NBA, Bucks deny Antetokounmpo EuroBasket plot

Los Angeles (AFP) –


The NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks have denied a Greek Basketball Federation charge that they plotted to keep rising star Giannis Antetokounmpo from playing for his country in the upcoming EuroBasket.

The 24-year-old Bucks forward announced Saturday in a post on Facebook that he had a knee injury that would prevent him from playing for Greece in the continental tournament that starts on August 31.

A statement issued by the Greek federation disputed that explanation, saying they were convinced of "an organized and well-planned project by the NBA team in which Giannis plays, with full knowledge if not the encouragement of the NBA, which put the player in trouble and forced him to inform us that he is no longer a member of the national team".

Panagiotis Tsagronis, general secretary of the federation, told state-run ERT television network that a recent MRI exam showed Antetokounmpo was "OK".

"The NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks have followed all appropriate protocol under the NBA-FIBA agreement," said Tim Frank, the NBA's senior vice president of basketball communications, in a statement published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal.

"Giannis has an injury that has been confirmed through multiple examinations and any suggestion to the contrary is false."

Antetokounmpo, who finished in the top 20 in the NBA in total points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks last season, said on Facebook that missing the tournament "is by far the biggest disappointment that I have felt so far in my career".

Antetokounmpo, whose four-year, $100 million contract extension with the Bucks goes into effect this season, said he had been trying to train through pain when the Bucks organized tests on his knee while he was on a promotional trip to China -- after which he was to rejoin the Greek team.

He said he was unable to complete the exercises he was set, and would focus now on getting back to full strength in time for the start of the upcoming NBA campaign.

Bucks general manager Jon Horst said in a statement on Sunday that Antetokounmpo had reported feeling pain in his knee while training with the Greek team.

At the Bucks' request he sat out some training, but the Bucks were concerned enough to send team trainer Suki Hobson to China to examine him.

After reviewing Hobson's report, team doctor William Raasch "recommended that due to the recurring knee pain, Giannis should not continue to attempt to play at this time and that the best course of action would be for him to return to Milwaukee for further evaluation and to begin a structured, daily rehabilitation program," Horst said.