NBA executive says Giannis Antetokounmpo’s comments about potentially leaving Bucks were ignited by first-round loss to Heat

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The Milwaukee Bucks’ 2023 postseason stint was short-lived. Despite the Bucks finishing the 2022-23 regular season with the NBA’s best record at 58-24, their postseason came to an end in the first round of the playoffs.

Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat — who went on to represent the Eastern Conference in the 2023 NBA Finals — eliminated the Bucks in five games in the first round.

An assistant general manager recently explained how much the Heat’s beating of Giannis Antetokounmpo affected his infamous comments that he won’t re-sign with the Bucks if he doesn’t feel the team is gunning for a title.

“That happening to him in the first round is the reason for the stance he’s taking, which is, ‘I’m not saying I’m not coming back, but I need to see which team we are,'” the assistant GM told Fox Sports. “Are we a first-round exit team? Or are we really a Finals team that just happened to lose in the first round for different reasons last year? I actually side with the fact that they just had an unexpected unique kind of situation that had them lose in the first round. They could very well go to the Finals or conference finals this year, and if that happens it would be pretty hard for Giannis to leave.”

Antetokounmpo, 28, has played 10 seasons in the NBA, all as a member of the Bucks franchise. He averaged 31.1 points, 11.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 0.8 steals per game in 63 appearances with the Bucks during the 2022-23 regular season (all starts). Antetokounmpo also shot the ball with great efficiency from the field, as he converted 55.3 percent of his field-goal attempts.

Those numbers were good enough for the 6-foot-11 forward to earn an All-Star nod — the seventh of his pro career — as well as a spot on the All-NBA First Team.

Unfortunately for Bucks fans, though, Antetokounmpo wasn’t able to carry over his excellent play from the 2022-23 regular season into the 2023 postseason. He missed two games of the series due to a back injury, and in the three games he played, he averaged 23.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.

A big reason why Antetokounmpo underperformed offensively in Milwaukee’s first-round series against the Heat was his struggles from the free-throw line. The 28-year-old converted just 14 of his 31 free-throw attempts for the series, which equates to a subpar 45.2 percent clip. He had a particularly difficult time making his free throws in Game 5, seeing as he converted 10 of his 23 attempts from the charity stripe.

Only time will tell if Antetokounmpo ends up staying in Milwaukee for the long haul. But with a supporting cast of Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez, the Bucks have enough talent around Antetokounmpo to compete for the 2024 NBA title.

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Jesse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA.