Antetokounmpo praises Lillard acquisition and says he wants to be a Buck ‘as long as we’re winning’

MILWAUKEE – Giannis Antetokounmpo praised the Milwaukee Bucks for showing a commitment to winning another championship by acquiring Damian Lillard but added that it still doesn’t make financial sense for him to sign a contract extension right now.

Antetokounmpo is eligible to sign a three-year extension totaling about $170 million, but he can make significantly more by waiting until next summer to do so. Antetokounmpo’s contract runs through the 2024-25 season, though he also has a player option for 2025-26.

“I said that it did not make sense to sign the contract right now because money’s not important – a lot of money is important. So I’m going to sign it next year,” Antetokounmpo said with a laugh. “But, no, at the end of the day, again, it doesn’t make sense. It does not make sense for me to sign it right now. I’ve got to always look at what’s best for me and my family, for my situation.

“But at the end of the day, I want to be a Milwaukee Buck for the rest of my career, as long as we are winning. It’s as simple as that.”

Antetokounmpo had told The New York Times this summer that he wanted to make sure the Bucks were committed to winning another championship before deciding whether to sign his extension.

The Bucks have since added Lillard as part of a three-team trade in which they gave up two-time All-Star Jrue Holiday, guard Grayson Allen and plenty of draft capital. In Lillard and Antetokounmpo, the Bucks now have two of the 75 players selected on the NBA’s 75th anniversary team.

“Definitely I feel like the team has shown they’re committed to winning a championship,” Antetokounmpo said. “So I’m happy.”

So is Lillard, who had requested a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers because of his interest in competing for a title.

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“I don’t think it’s a secret how much I want to win,” Lillard said. “That’s how we got here today. They want to win equally as bad as I do. I couldn’t be more excited. I couldn’t be more thankful for this opportunity, to be part of this organization, to play alongside the best player in the league.”

Milwaukee wasn’t Lillard’s expected destination. Aaron Goodwin, the seven-time all-NBA player’s agent, had said at the time of the trade request that Lillard wanted to go to Miami.

Lillard and Miami center Bam Adebayo are friends — they were teammates on the U.S. Olympic team that won gold in Tokyo in 2021 — and spoke often before the trade of what it would be like to be paired in Miami.

They spoke after the trade as well, and Adebayo said Lillard still got most of what he wanted.

“We talked about it,” Adebayo said. “Obviously, he had a different destination in mind. He got the opportunity to get what he wanted which was, one, to leave and two, win. So, I feel like his boxes still got checked.”

Lillard said the prospect of playing in Milwaukee started becoming realistic “maybe two weeks ago,” though he had expressed his interest in playing alongside Antetokounmpo long before then. When Lillard was asked on Twitter in May 2022 to pick one current player he’d want to help him reach the playoffs, he selected Antetokounmpo.

“Playing with somebody like Giannis, the kind of attention that he’s going to get is only going to make the game easier and more simple for me,” Lillard said. “I think because of the way I impose myself when I do play and how I attack games, he’s going to have the opportunity that I don’t think he’s had as well.”

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The Lillard trade capped a busy offseason in which the Bucks also fired coach Mike Budenholzer and replaced him with Adrian Griffin. Budenholzer coached Milwaukee to its first NBA title in half a century in 2021 but got dismissed after the top-seeded Bucks lost to Miami in the first round of the playoffs.

These moves come with risk.

Lillard played just 29 games in 2021-22 due to an abdominal injury and was limited to 58 games last season by a calf strain. Antetokounmpo and three-time All-Star forward Khris Middleton had offseason knee surgeries, and Middleton played just 33 games last season.

The Bucks also don’t have control of any of their first-round draft picks until 2031. They’ve traded their first-round picks in 2025, 2027 and 2029 and have agreed to pick swaps in 2024, 2026, 2028 and 2030.

Even so, Bucks co-owner Wes Edens feels like “we’re in the best position we’ve ever been at this point in a season.”

“I think that people tend to underestimate the risk of doing nothing versus the risk of doing something,” Edens said.

The Bucks did plenty the last few months. Antetokounmpo took notice, even though he’s not signing an extension just yet.

“It doesn’t make sense for me to sign this year,” the two-time MVP said. “Hopefully I can have the offer, I can have a good season and the team have a good season and we win a championship and everybody’s happy and everybody is being taken are of next year and the offer that has been on the table, hopefully the offer is there on the table and maybe I can take it.”

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AP Pro Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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