Players recruiting players is part of the free agency process now. LeBron James had dinner with Anthony Davis not long before AD’s trade demand. Draymond Green was texting Kevin Durant after the 2016 Finals. Spencer Dinwiddie was chatting up Kyrie Irving around a marketing class they took together.
“I don’t like doing that stuff,” Antetokounmpo said. “I don’t get an extra paycheck for doing Jon’s job or Coach Bud’s job or whoever’s job it is. … If you asked me one year ago, two years ago, I’d say, ‘Coach, just take care of it.’ ”
However, with Malcolm Brogdon heading to Indiana this summer (in a sign-and-trade), the Greek Freak knew he needed to get some help on the roster. So, he took to recruiting.
First up was Wesley Matthews, and the pitch was that he was a great player who deserved to win a ring, and that could happen in Milwaukee.
“It meant a lot,” Matthews said. “Not even just as an athlete, but just as anyone who is working, the admiration of your peers is what holds the most weight. Not writers, not blogs, not media and all that kind of stuff. It’s the guys you’re going to compete with and against to have the respect for you that means the world.”
Next up was Kyle Korver, but the sharpshooter required more coaxing. The two spoke on the phone but Antetokounmpo felt like he had not gotten through. Antetokounmpo went on with his training, where he was scheduled to go to the Peak Performance Project (P3), a legendary sports science company in Santa Barbara, Calif. It was there Antetokounmpo ran into Korver — Antetokounmpo says by accident, he didn’t know they would both be there — and it allowed him to recruit in person.
“And we start the workout and I’m like, ‘OK. Kyle, look, this is how I can get you open shots,’ ” Antetokounmpo said. ‘We can run this. We can do this. I know Al Horford is your best friend. I know you’d love playing with Al Horford in Philly, but look, I can (get you shots). I can find you easier.’ He loved it.”
Korver eventually signed with the Bucks.
During the regular season that has paid off — Matthews starts and plays an important defensive role — with the Bucks in charge of the East and on pace to win 70 games. Those things, however, are not the goal. Matthews and Korver need to make some plays on the bigger stages coming in May (and, they hope, June).
Whatever happens, expect Antetokounmpo to pick up the phone and make some calls in the future, too. This is how business gets done in today’s NBA.