‘Tamperpalooza?’ Lakers Could Recruit Giannis Antetokounmpo in Orlando

Bucks forward Giannis Antetokoumpo, left, and the Lakers' Anthony Davis

Getty Bucks forward Giannis Antetokoumpo, left, and the Lakers' Anthony Davis

One factor for the return of the NBA at the end of this month to consider: It could be, as The Athletic’s Ethan Strauss put it, “Tamperpalooza.”

That’s because, of all the spots within the Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, home of both the courts and the lodgings for the restarted 2019-20 season, the Gran Destino Tower could be where the bulk of the action is. The Bucks and star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo will be housed there for the duration of their run into the league’s playoffs next month and, most likely, beyond.

Also shacking up in the Tower with the Greek Freak and friends will be the Los Angeles Lakers. Of course, there is backstory there: The Lakers spearheaded by LeBron James, intend to make Antetokoumpo their top free-agent prize in less than a year.

Antetokounmpo will be the most coveted free agent on the market in the summer of 2021, and he is a rare commodity: only 26 years old, already with four All-Star team selections 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 in March as the novel coronavirus spread.

The Bucks, obviously, are desperate to keep Antetokoumpo in the team’s fold and he has indicated in the past that he’d like to stay in Milwaukee on a long-term contract extension.

But if the Bucks, who have not reached the NBA Finals since 1974, flop out in the playoffs again this year, the chances that Antetokounmpo will be open to exploring other options in free agency grow exponentially.

And he’ll likely be the subject of many whispered sweet-nothings in the next few months weeks—many coming from folks with Lakers attachments.

Lakers Will Have Ample 2021 Cap Space for Giannis Antetkounmpo

The Lakers are among the teams best set up to make a run at Antetokounmpo in 2021. Assuming LeBron James opts out for the year, L.A. has no one on their books for that year, though they could wind up with some commitments, including their 2020 first-round pick, a possible extension for forward Kyle Kuzma, and/or a new contract for Anthony Davis in the coming months.

Even with those deals, the Lakers probably would have enough money to sign Antetokounmpo and bring back James as a free agent with Bird Rights (which allow teams over the salary cap to bring back their own players). They may have to trade Kuzma to make that happen.

Imagine a Big Three of James, Davis and Antetokounmpo. Yikes.

It will help, too, that the Lakers currently employ two-way player Kostas Antetokounmpo, the younger brother of Giannis. It is safe to say that Giannis will spend at least a little time visiting Kostas in the Laker section of the Gran Destino at some point this summer.

That would give an opportunity to the best pitchman in the league—James—to sidle up to Antetokounmpo for a chat about his future.

Could Giannis Antetkounmpo be Lakers-Bound?

Back in February, remember, Antetokounmpo discussed in an interview how much he would like to play alongside his brothers (his older brother, Thanasis, plays for the Bucks now). “In Milwaukee, in L.A., wherever,” he said.

That means little in determining exactly where Antetokoumpo will play next, but L.A. does appear to be his top option outside of Milwaukee. He is No. 1 on the Lakers’ free-agent board, too. There will be others available—Gordon Hayward, Victor Oladipo, Bradley Beal, Jrue Holiday—but Antetokounmpo is the top prize.

Having him sharing a hotel with the Lakers and other potential suitors must make the Bucks brass nervous.

“Not ideal,” one general manager told Heavy.com. “Look, I don’t think they’ll be calling his room at all hours of the night or pushing him into uncomfortable situations. I don’t think the coaching staff will be showing up with flowers. But I think the conversations he will have with players, especially a guy like LeBron, that is where a bond can start and those seeds get sown and you go from a nothing thought to maybe I’d like to play for L.A., to a year later he’s a Laker, you know?”

That’s the fear for folks in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo is going to make a push for a championship between now and October. If he gets one, it’s almost certain he will stay put. But if things don’t go right for the Bucks, Tamperpalooza will be in full swing.

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