Giannis Antetokounmpo Embracing Move to Point Guard
Entering the 2014-15 NBA season, Milwaukee Bucks sophomore Giannis Antetokounmpo has a new head coach, a new star teammate, a new owner and even a new position. Jason Kidd was hired as the team’s coach over the summer and he wants to move Antetokounmpo from small forward to point guard.
Kidd believes the second-year player has the skill set to thrive as a floor general, and envisions him being a match-up nightmare with his 6’11 frame and 7’5 wingspan. The 19-year-old has been working out in Milwaukee with teammates and is prepared to make the transition to the one.
“I’m not going to say I was shocked by it,” Antetokounmpo told Basketball Insiders when asked about the move to point guard. “It’s something that I feel comfortable with and I’ll play wherever Coach wants me to play, especially when it’s Coach Kidd who thinks that I can play point guard. That makes me feel like, ‘I can play it. I can play point guard.’ I’m going to try my best and just listen to Coach. I’ll do whatever Coach says to do and I’ll get more comfortable.”
In addition to learning from Kidd, Gary Payton has said that he’ll work with Antetokounmpo during training camp as he adjusts to playing point guard. Antetokounmpo is ecstatic that he’ll get to learn from Kidd and Payton, and realizes this is an opportunity that most players don’t get.
“Oh man, it’s really important and nice, since they’re some of the best point guards in NBA history,” Antetokounmpo said of Kidd and Payton. “Not only are they great point guards, they’re great basketball players and can help us all basketball wise. Whatever they say, that is what I’m going to do. I’m so happy to have guys like them as I figure out the position and to have them teach me. I’m really excited. I’ve talked with Jason Kidd and he’s a really good coach, but he’s also a really great guy. He treats us really well.”
Kidd had Antetokounmpo play some point guard during the Las Vegas Summer League and said that he’ll continue the experiment during the regular season. In Vegas, Antetokounmpo played well. He had the ball in his hands a lot and averaged 17 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, a steal and a block.
“I was comfortable playing point guard during Summer League, but the pressure and the [competition] level of Summer League is different,” Antetokounmpo said. “Okay, there are some NBA players, but it’s not the same. For sure, it’s not the same [as the regular season]. So, let’s see. Let’s see how training camp goes. The guys are ready. Brandon Knight, who is one of our point guards, will sometimes give me the ball so that I can be the point guard and he can be more of a scorer. I’ll just see how it goes in training camp, playing point guard, and then during the season see how I do.”
Initially, Payton wasn’t sure if Antetokounmpo could succeed as a point guard. However, after talking with Kidd and watching him closely in Las Vegas, Payton is a believer.
“When Jason said to me that he intends to use him as a point guard, I told him to stop making jokes. ‘Gary don’t talk before you see him,’ was his answer and I watched him during the Las Vegas Summer League,” Payton said, according to Eurohoops.net. “He can handle the ball, he can drive, he is smart and he is really athletic. That’s why I was asked to go to Milwaukee during the training camp in order to help him adapt to the demands of the modern point guard position.”
Antetokounmpo isn’t sure how much time he’ll spend at point guard versus small forward this year, but he’s expecting to play both positions. It sounds like the team is playing it by ear and seeing how he does in training camp and the preseason before locking in his minutes at one position over the other.
“I think I’m going to play point guard, but I’ll also play at the three,” Antetokounmpo said. “I’m going to do whatever Coach tells me. Whatever he wants me to do, I’ll do.”
Last season, Antetokounmpo grew two inches and admitted to Basketball Insiders that while it was great news for him in the long-term because it made him even more of a nightmare on both ends of the floor, in the short-term the growth spurt was difficult for him because he had to adjust to being taller. Now, he says he is more comfortable in his body after playing more.
“I feel more comfortable now,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s hard when you’re growing and growing and growing because you have to get used to it. Things change. You’re dribbling higher, you have to find the timing on your shot. When I grew, I had to fix all of that, but I’m more comfortable now with my game.”
In addition to Antetokounmpo’s position change and continued growth (literally and figuratively), another reason to tune in to the Bucks this season is No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker. The former Duke star has been a household name for several years and he enters the league with huge expectations. Antetokounmpo can’t wait to play with Parker and, after working out with him in Milwaukee, he has nothing but positive things to say about the rookie’s game and work ethic.
“I’m really excited we added him to the team because he’s a great player and a great guy too,” Antetokounmpo said of Parker. “I love playing with him and he’s going to bring a lot of things to the team. He’ll draw a lot of attention [from defenses] and there will be a lot of space, which will help me create. He’s going to help me – and not just me, all of the team. He’s going to make all of the team better because he’s a really good player and he’s a hard worker, who is going to make the rest of the team work hard too. That’s the truth. Whenever I see our guys working, and not just Jabari, that really pushes me to work harder. Seeing a guy like Jabari always on the court and working hard, that makes me want to work harder and harder. I think he’ll be really good for us this year.”
This offseason, Antetokounmpo played for Greece’s national team in the FIBA World Cup. Greece lost earlier than expected, in the round of 16 to Serbia, but it was a great experience for Antetokounmpo, who averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 16 minutes per game. He was often one of the youngest players on the floor and deferred to Greece’s veteran players, mainly getting his points through hustle plays. However, he believes participating made him better and he’s looking forward to playing with Greece every chance he gets going forward.
“I really think it will help me,” Antetokounmpo said of playing in the World Cup. “I went over there [to Spain] and I played among the best from all different parts of the world, so it was a really good experience. With things like that, you never lose something, you always gain something. I’m glad that I was there and participated in the World Cup and helped my team Greece to do something. I was really glad that I did a lot this summer. We didn’t do what we were expected to do. We thought we were going to go further, but what can we do, that’s part of the game. For sure [I will continue to play with the national team]. Things like that make you better because you’re working hard over the summer and participating against the best.”
Antetokounmpo’s numbers from last season don’t jump off of the page, but he didn’t play a ton of minutes and it was easy to forget that he was as old as many high school students. Still, he showed glimpses of brilliance and had a number of jaw-dropping plays.
Really, his development has been incredible, especially when considering that prior to entering the NBA, he was playing against low-level competition in Greece that an NBA executive once compared to YMCA games. Now, he’s one of the most intriguing young players in the NBA, he’s gotten much stronger and he’s ready for an increased role in Coach’s Kidd’s system in Milwaukee.
“For sure, I feel much stronger and more athletic, but I still have a long way to go,” Antetokounmpo said when asked about his development last year. “I can still get much stronger and much more athletic. I’m just going to keep working.”
Antetokounmpo is one of the most exciting up-and-coming players in the entire league and all eyes will be on the Bucks over the next few years to see how he develops. The good news for Bucks fans is that their young point forward is working extremely hard and he’s determined to reach his full potential. He also wants to make Milwaukee more competitive in the near future, since last season’s 15-win campaign was brutal for everyone involved.
“Last year was really hard and the first thing [we want to accomplish as a team] is to get as many wins as possible,” Antetokounmpo said. “We just got to keep getting better as a team because we have a lot of young guys in this group. We can start to show the world what we can do right now, and then in two or three years, we’re going to really show them what we’ve got. We’re still growing and trying to get better. My team goal is to keep getting better, work really hard and win as much as possible this year because last year was really tough. My individual goal is just to be the best that I can be every year and try to add something every year.”
This year, the Bucks are hoping that he’s ready to add point guard duties to his impressive skill set. If he can succeed at the new position, the rest of the league better watch out because he’ll be a nightmare for opposing floor generals.
Lakers Sign Ronnie Price
The Los Angeles Lakers have signed guard Ronnie Price, it was announced today by general manager Mitch Kupchak.
The nine-year NBA veteran holds career averages of 3.4 points, 1.5 assists, and 1.1 rebounds over 425 games (35 starts). The 31-year-old Price spent his first two NBA seasons with the Sacramento Kings (2005-07), followed by stints with the Utah Jazz (2007-11), Phoenix Suns (2011-12), Portland Trailblazers (2012-13) and most recently with the Orlando Magic last season.
The 6’2 Price averaged a career-high 2.1 assists per game in 2013-14 with Orlando, in addition to 2.4 points, 1.4 rebounds, and 0.8 steals in 12.2 minutes over 31 games (two starts).
The Friendswood, TX native has appeared in the postseason four times (2006, ’08, ’09 and ’10) in his career.
Kings Waive Scotty Hopson
The Sacramento Kings today waived guard Scotty Hopson, according to Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro.
Hopson was recently acquired from the Houston Rockets along with Alonzo Gee and a pair of second-round draft picks in exchange for guard Jason Terry and a trade exception.
Undrafted out of the University of Tennessee, Hopson appeared in two contests for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season before being traded to Houston during the offseason.
This was expected, as Hopson’s deal was non-guaranteed.
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