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Giannis Antetokounmpo: He tried better but was not close to returning to the playoffs

MILWAUKEE – Despite trying to push himself to be available for the Bucks for the playoffs, Giannis Antetokounmpo acknowledged he was “not close” to returning from his left calf strain, adding that he could only run at 30-40%.

“I did my best to come back and help my teammates,” Antetokounmpo said Friday, a day after the Bucks lost their first-round series to the Indiana Pacers. “It’s kind of hard to see them out there and not be able to help them, but I just couldn’t.

“I did all the testing I had to do, like protocols you have to follow and checking the boxes. I wasn’t even close to checking the boxes.”

Antetokounmpo last played on April 9. He ended up missing three weeks with a left calf strain, missing the Bucks’ final three games of the regular season and the six-game postseason.

This was the second consecutive postseason in which Antetokounmpo missed games due to injury, and a back problem sidelined him for several games in the 2023 playoffs. Antetokounmpo had to consider whether he needs to change his approach heading into next season. season.

“I don’t know. Maybe I follow a different pattern,” Antetokounmpo said. “Maybe I’ll try different things. I don’t like the word ‘rest’. If I can play, I’ll play. If I can’t play, I can’t play.

“I’ll probably sit back and think about what my summer is going to be like and what next year is going to be like.”

One potential factor in Antetokounmpo’s summer schedule is the Paris Olympics. Antetokounmpo has previously expressed interest in playing in the Olympics, but has not confirmed that he will do so. Greece also has yet to earn a place in the Games at a qualifying tournament in July.

Antetokounmpo said it would take two to three more weeks to recover before deciding his next steps.

After suffering the injury against the Boston Celtics on April 9, Antetokounmpo initially thought he would be able to return to the game that night. After some initial testing in the locker room that afternoon, he stepped off the trainer’s table but felt pain when he took the first step. Antetokounmpo wore a walking boot for the first week after the injury.

Before the fourth game, he began jogging for the first time since the injury.

“I usually heal pretty quickly,” Antetokounmpo said. “Whatever happens to me, whatever they say (over a period of time), it’s half of it. I think this time it might not be the case.”

Antetokounmpo is coming off one of his best seasons. He played 73 games in the regular season, the most since 2017-18, and averaged 30.4 points on 61.1% shooting, the first player in NBA history to score 30 points per game on 60% shooting. of shots.

Even so, the Bucks fell in the first round for the second consecutive season. Despite the early departure, Antetokounmpo said he felt confident going forward about the Bucks’ ability to compete.

Especially considering how little time the Bucks’ best players spent on the court together once Doc Rivers took over as coach. After Rivers’ first game on Jan. 29, Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Damian Lillard played eight games together in total.

“Obviously, it doesn’t feel good. The wound, you know, it’s fresh. It’s open. You just lost in the first round,” Antetokounmpo said. “But I’m not a guy that makes excuses. Right now, I think when Khris, Dame and Brook (L√≥pez) were on the court and we were healthy, we were one of the best offenses in the NBA. And you can go and check it out.” .

To bounce back from a disappointing outing, Antetokounmpo said he hoped to have a full offseason. He would give him more time to learn and work with Rivers as a coach and to build chemistry with Lillard, whom he planned to visit in Oregon over the summer.

“It’s different when you have the whole summer and training camp, a year, to prepare for the end than having only three months,” Antetokounmpo said. “It was a difficult season. In many ways, if you look at the changes: the coaches. The player changes. New assistants. New people, new staff. How you play… it was kind of exhausting. But that’s why doing what we do; we don’t expect it to be perfect. We just have to move forward and try to do our job and hope that we can do it the best we can.