Giannis Antetokounmpo is the NBA’s golden unicorn. This season, he’s emerged as an MVP candidate, Defensive Player of the Year candidate, executed the dunk of the year and should be a fringe name on Most Improved Player of the Year ballots after winning the award in 2017.
However, he has dealt with minor knee aches that have resulted in him missing EuroBasket last summer and sitting four games this season with knee soreness. In a recent interview with Eurohoops TV, beginning at the 1:39 mark, Antetokounmpo chalked his knee issues up to his excessive basketball.
Via CBS Sports:
Giannis: The situation with my knee is better now. I have a group of people who have helped me.
Reporter: What do the doctors say?
Giannis: The problem is that I play too much.
Reporter: It’s not another issue, right?
Giannis: No, it’s just that I have to rest more. This summer I had no time to rest. After the playoffs I went straight to the gym. I went to see Kostas [Giannis’ younger brother] and practiced for about a week and a half with him. I didn’t have any rest, and that’s how, um … the situation deteriorated. After this season I will have time to rest.
Antetokounmpo’s work ethic is admirable. Ball is life and that mentality has brought him to this point in his career. He’s also second in the NBA in minutes per game, never undergone a major knee surgery, is built like a rock and only 23 years old, therefore the health of his knees isn’t too much of a concern in the short term. However, his game is reliant on his Go-Go-Gadget limbs and dynamic athleticism. Milwaukee is in this for the long haul and it would do well to monitor his minutes more closely.
Despite his meteoric ascendance on the court, he’s still a 7-footer putting a significant pounding on the joints that connect to his long legs every season. Knee injuries have felled 7-foot unicorns such as Ralph Sampson, Yao Ming, have been an obstacle for Joel Embiid and to lesser degree has affected Kristaps Porzingis throughout his career.
The Greek Freak is still young, and may belong in the Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar class of unicorns who don’t have durability issues, but in this day and age NBA types are analogous to modern helicopter parents. They’re extremely vigilant about protecting their star players. Managing Antetokounmpo’s minutes, surrounding him with more talent and keeping a closer eye on his participation in off-season basketball tournaments is something Milwaukee should keep a close eye on.
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