As Game 1 of the NBA Finals approaches, the biggest storyline of the season-ending series is the status of Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo — and whether he will be able to play against the Suns in the opening game.
“The Greek Freak” missed the last two-plus games of the Eastern Conference finals against the Hawks, exiting Game 4 with a hyperextended left knee in Atlanta. The Hawks bludgeoned Milwaukee 110-88 after his exit, but Antetekounmpo’s teammates stepped up in Games 5 and 6 to secure a 4-2 series win and send Milwaukee to its first NBA Finals since 1974 — all without the two-time defending NBA MVP.
That said, Milwaukee still is uncertain as to when exactly Antetkounmpo will be able to play against the Suns, who alongside Chris Paul, are looking for their first NBA championship. The Bucks have a minimum of four games to get Antetokounmpo back into the lineup, but the franchise obviously would prefer him to get back as soon as possible.
Here are the latest updates on Antetokounmpo ahead of Tuesday’s series-opening game for the NBA Finals:
Will Giannis Antetokounmpo play vs. Suns?
Update: Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported at 8:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday — just a half-hour before tipoff — that Antetokounmpo will play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals:
Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) will play tonight in Game 1 of The Finals against the Phoenix Suns, league sources tell @YahooSports.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 7, 2021
The Bucks confirmed Haynes’ report:
Original: The Bucks on Sunday released a brief clip of Antetkounmpo entering the team’s plane with the caption, “Off to Phoenix.”
While that suggests he will be able to play at some point in the series, it does not provide any clue as to when (moreover, the team’s social media account is not necessarily a source of official team news or updates).
On Tuesday, ESPN reporter Malika Andrews tweeted that Antetokounmpo had been upgraded from doubtful to questionable for Tuesday.
Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo has been upgraded from doubtful to questionable on this afternoon’s injury report.
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) July 6, 2021
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer on Monday provided a brief update to Antetokounmpo’s status, saying he was “making progress.” He added no other updates to his status, which is still in the air for Game 1. That essentially is what he said following the team’s Game 6 win in the Eastern Conference finals:
“I mean, (Giannis) and the sports performance team, they have been together a long time. It’s special to watch their relationship. It’s special to watch the communication, the trust that he has. You have to listen to the player and then you have to listen to the sports performance group, and at some point, Jon Horst and myself are part of the conversations, but it’s just a day-to-day thing. We’ll update it when appropriate. The conversations between he and myself and he and the sports performance group, it’s kind of private and we’ll see where he is each day.”
The NBA on Monday said Antetokounmpo would not practice that day ahead of Game 1 of the finals, adding that he was excused from participating in media availability because of his uncertain status. However, NBA TV’s Jared Greenberg reported Monday that, while Antetkounmpo wasn’t with the team, he was in a private gym in Phoenix — in front of several people associated with the organization, including trainers, coaches, people in his own camp and front office executives — trying to get game-ready for Tuesday’s series opener.
While Greenberg reported Antetkounmpo’s status was still uncertain, he said it was described to him that “Giannis is going to fight tooth and nail to be in the lineup.”
Greenberg also noted that there’s only one day between Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals, but two days between Games 2 and 3 and Games 3 and 4, respectively. The Bucks may consider using Tuesday and Wednesday as additional rest days for Antetkounmpo, ensuring he’s adequately rested and prepared to enter the series during Game 2.
Bucks vs. Suns Game 1 injury report
(This section will be updated with injury reports from the Bucks and Suns ahead of Game 1)
|Bucks||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Available||Left knee hyperextension|