Because the NBA has become a 52-week-a-year mill of speculation, it behooves all of us to become well-versed in the art of lip-reading. Or something like that.
Every interaction among players that takes place on the floor—and some off the floor (ahem, Nick Young)—can be captured by lurking cameras and, once that happens, those interactions can be parsed. That parsing can then be made to fit a storyline du jour or, even, create such a storyline.
Such was the case one week ago when the Bucks visited the Warriors in what was a mostly forgettable game—a nine-point win for Milwaukee in which Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points with 13 rebounds in 32 minutes.
When the game was over, however, an interaction between Antetokounmpo and injured Warriors star Steph Curry appeared to be highlighted by Curry, according to amateur social media sleuths, saying, “Let’s do it, come on man.”
That’s a decidedly vague and mostly meaningless sentiment. But in the context of the past decade and what may be ahead in the next couple of years, it resonated with fans and is still causing a stir now.
Consider that last year, a handful of conversations between stars Kyrie Irving of the Celtics and Kevin Durant of the Warriors—both of whom were slated to be free agents last summer—during All-Star weekend in Charlotte were written off as nothing of merit by Irving himself and by more sober members of the press.
Irving and Durant then teamed up anyway in July, both signing on with Brooklyn.
There was more stock given to the friendship between Durant and Warriors forward Draymond Green ahead of Durant’s 2016 free agency and, sure enough, that wound up yielding a Golden State outing to the Hamptons that summer. The Warriors left the Atlantic beaches with Durant on board.
And oh, how we scoffed back in 2010, at the start of all this star-to-star recruitment. That was when Cleveland’s LeBron James, Toronto’s Chris Bosh and Miami’s Dwyane Wade, all impending free agents, were reportedly huddled up during All-Star weekend, plotting a way to get together as a trio. Stephen A. Smith reported it but it sounded far too outlandish in those innocent days before any talents were taken to South Beach.
Bosh and James joined Wade in Miami, of course, promising a trove of championship rings (and delivering two).
Return, then, to the visit of the Bucks to the Bay Area. Folks in Warrior-ville have already penciled in Antetokounmpo as the franchise’s next big free-agent score.
Antetokounmpo can be a free agent in 2021 and though the Warriors would need to hack up the roster as it stands to make a contract work—Klay Thompson would have to go, as well as D’Angelo Russell and others, with no long-term salary coming back—the rumor persists that the Warriors want to target him.
But then, who wouldn’t target a 25-year-old who averages 30.0 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists and is the reigning MVP?
Still, the Sherlocks on Twitter put together that, perhaps, Curry was laying some recruiting groundwork in his chat with Antetokounmpo.
Not so, said Curry, who, according to Yahoo.com’s Chris Haynes, spent the conversation giving Antetokounmpo his gamer tag so the two could play a video game called PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
Only problem with that explanation: Antetokounmpo is not much of a video-game player.
It was reported, however, by Steve Berman of The Athletic that Antetokounmpo had a Curry jersey autographed in his locker after the game and that, perhaps, could explain the conversation. The two were simply exchanging jerseys. The publication’s Sam Amick quoted Antetokounmpo saying there wasn’t much to their chat.
“Steph is a — he’s a fun dude,” Antetokounmpo said. “I really don’t know him, know him, but whenever we’ve (played each other) he’s always come up to me, talked to me. It’s fun.”
Curry, for his part, had a resigned reaction on Twitter.
A whole lot of nothing? Most likely. But the Giannis-to-the-Warriors storyline is the kind of thing we’ve seen too many times before. It’s one that is likely to stick around at least for a while longer.