Antetokounmpo injury: will he play the NBA Finals vs the Suns?
Milwaukee Bucks take on Phoenix Suns on Tuesday in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, waiting to see if Giannis Antetokounmpo is cleared to play.
Giannis Antetokounmpo missed Games 5 and 6 of the Eastern Conference finals after suffering a knee sprain injury against Atlanta in Game 4. He faces a race to be fit for the NBA Finals showdown with Phoenix Suns which get underway in Arizona on Tuesday. The 26-year-old forward twisted his left knee while defending an alley-oop dunk from Atlanta’s Clint Capela in the fourth game at State Farm Arena on 1 July. An MRI scan showed no serious damage to Giannis’ knee but the standard recovery time for mild to moderate sprains is between two and four weeks. That effectively rules Antetokounmpo out of Tuesday’s first clash with the Suns in the seven-game series but when will be return?
"Giannis is incredibly important to us"
Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer explained what Antetokounmpo, who was seen encouraging his team from the bench in the last two games, means to the group. “There’s a bittersweetness to him not being able to play these last two games. I think he understands that there is a way we want to play basketball, as a team, as a an organisation, we want to just be able to play ball and he’s a big part of that. But if he were to miss a game, or if he is on the bench for whatever reason, we need to be able to play, to have guys that have confidence and do all of the things that go into winning. While he is incredibly important to us, I think he appreciates what his team mates can do and we appreciate what he does.
In his latest update, Budenholzer preferred not to say when he expects Antetokounmpo to return. “He and the sports performance team, they’ve been together a long time, it’s special to watch their relationship, the communication, the trust that he has. You have to listen to the player and you have to listen to the sports performance group,” he explained, "At some point Jon Horst and myself are part of the conversation but it’s just a day-to-day thing, we’ll update it when appropriate. The conversations between him and myself and the sports team, it’s kinda private, we’ll see where he is each day”.
Point guard Jrue Holiday added, “To be honest, we’ll take it a day at a time and we’ll try to lock in and see where we can take advantage. From there, knowing Gian I’m sure he’ll be back at some point of the series. We have just got to prepare like ‘This is it’ - this really is it, this is the last seven games”.
Hope for Giannis
If similar injuries require a rest period of two to four weeks, Giannis could be back for Game 3 on Sunday 11 July or Game 4 on the 14th.
Yahoo Sports NBA insider Chris Haynes is optimistic about Giannis’ chances of taking part in the finals, posting on Twitter, “There’s belief Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) would be given the green light for a potential Game 7 if Hawks avoid elimination in Game 6 on Saturday, league sources tell Yahoo Sports”.