Milwaukee looking to Antetokounmpo for NBA playoff victory

Fred Jeter | 4/19/2019, 6 a.m.
Based on regular season play, the NBA’s best team and arguably best player represent a city perhaps known more for …
Giannis Antetokounmpo

League leaders

Here are the NBA regular season scoring leaders:

• James Harden, Houston Rockets, 36 points

• Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder, 28.0

• Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks, 27.7

• Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers, 27.5

• Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors, 27.3

Note: Milwaukee, with the home court advantage throughout the playoffs, opened a best-of-seven series against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday, April 14.

Based on regular season play, the NBA’s best team and arguably best player represent a city perhaps known more for beer and brats than basketball.

The long-mediocre Milwaukee Bucks — last championship in 1971; last division crown in 2001 — enter the NBA playoffs with the league’s top record (60-22) and a dazzling headliner with a long name, long frame and even longer list of credentials.

Meet Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka the “Greek Freak.” Born in Athens of Nigerian immigrant parents, the 6-foot-11, 242-pound Antetokounmpo showcases  a seldom seen skill set worthy of postseason laurels. 

Already a three-time All-Star at age 24, Antetokounmpo is a candidate both for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. He prevails in so many ways, averaging 28 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals.

He becomes the first player to average at least 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists since Oscar Robertson, then with Cincinnati, in 1962.

Coincidentally, it was Robertson who played on the Bucks’ last NBA championship team in 1971 with a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Richmonder Bobby Dandridge.

Antetokounmpo never played college hoops but developed an international following as a teenager with the Greek Filathlitikos club team. He was the 15th player picked in the 2013 draft by the Bucks.

The Wisconsin city known as “Brew Town,” among other nicknames, has just one NBA crown. It also reached the NBA finals in 1974, losing to the Boston Celtics.

Milwaukee won its playoff opener Sunday over the Detroit Pistons 121-86, with Antetokounmpo scoring 24 points, grabbing 17 rebounds and passing for four assists.

There’s much to like about the Bucks besides the overwhelming presence of Antetokounmpo.

Sweet Virginia breeze: Malcolm Brogdon has developed into one of the NBA’s top wings in his third season out of the University of Virginia, where he was a consensus All-American. In 2017, Brogdon became the first second round draft choice since Willis Reed in 1965 to win NBA Rookie of the Year.

This season, the Atlanta native averages 16 points, five rebounds and three assists while hitting 51 percent from the floor, 44 percent from the distance and a NBA best 93 percent at the foul line.

Brogdon currently is sidelined by plantar fasciitis in his right foot but is expected back by at least the second round of playoff games.

U.Va. retired his No. 15 jersey.

Dangling from Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum rafters is jersey No. 10, worn by Dandridge, the Bucks’ fourth round draft choice in 1969 out of Norfolk State University.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Larry Sanders was the Bucks’ first round draftee in 2010 and played in Milwaukee through 2015. 

Khris with a “K”: The top supporting role billing after Antetokounmpo is Khris Middleton out of Texas A&M University and now in his seventh season with the Bucks.

The 6-foot-8 Middleton averages 19 points and six rebounds and has 756 career 3-pointers (39 percent). 

From Charleston, S.C., Middleton was deeply touched by the June 2015 massacre at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston. His grandmother knew four of the nine people killed.

Middleton penned a column in The Players Tribute, saying, “In Charleston, we’re staying strong, but the wounds are still deep.”    

Shiny digs: The Bucks have the league’s best record and also the newest facility in which to strut their stuff. 

The Fiserv Forum, built at a cost of $547 million, opened this year with seating for 17,500 and the league’s largest symmetrical scoreboard.

The team previously played in the Bradley Center (1988-2018), which was the NBA’s third oldest arena behind Madison Square Garden in New York and Oakland’s Oracie Arena.

Fiserv, named after a financial services technology company, will host the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Fiserv is also home to Marquette University.

Rockin’ Robins? The Milwaukee NBA franchise was created in 1968 with a fan vote determining the team’s nickname.

With more than 40,000 votes cast, the winner was the Robins, the state bird.

But judges decided to go with the No. 2 selection, the Bucks, representing Wisconsin’s state wild animal, the white-tailed deer.

The thinking was that the team was “spirited, good jumpers, fast and agile.”