Friday, May 24, 2024

Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo ‘wasn’t even close’ to returning in series vs. Pacers, still can’t run full speed

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MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo told reporters during his exit interview on Friday afternoon that he still cannot run at full speed due to a calf strain that occurred on April 9. Antetokounmpo did not play after that point and missed the entirety of the team’s first-round playoff loss to the Indiana Pacers

Antetokounmpo worked extremely hard to try and get back, but he wasn’t able to even jog on his full body weight until the morning of Game 4, and estimated his current running ability at “30-40%.” Even if his teammates had been able to force a Game 7 against the Pacers on Saturday night, Antetokounmpo would not have been able to suit up. 

“I think I tried my best to come back to help my teammates,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s kind of hard to see them being out there and not being able to help them. But I just couldn’t. I did all the tests I had to do, these like protocols you have to follow and have to check the boxes and I wasn’t even close at like checking the boxes.

“But I was trying to push myself and push myself and push myself to get to a place where maybe I can’t check the boxes, but maybe I can even go out there and help, but in our opinion, it was not safe for me to be out there because I couldn’t run full speed. I could run only 30-40%. Even now I can’t run full speed. I’m probably going to take a few days, weeks, months I don’t know how long it’ll take until I get back to whatever I need to get back to.”

This is the second consecutive season that the Bucks have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, and injuries to Antetokounmpo have been a key reason why both times. He missed nearly all of the first three games last season against the Miami Heat due to a back injury. 

Antetokounmpo admitted that having to sit and watch another early exit was one of his “biggest struggles.” 

“I was talking to my family, and I’m like, maybe before Game 6, my mind, my heart is telling me I have to play, you know, and when I wake up from my bed and I go to wash my face, my mind’s, ‘OK, I’m going to play,'” Antetokounmpo said. “But when you get to the court, do your prep, lift your weights, and then you get on the court to shoot and run, and you run a little bit, and your body’s telling you, ‘Uh uh. You cannot play.’ 

“I had that struggle the past week-and-a-half. My mind. My heart. When I’m on the court and seeing them playing and the fans, and my teammates are playing and all that and they’re talking trash and it’s going back and forth, and my mind’s telling me, ‘I can play. I can play. I want to play.’ And then your body doesn’t. That’s the first time in my career that’s ever happened to me.”

One of Antetokounmpo’s defining traits throughout his career has been his durability. He has never played fewer than 61 games in a season and has reached the 70-game mark in seven of his 11 seasons. That number could have been higher without the COVID-shortened seasons. All told, he’s missed just 91 games through injury or illness in his career. 

He has always preferred to be on the court as much as possible, but as he approaches 30 with nearly 26,000 minutes to his name, he acknowledged that he may have to change his approach. 

“Maybe I have to even adjust my game, the way I play,” Antetokounmpo said. “There’s a lot of things. I’m willing to do anything — anything and everything — in order for me to be right there on the court and not let my teammates down.

“I’m for sure going to sit down and think about it, of how my summer is going to look like and how next year is going to look like. And I’m thinking with my physio and the staff and I’m going to try and make the best decision possible for me to be available.”

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