The stakes for the Milwaukee Bucks' season just got a whole lot higher.
Speaking with Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse and her co-author, Melcolm Ruffin, Giannis Antetokounmpo said his decision to sign a long-term contract with the Bucks will be "a lot more difficult" if the team underperforms in 2019-20.
"I want the Bucks to build a winning culture," Antetokounmpo said in a case study on the team's turnaround (via the Journal Sentinel). "So far, we have been doing great, and, if this lasts, there's no other place I want to be. But if we're underperforming in the NBA next year, deciding whether to sign becomes a lot more difficult."
The Bucks are expected to offer Antetokounmpo a five-year contract extension worth $253 million next summer. If Antetokounmpo declines that offer, he can become a free agent in 2021 and may wind up being the latest superstar player on the move via trade.
Giannis has long maintained a desire to stay in Milwaukee, provided the Bucks are winning. His statement to Elberse does not contradict any of his public comments but represents the first time he's hinted an exit could come if the Bucks aren't championship contenders.
Antetokounmpo told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com this summer:
"My goal is going to stay the same: It's get better, take it day by day, step by step, and the ultimate goal is to win a championship. As long as that we are all on the same page and we are all focused on that goal, why not play for the Bucks 20 years, why not play 25 years? Why not, after playing, be a member of the coaching staff or a member of the front office? But we got to have the same goal. We got to have the same principles. … We got to focus on winning a championship.
"I want to be a part of a winning team. As long as we have the same mindset and same approach to the game, there's no reason for me to move and not be like Steph [Curry], not like be like Dirk [Nowitzki] or Kobe [Bryant] or Tim Duncan."
Veteran supermax contracts, which were designed to keep star players with their franchises, have not necessarily worked as planned. The likes of Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis have requested trades in recent seasons despite supermax deals being on the table—often in an effort to land in a glitzier market.
Antetokounmpo would have no shortage of major-market suitors if he were to leave Milwaukee. With a weak free-agent class upcoming this summer, what happens with Antetokounmpo may be the offseason's biggest story.