The “Summer of Giannis” is coming roughly 365 days from now, as 2019 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, barring any extension, will become a free agent next July 1.
To that end, teams are already lining up to try to find a way to lure the “Greek Freak” to their franchise, the same way teams did so in the past for LeBron James and Kevin Durant – and the Knicks are apparently within that realm.
The head coaching job for MSG’s hardwood tenant is vacant, and according to Chat Sports, Jason Kidd truly is the front-runner for that position, with the powers that be in the Knicks organization firmly believing that hiring Kidd will greatly increase their chances of landing Antetokounmpo next summer.
“The report is that the Knicks are interested in hiring Jason Kidd in their grand scheme to lure Giannis to New York in 2021 free agency. Now, Giannis did like playing under Jason Kidd in Milwaukee. That’s accurate,” Chat Sports’ Tom Downey said in an NBA roundup on Sunday.
Indeed accurate, as the “Greek Freak” reportedly was ready to call Bucks ownership to stick up for Kidd shortly before Milwaukee dismissed Kidd as head coach back in 2018, and had nothing but positive things to say about the Hall of Fame point guard turned head man.
"He's a big part of my success in the league," Giannis told the AP’s Rich Rovito in 2018. “I’m loyal to the people I work with. I love him as a person. I care about him as a person. I didn't even know how the NBA worked. [Kidd's firing] hurts a little bit more because he was here for 3 1/2 years. He trusted me. He put the ball in my hands. He pushed me to be great."
That said, the Bucks were 23-22 in 2017-18 when Kidd was fired, and 139-152 in his tenure as head coach. After that, though, they finished that season 21-10 under interim head coach Joe Prunty, went 60-22 and reached the Eastern Conference Finals under Mike Budenholzer last year, and were off to an NBA-best 53-12 record this year when COVID-19 halted play.
So noted Downey:
“Things have been better for the Bucks and for Giannis since Kidd was fired. And I think Giannis is smart enough to realize, ‘well, why would I want to go play for a coach who clearly didn’t get the most from me?’” Downey posited. “Now, Giannis himself is a better player, but things have been better under Mike Budenholzer a lot more than things were for Kidd.”
Maybe Kidd resurfacing is the key for a team to have a shot at Antetokounmpo, but when it comes to the Knicks, fans almost always have to come to expect the worst these days; the Knicks already have one negative against them in the fact that they didn’t bring Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ older brother and current Bucks teammate (and former Knick) with them to London to play the Bucks in 2015 (a move Giannis said “disappointed” him – but in this case, that worst might be this quote from Giannis himself:
“My goal is going to stay the same: It's get better, take it day by day, step by step, and the ultimate goal is to win a championship," Antetokounmpo said to CBS Sports last offseason. "As long as that we are all on the same page and we are all focused on that goal, why not play for the Bucks 20 years? I want to be a part of a winning team. As long as we have the same mindset and same approach to the game, there's no reason for me to move and not be like Steph [Curry], not be like Dirk [Nowitzki] or Kobe [Bryant] or Tim Duncan."
Considering that even an oh-fer the rest of this bizarre season leaves Milwaukee with 134 wins over the past 2 ½ seasons – more than the Knicks have recorded in the last five seasons total – perhaps, then, it’s going to take more than a mentor to bring the NBA’s most dynamic player to its hardwood Mecca.