The Milwaukee Bucks came into the season with sky-high expectations after trading for Damian Lillard over the summer.
But tensions are rising in Milwaukee with the Bucks losing four of their past five games.
Their latest loss came against the Utah Jazz on Monday in a game they trailed by as much as 33 points and ultimately lost 132-116, albeit without Lillard in uniform.
And in the aftermath of Milwaukee’s previous game, a 112-108 loss to the Houston Rockets, Giannis Antetokounmpo questioned his team’s effort during an extended rant.
“We have to be better,” he said. “We have to play better. We have to defend better. We have to trust one another better. We have to be coached better. Every single thing, everybody has to be better. Everybody. It starts from the equipment manager. He has to wash our clothes better.”
Antetokounmpo also called out his teammates for giving up on defensive plays.
“We cannot die on screens. We die on screens, including myself. I’m not trying to throw anybody under the bus. That’s why I keep saying including myself. Always. It starts from me. I’m the leader of the team. It always starts with me. I have to be better, but we cannot die on screens.”
In light of Giannis’ monologue and clear frustration, The Athletic’s Zach Harper offered quite the prediction on The Athletic NBA Show this week, saying Damian Lillard will not be with the Bucks next season, partly because Giannis is clearly fed up with his lack of defensive effort.
Here’s what Harper had to say:
“My hot take, safe zone submission: Dame’s gone this summer. You know what I read? You know what I read? When he said, “We got to stop dying on screens”. Oh, myself included. You think that was a direct shot at Dame? Who could it be at? I don’t think he’s taking shots at Cam Payne.”
“I think Eric Nehm wrote that Giannis talked for seven and a half minutes on all this, right? Just going off on all this stuff, right? He’s real pissed. And I think that when I saw that “we got to stop dying, we can’t die on screens,” oh, myself included, I was like, ‘Oh, damn’. You saw subtext at Dame.”
There’s no denying that Lillard has had plenty of glaring defensive lapses this season, and there’s no doubt they have irked Giannis.
Whether or not all this will culminate in Milwaukee moving on from Lillard next season remains to be seen, but anything is possible.
The Bucks will face their next test when they play the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics on Thursday.