Giannis Antetokounmpo is a treasure. A kind soul before the basketball game, a rude leviathan during it, and, it turns out, a reflective conversationalist right after. The Athletic’s Eric Nehm checked in with the possible MVP throughout his postseason, spanning from the Bucks’ sweep of the Pistons to their 4-2 loss to the Raptors in the conference finals. The result is a funny, illuminating peek at how Antetokounmpo thinks about his job. Highlights include his take on Al Horford:
“If my back is hurting, I’m daaaaaammmn sure his back is hurting,” Antetokounmpo said.
He also offered an account of how those anti-Giannis defensive walls looked, from his vantage point:
“Whatever I thought Boston did to build a wall, that was nothing,” Antetokounmpo said. “Not being able to operate from nowhere. Go to the post, double-team. Go to the other side of the post, double-team. Go to the nail, three guys and a guy waiting behind. Not being able to operate and only being able to get to the free-throw line and get easy ones in transition.
“There are so many things I thought were tough in the regular season, they’re not.”
After seeing Kawhi Leonard operate so effectively in the midrange, Giannis reflected on his own midrange game, which was de-emphasized in the ’18-’19 season under head coach Mike Budenholzer’s scheme:
“I feel like last year I was so comfortable shooting my mid-range shot, my fadeaway in the right post, doing all that, one-leg, two-legs, getting into the paint, shooting over guys, winning games,” Antetokounmpo said.
“I won games coming down the stretch like that. For you to score and be a closer, you gotta be able to add mid-range shots, a lot of easy shots.”
So he plans on thinking like a guard again:
“And it’s something from Year 5 to Year 6, I was like, ‘Yeah. OK, I put on seven pounds of muscle. Bro, I’m the most dominant guy in the fucking league. I’m just going to go and fucking dunk it.’ You can get away with it to a point. It’s good if you’re able to do it, but I gotta be more skilled. I gotta get back to my old self. Think like a guard, not as a big.”
Sure, he doesn’t have the prettiest shot mechanics. But he has a whole offseason to work on it, and betting against Antetokounmpo, who has already succeeded in the face of infinitesimal odds, seems unwise. He knows what he wants: midrange skills. And as a wise, huge man once said: “Life is fucking easy, if you know what you want. Go get that shit. I know what I want.”