With the Bucks up big and only five minutes remaining in the Bucks’ 124-87 victory over the Magic on Sunday, Giannis Antetokounmpo stood in front of the padded video board by the Bucks bench with Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton on one side of him and coach Mike Budenholzer on the other.
On the floor, Bobby Portis went up for a hook shot that was tipped out of his hands and corralled by Thanasis Antetokounmpo on the baseline, who whipped a pass crosscourt to Sam Merrill. The Bucks rookie guard pump faked, took one dribble to his right and then let go of a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired. Merrill’s shot splashed through the net to give the Bucks a 35-point lead. As the Bucks ran back on defense, Connaughton patted Antetokounmpo on the chest and the Bucks’ star jumped up and down to celebrate the basket with his teammates.
The scene was quite familiar to fans who have watched the Bucks’ starters celebrate their teammates’ success at the end of blowout victories in the last two seasons with one notable exception: Antetokounmpo was not wearing a jersey. Instead, Antetokounmpo was wearing a black Bucks hooded sweatshirt and a pair of black joggers as he watched from the sidelines as he missed his fifth consecutive game because of left knee soreness.
“We were talking about it before the game,” Middleton said after putting up 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists in Sunday’s win. “He said he hasn’t missed this many games in a row in his career. He’s itching to get back out, so hopefully he’ll be back out there soon.”
Despite his desire to get out on the floor, Antetokounmpo has now gone ten days without playing in an NBA game. When asked before the game about a potential timetable for his star player’s return to action, Budenholzer simply said there is no current timetable for Antetokounmpo.
“He did some stuff at shootaround, so I think he’s in a good place and making progress, but won’t play tonight,” Budenholzer said.
Three weeks ago, Antetokounmpo missing this much time was unimaginable.
Before this current stretch, Antetokounmpo’s longest streak of missed games was two. While it is not a season-ending injury or an event that elevated to headline-status when it first occurred, in terms of games missed, this is the most serious injury of Antetokounmpo’s career. And yet, it has been a relatively nondescript absence. Antetokounmpo has been playfully cheering on his teammates on the sideline for most games and already returned from the injury once for a couple of games before returning to the injury report.
With so much up in the air, let’s try to reset and take a closer look at exactly what has happened with Antetokounmpo over the last three weeks and where the Bucks go from here.
When did the injury happen?