When Thanasis Antetokounmpo chose to sign with the Knicks D-League franchise for next season instead of playing overseas, it marked a positive step for a franchise that has historically placed little emphasis on developing young players.
But it also showed a significant commitment on the part of Antetokounmpo.
The D-League doesn’t pay anywhere near what the NBA does, and being selected in the second round of the draft doesn’t come with it a guaranteed contract, or an automatic spot on the roster.
Antetokounmpo clearly wants to join his brother Giannis in playing in the states, however, and gave up a significant amount of money in the short term to do so.
The Greek agent for Knicks draft pick Thanasis Antetokounmpo said he’s “amazed’’ his client chose to play in the NBA’s D-League for the $25,000 cap and turn down an offer from an A-Division team in the Italian League, calling it “a big sacrifice.’’
According to agent Tim Lotsos, the Italian club, Varese, offered Antetokounmpo a two-year deal worth $550,000 with an opt-out to join the NBA after one year. Olympiakos in Greece and Sevilla in Spain also offered him deals.
“Amazing isn’t it?,’’ Lotsos told The Post in a phone call from Greece. “To my surprise, he passed on it. He’s very ambitious and determined to make the NBA. It’s a big sacrifice. It could’ve really put him ahead of schedule in his career. I didn’t try to force him. I wanted him to make his own decision.’’
The Knicks currently don’t have any room on the roster to add Antetokounmpo, but a trade or two later in the year could change that. In the event he develops more quickly than expected, he could be called up at some point during the season, and make at least some of the money back that he left on the table to pursue his NBA dreams.