomes a legitimate threat from beyond-the-arc.

The Bad

The odds were stacked against the Lakers. This was their fifth road game played over an eight day stretch. They were also without Kyle Kuzma. LeBron James logged 147 minutes in the previous four games.

Ersan Ilyasova scored just two points in 17 minutes against the Lakers. This was months before the Bucks signed Marvin Williams after he was bought out. Since the addition of Williams, Ilyasova’s workload has decreased. Long term, this bad could end up being considered a positive wake up call.

The Ugly

While the Bucks defensively were able to relatively slow James, Anthony Davis led all scorers with 36 points. His second half performance helped the Lakers chip away at a once substantial lead.

The rematch in Los Angeles, right before league play was suspended, did not favor the Bucks whatsoever.

Basketball will be back. And, if these two teams clash heads in the NBA Finals, buckle up!

Commissioner Adam Silver provides an NBA update

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton miss playing the game they’ve played their entire lives.

Middleton posted a photo on Instagram of him lying on the court. The first word of the caption he typed was “mood.”

Antetokounmpo captioned a picture of him during warmups and wrote “I miss the game man.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on Wednesday evening, updating fans on the status of the league, and the requirements that must be met before game play can consider resuming.

“When can we restart and operate as we’ve known it, with 19,000 fans in buildings?” he said.
“So that’s one sort of criteria. And option two is, should we consider restarting without fans, and what would that mean?

“If you had a group of players and staff around them that could test them and follow some protocol, doctors and health officials may say it’s safe to play. So that’s the second set of circumstances.”

Following a positive coronavirus test for NBA

It has been seven full days since the NBA opted to suspend their season. The decision came shortly after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then, multiple teams have been tested and numerous players have been diagnosed with the virus, including Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell and former Milwaukee Bucks forward Christian Wood.

Podcast: Re-Live Game 7 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals

Although he laid out all of the circumstances, Silver responsibly made no promises as to when players could take the floor to play once again.

“I’ve learned in this job and in this process that when people do pretend they can predict the future, they’re generally wrong. Look no further than the fact that two weeks ago and a week ago people were saying very different things than they’re saying today.”

Silver hopes that they’ll be in a position to “salvage” a portion of the regular season, but they’ve also discussed a few creative “play-in” scenarios for the post-season. They’ve also considered forming a charitable aspect to the hiatus, essentially replicating the NBA’s All-Star game for fans to watch at home.

Players would be tested before participating. There is no official plan in place yet, but the league is leaving no stone unturned.

The Oklahoma City Thunder, who recently played in Milwaukee, announced that all of their tests came back negative.

Social Distancing Bracket 1: The Giannis Antetokounmpo Teammate Challenge

March Madness is cancelled.

Major League Baseball is pushing back the start of their season for at least eight weeks. Although some reporters are hearing that the season may not begin until the month of July, at the earliest.

The National Basketball Association is suspended until further notice, and may not resume play until June.

These drastic measures are for the greater good. Leagues are taking advice from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Medical Professionals and the World Health Organization to implement protocols on preventing the spread of the coronavirus or COVID-19.

In the meantime, sports fans worldwide need some form of entertainment, and frankly, something to place bets on.

This won’t be the only ‘Social Distance Bracket’ released by The Wisconsin Sports Zone Network.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was drafted in 2014. That season the Milwaukee Bucks won just 15 regular season games. From then until now, he’s had a plethora of teammates. Some are fan favorites. Others may not be recognized walking around Mayfair Mall.

We present the ‘Antetokounmpo Teammate’ bracket. Four regions. 64 teams.

Voting will occur or Twitter starting Tuesday, March 17. Follow @ZoneMadison to cast your daily ballot.

Your vote isn’t for the best candidate. Or the candidate who is going to help Antetokounmpo and the Bucks secure an NBA Championship. This is all about who you like. For whatever random reason you enjoy them as a player.

The only thing they have in common is that they have been teammates with Antetokounmpo, at least for one day.

Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Ersan Ilyasova and Eric Bledsoe are the No.1 seeds, representing the MVP, Zoom Freak 1, All-Star Captain and 15th Overall Pick regions respectively.

Bracket Breakdown: Round 1

MVP Region

No.1 Overall Seed, Khris Middleton vs. (16) Axel Toupane
(2) Robin Lopez vs. (15) Jaylen Morris
(3) Pat Connaughton) vs. (14) Johnny O’Bryant
(4) George Hill vs. (13) Spencer Hawes
(5) Thon Maker vs. (12) Mizra Teletovic
(6) Miles Plumlee vs. (11) Matthew Dellavedova
(7) Greg Monroe vs. (10) Gary Neal
(8) Michael Carter Williams vs. (9) Kenyon Martin

Zoom Freak 1 Region

(1) Jabari Parker vs. (16) DeAndre Liggins
(2) Brandon Jennings vs. (15) Jason Smith
(3) Thanasis Antetokounmpo vs. (14) Tyler Ennis
(4) Michael Beasley vs. (13) Nikola Mirotic
(5) Jared Dudley vs. (12) ZaZa Pachulia
(6) Christian Wood vs. (11) Miroslav Raduljica
(7) Caron Butler vs. (10) Luke Ridnour
(8) Sterling Brown vs. (9) Marvin Williams

All-Star Captain Region

(1) Ersan Ilyasova vs. (16) Sean KilPatrick
(2) Brook Lopez vs. (15) Bonzie Colson
(3) Tony Snell vs. (14) Gary Payton II
(4) Jerryd Bayless vs. (13) Nate Wolters
(5) Kendall Marshall vs. (12) Rashad Vaughn
(6) DJ Wilson vs. (11) Tony Mitchell
(7) OJ Mayo vs. (10) Tyler Zeller
(8) Marshall Plumlee vs. (9) Larry Sanders

15th Overall Pick Region

(1) Eric Bledsoe vs. (16) Xavier Munford
(2) Malcolm Brogdon vs. (15) Trevon Duval
(3) Jason Terry vs. (14) Jared Cunningham
(4) Steve Novak vs. (13) Tim Frazier
(5) Donte DiVincenzo vs. (12) Greivis Vasquez
(6) John Henson vs. (11) Shabazz Muhammad
(7) Brandon Knight vs. (10) Ramon Sessions
(8) Kyle Korver vs. (9) Pau Gasol

Let the games begin

How the Bucks are occupying their time

Have you ever wanted to play NBA 2K against your favorite player? Or team up with them on Call of Duty?

While the season is currently “suspended” as a precautionary attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus, now might be your best chance to catch players from around the league logged on and playing online video games as they are practicing ‘social distancing’ from others.

Milwaukee Bucks point guard Eric Bledsoe is a known gamer and plays on the tag “ebfive” on XBox. Teammates such as Donte DiVincenzo have also been known to pick up a controller during the NBA’s offseason.

Currently, the league has implemented a series of rules for players while games and practices are not being held. If they are working out at the team’s practice facility, they are only allowed one player per basket, eliminating all team work, defensive drills and full court games.

Recently, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that players are now available to leave their markets, something that as previously banned. However, they are to keep their team updated on their whereabouts and cannot leave North America.

It’s unlike Giannis Antetokounmpo to post videos while working out, but he is not scared of the camera while he’s at home. Recently, the 2019 NBA MVP has been active on social media, commenting and capturing his newly found off-time at home.

He also learned a new skill, practicing the guitar, and is available for bookings.

Antetokounmpo isn’t just goofing around during this unchartered time for the league. Over the weekend he announced a donation of $100,000 to ensure compensation for hourly workers of Fiserv Forum who are currently without work.

Khris Middleton and team owners matched the donation. After word spread quickly, every player on the Bucks roster made a monetary pledge to help those in need.

As for what’s next to waste time, Antetokounmpo may be training to become a chess master.

NBA representatives continue referring to the situation as “fluid” and there is no time table for return to action. The CDC recently recommended that gatherings of 50 or more people be banned for at least the next two months.

ESPN further reported that NBA owners are preparing to be on hiatus for a three month minimum.

Bucks players announce donations, team matches contributions

As he often does on the basketball court, Giannis Antetokounmpo took control of the situation.

It wasn’t in the form of a thunderous dunk or game-changing blocked shot, though. In this instance, Antetokounmpo impacted the livelihood of Fiserv Forum employees who make their living working hourly in the Milwaukee Bucks arena.


Following in the footsteps of Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, Antetokounmpo promised to donate that substantial amount of money to ensure that arena employees have income while NBA games and events are suspended due to the coronavirus.

His teammates followed suit. Fellow All-Star Khris Middleton announced that he would match Antetokounmpo’s donation. The team also promised to match any donation made by one of their players.

By Saturday morning, the entire Bucks roster had contributed to the fund, helping to support hourly employees whose lives would otherwise have been negatively impacted by loss of wages.

In late January, Fiserv Forum announced a new three and-a-half year contract agreement with an organization that represents arena employees. Terms of the deal would increase minimum wage to $15 per hour. Wisconsin’s current minimum wage in 2020 is $7.25.

That bump in pay isn’t set to go into effect until July 1, right before the Democratic National Convention is scheduled to take over the arena.

Player donations and acts of good will have quickly become the norm over the past 48 hours.

Love, as well as Detroit Pistons star Blake Griffin have donated $100,000.

Jeremy Lin has made contributions in China and the United States.

The Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and others have announced plans to compensate hourly employees, including donations of $1 million.

The Cavaliers will pay workers of Rocket Mortgage Field House as if they are working scheduled shifts during the game-play stoppage.

Former President of the United States, Barack Obama, took to Twitter to thank players for helping out.

Zion Williamson, a 19-year old rookie, pledged to personally cover paychecks for Smoothie King Arana employees in New Orleans.

There is no scheduled date to resume games. NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that the league would revisit the situation after 30 days of suspension. All other professional sporting leagues who are currently playing games, including spring training for Major League Baseball, have also suspended day-to-day activity.

Since the postponement announcement, the Bucks were scheduled to play seven more home games in the month of March alone.

If an hourly employee was making $15 per hour, and working eight-hour shifts on game day, their pay before taxes would equal $840.

That is a substantial amount of money earned that could be put towards rent payments, child care, bills and other essential living expenses.

Both the wage estimation and scheduled hours are on the high side for an arena event. The guarantee rate of $15 doesn’t go into effect for another four months.

Report: Boston Celtics leaving Milwaukee on Thursday

Updated at 9:40 am CST, Thursday.

The Boston Celtics are leaving Milwaukee on Thursday morning, Cedric Maxwell, the team’s radio color commentator said during a Boston radio appearance.

Multiple Boston media outlets were reporting that the Celtics were self-quarantining in Milwaukee.

They were scheduled to play the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night, however, the NBA announced on Wednesday that games were “suspended” for the foreseeable future after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, also referred to as the Coronavirus.

Boston played in Indianapolis on Tuesday night, and travelled to Milwaukee on Wednesday afternoon.

Team’s were advised to “self-quarantine” if they had contact with the Jazz within the past few weeks. The Celtics played Utah on Friday March, 6, a game Gobert started and played 33 minutes.

Enes Kanter posted a video to his Instagram story at approximately 1 pm CST of the team’s plane landing in Wisconsin.

The NBA has not yet announced a timetable for a return to play as they work with health officials to determine the appropriate next steps and further preventative measures.

NBA season suspended until further notice

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule until further notice.”

That was the message sent out by league offices on Wednesday evening, officially putting the league on hiatus as they prepare to and work to determine the appropriate steps to deal with COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus.

Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus. Tip-off of their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was immediately postponed. The NBA’s press release said that Gobert was not in the arena at the time of the announcement.

NBA owners and commissioner Adam Silver had a conference call at 4:30 pm CST Wednesday. It was reported afterwards that the league was deciding whether or not to play games without fans in attendance, or suspend play altogether.

Prior to the suspension announcement, one spokesperson for the Milwaukee Bucks called it a “very fluid” situation when asked about any future plans.

The Bucks did have a team meeting, which was more of an informational for players on the virus, further educating them on preventative measures and protocols.

Media availability in Milwaukee was held approximately six hours prior to the announcement.

“At the end of the day we have to think about the health and safety. Not just the players involved, the fans,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said about the possibility of playing without fans in the stands. “I know the NBA is going to do a great job coming up with a solution that thinks first about our safety, our health and the fans health also.”

The 2019 NBA MVP also added insight about the “great meeting” with members of the team.

“You got to do a good job washing your hands, if you feel sick or if you have a cold or have the flu you have to report it immediately to the medical staff. I think our medical staff is also going to help us and (try to) keep us from getting it.”

Veteran sharp shooter Kyle Korver discussed the importance of players and fans being responsible and taking proper measures.

“There are certain people, because there is not a cure, if they get it they’re going to be in a bad place,” he said. “So I think it’s all of our jobs to do whatever we can to help not spread this. This is what we have to do right now.”

The Wisconsin Sports Zone will continue to update this story with reaction and communication from the league office and Milwaukee Bucks

Antetokounmpo OUT for at least two games

Milwaukee Bucks all-star MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss at least the next two games, according to the team.

The 2019 NBA MVP suffered a “minor joint capsule sprain of the left knee,” a diagnosis publicly released by the Bucks on Sunday afternoon. The injury occurred on Friday night during a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

On Saturday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Antetokounmpo would undergo a precautionary MRI to diagnose the injury that caused him to noticeably limp during and after Friday’s game.

Milwaukee is currently 53-10, and lead the Toronto Raptors for first place in the Eastern Conference by 8.5 games.

The next two games include a Sunday evening matchup in Phoenix against the Suns, then on Monday in Denver against the Nuggets. Following the conclusion of their three-game road trip, the Bucks return to Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee for a Thursday night matchup against the Boston Celtics.

Antetokounmpo and the Bucks lost Friday night’s game against the Lakers, 113-103. On Sunday, LeBron James encore’d his 37 point performance against Milwaukee with a victory over Kawhi Leonhard and the Los Angeles Clippers.

After the back-to-back performances, former NBA player and college basketball star, Jay Williams, of ESPN said that James officially surpassed Antetokounmpo in the MVP race.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 29.6 points per game, plus over 13 rebounds per game this season.

He will be re-evaluated next week before deciding his status before the game against Boston.