Greek national team an Antetokounmpo family affair for EuroBasket

Disney+ "Rise" Los Angeles Premiere
Cassy Athena/Getty Images
0 Comments

“We always talked about it. We always dreamed about it.”

That was how Giannis Antetokounmpo described he and three of his brothers — Thanasis, Kostas and Alex — donning the blue and white jerseys of their native Greece together for EuroBasket this September.

“It is definitely fun. We always talked about it, we always dreamed about it,” Antetokounmpo told NBC Sports while promoting Antidote Health. “And this year, we’re going to be able to make that happen.

“Just, you know, to represent your country with your brothers along your side it’s big for our family. I know my dad is looking from above and is extremely proud. I know my mom is happy and I hope we can do the best job possible, but it’s definitely something that we talked about our whole lives.”

Giannis looked more than ready for EuroBasket — the European championships next month — in the team’s first tune-up on Tuesday, dropping 31 points in 20 minutes as Greece dominated traditional power Spain.

Giannis even drew “M-V-P” chants from the crowd, but for him, the family aspect of this run makes it special. Their family bond was forged not hustling in the gym but rather hustling on the streets just to put food in their mouths.

Next month, the Antetokounmpo brothers are representing a country that did not always welcome their family, which had emigrated from Lagos, Nigeria, in search of a better life. The Antetokounmpos lived in Sepolia, a blue-collar neighborhood of Athens, and Giannis often helped his parents by selling sunglasses, watches, DVDs and more at a street stand to make ends meet. It was a grueling way to make a living during brutally tough economic times in Greece (it still is). Out of those challenging times came the rise of the nationalist Golden Dawn party in Greece, which tried to blame immigrants for many of the country’s problems.

The Antetokounmpo family faced blatant racism on top of the challenges of just making ends meet (they were evicted and had to move several times). Giannis has always been quick to say that there were more people — priests, neighbors, friends — who were kind and helpful than there were people trying to tear them down, but it didn’t make the challenges easier.

Antetokounmpo says it was his family sticking together that got them through those times and formed an unbreakable bond. The memory of those experiences keeps Giannis the most humble of NBA superstars.

Their mother, Veronica, will be in Italy for the EuroBasket games (the group stage games for Greece are near Milan).

“Yes, she’s definitely gonna come out in the games,” Giannis said. “She’s always at the game. She’s our number one fan.”

Those experiences on the streets of Athens are why Antetokounmpo said he became an investor and ambassador of Antidote Health, an Israeli telemedicine startup that describes itself as viewing “accessible, affordable healthcare as a fundamental human right.” Antidote seeks to provide affordable healthcare to the millions in the USA (and around the globe) who have no health insurance or are underserved with their medical and mental health plans.

“Growing up in Greece, we didn’t have access to [healthcare], you know, there were a lot of situations a lot of times that my dad was terrified to go to the hospital,” Antetokounmpo said, later adding he didn’t have regular medical care until he was 18. “He was terrified of the doctor visit. He was terrified to just go talk to the doctors, to take a hospital visit…

“I believe it’s a human right. And I really believe at this point in my career, I have the platform to change that. So this while I’m taking this chance with Antidote Health, and I’m out here, you know, trying to change that.”

He can push for that change because of his global platform — one that will only grow bigger if he dominates in EuroBasket with his brothers.

Something they look ready to do.

Steve Nash on Ben Simmons: ‘I don’t care if he ever shoots a jump shot’

0 Comments

The last season he played, Ben Simmons took just 9% of his shots from beyond 10 feet — he did not space the floor at all, which meant Joel Embiid had to at times. That lack of a jumper he trusted has always been one of the knocks on Ben Simmons’ game.

Steve Nash doesn’t care. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

“That’s why I don’t care if he ever shoots a jump shot for the Brooklyn Nets. He’s welcome to, but that is not what makes him special and not what we need. He’s a great complement to our team, and he’s an incredible basketball player because of his versatility.”

In an offense with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving setting the table — particularly in the halfcourt — Simmons is going to be asked to play more of a role: Be an elite defender, push the ball in transition, work in some dribble-handoff situations where he can drive the lane as an option, be a cutter off the ball, and be a distributor in the halfcourt. It’s why Simmons’ ideal role with the Nets often gets compared to Draymond Green — it’s a Draymond-lite role. There will be far less of him as lead guard running pick-and-roll.

Will Simmons settle into that role? Also, it should be noted that peak Green (2016 for example) shot better than 30% from 3 and had to be respected out there (last season 29.6% on 1.2 3s per game) — he had to be covered at the arc. Simmons does not. Also, Green did not avoid getting fouled and getting to the line.

Nash has the task of meshing Simmons into the system and figuring out the rotations — can he play Simmons and Nic Claxton together, or is having two non-jump shooters on the floor at once clog the offense? Is Simmons going to play center at points? There is championship-level talent on the Nets roster, but so many questions about fit, defense, and grit.

There’s no question about Simmons taking jumpers, but Nash doesn’t care.

Pelican’s Green says Zion ‘dominated the scrimmage pretty much’

0 Comments

The Zion hype train keeps right on rolling. First were the reports he was in the best shape of his life, then he walked into media day and it looked like he is.

Now Zion has his own hype man in Pelicans coach Willie Green, who said he dominated the first day of team scrimmages. Via Andre Lopez of ESPN.

“Z looked amazing,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said on Wednesday afternoon. “His strength, his speed. He dominated the scrimmage pretty much.”

“What stood out was his force more than anything,” Green said. “He got down the floor quickly. When he caught the ball, he made quick decisions. Whether it was scoring, finding a teammate. It was really impressive to see.”

Reach for the salt shaker to take all this with — it’s training camp scrimmages. Maybe Zion is playing that well right now — he’s fully capable, he was almost an All-NBA player in 2020-21 (eighth in forward voting) before his foot injury — but we need to see it against other teams. In games that matter. Then we’ll need to see it over a stretch of time.

If Zion can stay healthy this season, if his conditioning is where everyone says it is, he could be in for a monster season. Combine that with CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and a strong supporting cast in New Orleans, and the Pelicans could surprise a lot of people — and be fun to watch.

 

PBT Podcast: What’s next for Celtics, Suns? Should NBA end one-and-done?

0 Comments

NBA training camps just opened and teams have yet to play a preseason game, but already two contenders are dealing with problems.

The Celtics have the suspension of coach Ime Udoka as a distraction, plus defensive anchor center Robert Williams will miss at least the start of the season following another knee surgery.

The Suns have the distraction of a suspended owner who is selling the team, plus Jae Crowder is out and demanding a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not seem happy.

Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself go through all the training camp news, including the wilder ones with the Lakers and Nets, breaking down what to take away from all that — plus how good Zion Williamson and James Harden look physically.

Then the pair discusses the potential of the NBA doing away with the one-and-done role and letting 18-year-olds back in the game — is that good for the NBA?

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Report: Price tag on Phoenix Suns could be more than $3 billion

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Six
Harry How/Getty Images
0 Comments

In 2004, Robert Sarver bought the Phoenix Suns for a then-record $401 million.

When Sarver sells the team now — pushed to do so following the backlash prompted by an NBA report that found an 18-year pattern of bigotry, misogyny, and a toxic workplace — he is going to make a massive profit.

The value of the Suns now is at $3 billion or higher, reports Ramona Shelburne and Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

There will be no shortage of bidders for the team, with league sources predicting a franchise valuation of more than $3 billion now that revenue has rebounded following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a new television rights deal and CBA on the horizon. Sarver purchased the team for just over $400 million in 2004.

Saver currently owns 35% of the Suns (the largest share), but reports say his role as managing partner allows him to sell the entire team (the minority owners have to comply, although they would make a healthy profit, too). Sarver also decides who to sell the team to, not the NBA or other owners.

Early rumors of buyers have included Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle), Bob Iger (former Disney CEO), Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, she has a 20% share of the Washington Wizards), and others. There have been no reports of talks yet, and Sarver does not need to be on a rushed timeline.

Meanwhile, a contending Suns team tries to focus on the season despite the owner selling the team, Jae Crowder not being in training camp and pushing for a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not sound happy to be back with the Suns.