The other night Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo was given a technical for taunting. After throwing down a dunk, Antetokounmpo stared at Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns for several seconds while flashing his so-called “Mean Mug.’’
It wasn’t the first time Antetokounmpo has taunted an opponent with a “Mean Mug’’, and it probably won’t be the last if league officials continue to allow the two-time MVP to get away with it.
It goes without saying Antetokounmpo would have paid a steep price for his shenanigans in a different era of the NBA. Can you imagine the consequences Antetokounmpo would have incurred if he mean-mugged Charles Oakley, or Bill Laimbeer, or Wes Unseld, or Rick Mahorn, or Maurice Lucas or any of the other “Enforcers’’ of past years. They simply wouldn’t have tolerated Antetokounpo’s action, especially if he had belittled them in front of their peers, coaches and fans.
While talking to a former NBA center the other day, the subject of Antetokounmpo’s “Mean Mug’’ antics was brought up. I asked him what would have happened if Antetokounmpo would have displayed such unprofessional behavior against him.
“If that would have happened to me, something would have happened right there. And it wouldn’t have been good,’’ the longtime center, who was never afraid to mix it up, said. “If you showed up another player and crossed the line …
“I would have been ejected, fined $100,000 and suspended for five games.’’
His voice trailed off before he added, “It’s a different game today, but I know if I or some other guys from my time would have had that happen to them, it would have been ugly.’’
No MVP three-peat for Antetokounmpo
Antetokounmpo is putting up MVP-type numbers once again this season, but his team, unlike the past two seasons, has been one of the biggest underachievers in the league.
The Bucks, who posted the league’s best regular-season records the last two seasons, were a bitterly disappointing 16-13 just over a week ago before winning three straight games against three dregs — Oklahoma City (13-19), Sacramento (12-20) and Minnesota (7-26) — and barely outlasting New Orleans, which is 14-18.
In light of the Bucks’ sub-par play, Antetokounmpo’s chances of adding another MVP trophy this season have already disappeared. In a recent poll of 15 media members conducted by Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.com, Antetokounmpo finished a distant ninth in the voting.
Joel Embiid was the top vote-getter, with LeBron James and Nikola Jokic finishing second and third, respectively.
Middleton is an expensive non-All-Star
Khris Middleton is the latest example of how you don’t have to be an All-Star but still get paid like one.
The Milwaukee Bucks veteran small forward was passed over for the upcoming All-Star Game in voting by the fans, media and league coaches. He was also passed over as a replacement for the injured Kevin Durant.
Middleton is the 15th-highest paid player in the league this season, collecting a whopping $33,051 million. But Middleton, an All-Star reserve the last two seasons, isn’t the only extremely well-paid player who won’t be in this year’s All-Star Game. Here are some others:
- Russell Westbrook, Washington, $41,358M.
- John Wall, Houston, $41,254M.
- Blake Griffin, Detroit, $36,810M.
- Mike Conley, Memphis, $34,379M.
- Jimmy Butler, Miami, $34,379M.
- Tobias Harris, Philadelphia, $34,358M.
Big man in big demand
With the NBA trading deadline fast approaching, the rumor mill is starting to crank up.
Perhaps the most targeted trade candidate is Cleveland center Andre Drummond. It’s no secret the Cavaliers are looking to move Drummond, and it’s no secret a slew of teams, especially title-contending ones, are keenly interested in the 27-year-old’s services.
Drummond is a defensive force and is averaging 13.5 rebounds, the second-best in the league, and 1.2 blocked shots. He’s also having another solid offensive season, averaging 17.5 points.
Brooklyn, which is clearly all-in on winning a championship, covets Drummond. But sources said three other Eastern Conference playoff-bound teams – Toronto, Boston and Miami – wouldn’t mind taking Drummond off the Cavs’ hand as well.
“All of those teams in the East know they need an established and reliable big if they were to face Embiid or Giannis in the playoffs,’’ an Eastern Conference executive said.
Bucks looking for assistance
Two key factors for the Bucks’ success the last two seasons were some exquisite chemistry and overall depth. The Bucks have neither this season.
The Bucks bench is a collection of average-to below-average players and simply inadequate for a title contender. If the Bucks expect to make some noise in the playoffs, they’ll undoubtedly need to bring in at least one, if not two, veterans who can shore up their rotation.
With seemingly no inclination to spend money and pay the luxury tax and, with GM Jon Horst having virtually mortgaged the team’s future — he dealt three No. 1 picks (all unprotected) to acquire Jrue Holiday, the Bucks options are clearly limited.
One player who could come at a small price and help them is Glenn Robinson III, who was recently released by Sacramento and whom the Bucks have shown interest in in the past.
“I think he’s a solid player,’’ a player personnel official said of Robinson. “His shot is pretty good; his defense is pretty good. I think he’d be a handy pickup for a team like the Bucks looking for an off-the-bench guy.’’
I was told the Bucks were hoping to rekindle interest in former first-round pick D.J. Wilson by showcasing him earlier this season. But Wilson didn’t produce and his trade value is almost non-existent.
When I asked a player personnel director earlier this week if the Bucks could get a second-round pick for Wilson, he replied, “I don’t know.’’
- The Dallas Mavericks had high expectations for this season but instead have struggled immensely. Some league officials claim it’s partially because of in-house squabbles between some players and coaches.
- Betonline.ag recently had some interesting odds on the next NBA coach to be fired. Not surprisingly, Sacramento’s Luke Walton heads the list at 5/2. Surprisingly, Detroit’s Dwane Casey was next at 11/4. Third was Washington’s Scott Brooks.
Two other interesting odds: Denver’s Michael Malone at 12/1 and Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer at 16/1.
- Jrue Holiday remains sidelined for what Bucks officials are saying are COVID-19 health and safety protocols. He hasn’t played since Feb. 6 – or more than three weeks ago. He is expected to return soon, perhaps as soon as Sunday when the Bucks play the Clippers.
- Once again the West is the best and the East is the least. Of the East’s 15 teams, only three – yes, three — have a winning record. Of the West’s 15 teams, eight have winning records.
- Only in the East could you have three of your best players miss a bunch of games and still be the fifth-best team in the conference. But that’s the case with the Miami Heat, who didn’t have Jimmy Butler for 12 games, Tyler Herro for 11 games and Goran Dragic for 14 games.
- Former Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova remains out of work but would be a nice addition for a playoff-bound team.
- Congrats to former Bucks coach Joe Prunty, who recently guided the U.S team to a 6-0 record in the FIBA AmeriCup qualifying tournament.
- Mavs owner Mark Cuban lashed out at ESPN’s Zach Lowe last week, after Lowe, a well-respected journalist, said Mavs star guard Luka Doncic was one of the whiniest players in the league toward officials. Responded Cuban, “F— you, Zach Lowe. You don’t know s—.’’
Some might say the same about Cuban, who has made his share of blunders, including instructing his player personnel people to pass on selecting Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2013 NBA draft.