Rally comes up short in Bucks season-opening loss at Boston

The new look Milwaukee Bucks did not get their season off to a good start Wednesday night.

Jayson Tatum hit a step-back 3-pointer off the glass with .4 seconds remaining to give Boston a 122-120 lead. After a timeout to set up the final play, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo got fouled at the rim and was given two free throws with no time left. He hit the first but missed the second and the Bucks lost 122-121.

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Milwaukee was only in the game that late because of a monster fourth quarter from Antetokounmpo. The Bucks trailed by 17 entering the final period but their star scored 17 points in a 31-12 run to give the team a 115-113 lead with 3:26 left. The two sides traded buckets with new addition Jrue Holiday hitting a step-back 3-pointer to give Milwaukee a 120-119 lead prior to the Tatum heroics.

Antetokounmpo finished with 35 points, 13 rebounds and two assists, while also turning it over a team-high seven times and picking up five fouls.

Middleton gave the club 27 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists, while Holiday had 25 points and six rebounds in his debut. Donte DiVincenzo, in his new starting role, had 15 points, most of it in the first half. The Bucks bench gave them just 12 points.

Boston was led by Jaylen Brown’s 33 points, while Tatum added 30. Jeff Teague gave the Celtics 19 off the bench.

Milwaukee will now head back to Fiserv Forum for the home opener on Christmas Day against Golden State.

Giannis on staying in Milwaukee: ‘This is my home. This is my city.’

After signing a 5-year, $228 million supermax extension on Tuesday, Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo met with reporters one day later to explain why he decided to stay with the Bucks.

“It was the right thing to do. I discussed it with my agent, the team, my family. Talked with my mother. I asked my mother, ‘Do you want to move?’ She said, ‘No.’ So, OK, cool I’m just going to sign the deal then,” Antetokounmpo joked. “This is the place I want to be. This is my home. This is my city. I want to represent Milwaukee, and I want to do this for the next five years.”

Milwaukee is the only home in the United States that Antetokounmpo has ever known. He came to Wisconsin as an 18-year-old rail-thin forward that the Bucks took a chance on and developed into a two-time NBA MVP. The team went from 15 wins in his rookie year to owning the best regular season record in each of the last two years.

“When I came here, I fell in love with city. It’s a city that loves basketball. It’s a place I want to be,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s a place I want to raise my kids. I feel good here. My family feels good here, so I”m good.”

Back in 2014, Antetokounmpo tweeted he wasn’t leaving Milwaukee until he brought the city a championship. Three after that, coming off his first All-Star appearance and leading the Bucks to the playoffs, Antetokounmpo quoted a Kendrick Lamar song, tweeting “I got loyalty inside my DNA.” While many superstars have bolted their original team to create super teams with other elite players, that’s just not who the 26-year-old is.

“It’s really important,” Antetokounmpo said of loyalty. “At the end of the day, that’s what stays. I believe in that. I’m a man of my words. This is big. I think being the team that trusted me, believed in me, took care of me, took care of my family, took care of me financially. I always want to give back and I’ve been trying to give back since day one.”

While loyalty is near the top of the list of things that are important to Antetokounmpo, winning is also right in the mix. Had he turned down the extension, he would have hit free agency next summer and found a team that would give him an easier path to a championship.

“It’s tough because at the end of the day, no where you go or no where you are guarantees you to win a championship,” Antetokounmpo said. “I know who I am. I know I’m a man of my words, and I know it might take me 10 years or I might never win a championship. Whatever the case might be. But I know who I am and know what I believe, and I know I stuck next to the people that believed in me.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will sign 5-year extension to remain in Milwaukee

Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t going anywhere.

The two-time NBA MVP announced Tuesday that he will sign the 5-year, 228-million supermax extension that will keep him with the Milwaukee Bucks through the 2025-2026 season.

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The superstar had until next Monday to sign the deal and there were some concerns whether it would happen or not. Antetokounmpo has talked throughout his career about how important loyalty is to him, but he also wants to win a championship. Despite having the best regular season record the last two years, Milwaukee has come up short in that regard.

However, GM Jon Horst and the rest of the organization didn’t stand pat with their roster this offseason. Instead, they largely overhauled it, trading important pieces like Eric Bledsoe and George Hill away, and watching Wesley Matthews leave in free agency, while bringing in Jrue Holiday, Bobby Portis, DJ Augustin and Bryn Forbes.

Milwaukee will get the season underway next Wednesday in Boston and do so with the second-best odds of winning the Eastern Conference and tied for the third-best odds to win the NBA title. With Antetokounmpo in the mix for the next five years, the Bucks figure to remain championship contenders for the foreseeable future.

Antetokounmpo won’t say whether he will sign supermax offer

By: Steve Megargee

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo praised the “amazing” moves the Milwaukee Bucks have made to improve the team, but the two-time reigning MVP stopped short Wednesday of saying he would sign a supermax contract extension offer.

“Right now I’m not focusing on that,” Antetokounmpo said during his first preseason discussion with reporters. “I know my agent, Alex (Saratsis), and (general manager) Jon Horst and the Bucks ownership are focusing on those discussions. I’m just trying to focus on myself and how I can get better, how I can help my teammates be better, how I can be ready Saturday to play our first preseason game.”

Antetokounmpo, who turned 26 last week, would be able to receive up to 35% of the salary cap with an 8% escalation each year of the deal under a supermax extension. The Bucks were able to offer a five-year deal worth over $220 million.

He has until Dec. 21 to sign the extension, or else he will be eligible to become a free agent after the 2020-21 season. Antetokounmpo said he is letting his agent handle any contract discussions.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” Antetokounmpo said. “I’m not the type of player who talks with his agent five times a week or seven times a week.”

The Bucks spent the offseason trying to upgrade their roster, with mixed success, after they posted the NBA’s best regular-season record in each of the last two years only to fall short in the playoffs.

The Bucks acquired veteran guard Jrue Holiday in exchange for guards Eric Bledsoe and George Hill and a package of picks, though the move hasn’t officially been announced yet. But a widely reported sign-and-trade with Sacramento that would have brought sharp-shooting swingman Bogdan Bogdanovic to Milwaukee fell through as the NBA investigated whether the teams reached an agreement earlier than allowed by league rules.

Milwaukee followed that up by re-signing guard Pat Connaughton and agreeing to terms with free-agent guards D.J. Augustin and Bryn Forbes and forwards Torrey Craig and Bobby Portis.

“I think their moves have been amazing,” Antetokounmpo said. “All the guys we got, they can help the team, they can defend. Having Holiday on the team is big time. He’s a great leader. He’s a great human being. He can defend. He can score the ball. He’s going to bring that edge that we need. The rest of the guys, I think they’re going to help us, too.”

The Bucks lost to the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs last season after blowing a 2-0 lead to Toronto in the 2019 Eastern Conference finals. The Bucks struggled to adapt to the Walt Disney World bubble and never regained the form they showed before the pandemic-imposed hiatus.

“Last year, we weren’t ourselves,” Antetokounmpo said. “What we showed in the bubble wasn’t ourselves and wasn’t even close to what we can do. Going into this season, our focus is obviously the championship, but before that we’ve got to get better as a unit. We’ve got to create good habits. We’ve got to be the toughest, the nastiest, the team that plays together.”

He added that he doesn’t believe “it’s a championship-or-bust situation.”

“I want to win a championship. Nobody wants to win a championship more than me,” he said. “But there’s steps to that. You’ve got to keep improving. You’ve got to keep getting better. Hopefully we can get that this year.”

The Bucks are chasing their first NBA title since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led them to the championship in 1971. Abdul-Jabbar demanded a trade and was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975. Now the Bucks are trying to make sure their biggest star since Abdul-Jabbar also doesn’t leave town.

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Bucks release their first half schedule

We knew Milwaukee would play at Boston to open the 2020-21 NBA season on Dec. 23 and that the Bucks would host Golden State on Christmas Day. On Friday, we learned what the rest of the first half of the schedule looks like.

One of the most noticeable aspects of it include four instances of games against the same opponent in back-to-back games. The goal is to cut down on travel during the pandemic.

Among them is a trip to Miami on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 to face the reigning Eastern Conference champion Heat. The Bucks will also see Detroit, Cleveland and Toronto in a similar setup, though the games aren’t always on back-to-back nights.

Some of the other highlights include a stretch of three games against Dallas (Jan. 15), at Brooklyn (Jan. 18) and at home against the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers (Jan. 21) that will all be on national TV.

New guard Jrue Holiday will make his return to New Orleans on Jan. 29, with former Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe returning to Milwaukee with the Pelicans Feb. 25.

In total, 14 of Milwaukee’s 37 games in the first half of the season are on national TV.

The second half of the schedule will be released during the latter part of the first half of the schedule, which runs through March 4.

You can find the full schedule here.

Bucks’ investment in Holiday trade makes him feel wanted

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Jrue Holiday took notice along with the rest of the NBA when he discovered the substantial package of players and picks the Milwaukee Bucks sacrificed to acquire him.

The Bucks traded guards Eric Bledsoe and George Hill, first-round draft choice R.J. Hampton and two future first-round selections as part of a four-team swap that brought them Holiday. The Bucks gave the New Orleans Hornets the right to swap two future first-round picks as well in a deal that also brought second-round selection Sam Merrill to Milwaukee.

“Them giving up all the pieces that they did, it really, really made me feel like they wanted me to be here,” Holiday said Thursday. “That’s always a good feeling.”

The Bucks hope the addition of the 6-foot-4 guard to a nucleus that already included two-time All-Star forward Khris Middleton helps persuade two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign a supermax extension.

The Bucks were able to offer a five-year deal worth over $220 million to Antetokounmpo, who has until Dec. 21 to accept. Otherwise, he would become a free agent at the end of the season.

Holiday was part of the Bucks’ offseason plan to build a team strong enough to get Antetokounmpo to sign the supermax. The second part of the plan fizzled when a widely reported sign-and-trade to acquire Bogdan Bogdanovic fell through. Bogdanovic eventually signed with Atlanta.

The Bucks still have a quality trio to lead their roster in Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Middleton.

“I want a chance to put a ring on my finger,” Holiday said. “I feel like you can see it in their eyes, that they want that too.”

The 30-year-old Holiday averaged 17.6 points, 6.8 assists and 4.2 rebounds with New Orleans over the last seven seasons. He was an All-Star in 2013 and made the all-defensive team in 2018 and 2019. Holiday averaged 19.1 points, 6.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals last season.

“Jrue has established himself as one of the best, if not the best, defensive guards in our league,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He takes the toughest matchups every night. He can guard guys with more size. His range of ability to guard different types of players is about as unique as I’ve seen.”

Holiday is looking forward to playing for a legitimate contender after never making it beyond the second round of the playoffs in any of his previous 11 pro seasons.

“It’s really going to be hard for people to score on us, I believe,” Holiday said during his Zoom session Thursday, adding: “I think I fit in perfectly, somebody who can space the floor for Giannis and Khris, somebody that can also attack the basket and get other people open.”

The Bucks had the NBA’s best regular-season record each of the last two years but are seeking their first title since 1971. They blew a 2-0 lead to Toronto in the 2019 Eastern Conference finals and fell to the Miami Heat in the second round last season.

Holiday said he incorrectly predicted the Bucks would win the East last season. He believes he can help them take the next step.

“I feel like this year honestly, I feel like we do have this extra toughness,” Holiday said. “Not saying they didn’t have it before, but I think with me here, with my attention to detail and how I play defense, I really do think we can get over the hump.”

Holiday, who was chosen by his fellow players as the NBA’s 2019-20 teammate of the year, already has a good feeling about his new team.

“From the first day I walked into the Bucks facility,” Holiday said, “it’s been all about family and keeping this family intact.”

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Milwaukee makes trade for Jrue Holiday official

The Milwaukee Bucks made several moves official Tuesday that had been reported over the last week.

The big one was the trade for guard Jrue Holiday, getting him from New Orleans for guard Eric Bledsoe and two first round picks. The Pelicans also have the right to swap first-round picks with Milwaukee in 2024 and 2026. Guard George Hill was also traded as part of the deal to Oklahoma City.

“Jrue is an incredibly high character person and one of the premier guards in the NBA,” Bucks GM Jon Horst stated in a release. “He will make us better on both ends of the floor, as he’s an elite defender and a proven playmaker on offense with the ability to score, shoot and facilitate. His experience will help our team and we are thrilled to welcome him and his family to Milwaukee.”

Holiday averaged 19.1 points and 6.7 assists last season for the Pelicans. He’s a two-time All-NBA Defensive team member and is considered to be among the best defensive guards in the league.

Milwaukee also got the draft rights to Utah State guard Sam Merrill from the Pelicans. Merrill was the final pick of last Wednesday’s draft.

“Sam is someone we’ve had our eye on over his last couple seasons at Utah State,” Horst stated. “He has demonstrated the ability to shoot at a high percentage and we like his size and overall feel for the game. We’re excited to get him into camp and watch him compete at this level.”

The Bucks also announced the resigning of guard Pat Connaughton, to what was reportedly a three-year deal. He averaged 5.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists for Milwaukee last season.

“Pat is a tireless worker who has proven to be an integral member of our team the last two seasons,” Horst stated. “In addition to his dependable play on both ends of the court, Pat is a great teammate who has also embraced his role in the community, and we look forward to more contributions from him as he continues to grow and develop.”

Bucks reportedly agree to deals with free agents D.J. Augustin, Bobby Portis

Milwaukee has reportedly added a pair of players in free agency.

News broke Saturday that the Bucks had agreed to deals with forward Bobby Portis and guard DJ Augustin on the second day of free agency.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Augustin’s deal is for three years and $21 million. The 33-year-old has played for eight teams since being a lottery pick out of Texas in 2009. He was a solid piece for Orlando over the last three seasons, averaging 10.1 points and 4.1 assists per game.

The 5-foot-11, 183-pound Augustin has been a solid 3-point shooter in his career, hitting at a 37.9% clip, though that dipped to 34.8% this past season. He likely takes over as the backup point guard from George Hill and will run the second unit.

For Portis, it will be his fourth team in four years, with his most recent stop being with the Knicks in New York. The 25-year-old averaged 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in 2019, down from career highs of 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game with Washington in 2018. The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Portis was a first-round pick of the Bulls in 2015 out of Arkansas.

The two deals come on the heals of reports that Milwaukee had re-signed guard Pat Connaughton to a three-year contract.

NBA reportedly opens up tampering investigation into Bucks, Kings potential trade

The NBA is reportedly investigating a potential trade that now appears unlikely between Milwaukee and Sacramento.

According to Mark Stein of the New York Times, the league is looking into potential tampering violations after it was reported Tuesday that the Bucks and Kings had agreed to a sign-and-trade deal involving guard Bogdan Bogdanovic. Because he is a restricted free agent, neither side could not negotiate a new contract with Bogdanovic until Friday when the free agency period begins.

The original deal would have seen the Kings send the sharp-shooting Bogdanovic and forward Justin James to Milwaukee and the Bucks send back Donte DiVincenzo, D.J. Wilson and Ersan Ilyasova.

But word came Wednesday night from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Bogdanovic had instead decided to enter restricted free agency, though some suggested at the time that was done to throw off suspicions of tampering.

However, the Bucks waived Ilyasova Thursday night, along with his $7-million salary, which was a significant part of the deal in matching salaries because Milwaukee is over the NBA’s salary cap.

The move to bring Bogdanovic to Milwaukee was the second of two transactions general manager Jon Horst was reportedly set to make this week. The first was getting Jrue Holiday from New Orleans for Eric Bledsoe, George Hill and three first-round picks.

Both moves were designed to remake the roster around two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will be eligible to sign a supermax extension in the coming weeks.

Bucks add a pair of long-range shooters in NBA Draft

Milwaukee didn’t have a first-round pick in Wednesday night’s NBA Draft, but the Bucks had two second-round picks and they used both on guys that shot it well from beyond the arc in college.

With the first of their two selections, GM John Horst grabbed forward Jordan Nwora at pick No. 45.

The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Nwora played three years at Louisville. As a junior he averaged 18.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game while shooting 40.2% from 3. Nwora was a first-team All-ACC pick and finished second in voting for player of the year in the conference.

The second addition isn’t official yet, as it’s part of the trade for Jrue Holiday with New Orleans. The Pelicans, picking at No. 60, chose Utah State guard Sam Merrill. Once the trade for Holiday goes through, Merrill will also join Milwaukee.

A four-year contributor for the Aggies, the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Merrill averaged 19.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists as a senior. He shot 46.1% from the floor and 41% on 3-pointers.

Merrill was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year as a junior and a first-team All-MWC player as a senior. He finished his career as Utah State’s all-time leader in free throw percentage (89.1%), and second in points (2,197), assists (477) and 3-point field goals (319).