For league officials and front-office members around the NBA, one of the fears entering the league’s “bubble” environment in Orlando in the coming days is the opportunity for tampering. Players will be staying in the same hotels, after all, and will have ample opportunity for friendly recruiting chats involving soon-to-be free agents.
There’s no player who will soon be a free agent bigger than Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. And while the whole league has eyes on Antetokounmpo’s future it’s no secret that the Lakers have maintained ample cap room so that they can make a pitch to lure Antetokounmpo to L.A. if he does not sign an extension or a new deal with the Bucks.
The Lakers just happen to be sharing a Disney World hotel with Milwaukee. The Bucks began their arrival in Florida on Thursday.
But Bucks general manager Jon Horst, speaking to reporters this week, does not seem concerned.
“I think that would technically violate the social distancing rules and I think everyone is getting tracked for that,” Horst said, jokingly. “I think we’ll be OK that way as well.”
Bucks Eager to Keep Antetokounmpo Long-Term
Antetokounmpo will be the most coveted free agent on the market in the summer of 2021, sure to be a rare commodity: only 26 years old, with at least four All-Star teams under his belt and (so far) one MVP trophy. He was averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists when the season was put on hold as the novel coronavirus spread.
The Bucks, obviously, are desperate to keep Antetokoumpo in the team’s fold and he has indicated he’d like to stay in Milwaukee on a long-term contract extension.
But if the Bucks have not reached the NBA Finals since 1974 and last won a title in 1971. Since Antetokounmpo’s arrival in 2013, the team has had a series of poor postseason appearances. They lost in the first round three times and lost to Toronto last year in the East finals, despite having won 60 games and earning the top seed in the playoffs. If they flop out in the playoffs again this year, the chances that Antetokounmpo will be open to exploring other options in free agency grow exponentially.
Bucks Plan to Offer Antetokounmpo a Supermax Contract
The Bucks had a rough start to their season reboot. Over the weekend, the team had to close its practice facility when four members of the organization tested positive for COVID-19. Horst declined to say who tested positive, but the team is bringing a full 35-person contingent to the Orlando bubble.
And Horst has made no bones about his plans with Antetokounmpo. Last September, during a preseason Q&A with season-ticket holders and coach Mike Budenholzer, Horst said the team would be offering Antetokounmpo a supermax deal as soon as it can, which will be after this season ends.
“Giannis will be eligible for a supermax extension at that time, of course, he will be offered a supermax extension,” Horst said. “Bud and I talk about this all the time, it is our responsibility to create an environment and a culture, a basketball organization where our players want to come to work every day with players they want to play with and they want to win at the highest level. We’ve taken great steps toward that.”