By John Askounis/ email@example.com
It has been 45 days since Giannis Antetokoumpo’s last game. In September 9th, Greece defeated the Czech Republic but failed to punch a ticket for the 2019 FIBA World Cup quarterfinals. The reigning NBA MVP was the victim of a controversial game-ending fifth foul and was forced off the court in similar fashion for the second time though five games in the tournament that took place at China.
One and a half month later, the Greek Freak went through the preseason, admitted he prefers the NBA style of play and tipped off his 2019-20 NBA regular season campaign with a triple-double, but once again fouled out in the Milwaukee Bucks opener opposite to the Houston Rockets. His sixth foul on Thursday evening did not cost his team the win.
“I was pissed” he admitted after the game on watching the last five minutes from the bench, “Stupid sixth foul. I got under Clint Capela. I could have avoided the situation. You’re so excited, you reach a lot, but as a basketball player you have to control your excitement.”
Last season, he only fouled out twice including Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Overall, Thursday marked his 20th early exit due to fouls through 481 NBA appearances, all with the Bucks. “I’m just here to do whatever it takes for my team to win,” he said, “My sixth foul did not allow me to stay on the court, but my teammates did a great job without me.”
Focusing on the triple-double itself, Antetokounmpo became the first player after Oscar Robertson in 1966 to begin the regular season hitting a 30-point triple-double. It was the 15th triple-double of his NBA career even though he was held out in the final 5 minutes and 18 seconds of the affair.
“The comeback win says a lot. We stay together, play together, we win together and we lose together” mentioned the Greek Freak referring to his side’s second half outing, “Even though we faced adversity, we did not play our best basketball in the first half, we came out focused in the second, were able to move the ball and executed our game plan very well.”
One game down, 81 to go in the regular season. In 2018-19, the Bucks led the league with a 60-22 W-L tally ahead of the postseason, but were eliminated in six games by the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals. “We are at 1-0, that’s all. We take it day by day” pointed out Antetokounmpo signaling patience for the rest of the way.