MILWAUKEE — When the Bucks announced Sunday that the MRI on the left knee of reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo revealed a minor joint capsule sprain and that he would spend only a short time on the sideline, the basketball world breathed a sigh of relief.
So did Antetokounmpo, who admitted Wednesday afternoon that he was very nervous about what the results of the imaging would show.
“Yeah. I s— my pants,” Antetokounmpo said with a smile after practicing fully with his teammates Wednesday ahead of Milwaukee’s game against the Boston Celtics on Thursday night. “When I was on the floor [during Friday’s game against the Lakers], I was thinking about, ‘This is my knee.’
“But thank god. I got the good training staff that train me really well and prepare me for those types of falls and those types of moments. Thank god it wasn’t something really, really serious, so I was happy, the team was happy, my family was happy.”
So was his coach, Mike Budenholzer, who was forced to wait along with everyone else until the news came that Antetokounmpo’s injury wasn’t a major one.
“I mean, I’m human,” Budenholzer said. “Until you get that picture and you hear back from the doctors, you try to stay upbeat and positive, but you’re just never sure until you get the word.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo is grateful he avoided a worse injury from his fall Friday against the Lakers. Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
Antetokounmpo suffered the injury when he landed awkwardly during Friday’s loss to the Lakers and continued playing after it, finishing with 32 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in 36 minutes.
At first, he felt good about the fact he could continue playing on it. But when he woke up Saturday morning, he was worried that something was seriously wrong — then had to wait to both get the MRI and the results before finally knowing that it wouldn’t serve as a reason to sideline him for a long time.
“I was nervous probably when I fell on the floor,” he said. “When I was able to walk it off and play a few minutes, that felt better. But the next day, I was extremely sore, so I was nervous. And then, later the next day, later in the day, I was probably nervous the whole day until the MRI.
“But as I said, I have faith in Suki [Hobson, Milwaukee’s head strength and conditioning coach]. She did a great job training my body and having it ready for moments like that.”
The question now is whether Antetokounmpo will play Thursday against the Celtics. He said he practiced fully Wednesday — including taking part in all contact portions of practice and a scrimmage — but both he and Budenholzer cautioned that it was no certain thing that, after sitting out Milwaukee’s losses to the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets on Sunday and Monday, he would return against Boston.
“At the end of the day, I have to go home, come back tomorrow and see how I feel tomorrow,” Antetokounmpo said. “I might go back home and my knee might swell up. I don’t know. So I have to see how it feels tomorrow morning, and if I feel good, and if they clear me through the medical staff, I will play.”
Said Budenholzer: “We’ll take it slowly and always probably err on the side of caution, but a good day for Giannis.”
Meanwhile, the Bucks — like the rest of the NBA — continue to wait and see how things develop with regard to the coronavirus in the wake of it officially being designated as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday. The NBA is holding conference calls with ownership, team presidents and general managers Wednesday and Thursday to discuss next steps, while the Golden State Warriors already are facing the reality of playing without fans in attendance.
Antetokounmpo said the idea of playing games without fans — something he said he hadn’t done since playing preseason friendlies in Europe — will be a strange one for him to adjust to.
“It’s going to be hard,” he said. “As an athlete, you play for the fans. At the end of the day, we are out there to win games, but we are out there to entertain them also.
“When you have a momentum swing, when you have a dunk and a 3, and there is silence … it takes a lot out of your energy. It doesn’t give you energy. So it’s going to be hard.
“It’s going to be hard to play without fans, if we play without fans, but we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.”
One thing Antetokounmpo isn’t worried about, however, is Milwaukee’s three-game losing streak. Asked if the Bucks would benefit from these “tough” times sometime down the road this season, he smiled.
“Tough? We lost three in a row,” he said. “That’s tough? I’ve lost like, what, 18 in a row my rookie year? It’s not tough at all.
“I know we’re a good team, we’re a great team, we win games, but losing three in a row, that’s not tough. We just have to come in, work on our games, smile, keep on fighting and go out there and do our jobs.”