The Milwaukee Bucks have come under fire by the Greek basketball federation amid accusations they have been plotting to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo from playing in this year’s Eurobasket.
It’s no secret there were high hopes for the star basketballer to help Greece win their first gold in the European championships since 2005.
However a knee injury that surfaced while training with the national team in Greece has forced the 22-year-old to sit out, with the Bucks making the call he sit out for the rest of the off season.
According to reports, Antetokounmpo reported the injury to his NBA team who then contacted the Greek national team with a request he stop on-court running and jumping to rest.
Then while in China for an appearance, the Bucks’ strength and conditioning coach Suki Hobson put the forward through a series of exercises to evaluate his knee and reported that he was still “experiencing significant pain on basic movements,” the Bucks said, at which point the team’s doctor recommended he return to Milwaukee.
On Saturday, Antetokoumpo took to Facebook to release a statement saying he would be unavailable to play for Greece.
Due to the lack of formality in the announcements however, the Greek federation has expressed its suspicions.
“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising,” the statement read.
“A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organised and well-staged plan by (Antetokounmpo’s NBA) team, with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”
Meanwhile the federation’s general secretary, Takis Tsagronis on ERT said that they had not uncovered any issue with the player’s knee.
“We, on our side, did everything not to give the Bucks an excuse,” Mr Tsagronis said.
“We took a magnetic scan of Giannis’ leg, and it was clean. What the Bucks claim is not the reality; something else is happening.”
The NBA however has disputed Greece’s claims and released a statement in defence of the Bucks’ decision.
“The NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks have followed all appropriate protocol under the NBA-FIBA agreement,” said the NBA.
“Giannis has an injury that has been confirmed through multiple examinations, and any suggestion to the contrary is false.”
Antetokounmpo was scheduled to return to Milwaukee this week where he will begin daily treatment and rehab for Bucks’ training camp in just over five weeks.
The player has been showing big promise in the NBA, having signed a four-year US$100 million contract extension with the Bucks.
Last season he averaged 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.6 steals per game.